The Chinternet Archive is an ongoing archival project which currently consists of over 40,000 images, gifs animations, and videos that were hand-picked from WeChat since April 2014 by artist, researcher, and curator Michelle Proksell. The archive began from Proksell’s collaborative research on Chinese selfie culture with media anthropologist Dr. Gabriele de Seta.
To collect this content Proksell uses a function within the WeChat app called “People Nearby,” which uses the device’s location-based services to display content from users within a 1,000-meter radius who enable the feature. In using this function, Proksell has amassed a collection of vernacular creations that span across different locales, including cities within China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin, Guilin, Yangshuo, Xi’an, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong, as well as various other countries like South Korea, Malaysia, the United States, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal.
Proksell and her research partner, de Seta, have also analyzed and translated content from The Chinternet Archive into multiple formats including academic articles, online publications, lectures, interviews, artworks, and exhibitions in North America, Asia, and Europe. As of yet, The Chinternet Archive is private but Proksell has hopes of finding an institution to house and preserve these digital artifacts in such a way that other researchers and artists can gain access to its content so as to expand knowledge about contemporary China and vernacular photography.
Photography Friday is a regular feature from Shanghaiist in association with Photography of China, Marine Cabos’s fantastic platform about photography and photographers in China.