Professor Lindtner will discuss her new book on China’s shifting place in the global political economy of technology production. Drawing on more than a decade of research in experimental work spaces and in key sites of technology investment and industrial production, Prototype Nation offers a rich transnational analysis of how the promise of democratized innovation and entrepreneurial life has shaped China’s governance and global image.
Silvia Lindtner is an associate professor at the University of Michigan in the School of Information. She researches, writes and teaches about DIY (do-it-yourself) maker culture, with a particular focus on its intersections with manufacturing and industry development in China. Drawing on her background in interaction design and media studies, she merges ethnographic methods with approaches in design and making. This allows her to provide deep insights into emerging cultures of technology production and use, from a sociological and technological perspective.
Together with Anna Greenspan (NYU SH) and David Li (XinCheJian), Silvia Lindtner is also the co-founder of the Research Initiative Hacked Matter. Hacked Matter has since its inception in 2011 organized a series of workshops, lectures, public panel discussions as well as hands-on engagements with questions of DIY making, manufacturing, and innovation ecosystems.
About the Book
How did China’s mass manufacturing and “copycat” production become transformed, in the global tech imagination, from something holding the nation back to one of its key assets? Prototype Nation offers a rich transnational analysis of how the promise of democratized innovation and entrepreneurial life has shaped China’s governance and global image. With historical precision and ethnographic detail, Silvia Lindtner reveals how a growing distrust in Western models of progress and development, including Silicon Valley and the tech industry after the financial crisis of 2007–8, shaped the rise of the global maker movement and the vision of China as a “new frontier” of innovation.
Lindtner’s investigations draw on more than a decade of research in experimental work spaces—makerspaces, coworking spaces, innovation hubs, hackathons, and startup weekends—in China, the United States, Africa, Europe, Taiwan, and Singapore, as well as in key sites of technology investment and industrial production—tech incubators, corporate offices, and factories. She examines how the ideals of the maker movement, to intervene in social and economic structures, served the technopolitical project of prototyping a “new” optimistic, assertive, and global China. In doing so, Lindtner demonstrates that entrepreneurial living influences governance, education, policy, investment, and urban redesign in ways that normalize the persistence of sexism, racism, colonialism, and labor exploitation.
Prototype Nation shows that by attending to the bodies and sites that nurture entrepreneurial life, technology can be extricated from the seemingly endless cycle of promise and violence.
Silvia M. Lindtner is assistant professor of information at the University of Michigan. She is the cofounder of Hacked Matter and associate director of the Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing (ESC). Twitter @yunnia