British Council Living Research 

Exploring maker cultures in China 

In April 2018, I was selected along with 7 other makers and academics to serve as a delegate of the British Council's Living Research project in China. We started fieldwork in the beautiful second-tier city of Chengdu, land of tea houses and capital of the Sichuan province, and ended in Xi’an, Shaanxi province city of craft and an ancient stopping point along the Silk Road. 

Over two weeks, our multi-disciplinary team was constantly on the go: investigating almost 40 sites for making and craft, from makerspaces to corporate design centres to open hardware factories to villages centered around intangible cultural heritage practices; holding a network mapping workshop with local makers in Chengdu; speaking on community panels and at meetups; and learning from many inspiring Chinese locals working in making, tech and craft industries across both urban and rural locations.

Our first field study in 2018 concluded that in China, there is close relationship between makerspaces and government policy, with makers positioned as catalysts for economic transformation. In 2019, I was the co-investigator of a £15,000 grant from the British Council which gave us the funding to return to Chengdu, where the CE will soon be instituted through a new set of compulsory recycling laws, to conduct a more directed investigation of how local creative producers and policy-makers understood and enacted the CE through their everyday practices. We conducted 20 interviews with locals and facilitated two hands-on community workshops that explored local applications and limits of the CE in China with over 60 makers, businesses and government officials.

The most recent outputs of this research will be regularly updated on my ‘writings’ page as they are published.