Living Research 2018

A British Council delegation to research maker + craft cultures in China

In April 2018, I was selected along with 7 other makers and academics to take part in the British Council's Living Research delegation in China. We started research in beautiful Chengdu, land of tea houses and capital of the Sichuan province in China’s Southwest, and ended in Xi’an, Shaanxi province city of craft and 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.

I had expected the trip to be an eye-opening one, but I really could not have predicted the diversity of experiences we would encounter, or the thought-provoking discussions I would be able to have with young people. China is in a moment of extremely rapid transition, and it is not only in Southern cities like Shenzhen that the future seems much closer than ever.

I am putting together some early thoughts about the effects of Chinese government policies on makerspace cultures in both cities, and on the importance of the augmented reality chat app WeChat to young makers in China, to be published soon on the British Council blog. Other research outputs are on the way, but in the meantime, early summaries from Living Research 2018 (in Chinese) can be found here and here.