The Chinese PressScape: Mapping the periodical press in 1930s China”

ENP China Webinar, Thursday 18 November, 2 p.m.

The ENP China team is pleased to announce its next Webinar “The Chinese PressScape: Mapping the periodical press in 1930s China”, by Cécile Armand and Nora Van den Bosch, next Thursday 18 November 2021 at 2 p.m. (European zone). The webinar will take place on Zoom. Please register on Eventbrite in advance to receive the link.

Much has been written on the press and the public sphere in modern China. The scholarship to date has for a large part consisted in monographic studies (Shibao, Shenbao, Dongfang zazhi to name but a few famous ones). In addition, during the last two decades, several digital collections of periodicals have been created by various institutions in East Asia, the United States and Europe (e.g. Early Chinese Periodicals Online at Heidelberg University). Yet altogether these scholarly works and digital projects offer a kaleidoscopic view of the Chinese modern press. How many periodicals actually existed during the Republic? In which language and frequency? Where were they published, by whom? What were their size and price? How many readers did they reach? We still miss the broad picture.

In our presentation, we propose a new macroscopic approach reliant upon a companion platform – The Chinese PressScope (currently a prototype) – to help better contextualize individual periodicals within the broader landscape of the press in 1930s China. Drawing on the series of newspaper directories published by Carl Crow’s advertising agency from 1931 to 1937, we demonstrate how we can take advantage of computational tools to make sense of these apparently dull lists in order to reconstruct the geographies, temporalities and materialities of the press in modern China. The visual interface which we have been developing enables users to query the database and navigate the “presscape” in multiple ways (geographical maps, timelines, scatterplots, networks of words). Preliminary findings are presented on Cécile Armand’s research blog.

This multidimensional analysis eventually reveals the incredible vitality of the press during the Nanjing decade (1927-1937) and its resilience despite official attempts at censorship, the economic depression and the Sino-Japanese war in Manchuria and Shanghai.

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