word of the day, “unwilling”

I first saw the chat record in a chat group,, dated April 16. Two days later, I saw it in my moments in a circulating WeChat post. The group leader said, “I’ve received an urgent notification from the top, everyone in the building is required to go down stairs for a corona test. Please respond with whether or not your willing to go downstairs.” He followed with his response, “unwilling.” It was followed by 50+ “unwillings.” The chat leader then said, “Thank you everyone. There have been enough responses. I’ll go negotiate with them.“ After three thank you emogis, he added. “Some leaders notified the neighborhood office at 5:45 p.m, to have us all go downstairs at 6:00. The teachers in the community office are helpless, so don’t blame them. Many of them only get 6 or 4 hours of sleep a night.” The same day that I saw the circulating WeChat post, I also saw a series of “will not participate in any more corona tests,” circulating on TikTok post, with music.

what to make of covid videos?

One of the most difficult things to figure out is what to make of video clips on WeChat. Whoever took the time to take out their cellphone and film these moments, clearly thought that they reveal some truth about Shenzhen under lockdown. But here’s the rub: these clips often circulate without captions, as if the content was self-explanatory. When they do have captions, these videos are still difficult to understand because its difficult to know who the protagonist and antagonist are. Who should we sympathize with? Who should we condemn? However, unless I actually know the person who produced the video clip, there is no way to confirm who filmed the video and why, when it was filmed, what provoked it and what came next. I watch a clip, thinking, “Now I understand.” But what I’ve understood slips away the moment I click on the next post. Indeed, the lack of third party confirmation haunts all Covid posts on Shenzhen social media, especially because there are few ways to actually visit sites and ask. We have puzzle pieces, but no way of knowing what box they came from or even if they’re part of the same puzzle. The city seems more ephemeral than ever.

So, some videos that feature Covid management teams in hazmat suits. Make of them what you will:

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the digital divide, coronavirus @sz

When the New Year’s holiday began, much of the sociality that characterizes everyday life in our housing estate ended. There were no more early morning exercise groups, mid-morning dancing Aunties, and afternoon gamers. We have several groups who play cards, Chinese chess, and mah jong in the compound. However, children are still riding bikes, playing badminton, and dribbling basketballs. It is also possible to visit friends within the estate, and so the other night, we had friends over for dinner and a game of cribbage. What I learned from my friends is that they aren’t missing face-to-face interaction as much as someone of my generation might think because young people have been proactive in organizing even more online social events than usual. There have been online photo-galleries, where people upload images on a shared theme, online talks, where people listen to and interact with a guest speaker, and even more online gaming than usual. In other words, my younger friends have experienced the delay in returning to work and school as a chance to intensify their online friendships, which they agree, are often less stressful and more rewarding than face-to-face interactions.

who “i” have become in an iPhone / WeChat world

My cellphone has changed me or rather it has changed how I experience myself, and this other me (the one that steps back and reflects on this experience) is coming to terms with someone I never imagined I would meet, let alone become.  Continue reading

handshake 302: WeChat connections

Handshake 302 has been we-chatting in Chinese for half a year now. We are now starting to offer updates in English as well. If you scan our barcode (above), you will receive updates in English and Chinese about one of Shenzhen’s most vibrant public arts projects. The updates also include information about upcoming events and instructions about how to join our events. Welcome to the conversation!

just what aren’t we seeing?

Currently circulating on WeChat news that apparently on May 20, 2015 China blocked Chinese Wikipedia, begging question du jour: just what triggered the block? (This is a serious question, if you know, please share). To date, 16 of the top 30 English language websites have been blocked.  Continue reading