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REALTIME

REALTIME: MAKING DIGITAL CHINA

ABOUT THE BOOK 
This book intends to provide an account from the digital and urban worlds of China. For decades, scholars, think tanks and agencies, both local and global, have been observing and predicting the rise of China’s technological power. Research about technology in China has mostly attempted to understand and describe its local specificities, often in order to make recommendations and adjust for competitive advantages. This book asks a different question: how can China inform our relationship with technology? 

We envisage China as an important proving ground to learn about ourselves as humans. Instead of attempting to formulate a single and structured analysis, our intention is to incite questions by making unfamiliar links and offering a glance at multiple aspects of digital technology in urban China. This book proposes a fragmented vision made of observations, original documents, scientific research, art projects and fictional content. The title REALTIME expresses a common feeling present in these contributions, one that usually occurs when everything around seems very fast, loud and real. 

This volume is composed of two sides—graphical on the left, textual on the right—so as to offer the reader an experience that is both analytical and sensory. It contains perspectives from researchers and practitioners across various fields including geography, anthropology, economics, design, architecture and art. 

The opening three chapters provide the larger context, with a historical overview of the ascent of digital technologies in China (chap. 1), a spatial perspective on the planning of cities (chap. 2) and a geopolitical look at the evolution of China’s role in defining global technological standards (chap. 3). The bulk of the volume is dedicated to observations collected from the field, including a unique collection of shanzhai phones (chap. 4) and an exploration of Shenzhen’s night markets in search of second-hand electronics (chap. 5). Chapter 6 narrates a methodological experiment for studying makerspaces in China. The following three chapters present accounts of home-grown Internet phenomena, namely the media propaganda surrounding artificial intelligence (chap. 7), the evolution of rural e-commerce villages (chap. 8) and the popular activity of live commenting directly over online videos (chap. 9). The final chapter is a work of fiction that attempts to articulate a potential future of China’s technology through food and recipes (chap. 10). 

Together these contributions constitute a small but significant sample from the vast spectrum of technology in China. They remind us that technology, before being from any specific nation, is deeply human. 

Clément Renaud, Florence Graezer Bideau & Marc Laperrouza
IMPRESSUM 
EDITORS
Clément Renaud,
Florence Graezer Bideau,
Marc Laperrouza

GRAPHIC DESIGN
Maria Roszkowska,
Disnovation.org

PUBLISHER
PURR, 2020

PRODUCED WITH
EPFL Press, EPFL, FNSNF

PRESS CONTACT
contact[at]realtimechina[dot]net
AUTHORS
Clément Renaud,
Florence Graezer Bideau,
Marc Laperrouza,
Monique Bolli, 
Emanuele Protti,
Anaïs Bloch,
Disnovation.org,
Dennis de Bel,
Gabriele de Seta,
Jason Hilgefort,
David Li, 
Dino Ge Zhang,
Xiaowei R. Wang

PICTURES
Disnovation.org, Dennis de Bel

CONTENTS

TITLE  AUTHORS
INTRODUCTIONC. Renaud, F. Graezer Bideau, M. Laperrouza 
01. THE ASCENT OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY IN CHINA Clément Renaud
02. PLANNING: FROM MODEL TO MODULES Florence Graezer Bideau
03. PRODUCING STANDARDIZATION: CHINESE BLOCKS IN NETWORKS Marc Laperrouza
04. AN ARCHEOLOGY OF SHANZHAI PHONES Clément Renaud & Disnovation.org  
05. GHOSTS OF SHENZHENDennis de Bel
06. LEARNING ABOUT MAKERS IN CHINAA. Bloch, M. Bolli, E. Protti, C. Renaud
07. CHINA.AI Gabriele de Seta
08. ARMATURES OF A NEW AUTONOMOUS URBANISM Jason Hilgefort & David Li
09. SPEED POLITICS OF DANMU Dino Ge Zhang
10. FUTURE RECIPES Xiaowei R. Wang
CONCLUSION C. Renaud, F. Graezer Bideau, M. Laperrouza 

