Student Report on “The Disenchantment of Love: Dating in the Digital Age among College Students in Beijing”

Reported by Lia Smith, Class of 2026

This lecture and student workshop were a part of the Gender Studies Initiative’s event series. Each event connects gender to a range of topics where gender, sexuality, and feminism are discussed.

On February 1st, 2024, this event brought together Professor Xiying Wang from Beijing Normal University and 29 event attendees for a lecture on how her new focus group data on dating culture in the digital age among college students in Beijing uncovers a new form of emerging culture and perspective on love and dating.

Following the development of communication technologies, digital media has become a mediator in all sorts of relationships, one of them being dating. This is evident in how young single people are making friends and finding dating partners through the digital world. However, through the standardization of communication technologies, perspectives on love and dating, relationship categorization, and the ways in which relationships start and end begin to take on different forms from our traditional understanding.

The May 4th movement symbolized new forms of modernity including love, freedom, democracy, and science. Professor Wang proceeds to explain how the growing process of intellectualization and rationalization has resulted in a belief that we are no longer ruled by mysterious, unpredictable forces. So, does technology make love a more concrete and predictable force? Does it disenchant love?

Professor Wang continues her lecture by introducing the data from her study, focusing on what words are used to address dating, ranging from traditional terms to playful, uncommitted phrases. These different ways of describe and address their dating situations show that college students have diversified dating experiences.

Some relationships start and end online, often referred to 恋爱永远在线 in Chinese. They use online chats to go on dates, they confess feelings and love online, and when the relationship is made official, they announce their dating partner on online platforms. Major milestones and relationship building all happen online. Additionally, when there are issues in these types of relationships, they seek help or quarrel in public online forums. Following the pattern, these relationships also break-up online as well. These individuals see every app as a potential dating app, since the internet is an unlimited space to get to know people.

These online relationships have massive benefits of anonymity, mobility, flexibility. However, there are those who argue that technology has added a false touch to dating. With online interactions, the interactions could be inauthentic. This is seen with heavy photoshop usage and online exchanges that are misinterpreted.

These changes in interactions and relationship developments have also altered the ideal of love. People seem to no longer believe in the idea of romantic love; instead, the emphasis is on communication, tolerance, mutual pursuit and growth.

After the lecture, the student workshop offered students who attended the lecture the opportunity to discuss their different perspectives and observations on Professor Wang’s new research with her. Students shared how the DKU community environment, with its mesh of both the international and domestic population, created a different dynamic and perspective of love that could potentially be relevant to her research. Additionally, Professor Wang and students talked about how money and status play into both on-online and in-person romantic relations, with an example being only daughters from the Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai areas. Finally, students shared some of the research projects and received feedback and suggestions from Professor Wang.

Student Report on “Health X Series”

By Dong Ding

Recently, DKU Health Humanities Lab (HHL) initiated the new series “Health X”, aiming to bridge the gap between health and humanities and explore the interdisciplinary opportunities of the two subjects. On Feb 7th, 2024, HHL held its inaugural event, a lecture on the topic of “Health X Media”. Our guest speaker, Prof. Fan Liang, the Assistant Professor of Media at DKU, gave an informative and insightful presentation about the role of digital media in health communication.

With forty students and faculty attending, we spent an exceptionally valuable and intellectually stimulating hour. The presentation delved into how social media platforms can influence public health, the psychological mechanisms behind persuasion, the spread and correction of health-related misinformation, and the ethical considerations of AI in health communication. It highlighted the importance of understanding these dynamics to effectively communicate health information and combat misinformation in the digital age. A significant behavioral science concept, the elaboration likelihood model, was mentioned, which was applied to help us better understand health communication and misinformation.

In the Q&A session, the students and the professor engaged in a very interesting discussion about whether behavioral change truly requires a change in mindset as a premise, and whether a change in mindset can necessarily lead to a change in behavior. The discussion delved into the complexities of human psychology and the factors that influence our actions, highlighting the intricate relationship between thought and behavior.

We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the participants for their active engagement in this event. The discussions and insights shared have significantly contributed to the understanding of the complex interplay between health and media. We look forward to continuing this meaningful dialogue and furthering our collective knowledge in the upcoming events of the “Health X” series.

