Colloquium: How did China become producer of entrepreneurs and innovation?

lindtner_silviaSilvia Lindtner, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, will visit the UW on May 5 to give a talk about what happened to make China a producer of entrepreneurs, knowledge, and innovation. Join us; all are welcome.

WHEN: Thursday, May 5 at 2:30 p.m.
CMU 126

Synopsis > Hacking ChinaMaking as Entrepreneurial Life

During an official “inspection tour” to the manufacturing hub Shenzhen in the South of China in 2015, the Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang visited the local hakerspace Chaihuo. The prime minister lauded the hackerspace for its entrepreneurial mindset and proclaimed that its innovation attitude was to be supported by the government. Only two weeks later, the national government announced a new policy, entitled “mass makerspace” (众创空间), followed by a series of initiatives such as “mass innovation” (万众创新) and “mass entrepreneurship” (大众创业). The underlying vision was that “making” would help democratize technological and scientific innovation beyond a set of privileged few and mobilize many – if not masses of – people to start-up their own tech venture.

How did it happen that making came to be seen as a central enabler of transforming China into a producer of entrepreneurs, knowledge and innovation? In this talk, drawing from ethnographic research spanning more than six years, Lindtner traces how a grassroots movement morphed within only five years into a high-stake sociopolitical project aimed at “hacking China”, i.e. opening up supply chains, revamping modes of industrial production for entrepreneurial intervention, and training workforces as creative and flexible knowledge workers. She examines how the project of hacking China was propelled forward through a transnational imaginary that depicts making as ideally situated to address the pitfalls of the knowledge economy by cultivating broadly a mode of entrepreneurial living. Making — governments, corporates, and individual makers seem to agree — can retrain knowledge workers into hands-on tinkerers and factory workers into knowledge producers, who display innovation thinking and an entrepreneurial attitude towards work and life writ large. Contributing to a line of research invested in the cultural politics of design, global innovation discourse and technology production, Lindtner unpacks how making came to be seen as an intervention into the pitfalls of neoliberal governance by simultaneously critiquing and extending its very logic of self-reliance to include ever more diverse populations.

Bio: Silvia Lindtner is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan in the School of Information, with a courtesy appointment in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design. Lindtner’s research and teaching interests include transnational networks of innovation and entrepreneurship culture, DIY (do it yourself) making and hacking, science and technology studies in China, and Internet and digital cultures. She is currently writing a book on the culture and politics of making and transnational entrepreneurship in urban China. Her research has been awarded support from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), IMLS, Intel Labs, Google Anita Borg, and the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation. Her work has appeared at ACM SIGCHI, ACM CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing), ST&HV (Science Technology & Human Values), Games & Culture, China Information, and other venues. Lindtner is affiliated with several interdisciplinary centers and initiatives on campus including the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, the Science, Technology and Society Program and the Michigan Interactive and Social Computing Research Group, and directs the Tech.Culture.Matters. Research Group. Together with Professor Anna Greenspan and David Li, Lindtner co-directs the China-based Research Initiative Hacked Matter, dedicated to critically investigating processes of technology innovation, urban redesign, and maker-manufacturing cultures in China.