Tricia Wang: in her own words

NEXT17 speaker Tricia Wang is interested in how we shape our digital tools – and how they shape us. Here’s the way she thinks…

Tricia Wang describes herself as a “global tech ethnographer”. But what does that mean in practice? In essence, she studies the interplay of tech and humanity, and how the two shape each other. We shape our tools, but they then shape us. And making smart choices about how we shape our tools will make a dramatic difference to the way humanity evolves.

Her studies and consulting take her across the globe (that’s the “global” bit), and some of her writing about China is both compelling and insightful. If you’ve read anything about China and its use of the internet, you be aware of trends like the dominance of WeChat, and the substitution of the social media we’re familiar with by Chinese equivalents.

But did you know this?

Downloading has become common practice throughout China; not just porn sites vanish and shift. Websites, comments, and blog posts can disappear if they catch a censor’s eye and are seen as embarrassing or threatening to the Communist Party. Responding to unstable URLs, a culture of caching web content has emerged through techniques like screenshotting.

Wow. Censorship is such a big issue in China. Not an issue in the west, right?


Anonymity, as it’s practiced in its everyday form, is vital to our citizenship. It is how we explore identity and challenge corruption. It is how we make new personal connections and how we learn to take pride in our gender, ethnicity, and sexuality. Binding social media companies to enforce a vague law will lead to overreporting data and overreaching the original intentions of the law. This mission creep doesn’t just violate our personal information; it creates a chilling effect on our ability to be Americans.

Yes, some of the measures being considered by governments in America and Europe could well have just as chilling effect on people’s digital lives as any Chinese censorship.

Even a casual peruse of Tricia’s Twitter stream gives a sense of her passion for learning:

Tricia is speaking at 12.30pm on Thursday September 21st, at the end of the morning sesssion in Schmidts Tivoli. Be there.