Student Report on the Screening of ‘Blurring The Color Line’

By Anjini Mani

On November 30th, 2023, DKU hosted award-winning filmmaker Crystal Kwok to share her film “Blurring the Color Line” (2022). Sponsored by UG Studies and the Humanities Research Center (Freedom Lab, Doc Lab, and co-host SuperDeep), the screening was followed by a Q&A session, and a filmmaker and storyteller salon the next day.

Over 150 students and faculty attended the film screening, packing the DKU theater. The short film captivated and touched the audience in different ways. Through the lens of her own family, Kwok narrates race relations in the United States between Chinese Americans and African Americans living in Augusta, Georgia, in the US South. The period revolves around the Jim Crow era, a period of American history that divided, disadvantaged, and discriminated against African Americans in social and legal systems. Kwok draws these stories to the present, illustrating a progression and a greater understanding connecting two worlds, but also systemic racial oppression left behind in the past proliferating still in our communities. The narrative was hard-hitting and emotional, putting in the light an understudied history, forgotten by our high school textbooks. Coming to terms with an uncomfortable past one would rather not face was difficult but important for the young generation to learn, remember, and most of all, understand the present day.

Students and faculty raised intelligent questions in the Q&A section, with curiosity fueled by a deeply introspective film experience. Many felt connected to different parts of the film within their own lives, sharing their unique experiences with the group. Kwok shared the internal dialogue she had in the course of making the film, explaining how the journey of interviewing and storytelling profoundly molded her own views and perspectives on life and family.

Following the screening and Q&A the next day was a filmmaker and storyteller salon in the water pavilion. In a smaller, more intimate group of students, together with Professor Selina Lai-Henderson, Kwok elaborated further on the filmmaking process, taking students on a deep dive of the art of storytelling. The discussion ranged from the more technical parts of filmmaking to the more human side of sharing lives and experiences in the form of art. Students talked about personal experiences of racism and observations of race relations in their own countries and cultures. The intersection of feminism and race relations was a particularly interesting topic; the group discussed the implications of modern feminism and its connection with the erasure of important stories and perspectives.

A heartfelt thank you to all participants for contributing to meaningful dialogues in this event. We trust that it has ignited discussions, introspection, and curiosity in your lives, as it has in ours. Despite its challenges, acknowledging history is vital – the past shapes the present, and the present shapes the future.

Student Report on Superdeep Seminar “Wild Experiment: Feeling Science and Secularism after Darwin”

By Anjini Mani

On Thursday, January 11th, HRC’s Superdeep held a discussion with Donovan Schaefer from the University of Pennsylvania on his monograph, Wild Experiment: Feeling Science & Secularism After Darwin. The conversation focused primarily on the thesis that thinking and feeling are not separate– a commonly held conception by traditional thinkers– but rather are intrinsically linked to one another. To be more specific, thinking is linked with feelings, but not necessarily that feeling must always be connected to thinking. 

In a group of 10 students, Schaefer presented a slideshow elaborating on five key points from his book. After presenting, he invited the students to share their thoughts or questions. Students connected the book to their own cultures and their own experiences, offering both perspectives and new questions to tackle. One discussion that came up was the mystery of dreams. For a long time philosophers, scientists, and artists have attempted to define dreams, to understand them, to crack their code. A dream is a door to the human subconscious and a fascinating topic of conversation. 

The event sparked deep contemplation, self-reflection, and vibrant conversations. Thank you for attending, and continue to examine life to the fullest! 

Student Report on the Screening and Discussion of “Blurring the Color Line”

By Anjini Mani

On November 30th, 2023, DKU hosted award-winning filmmaker Crystal Kwok to share her film “Blurring the Color Line”. The screening was followed by a Q&A session, and a salon the next day.  

Over 150 students attended the film screening, packing the DKU theater. The short film captivated and touched students in different ways. Through the lens of her own family, Kwok narrates race relations in the United States between Chinese Americans and African Americans living in the South. The period is centered around the Jim Crow era, a period of American history that divided, disadvantaged, and discriminated against African Americans in social and legal systems. Kwok draws these stories to the present, illustrating a progression and a greater understanding connecting two worlds, but also the things still left behind in the past proliferating still in our communities. The narrative was hard-hitting and emotional, putting in the light an understudied history, forgotten by our high school textbooks. Coming to terms with uncomfortable facts one would rather not face was difficult but important for the young generation to learn, remember, and most of all, understand the present day. 

