Finishing Touches

By: Connor and Michael

We’ll let you in on a little secret: we finished our course material early, and class Friday was cancelled. Since we have all become bonafide experts on China and globalization in record time, we spent most of Thursday learning about the cities in China we are going to visit, and Professor Sheehan invited us to his apartment at Parkside’s Arts & Humanities Residential College to play board games on Friday.

Thursday we got to see the culmination of our journey as a class so far. (*cough* *cough* we had a quiz.) After we finished, we looked back as a class on the toolbox we’d put together regarding globalization and were nearly in awe of how much we had covered in two weeks. We went from not knowing anything about each other and vaguely understanding the macro-cultural process of globalization to being able to break down, analyze, argue, and defend our stances on the diffusion of various global cultures through visual advertisement. Feeling confident now in the preparation of our skills for fieldwork we went on to look at the destinations we would be visiting.

Professor Sheehan took us through a brief overview of Beijing, Shanghai and our journey in between. Sheehan told us about some of his past experiences with GEA and the hilarious antics that followed them around, growing our anticipation. Additionally, we looked at how much China has expanded, grown, and industrialized within our lifetimes and how it continues to do so, essentially changing the face of the country on an annual basis, reassuring us that the experience we are about to undergo is completely unique and original, unlike any GEA trip before us.

Photos above feature the expansion in proposed Chinese subway infrastructure, showing the difference between amount of subways in 1992 vs. 2020. This demonstrates the investment in modernizing China, as well as the continued growth in a variety of cities.

But of course, all that is the less fun part.

Afternoon games and class bonding!

Prof. Sheehan was nice enough to have us over for an afternoon of games and class bonding before we head off to China together. Apparently, he is the board game master of Parkside in addition to the dorm dad, and has a collection of board and card games that would have been enough to keep us occupied for several weeks. Although not everyone was able to come, we had a great time having a relaxed day before our whirlwind trip begins.

Some of the games we played were Atlantis (in which you must save your plastic Meeple from a sinking island without being eaten by sharks or kraken), Guillotine (in which you gain points by beheading French nobles), and SushiGo (in which you pass a hand of cards around the table and each take one card, like a revolving sushi bar). It was a great way to spend time with each other before we are traveling and doing field work (i.e. shopping) in a foreign country where most of us don’t speak the language.

Finally, we’re all leaving for China very early in the morning tomorrow. We’ve had these last few days to pack and prepare, everything from mosquito repellant to a VPN to dodge the censors. The next time you hear from us, we’ll be on the ground in Beijing.


To be continued. . .

Days 7 and 8 (5/23 and 5/24)

By: Breana and Erick
May 23, 2017
Day 7: Hostesses, Harry Potter, and Happy Times

A misshapen Cheese-It found in our snacks today!

Professor Sheehan was kind enough to not give us a quiz today and instead we worked on strengthening how to write a thesis. We analyzed a Chinese Lays potato chip ad directed at the Chinese market, and then divided into groups to write our own thesis for the photo. We also got some quality bonding time with our research groups today and got to discuss more about how we will conduct our fieldwork when we get to China. Also, we got some background knowledge on the history of global interactions and Chinese context in the 20th century.

We also discussed today’s reading on karaoke hostesses in China and how they relate to consumer culture and globalization. The reading was very thought-provoking and everyone had interesting ideas to share. In regards to the reading, we noted how a lot of aspects of hostesses’ lives are contradictory, whether or not being a hostess was inherently good or bad, rural and urban identity, the role globalization plays in the lives of hostesses through the popularity of Korean and Japanese clothing, and much more.

Over the last few days, we have grown closer as a group and some GEA students and Professor Sheehan hung out at night and went to go watch a Harry Potter screening at USC. We all look forward to getting to know each other better and traveling to China together soon!    

5/24/2017 Day 8: The Last Days of Disco

Half of the GEA group missing for a short break

Piper baked cookies for everyone today! They were delicious!

As our time in Los Angeles starts to wind down, everyone is getting excited to travel to China. We started the day off to the catchy tune “Call Me Baby” by K-pop group EXO where we compared the Chinese and Korean versions of the song. The song showed just how globalized the world is today through the existence of two versions of the song- one in Korean and one in Mandarin. Piper was kind enough to bake everyone chocolate chip cookies! While the pile of cookies disappeared one cookie at a time, we looked at how to improve writing a thesis in preparation for our research projects.

The theme of the last two lessons is “Consumer Culture at the Urban Margins” and we discussed how “disco” (the word the Chinese use for going to dance clubs) culture is related to globalization in China. Our reading assignment due today was quite interesting and something not found in any average textbook. We talked about various aspects of “disco” culture and globalization such as how discos are a place to craft individual expression, how discos create a super-culture, how songs with English words are popular at discos, and how discos are places to “be consumed” as well as to consume.


