120 High Street, Sterling Memorial Library, Room 218, 12:00 p.m.
The Council on East Asian Studies presents:
Charles Chang, Postdoctoral Associate in East Asian Studies, Center on Religion and Chinese Society, Purdue and Lecturer in Anthropology: “The View from Above: A Computational Method in the Study of Modern China.”
In modern authoritarian China, urban statistics may not be available or is available but inaccessible to the public. I introduce a method called “the view from above” that overcomes these barriers such that even in the absence of official urban statistics and even where available city maps have on them only outlines, I can still produce maps that show detailed land use. I owe this power to the method’s two procedural arms, integrative scaling and inferential digitisation: the one integrates information from one scale to information at another scale, and the other infers land use from massive indirect data, including those from social media and e-commerce websites. I use Kunming—a medium-sized Chinese city—to demonstrate how the method works. It has three steps. With each step, mapping of the city attains finer detail and scale, ending with the third step, which shows residential communities of different socio-political status—gated communities, work-unit communities, and urban villages. In the larger picture, my method is an example of how digitisation and an appropriate methodology can fill information lacunae caused by either lack of resource or deliberately for reasons of security, as in authoritarian states.
Charles Chang earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016, was elected as the 2016-2017 Postdoctoral Fellow in Chinese Studies at Stanford, and served as Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue in 2017-2018. His research focuses on political communication in contemporary China.