Technology Requires Company and Market: Zhongguancun, China's Silicon Valley

Dr. Tyler Rooker
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This paper is about technology. Its main focus is five technology practices that I observed during my fieldwork in Zhongguancun, China's Silicon Valley. Through working with and in three different technology companies, I arbitrarily isolate these five practices from other practices that might also be called technology. The point here is to describe some of technology practices that Zhongguancun companies form around, practices through whose reproduction by companies creates a technology market. This is not a one-way street: the group of people and things we call "technology companies" are a context without which technology could not occur. Similarly, markets made up of customers, companies, and connections spread and stabilize technology and its reproduction. Therefore while the focus of this paper is technology, its theme is a description of the technology-company-market triad without which technology can not be understood. One key element remains to finish the puzzle of technology: Zhongguancun. Throughout the paper, I will argue that understanding technology through the triad is also an exercise in understanding Zhongguancun. These are Zhongguancun practices, and hence the triad makes possible understanding of Zhongguancun and Zhongguancun constitutes the triad. Zhongguancun cannot be completely identified without technology, company, and market.

Keywords: Technology Zones, China, Company, Market
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Technology as Practice in the Silicon Valley of China

Dr. Tyler Rooker

Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz

I am fundamentally interested in science and technology. Before my conversion to anthropology and social science, I was a physicist for several years. Physics fascinated me because it tries to understand the very essence of all things. During my senior year as an undergraduate, I was forced to take a social science class — I chose anthropology. This was a fortuitous choice, it would turn out, since I discovered that some anthropology tries to understand the essence of science. My two years at Wisconsin were spent moving from graduate physics into graduate anthropology, a process which produced an ethnographic study of physics professors on their views of quantum mechanics, a somewhat problematic area of contemporary physics. This study was turned into a paper. When I was told that I had to choose a country to study as an anthropologist, my first choice was China. The reason was that my physics classes at Wisconsin had many Chinese classmates in it. When I went to China, I discovered not only that my hopes of studying quantum mechanics ethnographically were unrealistic but also that China had a Silicon Valley, called Zhongguancun, and that it was a vibrant place. I have spent two and a half years there over the past four years. This experience and what I have learned has influenced me profoundly.

Ref: T05P0106