Getting Ahead in China: Virtual Mobility, Computer Technology, and Chinese Cyborgs
Eriberto P. Lozada Jr.
Anthropology Program, Butler University
(paper given at the 2000 AAA Annual Meeting in Chicago)
Computer technology, transnational capital, and state consolidation in post-socialist China has resulted in enormous changes in Chinese social life. Chinese global imaginings in the world’s fastest growing computer market have become saturated with images of a localized cyberculture. These images not only reflect but also enact changes in urban and rural Chinese conceptions of self, as young adults pursue their visions of the good life. Based on fieldwork conducted in a rural northern Guangdong village from 1993-1999 and in urban Shanghai from 1998-2000, this paper will examine how computers and other information technologies have become a part of everyday life in Chinese society. The localization of computer technology has created new cultural forms and social structures that have further distanced traditional sources of stratification: urban versus rural, littoral versus hinterland, and wider versus more local networks. With its ambivalent attitude towards the political and economic benefits of new information technologies, the Chinese state has been a key actor in shaping how the internet and global capital have penetrated national borders. What do computers mean to people in urban and rural China? How has the development and consumption of computer technology industries, goods, and services shaped Chinese social relations? How has the technology itself re-defined Chinese subjectivity? Through the theoretical perspectives of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) studies, this paper will examine how computer technologies have localized modernity. This process of localization, however, challenges individuals to adapt to new strategies in making money and carving out a place for themselves in deterritorialized communities as they implement their visions of the future.