Silvia M. Lindtner, “Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation” (Princeton UP, 2020)

Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation (Princeton University Press, 2020) reveals how a growing distrust in Western models of progress and development, including Silicon Valley and the tech industry after the financial crisis of 2007–8, shaped the vision of China as a “new frontier” of innovation. Author Silvia Lindtner unpacks how this promise of entrepreneurial life has influenced governance, education, policy, investment, and urban redesign in ways that normalize the persistence of sexist and racist violence and various forms of labor exploitation.

Silvia Margot Lindtner (she/her) is a writer and ethnographer. She is Associate Professor at the University of Michigan in the School of Information and Director of the Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing (ESC). She is also a PIP (Public Intellectual Program) Fellow with the National Committee on United States-China Relations. Lindtner’s research focuses on the cultures and politics of technology innovation, including the labor necessary to incubate entrepreneurial life, data-driven futures, and the promise of democratized agency. Drawing from more than ten years of multi-sited ethnographic research, she writes about China’s shifting position in the global political economy of computing, supply chains, industrial and agricultural production, and science and technology policy.

Host Peter Lorentzen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of San Francisco, where he leads a new Master’s program in Applied Economics focused on the digital economy. His own research focuses on China’s political economy and governance.

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