School of Information Ph.D. student Elisa Oreglia was honored this week by the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) for her research on Internet use in rural China. At this week’s AAS annual conference, Oreglia’s paper, “‘It’s just like being there!’: Mobile Modernity and Rural China in the Age of the Internet,” was named the best graduate student paper on China and inner Asia by the AAS China and Inner Asia Council.
Most research about China’s Internet revolution has focused on educated urbanites. Oreglia’s research, on the other hand, explores the the lives of migrant workers and their friends and families back home in the countryside.
The vast movement of workers from country to city is often accused of severing the personal networks commonly described in rural villages. Based on impressive ethnographic data, Oreglia’s paper argues that new technologies — along with China’s “informatization” policies — actually strengthen those personal networks. She concludes that some rural migrants increasingly use both computers and mobile phones to remain connected to families left behind, village friends in other cities (or distant parts of the same megalopolis), and new acquaintances who might be the gateways to new opportunities.
“Elisa Oreglia makes an original contribution to our understanding of how rural-urban gaps might be bridged in contemporary China,” said the awards committee. “We congratulate her on a compelling and persuasive essay.”
The annual conference of the Association in Asian Studies was held March 20–24 in San Diego.