This essay explores the genealogical overlap between the wall and the screen by tracing the material and discursive formation of China’s Great Firewall, a geoblocking system for network censorship, to the cultural history of ping (screen).The censoring effect of the Great Firewall is described in Chinese as pingbi, with the word ping referring to an architectural object that is simultaneously a system of visual display and a device of spatial management. Examining the structure and operation of ping in Chinese history, the essay argues that ping is a combinational media system of the wall-screen, a noninformation surface that displays itself to enable spatial enclosure. As a self-displaying system, the positioning of ping not only signifies sociopolitical demarcation but is also bound up with the spectacular display and performance of the imperial sovereign. This meaning of ping as wall-screen has shaped the construction of the Great Firewall as a technological and political project, shifting its conceptual framework from security to sovereignty.
Toward a Genealogy of the Wall-Screen
jinying li is an assistant professor of modern culture and media at Brown University. She has coedited two special issues on Chinese animation for The Journal of Chinese Cinemas and a special issue on regional platforms for Asiascape. She completed her first book, Geek Pleasures: Anime, Otaku, and the Cybernetic Affect of Knowledge Culture (forthcoming with Indiana University Press), and is currently writing her second book, “Walled Media and Mediating Walls.”
Jinying Li; Toward a Genealogy of the Wall-Screen. differences 1 May 2022; 33 (1): 28–59. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-9735441
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