Posts tagged ‘culture’


I’ve left the data farms but occasionally revisit the Matrix

06.11.2022


Warner Bros.
 
Even though Twitter is now in its MySpaceX era, I won’t shut my account. I have scripts that run through it, and I don’t wish for some schmuck to come in later and claim my username. Mastodon has taken off this week, my Twitter notifications are at a low, and as I cross-post between them, Mastodon is likely going to become my main social network.

But I get those who don’t wish to leave outright. I have a 5,555-strong following including my personal interests on Twitter. However, it does seem that once a social medium becomes a personal-interest one, ironically I lose interest in it! It was the case with Instagram, and Pinterest never held my interest for that long because it encouraged you to post and browse based on your interests! Maybe it’s me, but I prefer to enjoy my interests in the real world, or using them to build up my own sites and publications, not someone else’s.

I’m not going to criticize anyone who chooses to stay on a platform for longer than its sell-by date, because that would make me a hypocrite.
 
Facebook
I don’t hide my disdain about Facebook, but it took me over a year—nearly two—between the time it forced me to download their malware (well, they said it was a malware scanner, but there were plenty of suspicious things about it) in 2016 and updating my wall for the last time in 2017. That incident did force me to reconsider using the site, but I hung in there, in part to investigate what was going on, but also because I was still fooled into thinking it could be good for business and our own site traffic. (Those algorithms will see to throttling any links for your work, as they have been doing for over a decade.)

But in late 2017, I wrote a farewell post and stopped updating my wall. People still tagged me, and those went up, but I haven’t posted anything on my own wall since. Some work pages still get the odd update but I can’t even remember when was the last time I headed in to do anything on my public page. I have frequented the occasional group and looked after client pages but those visits are infrequent.
 
Instagram
I began using Instagram more for cars and model cars, but by the end of 2019 I had had enough, even for things I was interested in. There were too many ads, and Instagram was still collecting (laughably incorrect) interests on me despite opting out. I went from a multiple-post-per-day user to someone who’d update with a month in between, then a quarter, and I barely bother now. The last time I visited, my most favoured filters had vanished as well, a long string of feature removals that began with the maps years before. There just wasn’t a point to the site any more. But it still took a long time between my initial boredom and frustration with the site to what is currently my last post. Might I go on once more? Maybe, to do a more fitting farewell or to test something.

It also didn’t help that Instagram locked Lucire out in 2021 for a week. Lucire’s ’Gram is still active, but not that active. We’ve never really been bothered with social media as a company, and thanks to Zoho Social, I don’t even need to go to Instagram in order to post to it.
 
Twitter
Twitter also locked Lucire out in 2021 and it took a threat addressed to their lawyers to get that reinstated. Their proper processes never worked, nor does knowing a senior member of staff at Twitter UK.

But it is a place that’s polarizing and unpleasant. I’m all for diverse viewpoints but I’d like the other party to consider mine as much as I consider theirs. That doesn’t happen as often any more. And with Mastodon holding up (only one abusive message so far, unprompted, from a total stranger in Portland, Oregon) why would we stay on Twitter? But it’s only November 2022, Musk has only taken ownership, and I saw the April–May 2022 influx eventually go quiet, too.

Nevertheless, I feel Twitter’s days as my main social media site are coming to a close, with cross-posting between Mastodon and Twitter a breeze. Before, I’d post mainly on Twitter and let things flow to Mastodon, and check both. In April I began originating posts on both sites. Now in November, there doesn’t seem to be much call to originate anything on Twitter, with my own follower count going from 330-odd to over 550. It may be a tenth of what I have at Twitter, but the unpleasantness is gone, for now. My regret is that my personal interests—in the last year Twitter became my place for interacting with other car enthusiasts, especially in Ireland and Scotland—aren’t really on Mastodon, but it follows the earlier patterns. Once personal interests become a big part, for some reason I don’t feel I need the fix any more.

