Invisible Chinese internet users and infrastructures

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Invisible Chinese internet users and infrastructures

Day 2: 26 June 2021

Melbourne, AEST (UTC +10) | 10:00 – 11:00

Beijing, CST (UTC +8) | 08:00 – 09:00
London, BST (UTC +1) | 01:00 – 02:00
New York, EDT (UTC -4) | (25 June) 20:00 – 21:00
Los Angeles, PDT (UTC -7) | (25 June) 17:00 – 18:00

Elisa Oreglia | King’s College London
Cara Wallis | Texas A&M University
Silvia Lindtner | University of Michigan
Jiaxi Hou | The University of Tokyo
Yanhui Zhang | Tsinghua University

Elisa Oreglia


The Digital Silk Road has brought attention to the fact that China is exporting not only digital devices and infrastructures, but also services, legal regulations, and more in general ideas about what the internet should be and how it should be used. While the starker contrast is that between a Western (in fact, US-led and US-centric) internet and a Chinese one, there are in fact many alternative ways of using and understanding the internet in both fields.

The Chinese internet within the Great Firewall itself, while dominated by urban and typically young users, is now routinely used by people who are rural, less educated, or older, and who are not the users that are prioritized by technology developers, but who are appropriating digital technologies at a fast pace. These “invisible,” (Burrell 2011) “unimagined” users (Burrell 2011, Oreglia 2018) are accompanied by equally invisible developers, who are proposing alternative views of digital technologies and of China’s future in global technological and economic development from China itself (Lindtner 2020).

The panel focuses on the invisible labor of building and participating in China’s global technology and Internet infrastructures within China. in bordering countries (Myanmar and Cambodia) and in Africa. The panelists highlight how beyond China’s official efforts to build and promote a vision of the internet that is closely aligned with the interests of the CCP, inside and outside the country, there are many alternative and grassroots alternatives, which create new and unexpected local and transnational assemblages of technologies.



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