Darcy Pan, PhD, Hege Høyer Leivestad, PhD, Johan Lindquist, Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Presentations of new research projects.

Darcy Pan, PhD

Zone of dreams: big data, infrastructure and development in Southwest China

This project is an ethnographic study of China’s first national pilot zone for big data industry: Guizhou Big Data Comprehensive Pilot Zone in Southwest China. With the big data pilot zone, Guizhou, one of the poorest provinces in China, aims to reinvigorate its economy and put its provincial capital Guiyang at the forefront of the development of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in China and the global data market. The construction of the big data pilot zone in Guizhou illustrates China’s intensified shift towards a high value-added and innovative economy and the dramatic high-tech expansion in China’s Southwest. Rather than adopting a macro perspective on large infrastructure investments, this project approaches infrastructure from an ethnographic perspective focusing on the everyday practices and socio-cultural representations of big data so as to understand how technological advancements are configuring the relationship between the state, labor and environment. Focusing on the construction and development of the big data pilot zone, this project sets out to investigate how big data is imagined, negotiated, and put into practice in China. The aim of this study is to understand how visions of big data are incorporated into the imagining of life, development and modernity as well as the production of truths and value that contains the social world.

Darcy Pan is an anthropologist whose research focuses on the state and regimes of governance, area studies specific to China, and global technology and development. Her work has been published in Uncertain Times: Anthropological Approaches to Labor in a Neoliberal World (University Press of Colorado, 2017) and academic journal Social Anthropology.

Hege Høyer Leivestad, PhD

Frontier Freight: Maritime Logistics at the Strait of Gibraltar

Ports are critical nodes in a global maritime transport system where the aim is to move freight as seamless and efficient as possible. But how are logistical operations in ports performed in practice? And how -and between whom- is the power over logistical operations negotiated? In this presentation I draw upon my ongoing fieldwork in Algeciras, located at the strait of Gibraltar, at the gateway between Europe and Africa. The Port of Algeciras Bay is Europe’s fourth busiest container port, functioning primarily as a transhipment hub, due to its strategic location at the crossroads of several maritime routes. Despite being an apparent commercial success, the development of a third container terminal has been put on hold due to labour conflicts that culminated during 2017. Future plans of expanding the Port of Algeciras Bay have also been met with protests, revealing layers of tension in the local community regarding the economic and social importance of the port. By examining the daily work of moving goods, as well as the conflicting visions of the port’s future, this project uses logistics as a strategic lens for understanding how global mobility and capitalism are reconfigured in local contexts.

Hege H Leivestad is postdoctoral researcher at Dept. of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University and visiting researcher at London School of Economics. Her monograph "Caravans: Lives on Wheels in Contemporary Europe" was published with Bloomsbury Academic in 2018. Leivestad is currently doing fieldwork in a Spanish port examining issues of maritime mobility and logistics. The project “Frontier Freight”, is funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Johan Lindquist, Professor

Shadow Economies of the Internet: An Ethnography of Click Farming

This project investigates the devices, actors, sites, and processes that are at the center of the developing controversy around ”fake news“ and "fake clicks“: so-called “click farms,” persons or companies selling likes, views, and followers on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter via unregulated online marketplaces. Previous research suggests that the majority of click farms are based in Asian countries such as Indonesia and India, while click buyers are concentrated in North America and Europe. Rather than taking this North-South dichotomy for granted, however, the project aims to empirically study how clicks are assembled into a commodity that emerges through the transnational interactions between sellers, buyers, and online marketplaces.
Methodologically, the project combines ethnographic fieldwork among click farmers with media industry analysis, thus bringing together Social Anthropology and Media Studies. Click farming has only been sparsely researched, and primarily in ethical and regulatory terms, through a focus either on digital labor or internet marketing fraud. This project suggests a perspective of “ethical inversion” that takes the South rather than North as a starting point regarding reigning digital norms and ideals, with the aim to critically re-evaluate the “like economy.” In doing so, it develops empirically grounded social theory and a broader analytical grasp of today’s digital media ecology.

Johan Lindquist is Professor of Social Anthropology and Director of the Forum for Asian Studies at Stockholm University in Sweden. He is a member of the editorial committee of Public Culture and the editorial board of Pacific Affairs, has published articles in journals such as Ethnos, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Mobilities, Public Culture, Pacific Affairs, and International Migration Review, is the co-editor of Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity (University of Hawai’i Press, 2013), the author of The Anxieties of Mobility: Development and Migration in the Indonesian Borderlands (University of Hawai’i Press, 2009), and the director of B.A.T.A.M. (DER, 2005). 

All seminars in the series.