Then there were Tumblr and NewTumbl, discussed in earlier posts, where censorship based around some 1950s US puritanical standards became problems.

Overall, as someone who owns sites, I would prefer to create something for my readers. That gives me an infinitely bigger thrill than participating in most social media threads. And if I were to participate in social media, it seems fairer to be in the federated system, owning my own data, than being part of a plutocrat’s plaything where you hand him a perpetual licence to your mahi.


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Twitter pushes the near future to look more bipolar than multipolar

01.11.2022

Dave Troy’s analysis of the Elon Musk takeover of Twitter makes for interesting reading, since Troy has actually spoken to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and has a bit more of the inside track than most.

For starters, Troy reminds us that Dorsey trusts Musk, in order to keep Twitter away from Wall Street investors. Dorsey has said this publicly in a Tweet. He believes this acquisition is about ideology, so Musk doesn’t care if Twitter doesn’t make money—or at least, money will come if the technology is opened up and they can charge for other things built on top of it. Getting data on all of us helps Musk in a big way, too.

Troy posits that Musk believes we need to be on other planets, so we shouldn’t help the poor in our quest to get off this rock; but another interesting one is that he believes in a multipolar world order, something Vladimir Putin has talked about. Musk believes in rule by technocracy, Troy theorizes, not by politics. He also believes Musk is a sociopath.

All this is quite fascinating to read. Taking Troy’s words on Putin, Musk and Dorsey sharing the same vision:

All seem to think a “multipolar world” is a good thing, because after all, shouldn’t Russia get to do its thing and not be bothered by anyone else? That’s “free speech” and opposes “cancel culture,” right? So yeah, that’s aligned with Putin. But Putin himself doesn’t support free speech; his government censors wildly, but it does support speech that breaks the hegemony of the Western elites. As do Musk and friends. This is internally inconsistent.

Because of these shared values, Troy foresees Musk teaming up with D. J. Trump at Truth Social and Kanye West at Parler to control the information space.

It points to a pretty dark outcome and a polarizing world, but one which has been brewing for a long time.

We could talk about the failure of neoliberal economics and, therefore, the western hegemony. With all the figure-massaging by China when it reports its GDP, there’s still no denying that the country has risen vastly in mere decades. And Putin has said as much about wanting to fight back against western hegemony.

It’s incredibly easy to fall back on “them and us” as a concept. Dictators might find it easier to make their positions official (even if there is internal dissent that is driven underground), while the west can broadly talk about diversity while not truly breaking ranks with the neoliberal order. Our Blairite government here is positioned as such while having a social veneer (and a modicum of restraint) based on history and market positioning, while the Opposition will make things that much harder and is more blatant at wanting to do so.

I would have once said China had the potential to be an outlier, raising its educational standards and embracing Confucianism, which has its foundations in free thought and liberalism, balanced with preserving a relationship between state and subject. Perhaps with Hu and Wen things could have gone that way. Under Xi Jinping the aims have changed, and at least one China-watcher I know (who knew Xi’s father and knew of Xi from 1982) tell me that they foresaw this.

I’m not going to make any bold predictions myself, but the world looks like a place that won’t become multipolar but bipolar, and Twitter is one tool that is going to accelerate this trend—building on top of what Facebook and Google have already done by forcing users into silos. Meanwhile, Baidu et al will no doubt reflect the official positions of their governments.


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China in 2022: speak Cantonese, get banned from social media

08.10.2022

If you think some of us were being uppity about New Zealand Chinese Language Week, how’s this for a real-life report?

Speak Cantonese, get banned from a social media platform.

That’s what’s happening in China right now. And I had already mentioned schoolchildren being told off for using their reo.

The Google Translate translation is actually pretty good for a change, if you can’t read Chinese.

And here we are in New Zealand, kowtowing (derived from a Cantonese word, incidentally) to the Chinese Communist Party with its policy.
 