Endings and Beginnings

By: Biajani and Piper
Friday, May 19th

My does time fly!

To start of the end of our week, Papa Sheehan began his lecture on the Chinese context from 1850-1925. During this time period China was plagued with a series of civil and foreign wars, all sorts of different rebellions that I cannot even begin to pronounce. Some of these include the Opium War, Taiping Rebellion, and the Boxer Rebellion. These back-to-back defeats marked a dramatic shift in China’s global position.

Though the lectures are also very fascinating, we ended the class with our undoubtedly favorite part — discussion. We returned to the book we had been reading, Lianne Yu’s Consumption in China. We talked about two more very intriguing chapters on “Lifestyle and “Commodification.” We discussed how one’s consumption is not just a mindless venture but says something about one’s desired lifestyle. The “Commodification” chapter was particularly eye-opening. It opened up a whole new outlook on how we can take almost anything and assign it some monetary value.

The best part about Friday was getting out a little early. Even though, that was only giving us a jump start to work on our papers due Monday. Though we separated, headed home for a weekend of writing, we continued our conversations in our “virtu-real” world. Piper facilitated the creation of our group WeChat, and our conversations have been non-stop ! We finished the week showing so much growth in both our knowledge of globalization and our relationship as a group. I can’t wait for all the fun we are going to have and how close we are going to be by the end of this all!

Here’s all of us with the Dornsife banner! We will soon be taking this same picture on top of the Great Wall !!

May, May 22nd, 2017

Monday’s lecture was about Global Connections between 1925-1945, so we picked up right where we left off from Friday. One particularly interesting topic we highlighted during this lecture was the way the radio changes communications as we knew it during that time. The second part of lecture was discussing the Chinese Context during that time. The conclusion? Let’s just say China was verrrry busy during that time! (As was most every country!)

In class Monday, we continued our discussion on our book, Consumption in China by Lianne Yu. I speak for my entire team when I say we are pleasantly surprised to have this book as one of our textbooks for the class. We all love this book as it provides exciting content, interesting perspectives, effective analytics and is overall easy to read! This makes us all extremely engaged in our discussion each class session as each team member eagerly waits to discuss interesting points they found in the reading! For Monday’s reading we discussed Awareness as Yu refers to it. She used this chapter title to foreshadow her dialogue of the both emerging and descending consciousness of culture and tradition in China.

One thing that fills in our class conversations is logistics about our trip. Today Papa Sheehan gave us the information to get RMB so we had some currency right when we hit the ground on Sunday! (I can’t believe it is coming so soon!!!!!!)  Along with currency, we continue the “are you going to get a simcard?” conversation because that is one thing we are all prioritizing for our trip- communication!

Anyway, a great class of course but Monday was particularly special because we went on a team bonding lunch after class!! We invited Papa Sheehan of course, but he had previous lunch plans. We went to Pizza Studio on Figueroa and took up almost half of the dining area, it was so fun! Our team I can already tell is a great combination for this trip!! We all come from different backgrounds, some of us speak Chinese, some of us don’t (at least 6 out of the 10), but how we come together and help each other is what I am really excited about and have already experienced. We had our first paper due Monday and in it, we analyzed an advertisement to a Chinese audience. Naturally, most of us had Chinese writing on it. For those of us who don’t speak Chinese, this seemed a little intimidating but our teammates who do speak Chinese were so ready to help us!! Teamwork at it’s finest! The best part is, we haven’t even made it to China yet, we are already being set up for success for our awesome teamwork capabilities! Definitely something to cherish during this trip.

Here is a picture of us enjoying lunch at Pizza Studio!


Globalization, Consumption and Team Names

By: Kenny and Ursula

May 17th

Our class began with a practice quiz of a Giant Bike ad, after which Professor Sheehan gave us feedback on things we analyzed well in addition to areas where we missed points. We then started learning an extremely brief history of both globalization and how it interacted with China. The lecture touched on such topics as the Columbian Exchange, trade routes and food drugs (including tea). We are looking at whether or not globalization is new a phenomenon. Different countries have been in contact for thousands of years, multinational corporations are newer and technology like the telegraph even more recent, yet still before the internet. When did globalization start is helping us on the way to understanding what globalization means. It has been interesting attempting to look at the rather vague term, globalization, through an historical lens.

Today, the major development in the course was starting the main course text, Consumption in China by Lianne Yu. This has led to interesting discussions on brand loyalty and identity, hybridity, internet use, status and cultural differences between the United States and China. The conversations are insightful and colorful as we often bring personal experiences and examples into the discussion. As a class, we are definitely starting to learn more about each other. At the end of class, we began to solidify the groups we are going to be working with over the next few weeks.

