China Campus - Crossculturality

Early Adopters in China
China Campus - Cross-culturality


Overview :
Foreword Introduction Problematic 5 6 7

I Shanghai, testimony of Chinese modernity
1.1 Demographics, growth in coastal cities
1.1.1 Modern China 1.1.2 Littoral China 1.1.3 Shanghai, International Chinese metropolis 1.2.1 An urban household 1.2.2 A family child-centered

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1.2 Study of a typical Shanghainese family


II The Early Adopters, figurehead of a geek generation (techno-consumers & techie )
2.1 Early Adopters
2.1.1 Definition 2.1.2 Implications 2.1.3 Early adopters and design 2.2.1 One social group with differents interests 2.2.2 Piracy (ou hacking) in driving penetration of the public 2.2.3 Membership of a distinct social class : the White Collars

17 17 18 18 19 21

2.2 Chinese Early Adopters

2.3 The Golden Generation: generation post-80’s & post-90’s


III The social problems of the golden generation
3.1 Phenomenon of ‘young emperor’ 3.2 Internet Addiction 3.3 Uneasy communication

27 28 30
31 31 32

3.3.1 Clash of generations 3.3.2 Intra-generational Communication 3.3.3 Generation widely criticized

Conclusion Bibliography Acknowledgments

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The thesis that you will read, and I hope at the same time enjoy, is both the result of my research phase of Project Graduation, and the result of my two years in China as an expatriate Breton and interactive design student.

By choosing to spend those two years away from the comfort of the Nantes Design School, I engaged to go to a country from which I didn’t know (and it is still not quite the case) the language nor the culture, which are so different from what I knew that every day is still a journey to discover unknown things, and where the routine has never installed. I spent my first winter as an expatriate in Beijing, where every morning riding the bike to my workplace have proved inspiring, surprising, and to not hide it, sometimes dangerous. It’s also that feeling of being lost in something that overwhelm you, bigger than yourself, that pushed me to move forward and made me appreciate China (at least the cities of more than 7 million people in which I spent some time). Before seeing the family and the new generation of Chinese as a subject of study, it had at first been the proximity in which we live in Shanghai that pushed me to get interested in those who, despite our cultural differences and language, are my neighbors, my friends, or simply people met in the elevator. Today I think that live and work abroad, especially in Asia, more than a simple personal consideration, is also a great engine of creative ideas, and daily discovery. In many ways, the conclusions that I have learned from writing this thesis (and which you will remember too, I hope, after reading it) are found in many common issues to young generation worldwide. But here in Shanghai, these issues take on a different scale of magnitude and importance. Work with and among the Chinese population reminds us every day why we have chosen to emigrate. Wishing you a happy reading, Valentin Gauffre

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If Chinese civilization stretches back thousands of years, «The workshop of the world», as is regularly called upon China, saw its habits and behavior profoundly modified by Western influence, and the choice of an ubiquitous Communist government. Shanghainese people, inhabitants of a town became the symbol of this cultural mix and the Chinese success, became thereby the representatives of a modern China, which wants to be progressive and open to the world. Moved from a status of producers to consumers, their lives became a mix of Chinese practices within a framework that is intended to be an example for the Western world. In this context, and in an environment marked by the global economic crisis, the youth of a country that has never experienced an economic recession has become the center of attention across the country. Yet this Chinese youth seems to be little known and sometimes misunderstood, even by his peers, and his habits and behaviors become distant or strange to the views of older Chinese generations. Concerned, new technologies, which are the vector of a gap of understanding between young people, who grew up with, and those older, who cannot control them or understand their goal, but are becoming unable to live without. This gap is even greater now that these technologies are everywhere in Asians everyday life were designed, manufactured and sold in China now. Taking shanghainese household as a starting point, this paper seeks to highlight the issues faced by Chinese youth in order to provide them a design answer, and especially because it is my original scope of practice, by design interaction. Having identified the economic, demographic and historical unique to China, we will see what are the problems facing Chinese youth, through a class of its people best able to influence others. It is this category of tech-savvy influencers that this thesis takes its title.


« From the observation of new generations in China, responding to social problems through the tools of design. »

In this title, ‘design tools’ are expanded to specialties studied during my course as a designer, which are cross-culturality design, and interaction design.


