Migrant workers work away from home. They work, eat and live together. The everyday hardware we use is made with love, literally. A smugly married 23 year-old lady informs me that office romance is as common as pot-noodles, before reminding me that I’m already quite the ‘old maid’. The factory world holds its own rules and etiquettes, out of seemingly insignificant events. The objects we hold as ‘cold and dehumanised’ carry a whole ecosystem of different values and lives.

There’s not a lot of opportunity for texting flirting when you work next to the person, a ‘mobile date’ creates a new conversation platform for a young couple. The real incentive:- cosmopolitan aspirations that’s practically cost-free.

Married couples move away from the factory life. What happens if reality hits and one of the couple leaves the factory? Would they work in the outside world? Is factory life the rose-tint of a relationship, where the basics are spoon-fed?

Without infrastructures such as schools and hospitals, it becomes almost impossible  for a child to remain in the area. In fact, I’ve spoken to ‘ex-workers’ who claim to miss the social structure of their previous stable factory lives.

Some of these couples earn enough money to start their own businesses and families. It could be for something as mundane as looping leather thongs through chains for bag handles. It’s a family business.

In the speed-dating-like environment of a factory, competition is fiercer as all eyes aim in the same evaluation.

The ‘loser’ has her nose rubbed in defeat on a daily, or possibly even hourly basis.

An old man shuffles quickly shuffles past the young lovers and prospective families, looking terrified at the thought that joystick-making could become a modern marriage market. His frailty made him stand out in the boisterous unit.

The workshop is a predominately male environment. Many of the men here have never gotten to know to a member of the opposite sex, so decide to wait outside the gates in packs. Typically women work in offices for joystick sales. As office work is more prestigious than factory labour, the long-awaited girls avoid their fans’ adoring approaches.



Written by Lisa Ma

Lisa Ma socializes activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community. The emergence of clicktivism – to protest at the click of a mouse – is trivializing activism. Lisa argues that although activism doesn’t necessarily benefit from technology, we need to evolve how activism contributes to technological societies. To illustrate this, she designs dilemmas and creates social events that are perceived as activism but function as services.

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