Communication & Global Power Shifts| “Power To the People!”: Mobiles, Migrants, and Social Movements in Asia

Jack Linchuan Qiu


Is the diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs)—especially mobile technologies, such as the mobile phone and mobile services—causing power shifts of global media networks to working-class populations, particularly migrant workers? This article addresses this question by examining social movements inChinaandAsiathat have led to empowering (or disempowering) working-class people since the beginning of the century. It also draws on both classic and recent volumes about communication technology, power, and social development. Mobiles have become almost ubiquitous among Chinese domestic migrant workers and international migrants in most Asian countries. What does this mean for migrant workers, especially for their social lives that may serve as the basis for new formations of solidarity, both wirelessly and face-to-face? How do grassroots networks of migrants make use of mobile phones in their work and lives, in their cultural expression, and in the organization of social movements? After examining these questions in the context of Chinaand selected Asian countries, this article discusses the broader implications for future ICT studies in the contexts of migrant populations, social movements, and social change.

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