I Shanghai, testimony of Chinese modernity

«Shanghai | Hazy Lujiazui - PuDong, Shanghai»,, Nicholas P


1.1 - Demographics, growth in coastal cities
1.1.1 - Modern China
In the current economic crisis, no one longer ignoring the economic and political power in China, which holds for example 36% of the U.S. foreign debt (or 1.51 trillion dollars, 1.51 million of millions of dollars)1. But even in the mind of his people, nobody would have imagined 20 years ago that China would become this global giant. With an economic growth rate in double digits, constant since the 1980s (leading the country to be the second largest economy), a population near 1 billion 300 million people (the first world population)2, its growth is not without creating disparities at a national level, disparities in social order, demographic and economic. Indeed, if China is now a great power, and a country with impressive surface, its history reveals that his unity is something quite new or even sometimes overestimated, and that the Empire with millenary History and Culture, often quoted in local classrooms as the first national treasure, has long been established small kingdoms
1 2 3

composed of mixed ethnicity, which Beijing (Peking) tried to impose his authority. This history, he remains today as modern China, if it impresses with its apparent uniqueness, is actually composed of many small pieces that fit together to form one. Politically, it is the central government that determines the laws and procedures, through a carefully planned economy for the prosperity of the country. But the country is governed by a highly decentralized political system, each region (There are 22 major ones in China) is run by a auxiliary government, each city by a City Council, each district by a district committee, and each residence by a residents’ association, which sometimes appear to have equal power. So law enforcement is subject to the goodwill of everyone, in this branching system of power. Ethnicities, whether they are a minority compared to the main ethnic group of Han (91.59% of the population is of Han origin3), still play a role in the segmentation of the country, and many ethnic conflicts (sometimes bloody ) remain in the country, and to the borders. Economically, if the numbers are impressive, social disparities between populations have widened with the rise of China. It does not exist, for example, middle class

United States Department of the Treasury and Federal Reserve Board « Major foreign holders of Treasury securities » 2011 CIA « The World Fact Book » 2011 Wikipédia « Demographics of the People’s Republic of China


that would support the analogy of the French middle class. Thus white collar workers (see box), often have an income greater than eight times the working class income, in the same city1. Economic disparities between city and countryside are huge, when the price per square meter returns to Shanghai a year’s salary for a peasant of Sichuan2. > White Collar & Blue Collar «White-collar workers» designate the Chinese middle class, formed of office workers, and decision makers in the company. The term comes from the fact that they wear white shirts under their jackets, as opposed to blue collar workers, which means the working class. The Chinese territory, from its size and population, however, cannot be grasped in its entirety without risking being confused. This territory includes most of the features which should be investigated in order to extract meaning.

1.1.2 - Littoral China
China has the particularity of being a large country (second surface in the world after Russia), plus the diversity of its geography, its economic growth has resulted in a massive movement of populations to the east of the territory, increasing of 10% every year for 10 years3 in coastal cities such as Tianjin, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Shanghai of course. It is in this shoreline that concentrates nearly 80% of the population, and that the housing density flies, with over 1000 people per km2 in rural areas (10 times the population density of overall France)4. In contrast to mainland China, coastal China focuses both populations, natural resources, but also foreign investment. At the opening of borders, it’s also on the coast that settled large foreign companies, to be closer to big harbors for export. This concentration has greatly benefited to Shanghai, which became, among other things, the second port in the world in terms of traffic5. Migrant worker population have become part of this system, and cities like Shanghai would accommodate up to 4 million of these populations.6

1, 2 3, 4 5 6

Bureau des statistiques de la République populaire de Chine, CIA « the World Factbook » 2011

Wikipédia « China » Statistic Bureau of Shanghai, China Statistics Press, 2002

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From those initial data, from a designer point of view, we can highlight several evidences. First, that «design for China» is a discourse without meaning, as the populations and the size of the country are creating so many diversities. In a context of design that is more human-centered, it is therefore necessary to remember that understand China is to first understand how it is made. To design any project for coastal China, is to be faced with a concentration of very large population, itself made up of very diversified individuals and social classes. On this coast, some large cities emerge from the other, by their growth, population, or simply their history. This is the case of Shanghai, new international metropolis.

1.1.3 - Shanghai, international metropolis
If Beijing is the official capital of the People’s Republic of China, Shanghai is considered as the largest economic capital and the business center of China, with over $ 257 billion of foreign investment, or 12% of the national total1. Yet it was not until the 1990s that the city finds its legitimacy and status as a great metropolis. Geographical construction of the urban plan of Shanghai only have been established from the 1840s through the establishment of foreign concessions and of the Treaty of Nanjing2. Thus, a century in China only accounts for little in a country that boasts of being a civilization rich of several millennia. But the changes initiated at that time will profoundly mark the city, and even more than 60 years after3, we still speak of ‘French Concession’ to refer to a portion of the south of Shanghai. The Pu Dong district, also nicknamed «Chinese Manhattan», whose construction began at that time, will give the city a profound identity, mixture between Asia and the West. This area of high-tech business, wanted and built from scratch by the mayor of Shanghai,

1 2 3 «Atlas de Shanghai, une métropole en renouveau» Thierry Sanjuan, Madeleine Benoit-Guyod, 2009 L’accord de Chongqing le 28 février 1946 signe la fin des concessions françaises en Chine.

