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Q&A: “Study Radio for Revolution: The Making of Amateur Technologies in Socialist China”

Extended answers from Yingchuan Yang (YY), panelist from “The Promise and Pitfalls of Citizen Science,” Panel 4: Global Perspectives

Question: Do you have a sense of who the readership for the magazine was? Did it create a community of amateur scientists that might not have other outlets?
YY: The readership was primarily the urban youth. It is hard to calculate the number of readers because books and magazines were widely shared to read in socialist China, but a few millions would be a safe estimation. As for the second question, precisely, even though not exactly "scientists" as they did not work in universities or research institutes, but many of the readers went on to become amateur technologists with expertise that was otherwise hard to acquire.

Question: Are there feedback loops for readers to, in turn, share their knowledge?
YY: Yes, the readers were encouraged to share their knowledge to the Radio journal, and some readers would further respond to those submissions from readers.

Question: How many participated in the Radio magazine projects? How did that vary across time? Is it still active in this age of computers? Are there now similar publications related to digital computing?
YY: For the first question see above. The readership has been declining since the postsocialist period because, first, more mediums of knowledge became available and, second, radio was replaced by more advanced forms of telecommunications. The journal still exists today, but it has become a niche publication targeting a very professional readership. There are similar publications on digital computing, especially popular in the 1990s and 2000s. Now, everything is online.

Question: What about citizen science as a strategy to support diversity and site specific / embodied knowledges as opposed to hegemonic and nationalistic directives?
YY: My work is particularly indicative of the possibility to understand citizen science as a site of knowledge production that is against hegemonic and nationalistic directives. By doing that, it also compels us to rethink what "citizen" can mean.