Chinese Alternative Design

  • Huaqiangbei - a place where the Guardian described as 'the mega-market' with every smartphone part. Credit: Jason Lau
  • An incubator in Shenzhen - an example showing how China aims at exploring high-tech industries / Dumsor phone - a designed-in-China mobile phone that became very popular in Africa. Credit: Jason Lau
  • X-TIGI S18 power bank phone - a so-called dumsor phone - manufactured ca. 2015. Credit: Jason Lau

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.

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).

More details about M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship here

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M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship

2020
Fellow: Jason Lau

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.

Organisation: M+, West Kowloon Cultural District, Design Trust

About M+
M+ is a museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong visual culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, we are building one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual culture in the world, with a bold ambition to establish ourselves as one of the world’s leading cultural institutions. Our aim is to create a new kind of museum that reflects our unique time and place, a museum that builds on Hong Kong’s historic balance of the local and the international to define a distinctive and innovative voice for Asia’s twenty-first century.

About the West Kowloon Cultural District
Located on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong. With a complex of theatres, performance spaces, and museums, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, as well as provide twenty-three hectares of public open space, including a two-kilometer waterfront promenade.

About Design Trust
Design Trust was established in 2014 by Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design, a registered charity in Hong Kong since 2007, as a grant-funding platform. 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.