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which host in its center the highest skyscraper of China and Asia, with the Jin Mao Tower (421 meters), the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC, also known as «bottle opener» because of its characteristic shape, (494 meters) and soon simply called Shanghai Tower (632 meters, which the construction is scheduled for completion in 2014) which will also become the second world’s tallest skyscraper (after Burdj Khalifa in Dubai).These towers have become the emblem of the city, supplemented by the Pearl Tower, and a sort of symbol of shanghainese pride to shine on the world. Other areas of the city are no exception, especially since the Universal Exhibition of 2010 was an excuse to redo all the major avenues of the city, and modernize the overall transport system (the Shanghai Metro is deemed to be one of the most efficient in the world and be one of the fastest extending metro network, its planned expansion will bring it to cover more than 877km of line in 2020). Shanghai is then a mixture between the lifestyle of its inhabitants who still retain their identity in the old quarters of the city (the Shikumens) and exacerbated desire to shine and not to remain a chinese city amongst other, found in the high towers of Pu Dong, and the verticality of its infrastructure, both
1 2 3 4
Personal feeling of the writer after one year of residency in Shanghai David K. Jordan « The traditional Chinese Family & Lineage » 2006

real estate speaking (the number of residential buildings over 30 floors makes you dizzy1) and road infrastructure (the city is covered of many raised highways).

1.2 Meeting with a Shanghai family
1.2.1 - An Urban Household
Unlike Western a prioris that come from various news reports on rural Asian world or ethnic minorities, study2 and national censuses3 show that the majority of Shanghainese homes consist of only 3 members (3.10 to be exact4).The multigenerational Chinese family living under one roof is part of the past, and this trend is not ready to reverse. The majority of young Shanghainese interviewed during the writing of this thesis aspire to greater independence from their parents, seeking more and earlier to leave home for the benefit of student

«Communiqué of the National Bureau of Statistics of People’s Republic of China on Major Figures of the 2010 Population Census» China Statistics 2005 « Basic Conditions of Urban Households »

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accommodation (on campus University where they live) or roomsharing apartments, as is common to observe among the youth labor force1, and whatever their social class.Moreover, the cost of studies for a child is an expenditure more and more difficult to support for families (there is very little state aid), which do not expect to have a second child, even if one day the law of one child per couple allowed them to (the one-child policy is actually very flexible for minorities and rural). However, the poorest families still find themselves forced to share close living quarters, making it difficult to define a typical Shanghainese home. But segmenting by social class, we can still identify what is a typical white collar Shanghainese household: > Having met and interviewed shanghainese families, the family from upper middle class generally consists of three members: the couple, where both the man and woman works in an office, and the child, who until his university entrance will live under the parental home. The grandparents also live in Shanghai, but more often they have their own apartment, which they change to be closer to their children at birth

of their grandchild. They are often the ones who keep the child when parents are at work or absent, and that the school is closed. The family is then called 4-2-1, 4 grandparents, 2 parents and 1 child. These interviews thus join the conclusions of studies across the country 1.

1.2.2 - A Child-centered family
In this context of 4-2-1 family, the child grows very surrounded by his parents and grandparents (mother and grandmother being up to dedicate themselves entirely to his welfare), and being an only child, he becomes the center of the home. All the attention of the family is then turned on him until he is old enough to go to university, which is for many young Chinese the stage at which they leave for the first time the family household; especially in Shanghai, the city size and distance from university campuses often force students to live at their study place. For the designer, it is first important to consider the position of youth in Chinese society as an important part of the considerations of this society.


China Statistics 2005 « Basic Conditions of Urban Households »

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Then, as it seems composed not of individuals but of a gigantic set of families, since there are exclusively child-centered, social interactions are easier to understand. More explicitly, it suffices to apply the principle that to design for one person is not enough, but it should be taken into account people’s social interactions with their environment. Even more specifically, design a product for Shanghainese should lead the designer to consider the place of this product in the family, and how finally, even if it was not the primary purpose of the product, the entire family will be able to use this product.

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II The Early-adopters, Figure of a Geek generation (technoconsumers and techies)
Living in China, it have been an opportunity, together with the discovery of the life of Chinese families, to realize the importance of new technologies in everyday life. This visible importance led me to do research on the role of technology in China, starting with the behavior of many Chinese vis-à-vis the latest high-tech novelties. When we arrived in China in September 2010, the local enthusiasm for the latest Apple’s smartphone surprised me, and during the research that followed, the term «Early Adopter» returned many times.

