Jack Qiu’s academic interests include Internet and society, information and communication technologies (ICTs) and class, late capitalism, globalization, grassroots media, China, and the Asian Pacific. His publications include Working-Class Network Society: Communication Technology and the Information Have-Less in Urban China (MIT Press, 2009), Mobile Communication and Society: A Global Perspective (MIT Press, 2006, co-authored with Manuel Castells, Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol, and Araba Sey), and many chapters, articles, and review essays.
Presentation: Working-Class Informational City
When Manuel Castells published his book The Informational City in 1989, the mobile phone was a strictly elite luxury and working-class mobility – physical, informational, and social – looked fragile in the context of a dissolving Eastern Bloc.
Twenty years later, when we revisit the seminal ideas of the informational city, Africa is the world’s fastest-growing mobile market; Chinese workers become assertive again in reclaiming their rights; world economy is still recovering from the financial crisis; and global warming is threatening human civilization. In a recent article, Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums, argues that the hope of the world lies in the adaptation of developing-world megacities to innovative designs that combine traditional and local practices with modern technologies such as the mobile phone.
In other words, there is an urgent need to imagine and then construct a working-class informational city that is sustainable, equitable, responsive to local conditions, and respectful to labor in both production and reproduction.
This speech invites the audience to jointly exercise our imagination in order to answer this urgent call. Drawing from long-durée historical thinking and eight years of fieldwork in working-class communities, factories, and service-sector workplaces in urban China, the speech highlights a new way to conceptualize the informational city that is radically different from the “industrial city” of the past.
To make this leap, we have to start thinking about an “industrious city”, whose roots are to be found in the Industrious Revolution of East Asia rather than the Industrial Revolution of West Europe. The making of such a vibrant working-class informational city, to me, is what twenty-first-century urbanization is all about.