About

As I walk the streets and roam the web of China, I share snapshots from my fieldwork on Bytes of China. My list of longer thought pieces can be found on my Writing Page

I am currently living in China, following students and migrants as they process information and desire, remaking cities and rural areas. I investigate media and memes in their collisions with markets, governments, and local thugs.   [More about Bytes of China.]

Here's a video of the most recent talk I gave about my research at LIFT in Geneva, Switzerland, "Dancing with Handcuffs: The Geography of Trust in Social Networks". In this talk, I analyze the changing conceptions of trust through the story of a college student who threw shoes and eggs at the government official who oversees internet censorship in China. 

Read more about my research. My analysis of culture and technology can be found on Cultural Bytes. And my personal blog is Hi Tricia.

The views expressed on this blog do not in any way reflect the position of any of my funders, past employers, the Chinese government, the US government or the Fulbright program. 

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Funding

My research is generously funded though a mix of university grant programs, state initiatives, or industry research.

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« The first breath: stepping into my fieldsite and home for the next year | Main | You know you've landed in China when you see people holding signs for "FOXCONN" at international arrivals. »
Thursday
Apr212011

Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture

Welcome to my primary blogging home for the next year! I'll be sharing insights from my next year of research on how non-elite youth are using digital tools and interacting with the physical city through these tools. Instead of waiting to read my book or hearing a talk, I'll be giving you small bytes of my fieldwork several times a week for the next year from pictures of my daily travels to quotes from interviews and previews from my field notes.

I believe in practicing holistic ethnography so when I document digital practices, I document as many aspects of life as possible even if there is no obvious connection to the digital. Sometimes, a participant's pencil that they carry in their purse can tell you more about their communication practices than their cellphone.

Some themes that I will be blogging about:

Third places

Digital computing is changing the way people interact with physical spaces and the city. This in turns changes the way people maintain social connections. In my work, I argue that private spaces of information access, such as Internet cafes, are the new third places for non-elite users. They point to a new kind of hybrid geography of the physical and virtual worlds, where emerging practices are constantly in flux. I am fundamentally interested in how the convergence and mixed use of digital tools from cellphones to the Internet is transforming communication practices and how it is introducing new opportunities and constraints for youth and migrants in the cities.

The emerging middle-class

Serving the social needs of migrants becomes more important as they secure a position in the middle-class. For China to sustain its urban growth and its entire population, it has to bring millions of migrants into the cities and into the middle class, ensuring that the urban household income continues to grow. Essentially, to accomplish this, China is digitally networking the consumption desires of millions of migrants who are aspiring to live the lifestyle of the middle class. People are using cellphones and Internet cafes to create the middle class/elite identity they desire. They achieve this through the digital content that they consume, the online games that they play, the clothes that they buy, and the choices they make in their online identities. This is a process that I call Digital Urbanism, on the margins where millions of rural-urban migrants are becoming urbanized through low-cost digital tools.

Migrant hopes and dreams

Understanding the hopes and dreams of migrants living on the margins of the city are central to my work. It is their hopes and dreams that are driving the Chinese economy, and a significant portion of the global economy. Their dreams for upward class mobility inform the kind of consumption activities they decide to engage in, from playing online games to downloading music and buying clothes. Migrants are becoming urbanized through a culture of consumption that is mediated and intensified through digital tools.

New digitally mediated inequalities?

My passion is to understand the new kinds of inequalities that arrive with a mobile lifestyle that increasingly relies on digital tools. I am fundamentally interested in how this question applies for non-elite users. One of the stories of the digital revolution is that some of the most marginalized and poorest people are now actively incorporating digital tools into their lives. As this becomes a more familiar story around the world, new forms of inequality will arise. How do we rethink what inequality means in era where everyone has basic access to digital tools? How are marginalized users creating coherence with digital tools? What are the consequences when an entire stratum of society realizes connections through digital tools to many other stratums that were once impossible to reach? We need to become attentive to these new forms, so that content producers, designers, and programmers can meaningfully interact with non-Western and nontraditional ways of thinking and practices.

In addition to these broad topics, I will be looking closely at games, virtual economy, the relationship between mobile devices and internet cafes, instant message across multiple devices, youth's relationship to their hometown, construction of identity, use of social networks sites, media consumption (particularly tv, movies, dvds), and youth culture.
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I was going to name this China Bytes, a la my other site Cultural Bytes, but then I realized that people could interpret it as China Bites as if it means China sucks. So that's how I arrived at Bytes of China!

References (18)

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  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang [ethnographer & sociologist researching cellphones and computers in China & Mexico]
  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang [ethnographer & sociologist researching cellphones and computers in China & Mexico]
  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang [ethnographer & sociologist researching cellphones and computers in China & Mexico]
  • Response
    Response: cuesskybox.com
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang [ethnographer & sociologist researching cellphones and computers in China & Mexico]
  • Response
    Response: site
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang [ethnographer & sociologist researching cellphones and computers in China & Mexico]
  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang [ethnographer & sociologist researching cellphones and computers in China & Mexico]
  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang [ethnographer & sociologist researching cellphones and computers in China & Mexico]
  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
  • Response
    Response: potty training
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
  • Response
    Response: lead generation
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
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    Response: tvc matrix
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
  • Response
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
  • Response
    Response: dental implants
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
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    Response: GU10 led bulbs
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets
  • Response
    Response: dealdash
    Bytes of China! A new blog on the ethnographic analysis of China's digital youth culture - Bytes of China - Tricia Wang, Global Tech Ethnographer transforming research, specializes in China & emerging markets

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