The promise of invisibility - Technology and the City
A seven month research project initiated by Nishant Shah (Director-Research; CIS) , in collaboration with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Shanghai University, enabled by a grant from the Asia Scholarship Foundation, Bangkok.
Nishant Shah attended the conference on 'Pluralism in Asia: Asserting Transnational Identities, Politics, and Perspectives' organised by the Asia Scholarship Foundation, in Bangkok, where he presented the final paper based on his work in Shanghai. The paper, titled 'The Making of an Asian City', consolidates the different case studies and stories collected in this blog, in order to make a larger analyses about questions of cultural production, political interventions and the invisible processes that are a part of the IT Cities.
In the second of his articles, Nishant Shah analyses a peculiar event of vandalism which has now become the core of free speech and anti-censorship debates in mainland China. Looking at the structure of user generated knowledge websites and the specific event on the Chinese language encyclopaedia, 'Baidu Baike', he shows how, in cities where spaces of political spectacle and public protest are quickly diminishing, the Internet has become a tool for producing new public spaces of demonstration and protest. The story about 'Cao Ni Ma' stands as an iconic representation of the playful processes by which young people in different contexts and cultures engage with the politics in their immediate environments.
In this first story, Nishant looks at the ways in which internet technologies shape multiple imaginations. In the narration of the story, the contextualisation and the responses that the story-tellers make apparent, he located the internet in the midst of contestation, as it restructures social boundaries, traditions and communities. The story of an 'internet wedding' that stands as an iconic landmark for different generations, looking upon the Internet as a radical catalyst for change, lays out the first foundations for the framework of transformation and invisibility this project has embarked upon.
Within the context of internet technologies in China, Nishant Shah, drawing from his seven month research in Shanghai, looks at the first embodiment of these technologies in the urbanising city. In this post, he gives a brief overview of the public and academic discourse around youth-technology usage of China's Generation Y digital natives. He draws the techno-narratives of euphoria and despair to show how technology studies has reduced technology to tools and usage and hence even the proponents of internet technologies, often do a disservice to the technology itself. He poses questions about the politics, mechanics and aesthetics of technology and offers the premise upon which structures of reading resistance can be built. The post ends with a preview of the three stories that are to appear next in the series, to see how youth engagement and cultural production can be read as having the potentials for social transformation and political participation for the Digital Natives in China.
Nishant Shah tells ten stories of relationship between Internet Technologies and the City, drawing from his experiences of seven months in Shanghai. In this introduction to the city, he charts out first experiences of the physical spaces of Shanghai and how they reflect the IT ambitions and imaginations of the city. He takes us through the dizzying spaces of Shanghai to see how the architecture and the buildings of the city do not only house the ICT infrastructure but also embody it in their unfolding. In drawing the seductive nature of embodied technology in the physical experience of Shanghai, he also points out why certain questions about the rise of internet technologies and the reconfiguration of the Shanghai-Pudong area have never been asked. In this first post, he explains his methdologies that inform the framework which will produce the ten stories of technology and Shanghai, and how this new IT City, delivers its promise of invisibility.