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Digital Migration

Digital anthropologist Xinyuan Wang explores how migration from offline to online is bringing people into modern China.

Goodpath was once an agricultural village but is now home to 61 massive factories and 40,000 migrant workers who came from rural China to better their lives. Each factory in Goodpath holds hundreds of workers. Even in the daytime there is limited natural light inside the factory plants along with incessantly loud machine noise and pungent chemical smells. The migrants work very long hours in poor conditions and then spend the rest of their time in cramped rooms often sharing living space and beds.

However most have been able to buy smart phones from the local mobile phone shop and have set up social media accounts on platforms like QQ, the social media giant in China that provides instant messaging, online social games, music, shopping, microblogging, movies, and group and voice chat software.

Xinyuan discovers that instead of the move to the factory towns it is in these online worlds that the rural migrants come close to the modern China they came for.

Xinyuan meets Zhangfei who has many online QQ friends who all post pictures of the western life they aspire too, expensive cars, holidays and houses. These migrant workers are often frustrated by their social status even after migrating but social media provides new possibilities of social life free from social discrimination.

Presenter: Xinyuan Wang
Producer: Kate Bissell

(Photo: Xinyuan Wang talks to factory workers, all of whom use QQ on their smartphones)

Available now

27 minutes

Last on

Mon 19 Feb 2018 06:06GMT


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