Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondWell my industrial field site is a different place from the rural town where Tom did his research And as we shall see people have totally different ideas about the uses of social media over 2/3 of the local population of this small factory town in southeast China are Chinese rural migrants from the Chinese inland rural areas It's said that the biggest migration in human history has been this movement of over 200 millions of Chinese peasants from villages to factory towns and cities.

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 secondsAlthough one the factors is the desire to earn more money However the differences in income is much less than most people realise And especially for those new younger rural migrant people The migration is more about a search for a different kind of life which is unavailable in countryside far away from places such as Shanghai.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 secondsPeople in cities still describe peasants or rural migrants as having low 'suzhi' which basically means low human quality Many of the migrant workers I met in this small factory town have such a strong desire to develop themselves to become urban or modern However just by physically moving to a factory town did not automatically make them urban Instead, they undertook a far longer term transformation of themselves and their lives.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 secondsTo which, social media has become a key The urban rich live in villas and drive fast cars We can't afford all those, but we are using the same smartphones Weida is definitely not alone, to many, smartphones represent far more than just a communicative technology In the following clip you will see how even rural migrant children share the same views

Skip to 1 minute and 59 secondsThe Apple GoodPath, a small factory town in southeast China

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 secondsThe place where Lily's family lives a typical rural migrant family

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 secondsResearcher: Where did you get this?

Skip to 2 minutes and 20 secondsBoy: From a mobile phone!

Skip to 2 minutes and 22 secondsResearcher: Who has an apple phone?

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 secondsboy: my mum!

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 secondsResearcher: Do you know how to use your mum's apple phone?

Skip to 2 minutes and 30 secondsBoy: My uncle also uses the apple phone!

Skip to 2 minutes and 33 secondsMum: don't play with my phone, the battery is low

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 secondsResearcher: So what kind of mobile phone do you want to use in the future?

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 secondsBoy: The apple phone!

Skip to 2 minutes and 39 secondsBoy: I want to take a photo with it too!

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 secondsResearcher: ok ok

Skip to 2 minutes and 46 secondsMany factory workers told me that they were taught to use both the internet and QQ by fellow workers in the factory. Previously, many of them had even no chance to touch a computer In their home villages People explained to me that the most important thing with those images on their QQ profiles was to be cool and be modern They also achieve these by posting images which they described as anti-mainstream which they use to rebel against tradition.

Skip to 3 minutes and 20 secondsSocial media is used to craft images that place these Chinese rural migrants in a fantastical modern world that is far more appealing than their actual offline lives For example These images are a young factory worker posted on her Qzone Whereas, this is the room where she lives One day, when working with her QQ in this room

Skip to 3 minutes and 45 secondsShe said: "life outside the mobile phone is unbearable" Life outside the mobile phone is unbearable This remark forced me to think about the question Where do people live? Yes, they moved all the way from their original villages to be geographically closer to a modern world However, it seems that It is online they actually arrived there So alongside the rural to urban migration the offline to online migration seems to be a more efficient way for those Chinese rural migrants to achive their aspirations toward modernity I think we should understand where people live without assuming that the offline is necessarily more real than the online

Becoming urban in industrial China

In this video, Xinyuan looks at how migrant factory workers use social media to become more ‘modern’ and ‘urban’.

Migration can take many forms, from starting a new life in a different country, to daily migration between home and work/school. Can you think of any examples of how your use of social media changed as a result of moving to another home or job?

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Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media

UCL (University College London)

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