From Farm to Farmville: Circulation, Adoption, and Use of ICT between Urban and Rural China
In the mid-2000s, China began a set of policies to ‘informatize’ the countryside, i.e. to bring information and communication technologies (ICT) to rural residents in order to improve their economic conditions. These policies posit the countryside as a world of ‘less,’ compared to urban areas, and portray people who are at the margins of China’s modernization (migrant workers, rural residents, older people, and farmers) as in need of ICT to access more and better information, and, as a consequence, more and better opportunities. In contrast to this widespread view of marginalized users as passive recipients of technologies, I look at the diffusion and appropriation of ICT such as mobile phones and computers among rural residents and migrant workers in their own terms: not as foils for elite views of why they would/should go online, but rather as people who discover the opportunities offered by ICT that are of interest to them, and try to use these opportunities as best as they can. By retracing the paths through which ICT travel in urban and rural China and the social relations that are maintained, renewed, and reinvented along the way, I show how people at the margins ‘invent’ themselves as users, find a connection between their lives and technology, and participate from afar to China's rapid modernization.
Elisa Oreglia recently completed her Ph.D. dissertation, “From Farm to Farmville: Circulation, Adoption, and Use of ICT between Urban and Rural China.” This presentation is based on her dissertation research.