When he told me that I was not allowed to mingle with male scholars in the same conference hall and he would drive me to the female campus of King Saud University in Riyadh, Mohammed was too shy to look into my eyes. He was a junior student of this university who served for the Conference. Honestly, I felt OK about this. Since, on one hand, my optimism always led me to the brighter side even when things were at their worst; on the other hand, it was not the first time I came across gender inconvenience. I was the only child of my parents who ran a small pharmacy in a middle province of China. Unfortunately, I was not a son as my grandparents hoped. Although I may not share the same amount of love from them like my cousins did, a loss may turn out to be a gain. I grew up without so much pressure from expectations and developed an optimistic character and self-confidence.
I kept being a top student since primary school because I enjoyed studying rather than to full fill parents’ vanity. I won the national competition on writing and mathematics because I felt interesting in playing with sentences and numbers. I chose the School of Liberal Arts when I enrolled at the Renmin University of China with the confidence that multiple knowledge in humanities and social science would well prepare me for the future.
On the way to female campus, my only concern was how to make my presentation without being present at the same conference room. Mohammed told me they used videoconferencing system to solve this problem, which virtually shocked me when I saw the male scholars on the screen while they can only hear my voice. I had to wear the electronic veil to begin my presentation. Gradually, a strong voice from heart became louder and louder. I can do something no matter how tiny it was. It was the same voice when I quitted the well-paid internship in Microsoft and began work voluntarily for NGOs. Suddenly, I stopped presentation. “I give up the last two minutes of my presentation.” I said, slowly and firmly, through the videoconferencing, “I really appreciate the opportunity offered by King Saud University. But I hope next time when I come to Riyadh, I myself can virtually present the conference, not my voice.” When I met Mohammed at the front door of female campus, he told me that my absent presentation won the loud applause of scholars from all over the world.
This experience is significant in my academic career. It is a vivid demonstration of new media technologies and their influence – both in the sense of technological features that bring in transformations in production and distribution, as well as in the sense of users who are embedded in certain political, economic and cultural structures. What is more important, it makes me feel responsible to give help to the helpless and give voice to the voiceless through new media, especially when I am fully aware of the powers embedded in media as a communication major student.