Migrations, Integration and Diversity
Interactional expertise, forms, and the Imitation Game: the integration of migrants in Beijing municipality
This project is a study of the integration of migrant populations in contemporary China. The main objective is to examine how different groups in urban areas (especially “migrants” versus “locals”) interact with and perceive each other. Part of the project involves the development of software used to gather and record information on the interactions between one group of individuals and another.
The study of diversity, understood herein as variations in shared understandings between groups of people, is highly relevant for China since it is home to a very large and diverse population. The tremendous economic growth of the last few decades has been accompanied by massive internal migration, very rapid urbanisation, and the emergence of mega- industrial cities that house approximately 300 million mobile workers known as the “floating population” (liudong renkou 流动人口).
In cities such as Beijing, groups of people from different backgrounds end up sharing the same space. However, they are often not regarded as residents: the household registration system (hukou 户口) binds them to their birthplace. The project aims to understand how these groups identify themselves, how they identify with other groups, and how far they understand the way those other groups live and think.
The project addresses these issues through a new and innovative methodological tool known as the Imitation Game. Inspired by the work of famous mathematician Alan Turing, and adapted for the social sciences by sociologists Harry Collins and Robert Evans at Cardiff University, it consists of conducting experiments between social groups understood to be different from each other (either by the researchers or by the individuals themselves, e.g., Catholics and Protestants, migrants and locals, and so on). During the experiment, members of two (or more) groups are invited to interact with each other by asking and answering questions and trying to identify who is who. The experiment is administered through specific software that regulates and records the participants’ interactions.
The Imitation Game methodology is used to compare Beijing’s native residents (i.e., holders of a Beijing “resident permit,” or hukou 户口) with migrants from Hebei province (i.e., holders of Hebei resident permits). The members of these two groups are invited to ask and answer questions of each other and try to identify whether the questions and answers are from “locals” or “migrants.” The score for each group is subsequently analysed along with the sets of questions and answers. Along with Basile Zimmermann's waves and forms framework, the results of the imitation game are expected to provide a detailed account of the groups’ shared interactional expertise (Collins and Evans 2002), and contribute to the identification of possible forms (Zimmermann 2015) enabling or preventing the integration of migrants in Beijing. To these ends, the project is also developing an app for the Imitation Game software that will be better suited to Chinese users and designed to collect the necessary qualitative and quantitative data.
For more information please contact the project's main researcher Ozan Sahin.
Zimmermann B. (2018). "Trois regards sur la notion de « culture chinoise » ". Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 72(1), pp. 87-116.
Sahin, O. (2017). « From technocracy to citizen science: The nature of expertise and the place of experts in our societies ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève.
Sahin, O. (2014). « Technologies de l’information et expertise interactionnelle: rencontres et travaux avec QIU Zeqi et Harry Collins ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève.
"La culture flottante: transmission et évolution des formes culturelles dans la Chine contemporaine". Summer school, Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva, July 2018.
"Three perspectives on the concept of culture". Annual meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science, Washington D.C., United States, March 2018.
“Waves, Forms, and the Imitation Game”, Social Studies of Expertise and Experience Workshop #9, School of Social Sciences, University of Cardiff, United Kingdom, May 2015.
"Information technology, organization and social change in China" (see the video), followed by "Tacit Knowledge, Interactional Expertise and the Imitation Game" (see the video). Workshop, conferences and sociological experience with professors Harry Collins (Cardiff University) and QIU Zeqi (Peking University), organized by the Institut Confucius in collaboration with the Graduate Institute. University of Geneva, March 2014.
“Waves and Elements: Toward a new conceptualization of culture”, School of Social Sciences, University of Cardiff, United Kingdom, December 2013.
“An inspection of the concepts of culture and interactional expertise”, Communities of Integration Workshop, Studies of Expertise and Experience, Arizona State University, United States, May 2013.