Digitizing Dharma: Computer-Mediated Mobilizations of Tibetan Buddhist Youth

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Before the advent of the Internet and other forms of computer-mediated communication, the vast majority of Tibetan Buddhist youth living under Chinese occupation rarely if ever engaged in cross-border interactions with their diasporic cohorts. But over the last several years, there has been a dramatic expansion of transnational networks linked to the “Free Tibet” movement, fueled in part by enhanced levels of online communication. Despite Chinese government attempts to block “objectionable” websites and monitor e-mail correspondence, native Tibetans have often breached the so-called “Great Firewall of China” by utilizing circuitous electronic tactics. Youthful Tibetans born and raised in diaspora, dubbed “Generation Exile,” have been able to interact more freely with their indigenous cohorts (and vice versa) as a result. The role of computer-mediated communication in stimulating and facilitating Tibetan Buddhist youth participation in the Free Tibet movement is explored in depth by this paper. The ways in which the values, goals, and tactics of the Free Tibet movement have been adopted, framed, and transformed by teenagers and young adults living in Tibet and in diaspora are addressed. The online micro-mobilization (i.e., targeted and interactive processes) of potential ethno-religious network recruits is examined in this context.


Keywords: Computer-Mediated Communication, Free Tibet Movement, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhist Youth, Generation Exile, Tibetan Diaspora, Refugees, Great Firewall of China, Online, Internet, Indigenous Social Movement, Social Networks, Micro-Mobilization, Dalai Lama, Tibetan Youth Congress, Framing
Stream: Representations: Media, Communications, Arts, Literature
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , , , , , Digitizing Dharma


Prof. David Drissel

Professor, Department of Social Sciences, Iowa Central Community College
Fort Dodge, IA, USA

David Drissel is a professor of social sciences at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa. His undergraduate work included a double-major in political science and sociology and his graduate studies focused on comparative politics, international relations, and social change and development. Research interests include the global politics of Internet governance, transnational social movements, post-communist/post-socialist countries in transition, computer-mediated communication and society, youth subcultures and social deviance, and the utilization of interactive media and popular culture in mobilizing social networks. Professor Drissel is a two-time Fulbright Scholar who has studied extensively in China and the Czech/Slovak Republics, among many other countries. He is an alumnus of the Oxford Roundtable in Great Britain, where he presented a paper on Internet governance. A frequent speaker and conference participant, he has had several papers published in various academic journals and compilations.

Ref: D08P0272