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Digital Urbanism on the Margins:
Chinese Migrants and Intensive
Technology
Tricia Wang | www.triciawang.com
what can we learn from 300 million rural-
urban migrants?
they can help us answer an important question
what the future of the
internet will look like
how will the next 2 billion users experience everyday digital life?
Migration is taking place in a new
technoscape
the cellphone is the lifeline for every migrant
moving to the city
migrants
come to the
city for a
better life
undergoing massive re-urbanization – laying the
infrastructure for the new digitally ubiquitous city
cities are the site o...
decreasing rural population
increasing urban population
China’s increasing income per capita over last 200 years
China has largest internet community
384,000,000
(chart from 2008)
Convergence of processes unfolding in cities
re-urbanization
Digitization of information
Creation of largest middle-class
...
we are digitally networking the consumption
desires of millions of people
But can the planet support the a networked
middle-class from China?
Will ICTs be the game changer?
do ICTs signal to a paradigm shift
for society?
someone has theorized about this a lot…
Society of Control
1950 - ?
Disciplinary Societies
1700-1950
WE ARE IN A PERIOD OF TRANSITION
Gilles DeleuzeMichel Foucault
Deleuze theorized this in 1992!
How are people
experiencing these
changes today?
so what now?
I offer some initial thoughts and
theories for how I’m thinking
about this in terms of China
I propose a new
urban assemblage
digital urbansim
an urban assemblage in which the
materiality of living in cities and its
digital infrastructures are
becoming mutually con...
workings of digital urbanism
people
(subjectivity,
identity)
product
(hardware,
content)
tech &
economic
policy
(legislati...
DIGITAL URBANISM
millions of rural-urban migrants are
becoming urbanized through low-
cost digital tools
on the margins
urban life on the margins
uneven rights
disruptive citizenship
widely available digital tools
publicly virtual
internet ca...
SOME HYPOTHESES FOR A DIGITAL
URBANISM ON THE MARGINS
based on the preliminary fieldwork that I’ve
conducted over the last...
1
tools/mediums of information
matter less than
relations of information
tools/medium of
information vs relations of
information
• binary framework
• digital divide - haves or have-
nots, one eit...
people will experience urban
space as a mix of cyberspace and
code/space
Dodge & Kitchen 2003: code/space is where code do...
change from the bottom up will take form in
disruptive citizenship
this happens when people on the margins
experience the ...
modulationdividualizing
disruption self-healing
ubiquitous
4
structural characteristics of digital
urbanism
5
commercial sites of internet access
become the loci of sociality – third
places (Oldenburg 1989)
necessary spaces to
bui...
several discursive regimes produce
the space of digital urbanism
we will see increasing tension around information and dig...
• information as site of wealth
expansion
• information determinism as
model of social change (Ames
2008)
“INFORMATION
• c...
neo-informationalism
Information functions like currency:
borderless
unregulated
mobile
in an ideology that information
should flow freely between
institutions, governments, and
people to ensure democracy, free...
what are the processes that shape people’s
everyday experiences in digital urbanism?
code/space (interwoven physical and
v...
how do we find some answers to
these questions?
ethnographic imagination &
grounded theory
living with migrants
hanging out in internet cafes
working in factoriesgoing to schools
I’m starting 1 year of
fieldwork i...
research methods
mental mapping
deep ethnography
historical research
ICT mapping mobile diaries
photo elicitation
I’ll have some observations to
report in 2012!
In the meantime, I will be sharing fieldnotes on
www.culturalbytes.com
There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look
for new weapons. Deleuze, Postscript on the Societies of Control
Digital Urbanism on the Margins: Chinese Migrants and Intensive Technology
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Digital Urbanism on the Margins: Chinese Migrants and Intensive Technology

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project description of my upcoming year of fieldwork in China.
research narrative here: http://bit.ly/pros13

Published in: Technology, Business
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Digital Urbanism on the Margins: Chinese Migrants and Intensive Technology

