ChinaVine.org: Preparing Materials for Posting
I began as a member of the University of Oregon ChinaVine team in January 2010. I was brought into the project as a developer of comprehensive web articles for ChinaVine.org that engage research materials collected by the field researchers in combination with my own research.
My first article for ChinaVine.org was on the village of Gaobeidian, a suburb of Beijing. In order to grasp and articulate for a broad audience the essence of Gaobeidian, I was provided various materials including ephemera, books, a research paper, and pictures. The village is unlike most northern Chinese villages as it has very little farmland and agriculture. The village surrendered much of its land and resources to support the industrial development and infrastructure of Beijing in the mid 20th century. In an effort to solve the economic and social challenges resulting from this shift, the government implemented a successful program that focused on international folkloric tourism. Instead of a quiet pastoral farming village, Gaobeidian is a bustling center for cultural tourism, showcasing a variety of Chinese folk art.
The second ChinaVine.org article I wrote was about Song Zhuang, an expansive collection of villages in the Tong Zhou District in the eastern suburbs of Beijing. Again, I was provided field research, ephemera, and pictures as well as an interview with Dr. Lin Hue-Pin, Director of the White Lotus Gallery in Eugene, Oregon. Song Zhuang was once an impoverished farming village that, over the last 15 years, has blossomed as a major center for contemporary art
with varying styles ranging from academic to the Chinese avant-garde. Many artists have brought life back to parts of the village that had fallen into decay. For example, factories that had fallen into disuse have been converted into vibrant creative workshops. Most residents are painters, sculptors, calligraphers, and photographers, though there are also a number of performing artists. Many have found a quiet, independent, pastoral, and affordable existence in Song Zhuang that supports the practice of their craft. The community provides an atmosphere of creativity, featuring what some consider the most innovative and inspiring artwork in China.
The research and writing of these articles posed a challenge. I collaborated with my team of peers to discuss the delicate nature of interpreting the available materials and information in order to articulate the village stories in an engaging way for a broad online audience. For example, both villages have delicate political histories that require a great deal of consideration to paint an authentic picture of each village while remaining neutral and unbiased.
Blankenship’s research yielded a sound series of interpretive priorities by which I was able to base my writing for ChinaVine.org. Specifically, the six interpretive priorities regarding audience engagement, experiential education and the recognition that biases are inherent, and thus, the necessity of diligence to remain culturally sensitive, authentic, and aware of European-American biases as paramount. In writing “the story” of each village, I recognized it is not the purpose of myself or ChinaVine.org to attempt to simplify or deconstruct the delicate political history or political context of each village. Doing so would inevitably result in a contentious narrative that may turn the tangible culture at the heart of the project and the educational resources into some kind of propaganda.
Finally, the opportunity to engage with multimedia research materials provided by project coordinator, Tomas Valladares, proved essential in the development of both articles. Thanks to the extensive collection of multimedia research materials that influenced my writing, and that will accompany each article on ChinaVine.org, audiences from around the world will be able to read the narrative and review the images, video, and audio of the artists and villagers, allowing diverse audiences to independently interpret the materials provided.