The expression “a friend is a means of getting something done (一个朋友一条路)” is a concise description of the Shenzhen labor market. It is, of course, also a description of “relationship-ology (关系学), the social art of making full use of one’s relatives, friends and acquaintances. Given the importance of relationships to getting things done in China generally and Shenzhen specifically, relationship-ology manifests in some ugly ways. Nepotism is classic relationship-ology as is the art of making friends through wining, dining and bribing. Nevertheless, having friends help get things done isn’t as coldly instrumental as it sounds. Continue reading
This week while helping to install the next edition of “My White Wall Compulsions (墙迫症)”, Laura Belevica’s beautiful “Threshold (生死之门)”, I was struck by the beauty of collaboration within small, shared spaces. Indeed, our exploration of what can be done with the walls of an efficiency apartment has revealed unexpected vastness and implicit conversation. Continue reading
After several months of hard work and time off for summer vacation, the 白薯笔记／Village Hack PDF is available for download. Wu Dan designed the layout, each of the hackers reflected on their experience, and many friends contributed images to make the PDF a wonderful introduction to Baishizhou lived otherwise. The village hack was about discovering possibilities, both one’s own and those of the urbanized village. Enjoy!
Tadeas had a lovely sharing, and his engagement with Baishizhou is fun and real. Honestly joyfully playfully real. He commented, for example, that the dark brought out all sorts of imaginary monosters, such as a ten meter snake and rats so sick they had gone bald. He then handed over the key to Huihui and Qiangqiang, who will partner up for their hack. Check out Tadeas’ colorful notes at 白鼠笔记/Village Hack. Below, impressions from the afternoon.
Several weeks ago, Shenzhen hosted the Maker Faire, bringing tech savvy makers together to explore, discuss and extend hardwire creativity and innovation. This past week, Beijing has hosted Social Innovation Week, bringing changemakers together to explore, discuss and extend social creativity and innovation. In Chinese one character separated the two events. The Shenzhen hosted 创客 or “maker guests” while in Beijing the guest list comprised 创变客 or “make change guests”.
Inquiring minds might paraphrase Gregory Bateson and ask: is this a difference that marks an important cultural difference between the two cities?
As in English, the Chinese shift from the vocabulary of “hacker” to “maker” has signaled the increasing respectability of the techno-nerds. The Chinese is even more explicit in this respect. To my knowledge, the earliest translation of “hacker” was 黑客, literally “black guest”. The term highlighted the outlaw romance of hacking at (at least) two levels. First the obvious 黑 which describes renegades and their possibly illegal activities as in the expressions “mafia (黑社会）”, “no hukou child (黑户)”, and “black heart (黑心)”. Second, 客 refers not only to guests in the modern sense of the term, but also clients in the medieval sense of the term, the dependents on a lord who would provide service in return for protection. Unlike, the English, however, the expression “changemaker” is more obviously related to the hacker movement because the word is made (!) by inserting the character 变 or change into the net-popularized expression 创客.
The more pertinent question, however, seems to be: Almost a decade after China began promoting creative industries, do the respective localizations of these two events tell us anything interesting about how Beijing and Shenzhen function within the Chinese cognitive mapping of creativity and innovation?
The pomp and circumstances of the two events did not differ radically–both were located in marginal spaces (Anhuili and Shekou, respectively) that are nevertheless within the city center, broadly defined. The demographic of the organizers was similar, with generations 80 and 90 running the show, and a shared emphasis on networking nationally and globally. The staging of talks was different. Beijing opted for TED style talks, with speakers having 15 minutes to share their projects. This was supplemented by round table discussions. In contrast, Shenzhen opted for more traditional keynotes, with salon style question and answer sessions.
The important difference seems to coalesce around funding sources and industry support. Beijing garnered support from not-for-profits and international foundations. In contrast, Shenzhen had industry support, generally through China Merchants, which is rebranding Shekou and specifically through Shenzhen based companies and international think tanks that focus on techno innovation. In other words, while young people of both cities deployed creativity to claim a space for and to legitimate the status of Generations 80 and 90, the Beijing event constituted itself with respect to society broadly defined, while Shenzhen defined society with respect to entrepreneurship narrowly defined.
Impressions from opening events, below.
Handshake 302 has been transformed into a dormitory for the Village Hack Artist Residency. Tomorrow, our first hacker Liu He moves in for a week of exploring architectural forms in Baishizhou. Below, impressions of the new room.