«Cyber Café in Hangzhou»,

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2.1 - Early-Adopters
2.1.1 - Definition
As mentioned in the introduction, the term «Early Adopters,» was first used by Everett M. Rogers in 19621. At that time, the term broadly defines an early buyer of a particular company, product or technology, usually between 18 and 25 years. In other areas, such as politics, fashion or art, it also refers to a «Trend setter». This definition implies a behavior, a practice of a sub-group of individuals, rather than a true social class. That way, an early adopter is often part of the middle class, but the entire middle class is not necessarily composed of early adopters. We will see later social class affiliation of Chinese early adopters.

2.1.2 - Involvement
Early adopters are defined by two main characteristics: - the first and most obvious, is that they are buyers of a new technology, which they accept to gain benefits brought by this technology, but also, and this is often unavoidable when a technology is not yet used on a large-scale, its drawbacks. The second concerns the role of prescribers that the community of early adopters is playing around their friends and family circle. Indeed, not only satisfied with being the first to adopt a new product, they will then show and touted its advantages to their families, colleagues, etc. To simplify, it is through them that pass the new products and it is them who then used to spread a new product or technology to a more broad audience. Example: the first iPhone buyers had access before anyone else to accurate touch screen smartphone, with, at that time, a yet unattended combination of numerous features. However, the general public discovered the iPhone with the second generation, much more successful (to only quote these improvements, a better battery life, 3G network access and a


Everett M. Rogers « Diffusion of Innovation » 1995

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better camera, that made it a more pleasant Smartphone for everyday life).

2.2 The Chinese Early Adopters :
2.2.1 - A very same social group with different interests :
Based on the Chinese market, statistics and studies show that early adopters shows some differences with the definition of Mr. Rogers. First, because this behavior is found in a wider range of age, Chinese early adopters being generally between 18 and 30 years-old (The Chinese population of 20-30 years old representing 24% of the total population, the spread of Chinese early adopters seems wider in terms of age range contrary to what Mr. Rogers explained)2. This range has the characteristic of having different habits and hobbies, the youngest acquiring new technology for predominantly recreational purpose, the oldest in the interest of productivity. Thus, if they acquire any new technology before the general public, they do not have the same interests, depending to their age.

2.1.3 - Early Adopters and Design :
Thus, in a design context, the early adopters are a niche audience, and paradoxically very important for the launch of a new technology oriented product. They are often the ones who will first hands on the new product and/or will be the first users of a new service. As such, if they are disappointed with the product, they will not hesitate to emit bad critics to all the persons from whom they play a role of prescriber. And they are also early adopters who first explore diverted ways to use a product. In interaction design, the user feedback from this population can thus improve the product significantly. Recent conferences1 on user experience showed the importance of including this kind of users at the earliest design of a new service / product. By their habits and technical knowledge, they are indeed likely to accept testing products still in development (with the error sum it includes) and provide a feedback earlier into the design process.
1 2

World Usability Day (Novembre 2011), DesignING Shanghai (Octobre 2011) Everett M. Rogers « Diffusion of Innovation » 1995

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Example: If the Chinese market for new technologies show specifics that are not only related to early adopters (piracy and copy of products, massive imports to the black market when the product is not yet available in China) we can see that handheld game consoles Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable are a success among the 14-18 years old consumers (however, there is some differences between the public of both consoles), while the Apple iPad (all versions) are found in more in the briefcases of the 25-34 years-old. If the end usage is different, the ways to use are also; most young people use their devices almost anywhere, including when walking (it is not uncommon in Shanghai to see young people playing video games while they walking down the street) while older prefer situations at least semi-mobility (as when they are in a subway car) or in the comfort of their home.

2.2.2 - Piracy (or hacking), as a method of market penetration of the public:
What is surprising in China, it is also the number of people with smartphones or touch pads, when you know that selling prices are similar to European and American market, while the Chinese standard of living is much lower.There is also no phones at discounted rates with a subscription as in France or the United States, Chinese consumers have to pay their phones at full price. To explain the presence of technology in the lives of the Chinese, there is a very special way to penetrate the market in China: The second Chinese feature is the large commitment to the material, while paying for dematerialized content is struggling to find an audience in China (Unlike the European and American market, the Chinese are more reluctant to pay for an application on an online store)1.Piracy is largely responsible, as well as the average standard of living compared to European countries or North America. Thus the Chinese have an average budget of 2000 RMB2 dedicated to new technologies.After purchasing the product, so there is little room

1 2

« November China Review 2010 » Document interne Orange Labs - Beijing Chris Evdemon « Technopreneurship and the Early Stage Ecosystem in China 2011 »

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to buy content, hence the resort to piracy. Example in the video game: The new Nintendo console, the 3DS, recorded good sales figures throughout the world except in China, while the previous version (Nintendo DS) has been a huge commercial success. Far from sulking the new 3D technology of the console, this difference is rooted in the fact that currently, there is no way to hack the games of Nintendo 3DS, whereas piracy is widespread and accessible on the previous version. Chinese vendors are advising their clients to wait for «cracks» to be available, and fall back the potential buyers on the DS generation. Similarly, the majority of game consoles (portable or not) sold in China are sold «chipped» (Technique that by adding an additional component allows to run unsigned games, and thus pirated). The temptation is great, especially since the price difference between pirated game on the market and bought an official game up to 80%.

