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Projects

Alice & Aryan – DOUBLE 11

ONLINE CONSUMERISM AND STORYTELLING

 

PROJECT

Jack Ma is the founder of Alibaba as well as one of the richest men in China (with personal wealth of more than $36 billion). He is also one of the strongest voices for global change, social progress, technological innovation, and cross-cultural interdependence—values that not only manifest in entrepreneurial speeches and future-oriented business strategies but are also commodified in contemporary social consumer practice. This phenomenon reaches its peak on “Singles Day”, a Chinese holiday on 11/11 that was co-opted by Alibaba to become the biggest shopping day on earth. The astonishing amount of money spent on Singles Day highlights the cultural impact that the booming e-commerce industry has had on China’s middle class.

Double 11 uses found footage, news clips, and interviews to assemble a portrait of Jack Ma and Singles Day with multiple conflicting narratives. On one hand, it reveals Ma’s visionary quality and rhetorical power in surmounting cultural and political obstacles associated with global business, particularly a lack of trust or comprehension between Western and Chinese companies. In his modest and candid tone, Ma succeeds in depicting the looming paradigm shift in geopolitics as an era of connectivity and cooperation between people all over the world, including full emancipation of women, through the continuous growth of consumerism and the facilitation of increased entrepreneurialism at every scale from the individual to the multinational conglomerate. But the clips of compulsive shopping, celebrity spectacles, and materialist discontent hint at the socioeconomic conditions necessary to fuel Ma’s borderless utopia.

 

INTERVIEW

How does Jack Ma compare to other Chinese businessmen?

Jack Ma is quite different from other ultra-rich Chinese entrepreneurs. He does not come from a rich or high-class family, but is one of the self-made millionaire entrepreneurs that emerged when China's communist market opened up. His business practices are based on the strategy of creating trust rather then selling services. Unlike the stereotypical CEO, Ma has always been a bit of an outsider; people did not take him seriously until he hit a breakthrough with his big ideas. But the high-level employees at Alibaba resemble him—a group of alternative people who have demonstrated a great deal of loyalty to his ideology and leadership.

Is there a relation between Jack Ma’s commitment to technological progress (even sacrificing short-term financial profit to achieve that) and the Maoist pursuit of social progress through communism (even justifying violence and destruction)?

By considering multiple perspectives—not only those of Jack Ma but also those of Alibaba’s public as well as the individuals who comprise its massive user base—it becomes difficult to achieve a unified or balanced perspective. In general, what these ideologies have in common is an emphasis on a limited number of aspects at the expense of the wider perspective, which ultimately leads these ideologies to create long-term inequalities. For example, Ma specifically targets sexism and encourages women to become entrepreneurs through Alibaba, but his vision of all-encompassing e-commerce poses a significant threat to the protection of humane working conditions, work-life balances, and family cohesion. This vision only grants women equality in the sense that it pushes them towards constant work and productivity.

Project Images

Copyright Design Academy Eindhoven. Photographs by Nicole Marnati.