M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship

Chinese Alternative Design

M+, West Kowloon Cultural District, Design Trust

2020 M+ / Design Trust Research Fellow Jason Lau’s project explores new forms of mobile technologies in China. As part of the jury panel of China Mobile Design competition, organised by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Lau has access to different manufacturers, designers, academics, and policy-makers in the Chinese technology communities. The project will undergo historical analyses through interviews, and participatory observations to question different aspects of Chinese Alternative Design. His project seeks to understand how new forms of realities are created through design, digitisation, and technologisation. Withan emphasis on both networks of production and the mundane in everyday life, over the years, Lau has conducted extensive field research in China and the U.S. to observe the use of mobile technologies and their development.

The M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship programme consists of two separate fellowships investigating issues related to architecture and design. One supports research projects focused on Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area in an Asian or global context, and the second supports research projects related to Asia more broadly, closely in line with the curatorial position of M+, the Hong Kong museum dedicated to visual culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Past fellows include: Ling Fan (2015); Joseph Grima (2016); the team of Daniel Cooper and Juliana Kei (2016); Thomas Daniell (2017); Hugh Davies (2018); the team of Fan Lok Yi and Sampson Wong (2018); Yasmin Tri Aryani (2019) and Oliver Elser (2019).

About the Partnering Institution:

Jason Lau is a fellow and PhD candidate in anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York. His research focuses on innovations in China, with particular attention on mobile phone design. He previously taught at Parsons School of Design and has conducted extensive research across China, including in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. His 2013–2018 study on the paradoxical relationship between innovation and the long-standing practice of imitation in China led him to define the term ‘Chinese alternative design’. He holds an MPhil in comparative literature from the University of Hong Kong and a Master of Arts degree and an MPhil in cultural anthropology from the New School for Social Research.