May 18th

We are almost done with a quarter of our summer course, various concepts in readings are starting to connect with one another, and advertisements seem to carry a lot more messages now than before the start of our Global East Asia course.

We began our class with Katie treating us to some awesome pretzel snacks (thank you Papa Sheehan for having the late-snack policy)! Right after, however, Professor Sheehan gave us our first pop quiz on advertisement/source analysis to even out the good start to our class. All jokes aside, our quiz required us to analyze a Huawei (Chinese cell phone brand) advertisement using the new concepts and frameworks related to globalization and consumerism we learned the past few days. Professor Sheehan very generously prepared us for the quiz the previous day when he gave us a practice quiz and guided us towards the types of analyses we should include in our quizzes and eventually in our final projects. Moreover, the important pedagogical motive behind having quizzes is to train and teach us how to later analyze the advertisements we see during our fieldwork in China.

In terms of our group projects, we got together with our research groups and decided on group names because that is what group projects are all about! We also spent time narrowing down our research topics which entailed picking an industry of interest and finding a potential question we would like to explore. Lastly, we briefly searched for advertisements from our selected industries which are going to serve as the primary sources in our 2 page analytical papers due next Monday.

Update on group projects:

Team Name Members Selected Product/Industry
The Little Mermaids Ursula Collins-Laine, Connor Hudson Hollywood Merchandise
Hua Mi Team Erick Chen, Michael O’Krent, Kenny Lin Chinese Smartphones
PEBs Piper Kristine, Edith Conn, Breana Norris Air Pollution Products
Soybean Biajani McEwen-Lopez, Katie Chak Chinese Food Industry

GEA 2017 Day 1&2

By: Edith and Katie

The first two days consisted mainly of introductions, orientation, and discussion of some basic tools we will use throughout the rest of the program. Day one began with a fun little project: “twitterographies.” This is a made up word by Professor Sheehan; it’s basically your whole life story in 140 characters or less.

We partnered up with people we didn’t know and got to know them before writing two distinct twitterographies which, if read separately, you wouldn’t be able to tell they described the same person. Here’s an example of one of the students: “Freshman studying economies, member of TAO and BSA, tutors crazy stats, looking to work in the food industry #food.” Now here’s another example of the same student: “Soccer watcher and player, The Intern #bestmovieever, loves to travel with fam, can’t wait to go back to China #THIRDtime and try Peking Duck #food #fighton.” The second one goes over the character count a bit, but Professor Sheehan thankfully wasn’t too strict. 

Once we finished introductions we quickly got into orientation which took up a good chunk of time, but was incredibly necessary! Traveling to another country for two weeks isn’t easy! We finally got into the readings towards the last hour of class, and established some tools we would be using from then on. Here’s the list we have from day one:
Eriksen (author): Features of globalization
• Acceleration
• Standardization
• Interconnectedness
• Movement
• Mixing
• Vulnerability
• Re-embedding
What we do with these tools is analyze pictures that emphasize certain aspects of globalization. We figure out, for example, who the ad is marketed to, the main message its trying to convey, and how/if it shows globality. We also learned another tool from our second reading for that day: Invention of Tradition by Hobsbawm. We all agreed that Hobsbawm wasn’t totally spot on with his argument of “invented traditions” versus “real traditions,” as all traditions were invented at one point. But it is an important tool to use when observing traditions in China and in product advertisements.

The second day featured more logistics as we tried to figure out airplane seats and our final paper! But everything will definitely be settled before we leave. Professor Sheehan did a lot more lecturing today before jumping into discussion on the readings. He did some history and geography of China, especially of the areas we will be staying at when we go. Professor Sheehan is a great lecturer, but he should definitely think about a career in game show hosting (I mean look at those awesome pants)!

We also talked about the (vague) concept of globalization and Professor Sheehan gave us a Quick and Dirty Guide to Globalization, which include the following list:

    • Capital flows
    • Global shifts in division of labor
    • Multinational organizations and corporations
    • Increases in wealth combined (usually) with increases in inequality
    • Globalized culture seen in brands, Hollywood, kung fu, fast food, hip hop, anime…
    • International competitions and sports
    • Local resistance and adaptation: “glocalization”
    • Development of an “international language”
    • Media and communication
    • Copying of personal habits (hygienic discipline)
    • Global definition of regulated time
    • Population movements
    • Long-distance trade
    • The movement of germs and viruses
    • The movement of ideas:
      • Religion, nationalism, progress…
    • The movement of technological innovations:
      • New transportation and communications technologies lead to a shrinking of time and space 
    • Adaptation of political structures to international influence:
    • Invasion and conquest
    • International relations
    • Colonialism / imperialism

Lastly, we finally took our group photo! Not one. But THREE.