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Winnie Wong

Speculative Authorship and the City of Fakes

Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 7:00-9:00pm

Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory, Wilder House

Poster for Winnie Wong, The Global Supply Chain of Readymade Dreams event

Photo by Yu Haibo

In this paper, Wong investigates how a non-profit, non-governmental, scientific research organization in the city of Shenzhen, China had become, by 2008, the world’s largest genomic sequencing firm. Examining its “fee-for-service” mode of research collaboration, which offers reduced-price work in exchange for co-authorship on scientific papers—a practice that was initially met with skepticism from the American scientific community, she describes a moment when the “credit economy” of scientific authorship largely centered in American and Western European academic and research institutions was challenged by Chinese biopolitics of scientific research and intellectual labor. Wong discusses how this was a moment of “speculative authorship,” and argues that this brief accumulation of the (declining) value of scientific authorship propelled a self-reinvention of the firm into the “production-study-research innovation base” it presently calls itself. Ever becoming something unprecedented and openly challenging the boundaries of legitimacy, this speculative condition of becoming is also symptomatic of the city this firm calls home: Shenzhen, China’s ever-changing “model” of its immediate future.