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Prototype NationChina and the Contested Promise of Innovation$
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Silvia M. Lindtner

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691207674

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691207674.001.0001

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Prototype Citizen

Prototype Citizen

Colonial a Dur Bilities in Technology Innovation

(p.39) 2 Prototype Citizen
Prototype Nation

Silvia M. Lindtner

Princeton University Press

This chapter shows how the desire to achieve parity with the West brought the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) and the grassroots tinkerers of China's early hackerspace and coworking space into a paradoxical and often highly ambivalent alignment in their respective projects to assert China as innovative and creative. It covers the years 2007 through 2011, when a collective of Chinese artists, designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and internet bloggers began to experiment with the ideals of the American free culture movement, participatory design, and eventually, open source hardware and making. Their work of transplanting Western ideals of participatory, open, and democratized technology production into contemporary China created an affective connection between China's history of manufacturing and its future as a global economic power. Their early experiments with participatory design, coworking spaces, makerspaces, and open source, open innovation, and open design, were aimed at prototyping a “new” Chinese citizen, i.e., the utilization of technology to cultivate an optimistic, forward-looking, entrepreneurial Chinese citizen, at last freed from connotations of lack and low quality. These attachments to technological promise are deeply intertwined with China's ambivalent relationship to the West, marked both by histories of colonialism and by revolutionary imaginings of alternative modernities.

Keywords:   Chinese Communist Party, China, American free culture movement, open source hardware, technology production, manufacturing, global economic power, Chinese citizen, participatory design, coworking spaces

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