Voices Episode 3: Amy Y. Zhang, Asa Roast and Carwyn Morris on Wanghong Urbanism

Photograph of visitors to Changsha Wenheyou in China, perusing food stalls.
Changsha Wenheyou, China. Source: Chengbo Zheng, Unsplash
In the latest episode of our Voices podcast series, Amy Y. Zhang, Asa Roast and Carwyn Morris discuss with Scott Rodgers their recent Deep Dive essay on 'wanghong urbanism', and how this concept might help interpret the relations of social media and urban life.

In this episode of the Mediapolis Now Voices series, we speak with Amy Zhang, Asa Roast and Carwyn Morris. Amy Zhang is based at a The University of Manchester, in the UK, where she is Lecturer in Urban Planning. Her research focuses on urban politics and governance, urban knowledge and policy mobilities, postcolonial urban theory, and state-society relations in China. Asa Roast is based at the University of Leeds, UK, where he is Lecturer in Urban Geography. His work focuses on urban transformations in China, with an emphasis on housing, informality, verticality and urban agriculture in the city of Chongqing. Carwyn Morris is based at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where he is University Lecturer of Digital China. His research examines the spatialization of digital relations, including digital displacement, digital territorialization projects, digital mobilities, and internet celebrity urbanisms.

The host (Scott Rodgers) first came across this episode’s guests a couple of years back, reading a substack discussion among them, playfully titled “We Built This City on a Camera Roll.” He soon found himself introduced to a new notion of “wanghong,” and wanghong urbanism. Focused on developments in the Chinese urban context, the discussion was asking: what happens when places achieve celebrity status online?

Late last year, in issue 4 of Mediapolis Volume 7, Amy, Asa and Carwyn co-authored a Deep Dive essay fleshing out some of these ideas, which was then followed earlier this year, in issue 1 of Mediapolis Volume 8, in a Dossier (or collection of essays) exploring the broader notion of an urban-digital spectacle. Our discussion in the episode ranges from how they first encountered the phenomena of wanghong in Chinese urban contexts, how the notion might be defined, and what it might tell us about the emerging relations of social media and cities around the world.

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