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AUTHORS / BIO

BIO
CLÉMENT RENAUD is a technologist, scientist and artist exploring new digital spaces and representations in China and worldwide. He is a research collaborator at the College of Humanities at EPFL, and a research associate at the Institute of Complex Systems (IXXI) at ENS de Lyon. [website]
FLORENCE GRAEZER BIDEAU is Senior Scientist at the College of Humanities, EPFL, Visiting Professor at the Politecnico di Torino since 2015 and Associated Researcher at the China Room Research Group and South China-Torino Collaboration Lab since 2016. Her domains of expertise are the anthropology of East Asia, critical heritage studies and urban studies. She is the principal investigator of the “Makerspaces, politics, and communities of innovation in contemporary China” project, financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation between 2016 and 2019. [website]
MARC LAPERROUZA is scientist and lecturer at the College of Humanities, EPFL and at HEC, University of Lausanne. His domain of expertise is economic development with a focus on China and emerging markets. He is co-investigator of the “Makerspaces, politics, and communities of innovation in contemporary China” project, financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation between 2016 and 2019. [website]
MARIA ROSZKOWSKA is an artist, designer and initiator of the DISNOVATION.ORG working group with Nicolas Maigret. Her work investigates relations between humans and modern technology through highlighting alternative forms and practices emerging at the peripheral zones of the mainstream discourses on technological innovation. From 2010 she conducted research with EnsadLab Paris, where she designed and coordinated Don't Brand My Public Space!, a critical investigation on the issue of cities applying branding strategies. In 2015 she edited The Pirate Book, an anthology on media piracy. She is a recipient of a 2018 Design Trust Grant (Hong Kong) for a research about China's shanzhai culture. [website]
DISNOVATION.ORG is a working group based in Paris, founded by Nicolas Maigret and Maria Roszkowska. Existing at the intersection of contemporary art, research and hacking, the collective develops situations of disruption, speculation, and debate in order to question dominant techno-positivist ideologies, and to stimulate post-growth narratives. They edited “The Pirate Book”, an anthology on media piracy and their research includes artworks, curation and publications. In 2018, they received a Design Trust Grant (Hong Kong) for a research project into China’s Shanzhai culture. They are currently visiting researchers at the University of California, Irvine. [website]
DENNIS DE BEL is a hands-on artistic researcher, educator and radio amateur. His practice oscillates between various configurations focusing on collectively exploring hardware, wetware and various waveforms. In 2017 he co-founded Varia, a physical space for developing collective approaches toward everyday technology based in Rotterdam. De Bel holds an MA from the Piet Zwart Institute (NL) and most recently participated in the artist in residency program of the Institute for Provocation in Beijing (2018). [website]
MONIQUE BOLLI is a social anthropologist specializing in Asian Studies. She is currently finalizing her PhD at EPFL on the politics of innovation in urban China, more specifically on the maker movement in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing and Addis Ababa. Prior to joining EPFL, she worked at the International Cooperation Division of the Embassy of Switzerland in China on policy dialogue for poverty reduction, Public-Private Partnerships for Development (PPDP) and trilateral cooperation. [website]
ANAÏS BLOCH is an artist, researcher, and educator. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Product Design (University of Arts and Design in Lausanne—ECAL), she studied her master’s in Material Culture in Anthropology (University College London—UCL). Her work explores the boundaries between anthropological research methods, art and design. [website]
EMANUELE PROTTI is an architect and PhD candidate in Architecture History and Design at Politecnico di Torino. He works inside the Future Urban Legacy Lab at Politecnico di Torino along with personal research on the phenomenon of Urban Manufacturing, temporary architecture and adaptive reuse. Since 2014, after studying in Barcelona and São Paulo he has collaborated with different professional realities such as Carlo Ratti Associati, Plateau Collaboratif, and UdA Marcante-Testa. In 2016 in collaboration with Plateau Collaboratif he won the international competition for the redevelopment of the industrial sector of Pasubio in Parma. [website] 
GABRIELE DE SETA is a media anthropologist. He holds a PhD in Sociology from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica in Taipei, and is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Bergen. His research work, grounded in ethnographic engagement across multiple sites, focuses on digital media practices and vernacular creativity in China. He is also interested in experimental music scenes, internet art, and collaborative intersections between anthropology and art practice. More information is available on his website paranom.asia. [website]
JASON HILGEFORT is an urbanist/architect and founder of Land+Civilization Compositions, Aformal Academy, and The Institute for Autonomous Urbanism; he is a Lecturer in Urban Design at Hong Kong University and is currently executing his PhD at RMIT. [website]
DAVID LI has been contributing to open source software since 1990. He is a member of the Free Software Foundation, a contributor to Apache projects and board director of ObjectWeb. In 2010 he co-founded XinCheJian, the first hackerspace in China to promote hacker/maker culture and open source hardware. In 2011 he co-founded Hacked Matter, a research hub on the maker movement and open innovation. In 2015 he co-founded Maker Collider, a platform to develop next generation IoT from the maker community. He is also the executive director of Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab which facilitates the collaboration between global smart hardware entrepreneurs and Shenzhen Open Innovation ecosystem. [website]
DINO GE ZHANG is a media anthropologist. You can find his work at anthropos.live. [website]
XIAOWEI R. WANG is an artist, engineer and researcher based between the two Bay Areas. They research technology in rural areas, with a focus on food systems and the importance of landscape in a digital world. [website]