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Resistance within Contexts:A Study of University BBS Youth Culture in China
Unformatted Document Text:  4 necessary resources, come into contact with their audiences, and confront the limitations posed by competitors and authorities (See Wuthnow 1989). Concentrating on an immediate institutional context can help us to explain the resistance of youth culture because many young people live in schools or universities, and their understandings of societies are acquired through education and their limited life experiences. Yet, the picture of the society that is disseminated in educational institutions, as well as the educational institutions themselves, may not fully correspond to the actual society. The discrepancies between the ‘ivory tower’ and the ‘real world’ lead to two concerns: 1) the discrepancies may constitute a key problem for the youth to negotiate through their cultural practices, and 2) young people’s resistance might only be significant in one context (say, the ivory tower) but not in the other (that is, the ‘real world’). Moreover, people who use the cyberspace for their cultural activities need to face an even more complicated situation, because they are also located in a cybercultural context. Cyberspace is an extension of real society (Rheingold 1993). Although it lacks a physical geography, it still offers users real opportunities for collectivities and identities. As Sandy Stone (1991, quoted in Jones 1998: 15) defines, cyberspace are ‘incontrovertibly social spaces in which people still meet face-to-face, but under new definitions of both “meet” and “face”.’ Cyberspace is ‘passage points for collections of common beliefs and practices that united people who were physically separated.’ For its frequent users, cyberspace is indeed an environment, which has ‘both material and social contexts that present new constraints and opportunities for social interaction’ (Giese 1998). Cyberspace creates a ‘virtual culture’ (Jones 1997a) and large amounts of discourses on the practices exercised there, as well as on cyberspace itself. Free, equal, anonymous, and postmodern might be the most frequently used terms to describe the context of cyberspace. Thus, cyberspace has specific meanings towards the youth: as a site of producing discourses, cyberspace empowers young people and encourages their cultural practices (Bell 2001: 184). Sociocultural, institutional and cybercultural contexts are the three concrete environments in which the Chinese college students interact with each other. On the one hand, when combined together, they form a more complete picture of the context in which Chinese student BBS users find themselves. But on the other hand, the three contexts have their distinctive effects on young people’s cultural activities. Therefore, we cannot reduce one context to another, especially when the discourses produced in each context may be contradictory to each other. A historically specific and multidimensional understanding of contexts provides us a way to recognize a set of

Authors: Dong, Dong.
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necessary resources, come into contact with their audiences, and confront the limitations posed by
competitors and authorities (See Wuthnow 1989). Concentrating on an immediate institutional
context can help us to explain the resistance of youth culture because many young people live in
schools or universities, and their understandings of societies are acquired through education and
their limited life experiences. Yet, the picture of the society that is disseminated in educational
institutions, as well as the educational institutions themselves, may not fully correspond to the
actual society. The discrepancies between the ‘ivory tower’ and the ‘real world’ lead to two
concerns: 1) the discrepancies may constitute a key problem for the youth to negotiate through
their cultural practices, and 2) young people’s resistance might only be significant in one context
(say, the ivory tower) but not in the other (that is, the ‘real world’).
Moreover, people who use the cyberspace for their cultural activities need to face an even
more complicated situation, because they are also located in a cybercultural context. Cyberspace is
an extension of real society (Rheingold 1993). Although it lacks a physical geography, it still offers
users real opportunities for collectivities and identities. As Sandy Stone (1991, quoted in Jones
1998: 15) defines, cyberspace are ‘incontrovertibly social spaces in which people still meet
face-to-face, but under new definitions of both “meet” and “face”.’ Cyberspace is ‘passage points
for collections of common beliefs and practices that united people who were physically separated.’
For its frequent users, cyberspace is indeed an environment, which has ‘both material and social
contexts that present new constraints and opportunities for social interaction’ (Giese 1998).
Cyberspace creates a ‘virtual culture’ (Jones 1997a) and large amounts of discourses on the
practices exercised there, as well as on cyberspace itself. Free, equal, anonymous, and postmodern
might be the most frequently used terms to describe the context of cyberspace. Thus, cyberspace
has specific meanings towards the youth: as a site of producing discourses, cyberspace empowers
young people and encourages their cultural practices (Bell 2001: 184).
Sociocultural, institutional and cybercultural contexts are the three concrete environments in
which the Chinese college students interact with each other. On the one hand, when combined
together, they form a more complete picture of the context in which Chinese student BBS users
find themselves. But on the other hand, the three contexts have their distinctive effects on young
people’s cultural activities. Therefore, we cannot reduce one context to another, especially when
the discourses produced in each context may be contradictory to each other. A historically specific
and multidimensional understanding of contexts provides us a way to recognize a set of


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