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New Zealand Chinese Language Week reviewed—in Cantonese

02.10.2022

My friend Bevan was going to make a podcast in Cantonese for New Zealand Chinese Language Week, and I decided I would record a few tidbits—except it wound up being something far longer and a podcast episode in its own right. So here it is, all 13-plus minutes of it. If this isn’t your language, please feel free to skip this one!
 

 
PS.: Here’s Bevan’s!
 


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New Zealand Chinese Language Week: a podcast entry

29.09.2022

As we come to the conclusion of New Zealand Chinese Language Week, a review about how inappropriate it was by being the very opposite of inclusive, for those who’d prefer to sit back and listen rather than read one of my blog posts.
 

 

You’ll likely catch me on RNZ’s The Detail on Friday, September 30 (PS.: uploaded this morning here). The AM Show changed its mind, so you won’t see me ‘come home to the feeling’ on TV3.


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In one poem: Chris Tse on Chinese Language Week

26.09.2022

This is why poet laureate Chris Tse is awesome.

The Tweets that follow are must-reads, too, including:


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The reality of Chinese Language Week for many Chinese New Zealanders

25.09.2022

‘Chinese Language Week’ has rolled around again, and if you look on Twitter, there are plenty of Chinese New Zealanders (myself included) and our allies miffed about this. And we get the usual trolls come by.

First up, it’s not Chinese Language Week. It’s Mandarin Language Week. I have no problem with the promotion of Mandarin as long as that’s what it’s called. But to promote it as being representative of all Chinese people here is ridiculous and encouraging randoms to come up to us with ‘ni hao’ is tiresome. Thirty-six per cent of us might be OK with it, sure. But not the rest. (To Stuff’s credit, probably because it doesn’t promote a Chinese person as a force in politics, and because it now actually has reporters of colour, this is a great opinion piece from a fellow Chinese New Zealander.)

To me, Mandarin is unintelligible with maybe the exception of five per cent of it. When I watch Mandarin TV, I can catch ‘呢個’. If I’m immersed in it, it might creep up to 10 per cent after a fortnight, but that’s with the context of seeing the situation in which it’s used. It is—and I’ve used this analogy before—like speaking Danish to an Italian. Some Italians will get it because they’ve figured out the connections going back to proto-European, but others’ eyes will just glaze over.

If you’re someone who claims that we appreciate a Mandarin greeting, try saying ‘Καλημέρα’ to a Norwegian. Yeah, you’d look multilingual but we’d just think you were confused—at best.

This is a country that supposedly apologized for the racist Poll Tax, but, as my friend Bevan points out:

And Richard said around the same time:

Some initiatives have taken place, which is awesome:

But it’s clear that we need to organize something to counter a hegemonic desire to wipe out our culture and language. This is why so many Chinese get what Māori go through.

The first Chinese New Zealanders came from the south, and were Cantonese speakers, likely with another language or dialect from their villages. Cantonese was the principal Chinese tongue spoken here, so if there’s to be any government funding to preserve culture, and honour those who had to pay the Poll Tax, then that’s where efforts should go—along with the other languages spoken by the early Chinese settlers.
 
The trolls have been interesting, because they’re copying and pasting from the same one-page leaflet that their propaganda department gave them when websites opened up to comments 20 years ago.

In the 2000s, I criticized BYD for copying pretty much an entire car on this blog, when it was run on Blogger. BYD even retouched Toyota’s publicity photos—it was that obvious. The car colour even stayed the same.
 


Above: The Toyota Aygo and BYD’s later publicity photo for its F1, later called the F0 when produced. The trolls didn’t like getting called out.
 

Either CCP or BYD trolls came by. The attack line, if I recall correctly, was that I was a sycophant for the foreigners and anti-Chinese.

No, kids, it’s anti-Chinese to think that we can’t do better than copying a Toyota.

Nowadays even the mainland Chinese press will slam a car company for this level of copying. Zotye and others have had fingers pointed at them. BYD’s largely stopped doing it.

The trolls this time have been the same. The comments are so familiar, you’d think that it was coordinated. Dr Catherine Churchman pointed out that one of her trolls repeated another one verbatim.

