Xiao Liu – Information Fantasies: Precarious Mediation in Postsocialist China


Univ Of Minnesota Press, ISBN-13: 978-1517902735, English, 376 pages, 2019, USA

While overlooked by many, especially in academia, China is increasingly becoming a different planet, spinning at a different speed. Worse still, Western cultures know and understand only tiny fragments of its recent sociotechnical trajectory, due in part to long periods of isolation and to a steep language barrier. Xiao Liu provides then an exemplary and meticulously researched study of the Chinese media landscape in the post-Mao 1980s. This is a key transitional decade worldwide, with a shift from analogue to digital and a growing awareness of a coming ‘information society’ without widespread social and economic dependence on its technologies. Liu accomplishes a focused cross-media investigation, explaining the role of new paradigmatic periodicals (’Electronics World’), science fiction movies, the atypical ‘qigong’ mass movement with its rethinking of human bodies as interfaces and other communication forms (Toffler’s ’information waves’, advertisement, computers, cybernetics). The tension between emerging technologies and the vision of their social impact on China’s mutating socialist context is thoroughly delineated, enhancing aesthetics and high-impact ‘information fantasies’. Liu solidly connects a very unique system with the IT perceptual revolution, essential for understanding the present futuristic scenario.