This Project intends to examine a series of questions regarding the participants’ use of digital technologies in various contexts of London Chinatown. The main research questions include: How do Chinese living in London (Halle and Xiangwen, in my Project) present Chinatown in their social media? In what circumstances? How does Chinatown, as a market and beyond a market effect, their daily lives, both online and offline? How do restaurants and shops in Chinatown employ digital technologies to accommodate customers?
This project used participant observation to investigate the interactions of Halle and Xiangwen’s experience in my fieldwork site, London Chinatown, and their use of a wide range of digital technologies including online streaming website (Youtube Live), online shopping websites (UKCNSHOP, BestPlus), application of service provider (Hungry Panda), digital wallet (Alipay), and social media platforms (Facebook, WeChat). Some of them, e.g. Alipay and WeChat, are not well known by non-Chinese but are an indispensable part of their daily lives in and outside China.
Participant One: Xiangwen
Xiangwen is from China as well and a friend of mine since we first met in London in the summer of 2016. He graduated with a Master’s degree from the LSE in 2017 and is now working for two not-for-profit organizations in London. I knew he had been a regular customer of Chinatown by chance and therefore invited him to be part of my project. My observation of Xiangwen involved a shopping experience in Chinatown in April and a three-hour tour during the Chinese New Year in February for a series of festival events. I took videos and photos with my smartphone and had voice recording all the way as my ethnography materials under his permission. I also received a screenshot of his chatting history with his families on his iPhone.
Participant Two: Halle (and Her Husband Ormond)
Halle and I got to know each other at an online chatting group of Chinese students who had received offers from universities in London before coming to this country. After coming to London, she met Ormond in 2017, a British guy, and married him this year. My observation of Halle involved a shopping experience in a Chinese supermarket and a lunch with her and her husband after the shopping. I took videos and photos with my smartphone and had voice recording all the way as my ethnography materials under her permission.
SUMMARIZED EXPLANATION OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL ANALYSIS
The following ethnographic materials will demonstrate the importance of Chinatown to my participants. What Chinatown means to them vary from daily shopping needs to a sense of belonging and security. For Xiangwen, Chinatown is not only a market but also a “branded space” that can be trusted and a decent environment for him to celebrate Chinese festivals. However, for Halle, Chinatown is not as vibrant and open as its official website shows. She, as a Chinese, does not feel close to Chinatown because of the different dialect widely used there. In the end, I also discovered Alipay, an almost “invisible” payment method in London but commonly acceptable in Chinatown. It was through Halle and Xiangwen’s use of digital technologies that I could better understand their interactions with Chinatown and the meanings.
Ethnographic Materials and
Dufoix, S. (2008). Diasporas. Univ of California Press.
Sales, R., d’Angelo, A., & Liang, X. (2009). London’s Chinatown: branded place or community space?. In Branding Cities (pp. 59-72). Routledge.
Sales, R., D’Angelo, A., & Lin, X. (2003). London’s Chinatown: integration, identity and diaspora.