The project of knowing China finds itself in varying loops. Around the turn of the twentieth century, new communicative technologies’ contention with existing print media provided both the material infrastructure and
the discursive content for science and technology to encroach upon notions of tradition and culture that had typically defined the late Qing. Well into the twenty-first century, the People’s Republic of China’s increasingly automated governance embody the cybernetic principles of recursivity and self-organization when computational processes both control and help proliferate new and indeterminate forms of social texts worldwide. My talk draws from my recently published book, The Stone and the Wireless: Mediating China, 1896-1906
(Duke UP, June 2021),
in particular my study of the telegraph’s mediation of a global, oscillating Chineseness around the time of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. I then discuss my second book project in progress, provisionally titled Outsmarting: A Little Red Manual
, which examines the role of the uncomputable in contemporary PRC’s smart designs. By tracking an arc between the first binary signaling system and planetary-scale remote-sensing technologies, I hope that my reflections on understanding “China” in loops can also open up further avenues of research for area studies more generally.
Dr. Shaoling Ma will speak on “China in Loops: Signals from 1900 and 2018” in a series organized by UNC’s Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. This event is free and open to the public, and will be held as a Zoom meeting. Join virtually at go.unc.edu/Ma .
Please direct any questions on this event to Prof. Robin Visser