The low importance given to the copyright in China is one of the other factors of this mass piracy (we find the same practices for music or movies), and influencing Chinese users in the non-compliance with dematerialized products.

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2.2.3 - Membership of a distinct social class: white collar workers:
By matching the data related to Internet use in China, and marketing research1, we can also see emerge another characteristic of Chinese early adopters: with a budget dedicated to new technologies which is mainly between 1000 and 2000 RMB per month, most early adopters belongs to the class of white collar, or are part of aspiring white-collar (typically students from middle class family). Regardless, this is not fundamentally different from Western early adopters, who are often in the middle class. But brought forward China, this implies habits specific to white-collar, such as the places they frequent, and their common venues to go out (Far from the stereotype of Western geek, the geek in Shanghai goes to night clubs and eats out the weekend).

«Geek» is a slang term, used for designating odd or nonmainstream people. At the beginning, it was used only to designate a specialist in a specific area. Thus there are «geeks» for computers, movies, comics and everything related to culture. This term was then used pejoratively to describe a withdrawn person who is only interested in one thing, such as video games. For the designer who want to understand China and its relation to new technologies, it is not sufficient to apply a persona from another culture (in this case American) to the Chinese market, since, as we have seen, the Chinese have their own peculiarities.Video games in China is yet not only reserved for younger, and content or its originality of it is often less important than how it is presented. Ease of access is also a very important constituent of the Chinese market. Thus, here the user is always in the position to control its content. In terms of service or digital content, the designer must compose with the fact that if he tries to lock the content, the Chinese user will always find a way to modify it, from the moment he decides to. It then serves no purpose to devote resources to fight against piracy, to install complicated systems


Chris Evdemon « Technopreneurship and the Early Stage Ecosystem in China 2011 »

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limitations (which often reduces the user experience) since the Chinese user will always get the upper hand. He just needs to go to the nearest PC mall and the first computer stall will do the handling for next to nothing. Moreover, fighting piracy would only prevent or slow down the success of a product in China. It is therefore necessary for the user experience, to let the content or platform developed open, and for the economic part, find new ways of financing the design.

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2.3 The golden generations: Generations post80’s and post 90’s
If we are so interested in the early adopters in China, it is also interesting to find their specific uses distributed in a wider range of people, as it is the case for the generations born after the 1980s. Remember, Chinese early adopters, as a social group, are mostly of those generations, since they aged 18 to 30. Born after the 80s, these generations (and below) have the characteristic of not having experienced the hard time of Cultural Revolution (as opposed to generations aged over 40), but are part of the first generations of children born under the aegis of the one-child policy (introduced in 1978), their parents were the first to have to comply with this policy, under penalty of heavy fines for violations. The post 80’s generation, beneficiary of the Reformation and the opening of China, has accompanied this growth, and a part got quickly richer. This first generation is designated as the golden youth, who was able to start enjoying the fruits of opening

up to capitalism, and a favorable economic environment. The next generation, which began in the mid 90s, it is called «second golden generation». Their practice of technology is generally well developed, people between 30 and 40 years old taking the advantage of the opportunities and the diversity brought by technology and the Internet, whereas if the 12-30 years are ‘obsessed’ by Internet, and extremely curious about everything, they remain suspicious of the majority of online content. This suspicion come from the huge control that Chinese government exert over the content published, and a mistrust vis-àvis the information that comes from disinformation campaigns conducted during the darkest hours of the Cultural Revolution1. Knowing these generations is to know the Chinese public who will become the primary user of tomorrow’s design.It is also realizing the importance of information design that is emerging in Chinese society, even though this information has long been very controlled, and that people are still distrustful of this lack of reliability and objectivity. The clarity of information, and the designer’s ability to make simple the understanding of a wide lot of information is becoming crucial in


Chris Evdemon « Technopreneurship and the Early Stage Ecosystem in China 2011 »

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Chinese society of tomorrow. But it is also knowing the deep commitment that the new Chinese generation have to communicate via the Internet and the social networks. Neglecting this attachment, or obstructing its operation (and for the designer to not make it even easier), it is to turn one’s back to those generations of sophisticated technophiles. This attachment is however not without consequences for the social life of the young Chinese, since it comes as much as an opportunity to interact (the advent of the Internet) as a necessity, sometimes problematic, occurred during the recent social changes.

