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Klarman Fellow: Digital media connects people in a polarized world

Every time Shiqi Lin traveled back home to China on breaks from college in the U.S., she was sure to pack two things: her phone and a sound recorder.

Shiqi Lin next to a poster in her office depicting 25 years of covers from the Chinese culture magazine Newsweekly, which reflect China's social changes during the past quarter century.

Armed with these digital tools, she would walk through teeming neighborhoods bustling with new construction to archive disappearing landscapes and interview people whose lives had been upended by China’s massive drive toward urbanization.

“I remember speaking with a lady who was 80 years old. During our oral history interview she burst into tears, tracing back her long history, and I wondered, what does it mean for her that all the neighborhoods around her have been transformed into skyscrapers and shopping malls?” said Lin, a Klarman Postdoctoral Fellow in Asian studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. “By the end of the conversation she thanked me – that was the moment I saw a strong human bond through our interview and the mediation of my sound recorder.”

Lin, who experienced China’s rapid changes herself growing up, feels drawn to document these events, but she’s become fascinated with forms of documentation, as well as content. She wants to better understand how cultural producers ­– such as filmmakers, writers and videographers – have created strong human bonds through their digital devices, as she experienced in her interview with the 80-year-old woman.

Read the full story on the College of Arts and Sciences website.

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