Tricia Wang

Sociologist Tricia Wang investigates the dreams and ambitions of migrants in China, and their usage of mobile phones and the internet. Agenda Beijing interviewed her on her findings and how her search fits into her own life. A snippet:

We’ve also seen one of the world’s most rapid expansions of mobile phones and Internet architectures in China, and the Chinese administration has successfully ensured that its digital revolution has reached an immense number of new users. This alone makes China an incredibly unique place to do for research on digital culture.

What are some of these workers’ hopes and dreams?

They actually share the same dreams with most people around the world: finding a stable job, meeting someone special, giving their parents a more comfortable life, and having opportunities to improve their life chances. This current period of development in China is like a big race to reach the dream of having a comfortable life, but not everyone has an equal start; people from villages and smaller cities face challenges that more long-settled or life-long urbanized people do not.

Is technology the ticket into the middle-class for migrant workers?

I wouldn’t say ever say that technology alone is the ticket for upward economic mobility—technology per se is almost never a silver bullet for economic development. However, I would say that digital technology is an important factor among many others such as social and economic stability, access to education, and health in helping migrants get ahead.

In what ways do you see migrant workers’ constructing their own technological needs?

I don’t necessarily see people constructing technology needs, but I see people constructing social needs and using technology to fulfill them. Young people (but not limited to them) want to feel validated. They want someone to listen to them, and to care about them. Deep friendships are created out of multi-player games. In the in-game chat or post-game chat on QQ, they are often willing to share really emotionally complex and deep things about themselves that they feel they can’t share with their offline friends or family.

More in Agenda Beijing

Tricia Wang is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch.

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