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III The social problems of the golden generation

«No Title», Christopher Cherry 2009

3.1 - ‘Young Emperor’ Phenomenon:
The one-child policy, if it has been proven effective in reaching its demographic target, was not without profoundly changing Chinese society, to a level not yet fully understood and measured today. But we can already see a lot of criticism appearing in the core of this Chinese society. Thus, the only child became the center of the core Chinese family, to a point of being overprotected by the whole family. If Chinese culture is known as a culture where disagreement has no place (the creed of the Chinese Communist Party is «Harmony»1), yet Confucianism leads to discussion and debate of ideas. But this confrontation is no longer in a family that cherishes more than anything their one child. The child is characterized as a small Emperor, and people avoids conflicts with him in China. In the streets of Shanghai, it is not uncommon to see kids throwing a fit and neither the parents nor the bystanders do take offense. This overprotection has led Chinese scholars to launch controversy on the ‘feminization’ (used pejoratively in China) of Chinese society, and the fact that young males,
CIA « The World Fact Book »

overprotected by their mothers and grandmothers, are unable to assume their future independently after graduation from the university. Some professors at the renowned Tsinghua University (known to form the elite of Chinese engineers) even come to testify in the newspapers of some childhood behaviors in their students, yet almost adults. Similarly, psychologists explain that the absence of siblings in the small Chinese youth leads them to confront the world of work without ever having to argue before. To justified, convince, persuade are lacking of their their life learning because of this unduly present family unit too, reinforced by an educational system that leaves no room for individuality and social construction.

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The Chinese educational system is known to be a system where individuality has no place, and where success foremost advocates. Consequently, the child back home overly use his right to express himself, rights that are denied to him in school, without practicing his ‘livingtogether’ skills. Another direct consequence, young Chinese have nothing similar in idea to Western hobbies. They dedicate their youth to succeed in their studies, and activities like sports, which can be recreational in France even in school, are transformed into another form of expression of success. The famous motto of Mr de Coubertin don’t belong anywhere in the Middle Kingdom («The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.»).

3.2 Addiction à Internet:
As a testimony of the deep social transformations in China, Internet addiction is the one that most concerns our population of technophiles, increasingly denounced as a harmful consequence of progress in China1. Among the big progressive changes applied to Chinese society, the Internet, since 1994, is part of what has widely influenced generations post 80’s and 90’s. The ‘Great Firewall Of China’ : The GFW commonly refer to all the censorship and control systems on Internet that have been employed since 1996 (the Golden Shield project was started only from 1998) to limit access to foreign sites that did not fit the ideals of the Communist Party. Improved since that time, and suspected to hire hundreds of people day and night (including hackers), the GFW is blocking access to a wide variety of websites, including sites of political opponents, foreign social networking websites and sharing platforms (like Facebook, or Youtube), but also censor the

1 China Digital Time

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content published on the Chinese networks, in the interest of the Party (Chinese Internet users speak then of «harmonization», after President Hu Jintao has expressed his desire to preserve a ‘Harmonious’ society). Chinese white-collar workers spend many hours daily on the Internet, and some of their habits could now operate without doing so (eg. Chinese women spend much time on Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of Ebay, where you literally can find everything). Without «demonizing» Internet practice (as is the case in the West with the French Hadopi and Loppsi, or the recent U.S. SOPA), this practice leads to a movement, in China, of Internet addiction. Comparable to the problems South Korea have among online players, this issue is taken very seriously by the government, which talk about enforcing Korean curfews to Chinese Internet users (especially online gamers). This movement is characterized by the creation of an impressive number of treatment centers for Internet addictions (more than 300 centers have opened across the country in seven years, the first one in 2004)1. Of course, these centers are not all renowned and takes advantage from fear that may cause the Internet to make a profit on the backs of some
1, 2,

Chinese worried about their child. But nevertheless they represent a good indicator for measuring Internet addiction of post 80’s generations, which constitute most of the patients admitted in these centers (more than 3000 patients in 5 years for the Beijing Internet Addiction Center, the first national center2).,8599,1874380,00.html, site internet du journal américain Time

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3.2 An easy communication
Interviews conducted during the writing of this thesis1 show that generally speaking, communicating is in first place of concerns for young Chinese.The first use of their phones is to keep in touch with their friends, and the first Internet use among 18-25 year olds remains real time messaging services, the most famous being QQ (A kind of «super» MSN, with a penguin mascot).Yet the interviews also show that contact is not as easy as it sounds when it is for the Chinese to interact with strangers and/or other social and generational class. So, many young workers talk about their difficulties to meet new people outside their workplace, and the difficulty they have to be understood by their parents and grandparents2. Communication channels are yet many in China, where the number of mobile phones per capita in urban areas exceeds the European average, and knowing that many Chinese have 2 or 3 different sim cards to benefit from preferential rates depending on the number that they want to join.

