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People’s needs are rarely put at the centre of global data collection. Dalang Fever 3 is a participatory research project aiming to understand the desires and needs of residents in Dalang, a rapidly transforming neighbourhood on the outskirts of Shenzhen. Very little data – except from inaccessible user data – is available on the migrants living and working in this remote and often overlooked area. Het Nieuwe Instituut and the International New Town Institute collaborated with Impact Hub Shenzhen to independently collect quantitative and qualitative data to provide genuine insights and a richer sense of the human interaction, needs and network in the area. The research team collected structural and semi-structural data from 350 people living and working in the research area of Dalang through interviews and online questionnaires. The research took place between September and November 2019, and focused on different layers of information, inviting people to anonymously:

1.  share their findings about their neighbourhood through photographs and short statements
2.  include their gender, age, place of origin, level of education, marital status, duration of stay, income, commercial activities and jobs
3.  describe their sense of belonging and general well-being
4.  share in-depth personal stories to deepen our knowledge on certain issues

Dalang Fever 3 proposes the next steps for improving living conditions and the urban environment. A multidisciplinary data and design team with spatial and social expertise will analyse the collected data in a workshop at the biennale, using their different lenses to propose improvements in Dalang. It will be an iterative process that questions the use of data in order to incorporate people’s needs into the continuous transformation of the area. How should we collect data and make it accessible? What spatial, organisational and digital transitions should be instigated?

Dalang neighbourhood

Dalang is a rapidly transforming neighbourhood on the outskirts of Shenzhen with severe social issues and very little urban planning. Primarily a dense collection of urban villages and factory compounds, it is hard to reach, with few public facilities and limited green and public spaces. The Dalang neighbourhood is home to approximately 574,375 people, of which 39,563 are locally registered. 534,812 citizens belong to the so-called floating population, with 336,615 people living there for longer than six months. The research area comprises the communities of Xinshi, Dalang, Langkou and Tongsheng, totalling approximately 400,424 people, of which 13,774 are registered.


The research project Dalang Fever 3 is conducted by Linda Vlassenrood in close collaboration with Impact Hub Shenzhen (headed by Tat Lam). The exhibition design and graphics are developed by Koehorst in ‘t Veld. 

Dalang Fever 3 consists of research, an exhibition and a workshop, and is developed on behalf of Het Nieuwe Instituut and the International New Town Institute (INTI) in the Netherlands. Het Nieuwe Instituut, the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Guangzhou generously support both the research and the exhibition.

In 2013 and 2015, INTI contributed to the Shenzhen Architecture Biennale with Dalang Fever, and the exhibition Dalang Fever 2.0. Standing for the potential of a self-organising migrant society, both the Dalang Fever event and exhibition showcased the empowering nature of bottom-up activities for migrant workers. Dalang Fever 3 is also part of the DATAstudio programme (2015 – 2019) of Het Nieuwe Instituut, which addresses the question of how data and technology can benefit citizens and neighbourhoods.