Infrastructure at home: Technology, intimacy, and ageing in China

Gladys Pak Lei Chong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


This study adopts an ethnographic approach to examine how digital technology used at home ‐ mobile platforms and smart devices ‐ shaped the intimacy of ageing adults (aged 55 to 65) in Beijing. China’s fast-ageing population and its ambition to be a high‐tech superpower are some of the conditions that have necessitated the mobilisation of governmental ideas that link population management to technology development. This study built on Ara Wilson’s (2016) essay “The Infrastructure of Intimacy” by including critical infrastructure studies to examine how practices of intimacy are translated and operationalised through daily technology use at home. Data analysis was conducted using three frameworks: (1) making intimate: familiarising and reconnecting; (2) materialising intimacy: gifts, bonding, and avoidance; and (3) self‐intimacy (re)structured: choices, self‐love, and empowerment. The ethnographic data unveils the pivotal role of intimacy in the use of technologies and platforms by the ageing informants in managing their relationships between the self and their family and social relations. With its profound functionality in broadening the practices of intimacy, such as strengthening self-worth and self‐realisation, the daily use of digital technology at home also made it easier for the ageing informants in this study to deter, replace, and lessen their need for physical interactions. The findings suggest that normalising older adults’ active use of technology at home will further advance the technologisation of Chinese society while enhancing intimacy in the ageing population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-361
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Media and China
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Media Technology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Ageing subjects
  • infrastructure
  • intimacy
  • home
  • population management
  • smart home
  • infrastructuralisation
  • mobile platforms
  • digital technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Infrastructure at home: Technology, intimacy, and ageing in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this