China

Participatory Design: Re-evaluation as a Socio-material Assembly

PETER HASDELL School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University This paper aims towards a critical re-evaluation of Participatory Design processes based on a completed collaborative research (2015) in rural China. The study involved two complementary disciplines; the Applied Social Sciences and Design and their corresponding research methodologies; Action Research and Participatory Design aligning the social and the physical. The resulting design and implementation of a community kitchen in rural China enabled villagers to develop social enterprises and new types of collective organizations. With Action Research providing the necessary ‘software’ for social organization and engagement, facilitating the development of ‘hardware’ or design outcomes through participatory processes. Beyond design and social outcomes, the study raised questions concerning the critical, conceptual and praxis underpinnings of Participatory Design that impact its effectiveness as a tool. Participatory Design, sometimes panacea for an objectified...

China Over/Under: Exploring Urban China’s Informal Markets

ZACH HYMAN China’s political and industrial leaders are striving to transform the most populous country in the world from the 20th century’s “global workshop” into the 21st century’s “global innovator”. In sharp contrast to these lofty ambitions, each day a force of 260 million migrant laborers (equal to the population of the world’s ten largest cities combined) struggles simply to put food on the table while still having enough income to save or send home to their families. When work becomes too scarce, however, one of the only options left is to take to the streets to try and sell whatever and wherever possible. This is a visual journey through how an illegal street market in 21st century China looks, sounds, and feels, where listeners will meet some of the people that rely upon them for survival and come to understand the forces that threaten their existence....

From Field to Office: The Politics of Corporate Ethnography

SUZANNE L. THOMAS and XUEMING LANG Critical corporate ethnography does not stop at the field or our reports but extends into our day-to-day work in the office. Using the example of internal research conducted for next generation internet Café (iCafe) product development in the PRC, we will argue that corporate ethnographers must go beyond self-reflexive fieldwork to tackle the organizational and cultural politics of our domain expertise. In this latter context, we become conflated with “the field” and, indeed, our corporate value is equated with the veracity of our field representations. The situation becomes eminently more complex in MNCs where in-depth ethnographic research is analyzed and acted on in multi-national teams and where internal cultural differences and professional disagreements parade as divergent corporate interests....

Skillful Strategy, Artful Navigation & Necessary Wrangling

SUZANNE L. THOMAS and TONY SALVADOR This paper addresses three main issues: the fixation on the individual in corporate research, the emic need to privilege and represent relationships driving the political and cultural economic lived experience and the pressing need to find useful, effective ways engage corporate structures that otherwise are impervious to “views of the collective”. That is, we argue for a reframing of ethnographic work in industry (in some instances) from that of the individual to that of sufficiently contextually complete relationships people have with other people and institutions, especially when working with “emerging markets.” We rely on data and sources from comparative ethnographic work over time in several countries to identify what we need to study and to suggest new, more powerful directions for our research. We also suggest implications for how to navigate within corporate structures in order to liberate ourselves and our work....

The “Consumption Junction” of ICT in Emerging Markets: An Ethnography of Middlemen

ELISA OREGLIA and KATHI KITNER In rural China and India, a fragmented commercial distribution system and the lack of online shopping can significantly limit the range of consumer choice. In this paper, we look at the role that mobile phone shopkeepers—the middlemen—play in influencing what users can and will buy, but also in training them in using and understanding technology....

Function and Change in China: Reviving Mauss’ “Total Social Fact” to Gain Knowledge of Changing Markets

MIN LIESKOVSKY, MORGAN RAMSEY-ELLIOT and CHARLES HILL This paper attempts to revive Mauss’s concept of the total social fact as a method to establish understanding of new markets. Our case study of alcohol in China illuminates the spirit baijiu’s connections to the total social facts of guanxi (social capital) and hierarchy. We outline the distinction between symbols that communicate meaning and total social facts that communicate function. We propose a methodology based on using total social facts as a heuristic device, removed from some of the problematic assumptions of classical functionalism....

Video Utterances: Expressing and Sustaining Ethnographic Meaning through the Product Development Process

MEG CRAMER, MAYANK SHARMA, TONY SALVADOR and RUSSELL BEAUREGARD In this paper we discuss the use of short, specific videos to communicate ethnographic data throughout the product development process. Ethnographic videos of this nature provide complex information in short “utterances” (zero to three minutes) that researchers use to effectively convey local meaning to other participants in the process. Video utterances can be used to create opportunities for participation in product ideation, recognize key features and identify problems during product testing. With proper scaffolding, the video utterances are an effective means of contextual representation proving to be quick, direct and influential with product development teams. Using video of this kind impacts the product as the local, ethnographic meaning is sustained throughout development....