Toward a New “Electrical World”: Is There a Chinese Technological Sublime?

  • Matteo Tarantino


Drawing from multiple disciplines and from empirical work, the chapter attempts to establish a broad frame for the cultural meaning assigned to computer technology by Chinese culture. Using as a key concept Leo Marx and Vincent Mosco’s formulation of the technological sublime, the chapter discusses its dynamics on the Western context. Here, the technological sublime feeds from the man/nature duality and the nostalgia for a transcendental state of unity. Narrations about the technology being able to bridge this gap assume the form of “techno-myths” and structure Western technological imaginary. The chapter then discusses the dynamics in Chinese context. Here, man and nature are not in a dichotomy, and the unity state is not transcendental but immanent. Therefore, technology has never been symbolically invested until the Opium Wars’ trauma. The chapter employs Chinese science fiction to illustrate this dynamic. Henceforth, the chapter argues, technology in China has been connected with the idea of national rebirth – at least at the elite level. In its last part, the chapter illustrates thorough an empirical case how this frame shapes the social meaning of computer technology.


Chinese Culture Internet Addiction Science Fiction Cultural Representation Comic Book 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research benefited enormously from the active cooperation and invaluable discussion provide by a class of postgraduate students from the Communication University of China in Beijing, coordinated by Dr. Eileen Luo Qing. The team was comprised of Betty Qian Zhan, Cao Li, Hannah Lu, Claire Luo Dan, Gong Wiliang, Jiang Chunsheng, Li Li, Ma Jing, Wang Yi, Chang Peiyi, Xu Cong, Yang Dong, and Yi Qian.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sciences of Communications and Performing artsCatholic University of MilanMilanItaly

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