Restoring “place” in the modern market — Stories of two Chinese e-commerce villages

talk – 35 min | Feb 7 – 11:50

Boundaries dissolved and drawn, behind the click

Around the world, many of the markets we interact with daily have gotten so “comfortable” and transactional, that the human-to-human interactions and communities that comprise it recede into irrelevance. The blanket convenience of “globalization” has led us to lose touch with the significance of place. What becomes of the concept of place, as design and technology dissolve boundaries and build bridges between cultures? As consumers continue to lose context about where goods come from - one click and it’s at your doorstep - how are we, as designers, to consider place? In this talk, I will explore these questions through telling stories about Chinese markets, past and present, focusing on two rural villages that have been transformed by e-commerce.

About the speaker

Alice Fang

Alice Fang


Born in Beijing, and raised in Singapore, Kansas, and California, Alice Fang is a user researcher who is in awe of how God creates different cultures and allows humans to create technologies in them. In 2015-2016, Alice was a Yenching scholar at Peking University, where she conducted research on “Connected learning in the modern market: Observations from two Taobao villages.” During this time, she discovered her love of markets, as she wandered through local open air markets, wholesale electronic markets, human hair markets, marriage markets, and online markets, spending time with buyers and sellers. Before that, Alice studied Symbolic Systems (concentrating in human-computer interaction) and Learning, Design and Technology at Stanford. Currently, she is a user experience researcher at Google, studying how people use ads, and an adjunct lecturer in Stanford’s Product Design program, teaching “Needfinding.”

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