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Asian digital: technology, culture, business, and politics of computing, communications, information, and electronics 
Chen-Pang Yeang (University of Toronto)
Wen-Ching Sung
Zhixiang Cheng (Chinese Academy of Sciences)
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Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This panel investigates Asian digital technologies and cultures. We reassess the familiar account in which the US innovates while Asia manufactures. We also facilitate discussions on the effects of long-term cultural factors and recent grassroots undertakings on the Asian digital.

Long Abstract:

In a fast-transforming world where the transnational division of economic production changes, the geopolitical tectonics shift, and the new modes of techno-social assemblages emerge, Asia plays an expanding part in our digital life. Today, Taiwan and South Korea supply the majority of high-end microchips. China takes a lion’s share in electric vehicles, 5G cell phones, and e-commerce. Japan’s robotics and virtual entertainment make headline news. India is a major software outsourcer. Despite Asia’s rising influences on the global “high tech,” the significances of the Asian digital technologies and cultures have not been reflected proportionally in the West-centered mainstream historical and social studies of information, computing, communications, and electronics. This panel aims to explore ways to investigate, understand, and frame Asian digital technologies and cultures from the Asian perspectives. A familiar approach is to focus on a political-economic order since the Cold War in which Silicon Valley and the American military-industrial complex innovate while the strong developmental states—Japan, the four “Asian Tigers,” China, India, and Vietnam—manufacture. As revealed from the 1980s US-Japan clash over semiconductors and the ongoing “chip war” between the US and China, however, maintaining this hierarchy is increasingly challenging. Meanwhile, other important factors complicate the configurations of the Asian digital. In a longer horizon, Asian technologists’ endeavors to bring their own languages into modern information technology are cases in point. Moreover, recent grassroots undertakings in Asia generate wider and deeper effects. They include business initiatives such as the “turnkey solution” that enables the making of affordable mobile devices for the Global South markets and decentralized civic actions disseminated through cyberspace, including the anti-hijab movement in Iran and white-paper protest in China last year. In this panel, we hope to facilitate focused yet broad discussions on various aspects of the Asian digital.

Accepted papers:

Session 1