Dr Samuel Lengen

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Digital Culture

StoryLab Research Institute

Faculty:Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Gender , Digital media , Ethnography , Policy

Samuel's research explores digital media in China with a focus on gender, media production, and government policy. Specifically, it investigates connections between technology entrepreneurship and online media production in China's digital economy.

Visit Samuel's website

Email: samuel.lengen@anglia.ac.uk


Samuel's current research project investigates digital platforms as powerful infrastructures and metaphors in contemporary China. It examines their role in Chinese "loser economics," a widespread view that the country’s low-income population presents an untapped economic potential. Drawing on a qualitative methodology, it investigates platforms both as powerful tropes for democratized opportunity as well as infrastructures designed to capture an economic potential. How do platform environments valorise China's disenfranchised population? And, what aims, desires, and hopes are built into their infrastructures?

Samuel pursued his PhD as a doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany, and received his doctoral degree in cultural anthropology from Utrecht University, the Netherlands. In his PhD dissertation, he focused on the role of digital media in sustaining and challenging Chinese personal hopes and ambitions by examining the establishment of a pioneering startup environment and the production of online comedy shows in Beijing. His book manuscript in progress, Binary Dreams - An Ethnography of the Digital Economy in China, investigates digital mediation of contemporary Chinese aspirations.

Research interests

  • Digital innovation and the creative economy
  • Development policies and information technologies
  • Technology entrepreneurship and gender
  • Online activism and censorship
  • Socio-economic inequality and subversive online culture
  • Multimodal narratives of digital opportunity


  • PhD, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • MA, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Memberships, editorial boards

  • American Anthropological Association, member

Selected recent publications

Book manuscript in preparation: Binary Dreams - An Ethnography of the Digital Economy in China

Lengen, S. 2017. 'Beyond the Conceptual Framework of Oppression and Resistance: Creativity, Religion and the Internet in China'. In: Travagnin, S. (ed.) Religion and Media in China: Insights and Case Studies from the Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. New York: Routledge.

Recent presentations and conferences

2018 'Chinese Digital Media and the "Loser Economy,"' presented at Symposium Chinese Aspirations and Digital Media in Global Capitalism, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, 5 February. 

2017 'Digital Aspirations: Entrepreneurial Dreams and Economic Policy in a Chinese Entrepreneurship Service Cluster', presented at the panel Entrepreneurship: Subjects, Projects, and Institutions, Annual Conference of the American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC, USA, 30 November. 

2017 'Gendered Laughter: Government Censorship and the Politics of Failure', talk organized by the research group Situating Free Speech: European Parrhesia in Comparative Perspective at the University of Cambridge, Division of Social Anthropology, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 19 May.