Scaling Techno-Optimistic Visions

  • Seyram Avle University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Cindy Lin University of Michigan
  • Jean Hardy University of Michigan
  • Silvia Lindtner University of Michigan
Keywords: digital technology, entrepreneurial life, entrepreneurial citizens, technological promise, scale, techno-optimism


Techno-optimism, or the enduring belief that technology use and production are promising for humanity, is bound up in past and ongoing ideals of modernity, progress, and “development.” As a particular form of hope and aspiration, techno-optimism is harnessed for nation-building and economic development projects that invest in the promise of scaling. This article demonstrates that this enduring techno-optimism requires various forms of entrepreneurial labor, and that the promise of scaling and technological progress together form a contemporary technique of governance.

Author Biographies

Seyram Avle, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Seyram Avle (she/her) is Assistant Professor of Communication and Global Digital Media at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on how digital technologies are designed, produced, distributed, and used in various contexts across parts of Africa, China, and the United States. She is currently working on a book about tech entrepreneurship as a mode of entrepreneurial living and space of work in Ghana.

Cindy Lin, University of Michigan

Cindy Lin (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a certificate holder in the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) program. Her research and writing draw on long-term fieldwork with state science agencies, and commercial services firms, to examine the politics of computational labor and data architectures for peatland fire control in Indonesia.

Jean Hardy, University of Michigan

Jean Hardy (he/him) is a PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan School of Information and incoming Assistant Professor at Michigan State University's Department of Media & Information. His research uses ethnographic and participatory design methods to understand how people use information and communication technologies for community formation and economic development in the rural Midwestern United States.

Silvia Lindtner, University of Michigan

Silvia Lindtner (she/her) is Associate Professor of Information and Science, Technology, and Society (STS) and the Associate Director of the Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing (ESC) at the University of Michigan. Her first book Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation (2020) unpacks in ethnographic and historical detail how a growing distrust in Western models of progress, including Silicon Valley and the tech industry after the financial crisis 2007-08, shaped the rise of “entrepreneurial living” and the vision of China as a “new frontier” of innovation.


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28 May 2020
Research Articles