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I'm an Associate Professor of English Education. My time is spent preparing to teach, teaching, reading, writing, working with pre-service and practicing teachers, serving on various committees, and trying to keep my office from over flowing into the hallway.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Robots aren't making your technology


The BBC is reporting "Disruption at Beijing store on iPhone 4S launch"
After you read this story, are you asking yourself, "Why are they throwing eggs and yelling 'liar'?" I was. So was the USA Today brief parodying a conversation with Siri:
     "Siri, why would a crowd of 500 Chinese throw eggs at Apple's main store in Beijing?"
     "Because the store didn't open at 7 a.m. to begin selling the new iPhone 4S."
But the breaking Bloomberg piece seems to get at the heart of the matter: no supply for an overwhelming demand. Imagine the media firestorm if people across the U.S. waited out in the cold all night (sub-freezing temperatures) to buy a product made in their own country, only to find out that you weren't one of the lucky 1000. In our product-hungry culture that would make the news. To add to the irony, this coveted product was probably made by some of the potential consumers themselves or perhaps the relatives of those who make the 4S. However, at $980 and with only 3 carriers in the entire country of almost 1.4 billion, it's unlikely that the iPhone is affordable and sustainable for many Chinese people right now.
 In other "Where does my technology come from?" news--Today, "Foxconn Resloves a Dispute with Some Workers in China." Apparently, out of the 150 potential suicide victims at the Wuhan plant, 45 resigned, and the rest were given pay raises.
















Then there was this:
     "The company has also begun a huge program to invest in robots and to move some of its
     production to the central and western parts of China, where labor is less costly and more
     abundant. The company says the new locations also allow migrant workers to live closer to
     their hometowns."

I remembered Mike Daisey's comment from Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory about how he envisioned where his tech products originated: robots in a factory piecing together his iPads, xBoxes, and Kindles. Admittedly, I held this B-movie induced vision of automation in my head as well. But that's Hollywood. In the Wuhan plant alone there are 39,000 people working many more hours a day than most of us could ever imagine spending in our workplaces.
Perhaps on some levels similar to the reasoning behind the stampedes at Walmart on Black Friday, the people of China want to actually be able to buy the product their country's factories make. I'd throw eggs, too.

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