Co-sponsored by SAS Signature Course "Global East Asia," Department of Geography, and Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy
Shenzhen, the first Special Economic Zone established in 1979 in southern China, has transformed from a global electronics manufacturing hub and counterfeiting capital into a UNESCO City of Design within the span of four decades. This talk examines three digital-imaging practices that emanate from the city. The first is six-generation auteur Jia Zhangke’s 2004 narrative film The World, based in part on lead actress Zhao Tao’s experience working in Shenzhen’s Window of the World theme park. The second is Shenzhen-based company Transsion’s design of smart phones for the African market, which have roots in the city’s Shanzhai (i.e. “knockoff”) mobile phone sector. The third is large-scale light shows around the city in 2018-2019 that turn the facades of high-rises into electronic screens, featuring LED-light imageries generated by algorithms. Utilizing digital media to illuminate Shenzhen as a networked place, these cases offer opportunities to explore the city’s multiple connections to globalization from above and globalization from below. Simultaneously engaging with and revealing the contradictions of transparency as a normative ideal for global tech giants and governments in maximizing data collection and communicative efficacy, they provide a distinctive window to discern China’s cultural and political dilemmas in the 21st century.
Fan Yang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Communication Studies and the Acting Associate Director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities (2019-2020) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She is the author of Faked in China: Nation Branding, Counterfeit Culture, and Globalization (Indiana University Press, 2016). Yang’s scholarship lies at the intersection of transnational media studies, globalization and communication, postcolonial studies, and contemporary China. Her work on cultural studies, globalization, Chinese media and urban communication has appeared in Theory, Culture & Society, positions: asia critique, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Journal of Asian American Studies, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Verge: Studies in Global Asias, Communication+1, among others. She is completing a new book entitled Disorienting Politics: Rising China and Chimerican Media, which examines a series of media artifacts that bring the entanglements of China and America into being. She is an active member of the Chinese-English Keywords Project.
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