Marcella Szablewicz, a doctoral candidate in the department of Language, Literature, and Communication in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has spent much of her life immersed in Chinese language and culture. Her father is a high school professor of East Asian studies, and she started studying Chinese in high school, thus she is fluent in speaking and writing Mandarian Chinese. Recently, Szablewicz was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student scholarship to China in the field of communication. She will use the grant to conduct research related to the “online and offline practices of everyday life in Chinese internet cafes.” Szablewicz begins her 10-month program this month.
“In China, people are using the Internet for many different reasons. Over the years, I have witnessed the pace and growth of internet cafes in China,” said Szablewicz. “I first traveled to China when I was 15, and at the time, e-mail was just starting. When I visited China in 2002, one could see Internet cafes all over the country filled with young people and others who were either playing games or chatting online.”
According to an annual report developed by the China Internet Network Information Center, by the end of 2008, roughly 298 million people in the country were using the Internet. Szablewicz says that the technological transformation sparked her continued interest in the country, and offered an opportunity to explore the social and cultural impact that Internet use was playing in the lives of young people living in China. Using the Fulbright award, she will focus on investigating the societal dimensions of Internet technology used within the context of government and mass media disapproval.
Szablewicz is one of more than 1,500 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2009-2010 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program’s purpose is to build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the rest of the world.
Much of Szablewicz’s research will be carried out in urban China, and includes a mixed-methods research strategy that incorporates archival research to document how Internet use has been portrayed over time and how the government has responded. In an effort to address the social and cultural issues associated with Internet use, she also plans to interview a variety of users including, patrons, programmers, and game users.
She also noted that this type of research may present some challenges, but she hopes to address that by building relationships with Chinese individuals. “In China, guanxi is a term, generally translated as personal ‘networks’ or ‘connections,’ developed between individuals. I know that adhering to this principle will help me to establish good social networks that will advance my research in new and exciting ways.”
A native of Woodbury, Conn., Szablewicz received a bachelor’s of science degree in foreign service from Georgetown University, and a master’s in China studies from Duke University. In addition, she received a Doctoral Dissertation Field Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation that will also aid in supporting her field work.
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