Watch the video on Youku here. The talk was delivered in Chinese, but an English summary is below.
In this talk, Yichen Rao introduces two of his ethnographic studies through the lens of "short-circuited connections": one is his master's study of the "internet addiction" treatment camps for Chinese adolescents, the other is his Ph.D. project on China's peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms and their investors and borrowers. Yichen interprets "addiction" as "short-circuited connection", something inherited from the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, to guide the audience in rethinking addiction not simply as a brain disease of "misbehaving" people but as our increasingly short-circuited connection with people and the world through digital entertainments and app designs.
From there, he relates the Chinese adolescents' "short-circuited connections" with the dreams of success and winning in two equally competitive life worlds - the alienating educational system and the super-engaging MOBA games- to the middle-aged P2P lenders' short-circuited desires captured by the design of "wealth management products" and P2P lending machines, which promise them easy, quick, flexible and high profits. For the young "internet addicts", their excessive gaming conditioned by the capitalist game machines caused huge conflicts between them and their family and school, which lead to their "hospitalization". For the middle-aged "internet addicts", their short-circuited desires lead to reckless lending behavior on a largely short-circuited industry that chases the quick money through predatory lending, which ends up causing the losses of the life savings of millions of Chinese.
Yichen ended this talk with a call for critical reflections on our sometimes too "comfortable" user experience on some apps and platforms. The machines always create the "addictions" to flatten us into their short-circuited connections to facilitate their quicker capital expansion.