Call for papers: Special issue on “Local Politics and Dynamics of Automated Decision-Making in China”
Editors: Haiqing Yu (RMIT University, Australia) and Jesper Villaing Zeuthen (Aalborg University, Denmark)
This special issue addresses two key questions: how are automated decision-making (ADM) technologies and systems applied and manipulated in the governance of businesses, public institutions, and the society/population at the local level in China; and what are the new (or renewed), emerging, or hidden dynamics and politics of the Chinese society as they respond to, live with, or resist such ADM technologies and systems in their everyday life. ADM is a process of making a decision by automated means (supposedly) without human involvement or intervention. It is often, not always, supported by big data, algorithms, and computer power. ADM technologies refer to an arrange of intelligent and emerging technologies from artificial intelligence, machine learning, to blockchain that are used to create and apply algorithms to make the decisions. ADM systems are based on profiling, categorisation, and classification of individuals, often used in financial services, insurance, criminal justice, and social services like healthcare, welfare, and education. Governments around the world have used ADM systems in a range of contexts. In China, such systems are often referred to when discussing the social credit system, AI powered mapping systems, smart city projects, and the health code and contact tracing systems to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most research on the ADM in China has taken a top-down angle at the national level from legal and public policy studies perspectives. Although recognising the macro-level, policymaking perspective, and “one size fits all” approach to defining ADM systems in China does not address real concerns and particular contexts, researchers still have a lot to do to bring the local and bottom-up perspective to the discussion on ADM and China. This is especially significant as various localised ADM systems have already been implemented in various parts of the country, from city brain and smart community projects in urban areas to intelligent village and civilised township projects in the vast under-developed areas. Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and Tencent are often seen as the enthusiastic collaborators of local governments in using ADM technologies and systems
to help improve local governance and maintain social stability.
What is the logic or rationale of local decision making through ADM? And what are the examples?
How are ADM technologies and systems used and abused at the local level?
How does the “big tech + big government” (or big data + big brother) duopoly work at the local level in specific projects?
What is the face of traditional population and social management systems like hukou and dang’an in China’s embrace of the ADM systems?
At the same time, Chinese citizens are grappling with the imposition of new systems that are required of them to adopt and comply with. They have to accept a whole range of ADM systems that monitor them and collect their data, from security cameras almost everywhere in public places to censorship and self-censorship on social media platforms. They have to live with the contacting tracing apps and local credit-rating apps that are required to download and install on their mobile phones in the state-level call of digital inclusion.
When opting out is not an option, what kind of agency or action can they take to mitigate the damage and even violence of the ADM system onto individuals, families, and communities?
What is the state-society relations in the era of absolute state power over the social body under China’s COVID-zero policies?
Is there any room or opportunity for citizen participation, resistance or protest to call for social justice and political accountability?
If any, what are the possible means and results of popular discontent?
We call for papers to address, but not limited to, the suggested topics in the above questions. We also encourage papers that take the perspectives of gender, age, class, disability, ethnicity, or sexuality in their empirical analyses.
15 October 2022, abstract submission. Please submit an abstract of 500 words (including references) that states the paper’s main argument, method, and contribution. Abstracts should be accompanied by a short biography for each author (approx. 200 words). Please send your abstract to Professors Haiqing Yu (email@example.com) and Jesper Willaing Zeuthen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
28 October 2022, decision on abstracts Accepted papers are encouraged to present at the conference on Automated Decision-Making and Chinese Societies, 1-3 February 2023, at RMIT (Melbourne, Australia) and on Zoom.
The special issue is to be considered by Journal of Contemporary China.
Haiqing is a professor of Media and Communication and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at RMIT University, Australia. She is a critical media studies scholar with expertise on Chinese digital media, technologies and culture, with a focus on their sociopolitical impact in China, Australia and the Asia Pacific. Her current projects examine the social implications of China’s social credit system, technological innovation, and digital transformation; China’s digital presence in Australasia; and Chinese-language digital/social media in Australia. Haiqing is the founder of Platforming China Research Network, co-editor of the “Digital China” book series (with Michael Keane, Anthem Press), and author or co-author of four books and co-editor of a fifth book. Haiqing is the co-editor of the “Digital China” book series (with Michael Keane, Anthem Press) and a member of executive board or editorial board of a number of academic journals. She has guested edited eight special journal issues.
Jesper Willaing Zeuthen
Jesper Williang Zeuthen is an associate professor in Chinese Area Studies at Aalborg University, Denmark. Current project include managing the CatCh network (Ruling through Division: Categorizing People and Resources in Contemporary China), and the Moving Data Moving People project investigating how social credit system reconfigures mobility in China. Both project are funded by the Danish Research Council. Zeuthen’s work has focused on urban-rural inequality in China, Chinese local governance, and Chinese mining companies’ engagements in Greenland. Zeuthen has most recently been co-editing a special issue on China’s rural urbanization published by China Information.