Theses Doctoral

Youth Web Radio in Beijing: Our Story

Roberts Colburn, Shana

My dissertation is a story of journey. In one sense it speaks to the ways in which my assistant, Fei, and I decided to attempt research inside a very small internet radio station that I came to call Youth Web Radio (YWR) for the purposes of this dissertation. YWR was the first licensed internet radio station in China. It was a station intended for a young audience. It was also the brainchild of the Beijing Communist Youth League and the product of university-educated creatives. It operated out of Beijing from 2005 to 2018, and fully closed down due to a lack of the resources necessary to make a full transition from a project of the party-state to a viable profit-generating commercial organization. At times the story I write moves around the idea of fieldwork. The actual time I spent in the field was from November 2014 to July 2015. But the journey that I write in this dissertation entails more than the days when we were on the ground in Beijing for the research. It includes narrative that speaks to how previous trips and life experiences started to build an energy and desire in me to do some kind of post graduate work in China, or rather on an aspect of what I had been experiencing in China, which had much to do with education. It also includes narrative that speaks to the circuitous path it took to find YWR as a field site, but also as a focus or draw for an attempt at ethnography.

At other times the story I write moves around the conception of time though never in a straightforward explicated sense—more so in the way the narratives reach into different pockets of my life at different moments, and find their way into the story. I somehow couldn’t write this dissertation without including pieces from moments in my life that in one sense felt removed from the task at hand, which was to tell an ethnographic tale of a sole fieldwork experience. Yet in the sense of lens and connection, they felt utterly important to our story and as if to leave them out meant leaving out a piece of the truth of the writing. Though this story is about my personal journey, I write it as our story due to the ways in which it is also about the different people I have encountered in my life in time and in place, to of course include the fieldwork experience, and who I see as contributors to the way the story unfolds—scholars, thinkers, friends—and in the sense of this being an anthropological endeavor as interlocutors as well. In this dissertation, lived transition is about both interlocutor and anthropologist, the story the interlocutor tells and that the anthropologist writes is also about the transition in which the anthropologist herself is engaged. Through this lens of lived transition the dissertation speaks to my own life and in doing so speaks to how a group of young people narrated “becoming a company” and “internet radio” in China’s government-monitored media industry, and as to how I came to write their story as our own.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
International and Transcultural Studies
Thesis Advisors
Varenne, Herve H.
Gundaker, Grey Grey
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
November 3, 2021