This video essay is adapted from a published article dealing with the unique modes of online commenting practices in China. Notably the use of danmu or bullet screens as a transgressive commenting form where user comments are directly layered on top of the content itself. I want to explore how danmu comment culture in China operate outside of the top-bottom dichotomy where comments are increasingly supplanting content as the main form of consumable media. The video essay format, through its affordances as a kinetic medium, can work to depict digital media and online interactivity in ways a traditional static manuscript cannot. This ability to visualize the means by which netizens reconfigure, remix and remediate digital spaces is critical to my argument of the subversive roles of danmu. On a broader level, the video essay as a method can work to complement existing traditional research in ways that can provide new modes of engagement in digital scholarship.
Employing a mix of remixes, audiovisual elements and editing techniques, I hope to illustrate this online phenomenon is directly related to the differing aesthetic perspectives in East Asian art that does not privilege a single vanishing point, making artistic consumption a kinetic process as opposed to a static one. I argue the spatial configuration of comments and how Chinese netizens appropriate such spaces, can work to subvert established hierarchies in a highly visible and public manner. Here, I invoke the metaphor of the “hypeflat” (Azuma, 2009) to visualize the multiple layers of interactions that enables the reconfiguration of the temporal/spatial order contesting the unitary narrative. In doing so, I seek to not only shed light on these distinct modes of commenting practices but also serves to illustrate the imbrication of production and consumption practices that is unique to the East Asian experience. Danmu comments, in many ways can be seen as the direct subversion of the metanarrative that is indicative of the discontinuity and incongruity within China’s transition from postsocialist to neoliberal practices – a scrambling of temporality that conjures China’s own postmodernity.
Azuma, H. (2009). Otaku: Japan’s database animals. (J. E. Abel & S. Kono, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

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