The center of the technology world may not lie in California’s Silicon Valley, but in the bustling marketplace of Huaqiangbei, a subdistrict of Shenzhen in China. This is where curious consumers and industry insiders gather to feast their eyes and wallets on the latest software, hardware, gadgetry, and assorted electronic goods. It’s also the setting for the new documentary from WIRED UK titled Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware.
At the very start the film sets the scene to this fascinating technology mecca. A city populated by 20 million people, Shenzhen is the setting where advancement is most likely to originate at speeds that can’t be replicated in the States. The city’s vibrant and inventive tech work force takes over when the innovations of Silicon Valley become stagnant. The revolution may have started in the States, but its evolution is occurring in China. Working in collaboration, Shenzhen laborers craft unique upgrades and modifications to everything from laptops to cell phones. Their efforts then immigrate and influence the adoption of new products in other regions of the world.
The infrastructure by which this is made possible is known as the ‘Maker movement’. In developer conferences and Maker exhibition fairs, tech geeks are encouraged to share their ideas freely with colleagues in the hopes that more open collaborations will form grander innovations. The film highlights how these attitudes stand in sharp contrast to the Western world where communications are secretive, monopolies are the norm and proprietorship is sacred.
However, there are challenges faced by Shenzhen in maintaining their edge in the industry. While widely acknowledged as pioneers, Shenzhen’s prominence has faltered as the remainder of China has proven successful in their attempts to catch up. Adding to the frustrations, the government has interceded and moved manufacturing bases outside of the city. Meanwhile, figures from the world of investment financing have moved into the equation, and threatened to stifle creativity by imposing a more closed and impenetrable mode of operations.
Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware gives us an insider’s perspective on a system of creative collaboration that ultimately informs all of our lives.