[Sci-Tech Asia Virtual Seminar] "Shared Bicycles as a Sustainable Solution? The Encounter of the Platform Economy and Mobility in the Urbanizing China" by ZHANG Jun (City University of Hong Kong)

Bruna Coelho's picture
January 18, 2023
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Asian History / Studies, Chinese History / Studies, Digital Humanities, Social Sciences


We're happy to announce the fourth webinar of our Innovation, Automation, and the Digital Economy Webinar Series! All welcome!

Shared Bicycles as a Sustainable Solution? The Encounter of the Platform Economy and Mobility in the Urbanizing China

ZHANG Jun (City University of Hong Kong)
January 18th 2023, 11:00am - 12:30pm (Lisbon time, WET, GMT, UTC+0)
Chair: Gonçalo SANTOS (University of Coimbra)


In the 2010s, bike-sharing became the new trend worldwide. This article seeks to complicate our understanding of bike-sharing that is conventionally associated with environmental protection and sustainable growth by investigating the rise of dockless bike-sharing in urban China. Drawing on mobilities studies and long-term fieldwork, this ethnography unpacks the complex politico-economic, spatial-infrastructural, and social entanglement that contextualizes this reincarnated form of pedaled mobility. China had in the previous two decades been eager to shed its image of a bicycle kingdom and enthusiastically embrace private cars. Rapid urbanization has produced a spatial-infrastructural order that has marginalized bike-centric infrastructures and movements. The promise of carefree mobility with the bike-share programs, which are shaped by marketing strategies common in the gig economy, takes advantage of an ambiguous perception of public space and transforms it. Yet, despite the convergence of experience expressed in the articulation of ‘convenience,’ this new form of mobility is embedded in different kinds of socio-economic realities and spatial imaginations of connectedness for different social groups. The capitalization of such conveniences in these bike-sharing schemes, which is enabled by imagining a technological fix of a spatial-social issue, seems to reproduce rather than disrupt the existing social hierarchy.

About the Speaker

ZHANG Jun is an assistant professor at City University of Hong Kong. Trained as a socio-cultural anthropologist with an interdisciplinary approach in her research, Zhang is interested in social transformation, particularly the gap, ambiguity, contradictions, and interactions between the grand narratives and mundane practices. She is the author of “Driving Toward Modernity. Cars and the Lives of the Middle Class in Contemporary China” (Cornell University Press, 2019) and multiple articles in journals such as Journal of Contemporary AsiaAntropologia Portuguesa, and Mobilities.


This webinar will take place online via Zoom.
Please register HERE.

After registering, a separate Zoom registration link will be emailed to you.


This webinar series is supported by the research cluster "Technoscience, Society, and Environment" of the Research Center for Anthropology and Health (CIAS) at the University of Coimbra.

Webinar Convenors: Gonçalo SANTOS (University of Coimbra), Loretta LOU (Durham University), Yichen RAO (University of Michigan), James WRIGHT (Alan Turing Institute) and Jun ZHANG (City University of Hong Kong).

Contact Info: 

Bruna Coelho (Research Assistant)