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M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship Public Talk:
Shanzhai Culture and Southeast Asia’s Smart Cities

Type: Talk
Language: English
Audience: Everyone
Location: The Forum

M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship Public Talk:
Shanzhai Culture and Southeast Asia’s Smart Cities

In 2019, the M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship programme granted two fellowships to Jason Lau and the team of Farzin Lotfi-Jam and Mark Wasiuta, whose research was initially put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During this talk, the fellows will present the conclusion of their research with the event ‘M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship Public Talk: Shanzhai Culture and Southeast Asia’s Smart Cities’.

The team of Farzin Lotfi-Jam and Mark Wasiuta examines computational and data-driven development in Southeast Asia. Through global investment, the attention of international consultancy firms, and the formation of the ASEAN Smart City Network, Southeast Asia has become a testing ground for smart city pilot projects. Following this current pattern of investment, the team critically assesses how cities in Southeast Asia are increasingly subject to a new technological paradigm that has reshaped urban environments, spatial politics, and architectural imaginaries, where smart urban technologies are both adapting to and automating strikingly different city and state structures, and express complex city, regional, and international development agendas.

This presentation will be followed by a dialogue with respondents Sunnie Lau (Head of Sustainability Research and Industry Collaboration, MIT HK Innovation Node) and Adam Jasper (Assistant Professor, CUHK School of Architecture), moderated by Shirley Surya (Curator of Design and Architecture, M+).

Jason Lau traces the discursive and technological trajectories of shanzhai, historically a term used within classical Chinese literature to describe mountain strongholds inhabited by bandits but now more widely used as a distinct approach to making, manufacturing, and copying in contemporary China. Lau explores how shanzhai evolved into a method for leveraging limitations into a strategic advantage, challenging the traditional boundaries dividing mainstream and alternative, and nurturing self-identity and nationhood.

Lau's presentation will be followed by a dialogue with Lu Miao (Assistant Professor, Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University), moderated by Sunny Cheung (Curator of Design and Architecture at M+).

This free event will be conducted in English with simultaneous interpretation in Cantonese and livestreamed on Bilibili with simultaneous interpretation in Mandarin. Click on ‘register’ to sign up.

About the Speakers

About Our Partner

Design Trust was established as a grant-funding and community platform in 2014 by Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design, a registered charity in Hong Kong since 2007. Design Trust supports creative projects that develop expertise and build research initiatives and content related to Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. Working across a multiplicity of design disciplines, from graphics, media, and architecture to the built environment, Design Trust aims to actively accelerate creative research, design, and the development of meaningful projects that advocate for the positive role of design.

Image at top: Photo of traffic control room, Ho Chi Minh City, 2022. Photo: Farzin Lotfi-Jam and Mark Wasiuta. Photo of a Shanzhai mobile phone made in China. Photo: Jason Lau.

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