A better opportunity to try authentic horse meat came up….

I took RCA’s Design interactions, with Fiona Raby, to organize some pecha-kucha style exchanges with the top innovators and universities in Beijing. Aside from lining up some sessions with Tsinghua, Central Academy of Fine Arts, China Youthology, Makerspace,  budding technologists, designers and innovators…we snuck some time for play…


At Makerspace there was a whirlwind  of ideas, gismos and general not so crazy-but-technically interesting projects being made. Justin got up early to take us around the geeks-in-progress. In the electronic market, rather than obsession at finding fake iPhones like we did 2 years ago in the DI Shanghai trip, we spent most of the time trying and them finally coming to terms with our failures at conquering the uni-wheel travelling device while speculating the thought of commuting on them around in the London cycling-zone.

robo wheels

Behind the calligraphy-based image recognition software, there sat a physicist who went to university at 14 and is now making a patent-pending revolutionary 3d printer. He was tall, shy and had an endearing quality that made me relieved when I found out he was called Sheldon without being too patronizing.


I had mixed feelings about a rock musician who spends his time calculating the about of ‘jump’ from his undying fans according to different outputs. This accurate feedback system seemed more market research than a geek-rocker. I wondered if he could increase audience participation from the data as much as say- back in the old days, when Robbie Williams got the audience to sing most of ‘Angel’ on his behalf. But as Justin rightly pointed out, there are makerspaces everywhere in the world but the social role of these tinker clubs in China, however, were far greater than he gave them credit for.


In a society where the new generations are trying to express as much ‘innovation’ within a tight space of huge amounts of parental investments for their single child, these spaces are allowing white-collared graduates bored in office cubicles to anonymously “play with a silly idea” kickstarter a trial business, adopt a different identity.This is the new generation of Tupperware parties and Avon sales, a movement to acknowledge and embrace out buddying multi-dimensional roles.


With these ideas in mind, I visited an “authentic horse meat hotpot”. I approached our multi-dimensional omnivorous roles as humans using a couple of lessons I’d learned from the DIY makers to started an adventure of food…

1. Know your source: Tinkerers know where to get what like wannabe chefs that don’t necessarily make great meals but entertain their guests with great details about where their ingredients were sourced. Meats aren’t just mundane ‘meats’ in a hotpot. There a long list of specialty names in a hotpot menu, where they are from, how they are cut and the whole story of the animal.


2. Outsource as little as possible, it keeps the cost down and in an environment where everyone operates in fear of fakes you want to keep the process as little as possible. If you do have to user manufactured kits, always double-check all components rather than realising too late. We were always encouraged to re-steralise pre-packaged cutlery.


3. Narrative is in the making: Inventors no longer quietly lock themselves up in a shady hidden room until they reach the Eureka moment. Processes are publicized for their successes and failures. The drama of it all become a generous social act which builds up overall memories. Watching a hotpot cook away raw meat is pretty much the same. Out of the 20 to 30-something bites, there are probably only 2 or 3 ‘perfect’ mouthfuls but the whole experience makes the actual memorable meal.


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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