Students and faculty raised intelligent questions in the Q&A section, curiosity fueled by a deeply introspective film experience. Many felt connected to different parts of the film within their own lives, sharing their unique experiences with the group. Kwok shared the internal dialogue she had in the course of making the film, explaining how the journey of interviewing and storytelling profoundly molded her own views and perspectives on life and family. 

The salon took place in the water pavilion. In a smaller, more intimate group of students, Kwok elaborated further on the filmmaking process, taking students on a deep dive of the art of storytelling. The discussion ranged from the more technical parts of filmmaking to the more human side of sharing lives and experiences in the form of art. Students talked about personal experiences of racism and observations of race relations in their own countries and cultures. The intersection of feminism and race relations was a particularly interesting topic; the group discussed the implications of modern feminism and its connection with the erasure of important stories and perspectives. 

A heartfelt thank you to all participants for contributing to this event. We trust that it has ignited discussions, introspection, and curiosity in your lives, as it has in ours. Despite its challenges, acknowledging history is vital – the past shapes the present, and the present shapes the future.

Student Report on the Screening and Discussion of “The Battle of Chile”

By Felipe Silvestri

On Friday, September 15th, the Film Society hosted a screening of Patricio Guzmán’s The Battle of Chile: Part I. The movie selection was motivated by the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Chilean coup d’état orchestrated by the Chilean military in conjunction with the U.S. It inaugurated a bloody 17-year-long dictatorship whose repercussions are still felt today. Although 50 years may seem like a distant past, the contemporaneity of the topic is evident, considering that, as recently as 2020, Chile still operated under the Constitution drafted during the dictatorship. Attendees were briefed on the historical context through a presentation on Latin America during the Cold War, highlighting key events that led up to 1973.

The Film Society believes DKU’s multidisciplinarity extends beyond the classroom and into the extracurricular activities we host. Guzmán’s documentary brings film, history, and political science together seamlessly, while focusing on his subjects’ lives. The screening was an opportunity for students to learn more about a region oftentimes forgotten by our discussions and events. Although South America is geographically distant from China, both regions share a similar history during the Cold War. Located in the periphery, they were heavily influenced by the overbearing influence of the bipolar world order shared by the United States and the Soviet Union. The artistic direction chosen by Guzmán also allowed the spectator to peer into interviewees’ lives, so as to not forget that people were at front and center of the coup d’état. Listening to people’s perspectives on the turvy political climate of the country in the months leading up to the coup added a human component to the documentary.

Many of the viewers were not knowledgeable about the history of Chile during these years, so it proved to be a very informative screening for them. The pre-movie debriefing also helped situate them in the broad events occurring throughout the region during the Cold War. Although we did not have any Chilean participants, our fellow students from Latin American shared their personal views and how the Chilean story unfolded in similar ways to how their countries fared during the same period. Viewers were shocked to see the dirty war waged by the opposition against the Salvador Allende government, may it be through hoarding supplies or blocking the government agenda. Most of the attendees were pleasantly surprised by the jovial manner Guzmán portrayed the everyday people in Chile through the street interviews he conducted in 1973.

The discussion component of the event proved to be crucial to the educational component of the screening. Seeing as the documentary touched on many different subjects, the discussion allowed for viewers to share their opinions and discuss their views on how it relates to their personal and national experiences. The movie’s ending was a focal point for discussion. In a prelude to the actual coup on September 11th, 1973, the military revolted in mid-1973. On the ground, Guzmán and his crew followed the events. As one of the cameramen was recording the soldiers on the streets, he was shot. Immediately after, the screen faded to black, and the lights turned on. The cliffhanger, both for the cameraman and the documentary, surely left a strong impression on spectators, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats, eager to delve deeper into the riveting narrative presented by Patricio Guzmán. Due to it being only part I of the documentary, the cutoff instigated most viewers into asking the Film Society to host screenings for the other two parts.

We would like to use this space to express our gratitude to the Documentary Lab and the Humanities Research Center for sponsoring our event and enabling us to offer an interdisciplinary, multifaceted approach to literature, cinema, politics, and history. We hope to screen the other two parts of the documentary and, perhaps, host a discussion with professors knowledgeable about the topic or the Third Cinema movement, to which Guzmán belonged.