In China, there are no national tariffs, and call from one region to another can be very expensive. That is why there are many phones leaving the possibility to use several SIM cards simultaneously, one for each region. It is also noteworthy that more and more young Chinese do not have a fixed line, the country having no historical Telecom provider as in France, and it is not always necessary to have a phone line to access the Internet in Shanghai.

From this communication problem arises several important points, which are as many level of communication, and communication situations. Through several interviews, I wanted to show how new generations transcribe these communication problems of Chinese society, through the testimony of Echo and Michael, both of Chinese youth, met during my stay in China:

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Interviews réalisés par l’auteur dans le cadre de la phase de recherche de son projet de fin d’études.

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3.3.1 - The clash of generations :
The problem of generations is of course not new, and is not specific to the Chinese people. But it is interesting, knowing the recent societal changes in China. Thus, in the case of Echo1, his parents have always lived in their hometown, and have never changed of company from their entire working career. In contrast, their daughter was educated near Tianjin, before looking for work in Beijing, in an area that is very different from them, since she is program developer for a foreign firm.In this way, she is now thinking of leaving her actual job to find a better place in Shanghai, but she dares not to tell her parents. Her case is not an isolated case, and career paths in China, and especially in Shanghai, which attracts many foreign firms, have fundamentally changed between generations, creating problems of intergenerational communication. Similarly, the Fu Er Dai [富二代], the second generation of rich, regularly provoke the ire of other generations by their disrespectful behavior and short news items they cause2, and the display of their parent’s wealth, in a country where harmony and common sense are supposed to prevail. The second generation of
1 2 3 4 5

new riches becomes a truncated flagship of the decay of the new generation in China. The technology practice of each generation differ greatly depending on their ages. Statistically3 people aged over 40 use only simple services such as SMS, voice services and some simple newspaper services.This difference is not without increasing the generational misunderstanding, no service or product exist to unite all Chinese generations.

3.3.2 - Intragenerational Communication :
If the golden generations communicate much through new technologies, yet they describe themselves as «fairly solitary and rather enclosed»4 on themselves. It is a paradoxical situation, for a population who exchange every day billions of text messages, but to confess it difficult to make contacts. So is Vincent5, from Taiwan, testified that he met most of his friends in Taiwan, and he does not much see them since he moved to Shanghai. «If I meet a girl in a bar, I’d take a picture of herself rather than go quietly talk to her... Then I just have to find her Weibo account [a popular microblogging site in China] and I

Interview of October 8th 2011, via Skype, of Echo, 25 years old, living in Beijing, for the end-of-study project. Cf., tags: second-generation-rich et chinese-youth Chris Evdemon « Technopreneurship and the Early Stage Ecosystem in China 2011 » «Online Dating in China (White Paper) » Damien and Calvin Interview of Vincent Tseng, 27 years old, Shanghaiennese from Taiwan, for the end-of-study project.

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send her a private message»1. If his behavior may seem a bit extreme, it nevertheless demonstrated the difficulty that Chinese youth have to meet and communicate with each other in everyday life. By the way, this behavior does not shock his peers, when presented with this testimony.

3.3.3 - Generation widely criticized :
These communication problems are not only latent problems that would not impact on the welfare of the society. Indeed, there is no research that clearly demonstrates that a society that no longer communicates physically is a society that goes wrong. However, after studying different Chinese media2, one can see that they are not kind to the new generations, and the direction that Chinese society seems to follow.The second generation of nouveau riche is particularly targeted, as mentioned earlier, because it doesn’t corresponds anymore to the cultural and social values promoted by the central government.

1 2

Interview de Michael, 27 ans, Shanghaien d’origine Taiwainese, réalisé dans le cadre du projet de fin d’études. Le Quotidien du Peuple, China Daily, The Shanghaiist,,,

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Picture: Echo, 25 years old, Beijing, 2011.

Picture: Vincent Tseng, 27 years old, posing in front of building in Shanghai, 2011.

The Chinese society as a whole is very surprising, and with the highlight of the research, and the mentioned points, a thesis paper like this one is not sufficient to understand its entirety. In our case, we are faced with new generations, that if they respect the classical moral and cultural Chinese values, where the family finds its incarnation, also mean new challenges and problems to solve that do exist only since recently. Any intervention by a foreign designer must therefore be preceded by a concise study of social class and group of individuals on which the project will intervene, otherwise he will run a risk to create more problems than he solves. In our case, it will be to maintain links with the family, while trying to get young Chinese office of their social silence. Creating a new way of communication, which would be a addition to actual ones, would only isolate them even further from the real world, like their Internet addiction.Conversely, trying to force them to leave home to go to places «unconnected» seems like a brutal and somewhat self-defeating solution. The compromise, and that’s the one I chose to develop in my graduation project, is to use the codes that are present on the Internet, communication codes, or situations of online communications, and to transcribed them in the real world. Stemming from this desire, my problematic is formulated as follows: « Physicalize the virtual communication ». Behind this problem lies the desire to supplement verbal communication to enhance it, not replace it. This is where the tools provided by the interaction design takes place, to return control of their communication to the younger Chinese generation.

