There are many differences between China and “The West”. Is that also the case when it comes to digitalization? What can we learn from one another? These questions and more were addressed in the series of events entitled “Perspectives on the Digital Transformation”, which the Goethe Institute China and the iRights.Lab had jointly organised.
When it comes to digitalization, almost all countries are faced with the same challenges: broadband infrastructure development, changes in the world of work, internet-related crime, etc. Together with the Goethe Institute China did the iRights.Lab initiate a broad discussion to identify which areas of life have been particularly influenced, and what commonalities and differences there exist between China on one hand and Germany or Europe on the other.
All events in the “Perspectives on Digital Transformation” series took place in Beijing in the bustling cultural quarter “District 798”. The series kicked off on 6 November 2015 with the event “Our Digital Personality Online”. In light of the fact that now almost everyone has a smartphone and uses many online services, the speakers addressed the question of what influence this new state of affairs has on our personality. Does it change our communication habits? What footprints do we leave behind on the internet? Do we need common rules online? The discussion was led by Dr. Christian Hoffman (Institute of Communications and Media Studies at the University of Leipzig), Kaiser Kuo (former Director of International Communications at the Chinese search engine operator Baidu), Alex Chen (co-founder and director of Cakeshop Consulting) and Felix Lee (China correspondent in Beijing for several German publishing houses).
It continued on 12 March 2016 under the title “Innovation and Creativity in the Digital Era”. First, Eduardo Navas (artist, curator, writer on the “remix theory”, Chair at the School of Visual Arts at the Pennsylvania State University, USA) introduced the audience to the remix culture. He was followed by Dr. Till Kreutzer (a partner of the iRights.Law legal firm and of-counsel to the iRights.Lab), who explained the social uses and advantages of digital creativity. Finally, Professor Hu Yong (Institute for Journalism and Communication at the Beijing University, media critic and internet pioneer) and Jongsoo Yoon (Director Creative Commons Korea) spoke on the development of digital creativity in China and Korea. After creative contributions from various Chinese artists, the speakers discussed the question of how digital innovation and creativity are changing everyday life and society.
In order to get a better idea of how governments address the challenges of digitalization, the third event on 24 and 25 September 2016 dealt with the “Digital Agenda in Germany and China”. What differences, but also what commonalities might we find? First of all, a picture of the Chinese digital agenda was provided by Dr Zhou Peng (lead engineer at the Electronic Technology Information Research Institute of the Ministry for Industry and Information Technology), Professor Shi Shiwei (University of International Business and Economics in Beijing) and Fin Huiwen (Vice President of the China Centre for Information Industry Development) from the perspective of think tanks, science and politics. We then heard from Philipp Otto, Founder and Executive Director of the iRights.Lab, about the state of the digital agenda in Germany.
The final contributions on German and Chinese focussed on Work 4.0 and Open Data and came from Dr. Max Neufeind (policy advisor to the German Federal Ministry for Work and Society) and Professor Jack Qiu (School of Journalism and Communication of the Chinese University of Hong Kong) as well as Julia Kloiber (Project Leader for the Open Knowledge Foundation) and Professor Zheng Lei (School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University).
The second day opened with the film “iPhone China”, followed by a thoroughgoing discussion in the presence of the film-maker Christian von Borries. The movie confronts viewers with the question: “if Apple were a country, would you prefer to live in Apple or China?”
The closing event in the series, on 11 March 2017, dealt with the topic of “Our Digital Future – How Do We Want to Live?” After Dr. Sandra Wachter (Postdoctoral Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute) had taken the guests on a journey into an ethically-desirable future, Professor Jie Yin (Dongnan University, Nanjing) addressed the influence of artificial intelligence in our lives. They were followed by Professor Sun Fuchun (Tsinghua University, Beijing), who presented the state of developments in artificial intelligence in China. After remarks on the outlook for our digital future from Julia Manske (Project Manager at the Neue Verantwortung Foundation in Berlin) and further inputs from practical experience, the speakers gathered for the final panel discussion.
The “Perspectives on the Digital Transformation” event series was a proof to our dedication to thinking outside the box. The participants were not the only ones to enjoy the interesting insights and learn new things – we did, too. That’s why the iRights.Lab believes that working closely with our global partners will only make us stronger.
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