Infrastructures of Manipulation

Digitalization in China has advanced rapidly and comprehensively. It has fundamentally changed the relationship between citizens and the state. Today, the combination between authoritarianism and ubiquitous digital ecosystems is considered typical for the Chinese-style surveillance state. But China can also be seen as a laboratory, in which new institutional arrangements and norms of technological societies are experimentally developed. The research of this project focuses on “manipulation infrastructures” – including the social credit system, private mega-apps, digitalized payment systems and the national crypto currency – through which individual reasoning, emotions, and behavior are more or less openly manipulated. Which practices of “digital citizenship” emerge from the interplay of censorship, nudging, and total datafication of everyday life? For instance, after China’s successful containment of the Covid-19 pandemic, will corporeal data become the foundation of a physically measurable definition of a healthy citizen? What are the similarities between commercial manipulation infrastructures in China and elsewhere? Can China succeed in having its model copied and accepted in other societies through smart city projects worldwide and the export of digital technologies such as automated facial recognition and health codes? Do we globally experience the convergence and consolidation a new socio-technical constitution at nexus of subjectivity, state and platforms?

Project start: 2021

Frontpage Publication

Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, China’s Government Tightens Its Grip.

Maximilian Mayer und Nicholas Ross Smith

The Diplomat, 15. Februar 2020


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Ningjie Zhu

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