Student Report on a Book Talk by Huaiyu Chen: In the Land of Tigers and Snakes: Living with Animals in Medieval Chinese Religions.

By Zu (Zuo Rui) Gan

On the 12th of October, the CARE lab, the Humanities Research Centre, and the “Meanings, Identities, and Communities” cluster from the Centre for the Study of Contemporary China invited Dr Huaiyu Chen to present on his book about the relationship between animals and humans during the time of medieval Chinese religions. Dr Chen is a renowned scholar on Chinese Buddhism and is an Associate Professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. A total of 22 students and 6 faculty attended the talk.

Dr Chen first brought up the history and context of Animal Studies. He pointed out that previous scholars had termed Christianity as an anthropogenic religion, and posed the question if Chinese religions were the same. Although Buddhist texts claimed to not harm any living beings, there were other contesting instances. He also highlighted the importance of understanding that although religious texts might portray one thing, the lived experience of the people might be different, emphasizing the gap between the canonical principle and the local understanding and approach. Hence, he stressed the importance of understanding the various social and political contexts and histories in place of these religions and cautioned against depicting Chinese religions as solely being against animal cruelty or emphasizing harmony between humans and animals.

Dr Chen further illustrated his point by providing sources where tigers were captured and pacified by various ruling groups such as the Buddhists, Daoists and the State. In fact, taming animals were often used as a way to showcase the legitimacy and power of a body. With claims of being able to tame tigers, the emerging Buddhists could upset the power balance of the local rulers and claim more followers and legitimacy. Another example Dr Chen provided of the complexities of human-animal relations in medieval Chinese religions was by providing visual evidence from the Dahuang caves, where depictions of humans riding and ruling over animals were commonplace. These depictions were not only uncovered in the past, and Dr Chen showed us modern-day statues of humans and arhats taming animals as well.

Dr Chen also brought up the interesting question of if animals can obtain enlightenment. In his research, he found certain texts claiming that the parrot would be able to achieve enlightenment because of it’s ability to talk. Since it could talk, it could theoretically chant and recite the Buddha’s name and thus eventually achieving nirvana, especially if viewed through the lens of Pure Land Buddhism.

During the Q&A section, some students expressed interest in understanding the relationship between animals and humans in Chinese tales such as the Journey from the West. Dr Chen ended his talk by highlighting that although there was no possible way to determine the agency and thoughts of animals, we can still glimpse the complex relations humans had with the animals that were present around them.

Student Report on Women’s History Month Student Workshop

Reported by Vicky Yongkun Wu, Class of 2026

This workshop was part of the Women’s History Month 2023 events organized by the HRC’s Gender Studies Initiative. 

The Women’s History Month Student Workshop 2023, hosted by Professor Titas Chakraborty, focused on 9 student papers. On Friday April 21, after Professor James Miller’s opening remarks, student presenters, who were accordingly distributed to three panels, gender in China, women and conflict, and feminism and media, were given approximately 10 minutes to introduce their projects, followed by professors’ comments and the Q&A session. The wide range of gender topics covered in the workshop was impressive and truly enhanced gender studies at DKU. Continue reading “Student Report on Women’s History Month Student Workshop”

Student Report on Estimating Remaining Lifespan from the Face

Reported by Cody Schmidt, class of 2025

This was the first event of the Computational Humanities Seminar series, which focuses on the role of technology in the social sciences. The series is organized by Jaehee Choi, Zhaojin Zheng, and Alice Xiang.

 Professor Amir Fekrazad, a professor of economics from Texas A&M – San Antonio, presented his research on using artificial intelligence to estimate a person’s remaining lifespan on February 24th. Moderated by Professor Jaehee Choi, Professor Fekrazad detailed the process of creating such technology. Continue reading “Student Report on Estimating Remaining Lifespan from the Face”

Student Report on Religion + Empire

Reported by Shivam Mani, Class of 2025

This talk was a part of the HRC’s Religion+ event series, held in-person on the DKU campus. Each event connects a topic to religion, and faculty are invited to speak on their work and/or ideas about the intersection of the topics.

 This event brought Prof. Bryce Beemer, Prof. Titas Chakraborty, and Prof. Tommaso Tesei together for a conversation about the role of religion in the formation, development, and behaviors of empires throughout history. Continue reading “Student Report on Religion + Empire”