All this points to is a lack of strength, and a lack of intelligence, on the part of the trolls, with uppity behaviour that actually doesn’t exist in real life. ‘I’m so offended over something I have no comprehension over.’

The fact remains that those advocating for Cantonese, Taishanese, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, and all manner of Chinese languages love our Mandarin-speaking whānau. In many cases, we feel a kinship with them. The trolls are probably not even based here, and have no idea of the cultural issues at stake. Or the fact they already have three TV networks speaking their language.

Is it so hard for them to accept the fact some of us choose to stand up to hegemony and insensitivity, and want to honour our forebears? Are they anti-Chinese?
 
For further reading, Nigel Murphy’s ‘A Brief History of the Chinese Language in New Zealand’ is instructive, if people really want to know and engage in something constructive. It’s on the Chinese Language Week website, who evidently see no irony in hosting it.


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The very simple Maramataka and Chinese lunar calendar conversion table

26.06.2022

When I first started commemorating Matariki a few years ago, I had figured out, since both ancient Māori and Chinese worked out the lunar calendar, that it was roughly five lunar months after ours. I was also told that it marked the Māori New Year.

Maybe it’s due to local iwi, but my recollection was that Matariki was about three days before exactly five months had passed, which would make it today, June 26.

As it’s incredibly common among Chinese people to have calendars that show both the Gregorian dates and our dates side by side, I began looking for a Māori equivalent. In fact, here’s my Windows version:
 

 

I came across this page from Te Papa (our national museum, for those who mightn’t know), which at least gives the names of the months in te reo Māori. And this was a pleasant surprise:

In the traditional Māori Maramataka, or lunar calendar, the new year begins with the first new moon following the appearance of Matariki (Pleiades) on the eastern horizon. Usually this takes place in the period June-July.

In other words, Matariki might mark the start of the New Year for Māori but isn’t the exact date.

From what I can understand, and I am more than happy to be corrected by tangata whenua, the Matariki holiday can encompass the exact first day of Pipiri (the first month of the lunar year under the Maramataka), and this is among the celebratory period.

What’s exciting for me as a person of Chinese ethnicity is that there is an exact parallel between our cultures in how we mark new months with new moons, and that this extends to the year, too.

In the interests of cross-cultural sharing, I’ve taken the Māori months and placed them alongside ours, so we can figure out when each of our people celebrates the New Year.

It’s so delightfully simple and way easier to convert than, say, the Islamic or Jewish calendars to Gregorian.
 

Pipiri 六月
Hōngongoi 七月
Hereturikōkā 八月
Mahuru 九月
Whiringa-ā-nuku 十月
Whiringa-ā-rangi 十一月
Hakihea 十二月
Kohitātea 一月
Huitānguru 二月
Poutūterangi 三月
Paengawhāwhā 四月
Haratua 五月

 

I assume Māori, like us, figure out when repeat months happen in order for Pipiri to fall right after Matariki, which technically makes their calendar lunisolar, too.

It’s then very easy for someone with a Chinese calendar to figure out when the Māori New Year begins, namely 六月初一, and it’s very easy for someone with a Māori calendar to figure out when ours begins, namely Whiro, or the first day, of Kohitātea.

Celebrating Matariki has always come very naturally to me, and even how we observe it (family time, giving thanks to the year gone and for the one ahead) is similar. And no wonder.

I apologize if this is way too simple and already basic general knowledge but I only found out today!
 
PS.: It does mean, for instance, that this page (and presumably, many others) from the Parliament website is dead wrong. January 26, 2017 is not the same as 26 Kohitātea 2017:
 

 
So it seems it isn’t basic general knowledge.
 
P.PS.: There’s a lot more information confirming the above here, including the leap months. However:

The maramataka was revived in 1990 by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission). Instead of using transliterations of the English names, such as Hānuere for January and Mei for May, they promoted the traditional names cited by Tūtakangāhau. However, lunar months were dropped in favour of calendar months, so that, for example, Pipiri became June.

