I am currently an assistant professor of Digital Innovation and Business Transformation in Aarhus University, Denmark. Before that, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC Marshall Business School.
I am an ethnographer of technology and innovation. Employing a combination of ethnographic, textual, and visual methods, I have studied varied groups of actors from taxi drivers in Hangzhou, to beggars in Northwestern China, to slum dwellers in Shanghai, to AI policymakers at global conferences. Through these projects, I seek to understand how individuals make sense of economic and technological changes in contemporary societies, and how they navigate a shifting landscape of precarity and opportunities. I recently authored “Taxi Shanghai: Entrepreneurship and Semi-Colonial Context” (Business History, 2021), “Platforms as if People Mattered” (Economic Anthropology, 2019) and “Uber in China” (Harvard Business Case Study, 2016&2017).
I recently completed my Ph.D. of social anthropology at Harvard University, with a secondary field in Science, Technology and Society (2020). My dissertation “Moralizing Disruption: China’s Ride-Hailing Revolution” explores the emergence, contestation, and moralization of ride-hailing platforms in contemporary China. During 20- months of ethnographic fieldwork spanning six years, I immersed myself in communities of computer engineers, corporate managers, on-demand drivers, hackers, and labor contractors, exploring how different groups of actors participate in and make sense of the changes brought on by ride-hailing platforms. Through this multi-sited ethnography, I found that disruptive innovation is more than a business model— it is a socio-technological process that shapes, and is shaped by, different communities of actors with distinct moral views. For instance, the corporate managers of Uber China advocated for Silicon-Valley-style disruption, a process mainly driven by smarter technologies and capital-backed expansion. In contrast, the employees of Didi, China’s domestic ride-hailing giant, viewed disruption as revolution; they mobilized taxi drivers and local government oﬀicials to participate in the building of a more human-dependent infrastructure. These differences, I argue, are not simply a matter of divergent business strategies. They are a reflection of the deeper moral systems that structure technological innovation and social change.
Watch my speech at 2019 Harvard Horizons Synposium: