Yirou Xu holds a research master’s degree in Media studies at University of Amsterdam. Her research interests include urban media, Chinese urbanities and digital governance. In her recent research, she explored whether and how urban light projects (electronic projections, LED screens, or other kinds of architectural light shows) make a spectacle of China that mediates people’s lived experience.
Bright Lights, Dark Nights: Encountering Mediatic City of Hangzhou
Buildings in China are becoming luminous. Hundreds of political projects are taken up on electronic projections, LED screens, or other kinds of architectural light shows across the cities. This paper will take one city in China, Hangzhou, as the case study. In the past few years, high-tech light projections have come up in Hangzhou, which followed smart city initiatives that launched in 2016 and aligned with the state’s agenda of post-socialist modernity, techno-nationalism, and digital governance. Luminous buildings depict the symbolic blueprint of a city, but urban researchers and municipalities cannot conceive of a utopian city without considering how citizens feel about the blueprints. So, this paper has investigated the promotional videos that local authorities posted on two Chinese digital platforms, Weibo and Douyin, and made a close analysis of the social media network around those videos. How do local authorities make the spectacles through reporting the light projects on social media channels? How do citizens respond to the illuminated buildings? Through the research, I found out three affective practices: the need for togetherness, the impulse to be realistic, and the desire for utopia. The inquiry into Hangzhou contributes to the research gap of governance in China, extending the focus from digital communication to the living experience in the cities.