To me, that’s a shame; there’s a reason ancient Māori created their lunar calendar. I can understand why the Commission did it, in order to keep the names of the months alive, and of course these names are preferable to transliterations. (Something similar has happened with our culture, but we don’t have cool names for the months as Māori do.) It’s just that Pipiri isn’t June, and this year, it spans more of July. Therefore, the conversion table only works with the traditional Maramataka, not the one adapted to the colonists.


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How to end social media censorship

16.04.2022


Kristina Flour/Unsplash
 
This Twitter thread by Yishan Wong is one of the most interesting I’ve come across. Not because it’s about Elon Musk (who he begins with), but because it’s about the history of the web, censorship, and the reality of running a social platform.

Here are some highlights (emphases in the original):

There is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0 (late 90s) and early Web 2.0, pre-Facebook (pre-2005), that had a very strong free speech culture.

This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late-90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship were religious conservatives. In practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn (or other imagined moral degeneracy) on the internet …

Many of the older tech leaders today … grew up with that internet. To them, the internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit, and a great optimism that technology could birth a new golden age of mankind.

Fast forward to the reality of the 2020s:

The internet is not a “frontier” where people can go “to be free,” it’s where the entire world is now, and every culture war is being fought on it.

It’s the main battlefield for our culture wars.

Yishan points out that left-wingers can point to where right-wingers get more freedom to say their piece, and that right-wingers can point to where left-wingers get more. ‘Both sides think the platform is institutionally biased against them.’

The reality:

They would like you (the users) to stop squabbling over stupid shit and causing drama so that they can spend their time writing more features and not have to adjudicate your stupid little fights.

That’s all.

They don’t care about politics. They really don’t.

He concedes that people can be their worst selves online, and that the platforms struggle to keep things civil.

They have to pretend to enforce fairness. They have to adopt “principles.”

Let me tell you: There are no real principles. They are just trying to be fair because if they weren’t, everyone would yell louder and the problem would be worse …

You really want to avoid censorship on social networks? Here is the solution:

Stop arguing. Play nice. The catch: everyone has to do it at once.

I guarantee you, if you do that, there will be no censorship of any topic on any social network.

Because it is not topics that are censored. It is behavior.

I think Yishan’s right to some degree. There are leanings that the leaders of these social networks have, and I think that can affect the overall decisions. But he’s also right that both left and right feel aggrieved. I warned as much when I wrote about social media and their decision about Donald Trump in the wake of the incidents of January 6, 2021. I’ve seen left- and right-wing accounts get taken down, and often for no discernible reason I can fathom.

Generally, however, civil discourse is a perfectly fine way to go, and for most things that doesn’t invite censorship or account removal. Wouldn’t it be nice if people took him up on this, to see what would happen?

Sadly, that could well be as idealistic as the ‘new frontier’ which many of us who got into the dot com world in the 1990s believed in.

But maybe he’s woken up some folks. And with c. 50,000 followers, he has a darn sight better chance than I have reaching just over a tenth of that on Twitter, and the 1,000 or so of you who will read this blog post.
 
During the writing of this post, Vivaldi crashed again, when I attempted to enter form data—a bug that they believed was fixed a few revisions ago. It appears not. I’ll still send over a bug report, but everything is pointing at my abandoning it in favour of Opera GX. Five years is a very good run for a browser.


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Stanley Moss’s latest Global Brand Letter out now

10.01.2022

Finally, a happier post. For many years (since 2004), my dear friend Stanley Moss has been publishing his Global Brand Letter, which is not only a wonderful summary of the year (or the last half-year, since he often writes every six months) in branding, but an excellent record of the evolution of culture.
   He has finished his latest and, for the first time, he has allowed me to host a copy for you to download and read (below). I commend it to you highly. Keep an eye out for future issues, while past ones can be found on his website at www.diganzi.com.


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