Yichen Rao, “Discourse as Infrastructure: How ‘New Infrastructure’ Policies Re-infrastructure China”

Thursday, November 02, 2023 at 12:30pm

Building 14, 14E-304
160 MEMORIAL DR, Cambridge, MA 02139

The term “New Infrastructure” refers to a set of newly emphasized Chinese policies that support the development of facilities, equipment, and systems derived from the latest technologies, including 5G, the Internet of Things, AI, cloud computing, and data centers. In this talk, Dr. Rao will present his recent article on the specific discursive ontologies of New Infrastructure and how they relate to major state projects to “re-infrastructure” China’s economy. He introduces the concept of “discursive infrastructure” and argues that the policies that redefine and recategorize infrastructure serve as a form of infrastructure themselves. Through an analysis of policy documents and other discursive materials, Dr. Rao tracks New Infrastructure’s fetish-like existence and unravels the multiple political modalities, as well their varying efficacies, that are manifested through the discursive publics they generate.

Yichen Rao is a postdoctoral associate in MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing (affiliated with the MIT Game Lab). He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan after receiving his Ph.D. in Anthropology and STS from the University of Hong Kong in 2021. He conducts ethnographic studies on the socio-cultural impacts of digital capitalism, such as the gaming and fintech industries. He has published on a wide range of topics, including digital lending apps and remote debt collection, Animal Crossing fever during the pandemic, and League of Legends players in China’s controversial internet addiction treatment camps. After the fellowship, he will join Utrecht University as an assistant professor of anthropology.

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Comparative Media Studies/Writing
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