Hey there! I am an assistant professor of communication and media studies at the University of New Hampshire. I graduated from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, with a PhD in Communication, and MA from NYU’s Department of Media, Culture and Communication.
I study digital capitalism and differences as intersectionality with a focus on China/East Asia in the global context and in spaces of transnational encounter. I conceptualize technologies through the specificities of global capitalism to emphasize not only my approach of analyzing digital technologies as thoroughly embedded in the mutual imbrication of economy, culture, and politics, but also to highlight the historical continuities and ruptures of digital capitalism as an uneven world system. In my research I ask how global capitalist norms both reinvents and are shaped by locally specific, historical and cultural practices in transforming subjectivities and governance. How individuals who are variously positioned along intersecting axes of multiple identities engage, appropriate, challenge, and ultimately, come to shape digital capitalism. Adopting anthropological, sociological, historical, and critical cultural perspectives, I combine a variety of methods in my research, such as ethnographic participant observation, interview, historical/archival research, textual/discourse analysis, and survey.
Currently, I am pursuing two inter-related and interdisciplinary lines of research and teaching, one revolves around platform capitalism with a focus on digital labor and institutional transformations from a comparative perspective, and the other concerns issues of innovation, racialized transnational knowledge work, and shifts in global production networks under changing global geopolitics.
My first monograph, Labor of Reinvention: Entrepreneurialism and the Remaking of China After 2008 (Under contract with Columbia University Press) is an ethnography of IT entrepreneurial Labor in urban, rural, and transnational China, and an analysis of the phenomenon of individual self-reinvention amidst national and economic restructuring against the background of post-2008 financial crisis, the US-China trade war, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on almost a decade of multi-sited ethnography and social historical research, the book tells three stories of IT entrepreneurs who are intersectionally positioned between class, gender, locale, and age. I show that, instead of a radical break with the past, the labor of entrepreneurial reinvention in China involves rearticulating global technological and economic shifts within existing regimes of production and systems of meaning, blending elements of the global trend toward labor individualization with culturally specific practices of self-making and nation-building. Its specific temporal and spatial articulations have simultaneously opened up new opportunities for innovation, while giving rise to new precarities, contradictions, and inequalities. By re-centering labor in the entrepreneurship process while seeking to redefine “labor” in ways that better fit our present context of proliferating entrepreneurialism, my book rethinks both entrepreneurship and labor as traditionally conceptualized by social scientists. It contributes to digital labor and platform studies by problematizing the singularity of the Euro-American individualizing trajectory to highlight the role of family and state in platform capitalism.
I also write about visual culture, video games, online spoofing culture, and debates on race in cyberspace. You could find my work in the Journal of Consumer Culture, New Media and Society, Economic and Labor Relations Review, International Journal of Cultural Studies, International Journal of Communication, Feminist Media Studies, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, and China Information etc. I also write (occasionally) for non-academic audience. You could find some of my writings here https://zhanglin-1858.medium.com/
You can reach me via email at Lin.zhang [at] unh [dot] edu.
Here’s my CV