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Webography :
Wikipédia, « Socrate - Connais-toi toi même » Disponible sur Internet wiki/Socrate#Connais-toi_toi-m.C3.AAme [FR] Jeffrey Hays « Families, men and young adults in china » Available on Internet http:// [ENG] 叶欣 « Chinese delay average age of marriage, first baby » News http://english.peopledaily. [ENG] CIA « The World Fact Book » [ENG] China Statistics 2005 « Basic Conditions of Urban Households » Available on Internet http:// [ENG] INSEE « Projections de ménages pour la France métropolitaine, à l’horizon 2030 » Available on Internet [FR] Wikipédia « Demographics of the People’s Republic of China » Available on Internet http://’s_Republic_of_China [ENG] International news website [ENG]

Shanghainese Household
Bibliography :
Internal research document at Yanfeng Johnson Controls, about the future of the chinese family in 2020. [ENG] Internal research at Orange Labs - Beijing. [FR]

Webography :

Chinese Governement, « China Factfile - Population » Available on Internet cn/2005-08/08/content_27315.htm [ENG] David K. Jordan « The Traditional Chinese Family & Lineage » Available on Internet http:// [ENG]

Tangible Interface - Usages
Bibliography :
B.Moggridge, Designing interactions, MIT Press, 1Octobre 2007. [ENG] D. Travis, « The Fable of the User-Centred Designer » Available on Internet http://www. [ENG] - 35 -

Webography :
- Tangible Embedded Interaction Conference , « Natural Interaction - White Paper » Available on Internet [ENG] [ENG] « Tangible Interface definition » [ENG] On-situ Company developing technologies around video and interactions [ENG] Eva Hornecker «Tangible Interaction - Definition» encyclopedia/tangible_interaction.html [ENG] Blog of the korean interaction design agency Kimchi And Chips http://www.kimchiandchips. com/blog/ [ENG] Blog of Ben Bashford, member of Council - A think tank for the Internet of Things http:// [ENG] Website of Creative Applications network [ENG]

Early Adopters
Bibliography :
Louis Leung « Lifestyles and the use of new media technologies in modern China », Telecommunications Policy Volume 22. [ENG]

Webography :

China Digital Information website on digital trends in China. [ENG] Chris Evdemon « Technopreneurship and the Early Stage Ecosystem in China 2011 » Available on Internet [ENG] Blog post of David King, Marketing professional in Shanghai http://achinadiary.blogspot. com/2011/08/early-adopters.html [ENG] Press article « Education in China: First graders of e-book in Shanghai » http://designative. info/2010/06/18/education-in-china-first-graders-early-adopters-of-e-book-in-shanghai/ [ENG] Press article, Jerry Curtini « Key to China growth is early adoption of next-gen technologies » 36 -

chinarsquos-growth-is-early-adoption-of-next-gen-technologies.html [ENG] Wikipedia, « Early adopter » article [ENG]

Tangible and Shared Interface - Social approach
Bibliography :
« Réseaux Sociaux » published by, 2010 [FR] « Open Data » published by, 2010 [FR]

Webography : « Ensemble des règles de conduite et de politesse à adopter sur les médias en ligne » English title: « Netiquette Guidelines » from Sally Hambridge, translated in French by Jean-Pierre Kuypers. [FR] Wikipédia « User-centered design » [ENG] Wikipédia « Interaction design » [ENG]

Tangible Interface - Technology
Real time video Technology :
vvvv, a multipurpose toolkit OpenFrameworks Open source toolkit Processing, open source programming environnement Virtools, developping plateform for 3D interactions Unity Game developpment Tool

Video acquisition Technology :

OpenCV Open Source Computer Vision Arduino Open source electronics prototyping Camspace Motion Recognition, games oriented

Bibliography :

D. Travis, « The Fable of the User-Centred Designer » Available on Internet http://www. [ENG] Joshua Noble « Programming Interactivity » O’Reilly Media, July 2009. [ENG]

Webography : « Vers un toucher vraiment réaliste » M. Hafez [FR]

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To conclude, I wish to thank all those who were or are involved in the implementation of this thesis, for their advice, feedback and critical thinking. Special thanks to China Campus 2012 class, the Zhenping Crew (Zhenping Spa, Zhenping Metro and Changsou Office), and the people I met during interviews (for this thesis and for the design Project) Vickie Ku, Vincent Tseng , Echo, and the teaching team (Nantes and Shanghai) for their feedback. This thesis and its contents are left free to reproduce and sharing.An online version will soon be available at the following address:

Contact :
Valentin Gauffre

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Print in 2012, review version 02

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