The most noticeable thing about the Joystick factory is that it’s situated at the base of a well-known tourist attraction. Feng Huang mountain has a locally celebrated buddhist temple, attracting thousands of people each day, especially during spiritual festivals. It’s surreal to wake up in an industrial site with all the right noises but the wrong smell. There’s something almost too fresh and innocent in the air. My nose is on a resort whilst my ears are in labour.

It’s a few miles from the city of Shenzhen, a suburbia that’s half-an hour away from the nearest underground, the airport. It gives the industrial area a certain advantage in providing an all-inclusive catering that secludes the migrant workers from ‘distractions’. I’ve never met people so content with boredom as I have here. It’s almost ‘tranquil’.

The Internet is an under-appreciated commodity here. All Internet cafe in China require National ID cards in order to enter and are associated with crime and general ‘seediness’. Thus a black market has emerged for the Internet.

I’ve been desperate enough to seek out ‘black internet bars’ that are unlicensed and hidden behind restaurants, hairdressers and domestic housing. I eventually persuaded the only broadband owner in the area, a quality control manager that lived three floors below me, to share his privilege with me. A cable man stretched a 50m-cable diagonally across the building, climbing between window to window like spider man.

Amongst all the day-to-day craziness, people are constantly coming and going as they make life-changing career leaps, run home to visit a sick one or arrive astounded for the first time. The entrance these factories have the unfortunate impression of a cross between a hospital and a Holiday Inn. Possibly why so many people leave upon after arrival.

I stare at the looming factory that haunts my window on a daily basis. Unlike my factory, the workers are all dressed in a grey dystopian uniform, which makes me stand out a little every time I attempt to sneak in.

A village close the factory is either demolished or regenerated in order to cater for the growing families and businesses the migrant populations generate. It’s hard to know what to make of it. A village migrates for migrants?

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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