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Information Media, Social Imagination, and Public Society during the Ming and Qing Dynasties

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The flourishing development of media during the Ming and Qing eras affected the building of new methods of interpersonal interactions between an individual and society as well as between the people themselves. By virtue of media like Dibao 邸报 (court liaison reports), drama or novels, interpersonal interactions could reach beyond space and object restrictions. These media could thus rapidly spread particular or individual news to the general public, making those who were absent from the scene feel as if they were “experiencing” it, and at the same time allowing them to “participate in” social affairs beyond their knowledge. In this way, mass media surpassed the individual living sphere, ultimately forming a “public sphere.” Under the influence of these media, each individual could join this “public sphere” and be connected with the imagined “general public.” That is to say, mass media created an “imagined society.” In addition to a personal limited “real world,” there was an immense “fictitious world” for everyone to take part in and experience. Accordingly, interactions between people developed into interactions between each individual and the abstract society, which could cut across space limitations, and establish an immense “public society.”


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