In class we’ve been talking about a Chinese artist named Ai Weiwei (pictured above) who uses the internet in ways I’ve been talking about this whole semester.
PBS did a special on Ai Weiwei that you can watch here which really highlights a lot of the ways he’s used social media for a positive impact on his community, but I’d like to touch briefly on how the video made me think in a new way.
It’s a lot more dangerous in China to try and rally an online community than it is in America (or many other countries, for that matter.) There are strict censorship laws, and the government is oppressive. But Ai Weiwei doesn’t care about that. He uses the internet as a tool to grab others’ attention. His tweets send a message to his followers, and oftentimes they’ve rallied in masses to be a sort of protection from the police. It also updates people on his safety and well being.
(Ai Weiwei in the hospital after suffering from internal bleeding because the police attacked him)
And, most importantly, especially for his field of work, gathers others into a community to support and help with his artwork. His two pieces, Straight and Forge were only made possible because of the volunteers who helped him craft and bring his idea to life.
These pieces were made in response to the earthquake in China which devastated many young students, all of whom the government refused to release their names. Ai Weiwei gathered volunteers in an effort to make pieces that would honor those children lost and make sure that no one would forget what had happened because of the flimsy, badly built government buildings. You can read more on those pieces here.
Ai Weiwei makes the internet more than just a virtual space. He takes things from this intangible webface and brings them to real life. He finds the perfect balance, and creates something therapeutic and resonating I think everyone who wishes to use the internet effectively should learn from his example.