Jack Linchuan Qiu, Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Goodbye iSlave: Rethinking Smartphone, Activism, and Chinese Labor

In his new book Goodbye iSlave: A Manifesto for Digital Abolition (U of Illinois Press, 2016), Jack Qiu contends that features of enslavement have crept into the digital media industries, leading to the worsening of labor conditions along the assembly line and in the data mine, creating “a generation of iSlaves trapped in a global economic system that relies upon and studiously ignores their oppression”. How can people fight back, start a new abolition movement, using not only conventional tools of activism including body politics but also the same digital media instruments such as the smartphone? Drawing from his fieldwork in China, lessons from history, and studies of contemporary campaigns against Foxconn (the world’s largest electronics manufacturer) and Apple, Qiu shall argue that the expansion of slave systems is always accompanied by endeavors of antislavery when the exploited resist the powers that be, when citizens join the struggle to set humanity free. Although digital abolition at its present stage is still inchoate, it is undoubtedly an important first step. Its long-term implication shall not be underestimated. iSlaves have nothing to lose but their chains; they have a world to win.

Jack Linchuan Qiu is professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he serves as deputy director of the C-Centre (Centre for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research). His publications include World’s Factory in the Information Era 信息时代的世界工厂 (Guangxi Normal University Press, 2013), Working-Class Network Society (MIT Press, 2009), Mobile Communication and Society (co-authored, MIT Press, 2006), some of which have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Korean. He is on the editorial boards of 12 international academic journals and is Associate Editor for Journal of Communication. He also works with grassroots NGOs and provides consultancy services for international organizations.

Organised together with Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University and the Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies, Stockholm University.

All seminars in the series.