The Promise of Making
This introductory chapter provides an overview of the spatial and temporal contingencies of technological promise. The endurance of technological promise works through its displacement to sites formerly conceived of as the tech periphery, once portrayed as incapable of innovating and “in need” of technological intervention and economic development. This book focuses on China and how its image began shifting in the broader tech imagination at the very moment that the promise of making took shape and modernist ideals of technological progress were more broadly challenged. It shows how China, and more specifically the city of Shenzhen in China's Southeastern province of Guangdong, alongside other regions were rearticulated by a range of actors in the global tech industry, investment, policy, and politics as places where the future was now made, as newly innovative exactly because they were considered to be backward and thus not tainted by capitalism or modernity the same way. These displacements of technological promise co-produced China as a prototype nation. The chapter then turns to 2015, when a high-profile Chinese politician and a well-known figure of the American maker movement each articulated a vision of making that was — without any explicit reference to the other — aligned in seemingly paradoxical ways.
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