  1. 1. Digital Urbanism on the Margins: Chinese Migrants and Intensive Technology Tricia Wang | www.triciawang.com
  2. 2. what can we learn from 300 million rural- urban migrants? they can help us answer an important question
  3. 3. what the future of the internet will look like how will the next 2 billion users experience everyday digital life?
  4. 4. Migration is taking place in a new technoscape
  5. 5. the cellphone is the lifeline for every migrant moving to the city
  6. 6. migrants come to the city for a better life
  7. 7. undergoing massive re-urbanization – laying the infrastructure for the new digitally ubiquitous city cities are the site of this new technoscape
  8. 8. decreasing rural population increasing urban population
  9. 9. China’s increasing income per capita over last 200 years
  10. 10. China has largest internet community 384,000,000 (chart from 2008)
  11. 11. Convergence of processes unfolding in cities re-urbanization Digitization of information Creation of largest middle-class Tech infrastructure build out
  12. 12. we are digitally networking the consumption desires of millions of people
  13. 13. But can the planet support the a networked middle-class from China?
  14. 14. Will ICTs be the game changer?
  15. 15. do ICTs signal to a paradigm shift for society? someone has theorized about this a lot…
  16. 16. Society of Control 1950 - ? Disciplinary Societies 1700-1950 WE ARE IN A PERIOD OF TRANSITION Gilles DeleuzeMichel Foucault
  17. 17. Deleuze theorized this in 1992! How are people experiencing these changes today? so what now?
  18. 18. I offer some initial thoughts and theories for how I’m thinking about this in terms of China
  19. 19. I propose a new urban assemblage digital urbansim
  20. 20. an urban assemblage in which the materiality of living in cities and its digital infrastructures are becoming mutually constituted materiality of living in cities digital infrastructures everyday life of digital urbanism sites of tech access become the loci of sociality driven by the virtualization of urban experiences and digitization of information
  21. 21. workings of digital urbanism people (subjectivity, identity) product (hardware, content) tech & economic policy (legislation) protocol (code/networks/st andards) software: social media/gaming widespread infrastructure Hardware: low- cost tech tools rural-urban migration digitization of information practice (communication, spatial) state managed growth open web standards and programming languages organization workflow non co-present communication desires dreams
  22. 22. DIGITAL URBANISM millions of rural-urban migrants are becoming urbanized through low- cost digital tools on the margins
  23. 23. urban life on the margins uneven rights disruptive citizenship widely available digital tools publicly virtual internet cafes- digital “street corners” immobile mobility (Wallis 2008)
  24. 24. SOME HYPOTHESES FOR A DIGITAL URBANISM ON THE MARGINS based on the preliminary fieldwork that I’ve conducted over the last 3 years
  25. 25. 1 tools/mediums of information matter less than relations of information
  26. 26. tools/medium of information vs relations of information • binary framework • digital divide - haves or have- nots, one either has or doesn’t have access • tech determinism • linear reading, based on progress • captures a snapshot of social relation •ICT4D (information communication technologies for development) • relative framework • socio-digital sieves- complex interplay of social structures & processes • avoids tech determinism • de-centered reading, based on ruptures and possibilities • captures change in process I propose this perspective
  27. 27. people will experience urban space as a mix of cyberspace and code/space Dodge & Kitchen 2003: code/space is where code dominates the production of space - it mediates socio-spatial processes 2 materiality of living in cities and its digital infrastructures are becoming mutually constituted - produced through one another most prominent in sites of tech access – internet cafes
  28. 28. change from the bottom up will take form in disruptive citizenship this happens when people on the margins experience the limits of consumer citizenship3
  29. 29. modulationdividualizing disruption self-healing ubiquitous 4 structural characteristics of digital urbanism
  30. 30. 5 commercial sites of internet access become the loci of sociality – third places (Oldenburg 1989) necessary spaces to build community not work, not home the new “street corner”
  31. 31. several discursive regimes produce the space of digital urbanism we will see increasing tension around information and digital politics, what I call neo-informationalism 6 artificiality is not superficiality ubiquity and seamlessness is desired normalization and stigmatization of debt discursive regimes neo-informationalism
  32. 32. • information as site of wealth expansion • information determinism as model of social change (Ames 2008) “INFORMATION • compliments neo-liberal economic policies • internet freedom myth ideology of WANTS TO BE FREE”
  33. 33. neo-informationalism Information functions like currency: borderless unregulated mobile
  34. 34. in an ideology that information should flow freely between institutions, governments, and people to ensure democracy, free- markets, and equality. neo-informationalism While no entity promoting this mechanism has used this word, it is a concept that I have assigned to the practices of people and corporations who promote the ideology cum theology of free-information.
  35. 35. what are the processes that shape people’s everyday experiences in digital urbanism? code/space (interwoven physical and virtual space) governing data, not bodies mediated remembrance through the archive perpetual anxiety in credentials
  36. 36. how do we find some answers to these questions?
  37. 37. ethnographic imagination & grounded theory
  38. 38. living with migrants hanging out in internet cafes working in factoriesgoing to schools I’m starting 1 year of fieldwork in a 2nd tier urban Chinese city watching informal public spaces
  39. 39. research methods mental mapping deep ethnography historical research ICT mapping mobile diaries photo elicitation
  40. 40. I’ll have some observations to report in 2012! In the meantime, I will be sharing fieldnotes on www.culturalbytes.com
  41. 41. There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons. Deleuze, Postscript on the Societies of Control

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