‘ TEA SHOPS IN CHENGDU But you’re going the wrong way Datong Travel around,’ the other travellers kept telling me. Everyone starts from Hong Kong and comes Datong Travel up clockwise round the south-west, heading either for the north or for Shanghai or Beijing. I didn’t mind going against the flow. It had been good enough for Marco Polo, and it had various advantages such as discovering where to stay on the grapevine, and swapping maps of places I’d been for places that I was going to. Also it meant that I crossed paths with many other travellers instead of being stuck with a bunch who were going at the same speed. China’s furthest south-western province is Yunnan.
China’s role globally in the production and consumption of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) has been most evident within the twenty-first century through the deployment of mobile phones (Robison and Goodman 1996; Wallis 2011) and the Internet as sites for contestation and technonationalism (Damm and Thomas 2006). In the case of mobile phones, they have had both material and immaterial dimensions and implications within the changing formations of Chinese technocultures. As Jack Qiu’s studies (forthcoming) vividly identify, behind the role mobile phones play as commodities is another side – mobile phone production and its reflection of China’s new working class in cities. In the case of the iPhone production, Qiu discusses the barbaric working conditions of Foxconn, home for much of Apple’s production. The mobile phone in general has provided much fuel as a symbol for and of the growing migrant working class and, paradoxically, the new middle class. Images of the female Chinese iPhone production worker have become iconic of new aspirations within emergent digital cultures (Perlow 2011).
Within the broader Chinese mediascape, it is the ba ling hou generation that has dominated the usage of much of social media and geomedia. The exception is QQ, which is deployed by both young and old in rural and urban settings. The contextual background to the ba ling hou and their specific media practices shows that the ba ling hou are the first generation to grow up with China’s Internet and mobile technologies. Born between 1980 and 1989, they are often from one-child families and have a distinctively close relationship with their parents. This translates into their media practices. While social media games, like Happy Farm, are played by young and old, geosocial media like Jie Pang are a distinctive practice of the ba ling hou.