Lift10: Technology and Cultural Difference in China (Basile Zimmermann) [en]

Here are my running notes of the Lift conference in Geneva. This is Technology and Cultural Difference in China (Basile Zimmermann). May contain errors, omissions, things that aren’t quite right, etc. I do my best but I’m just a human live-blogging machine.

Found other good posts about this session? Link to them in the comments.

Quick overview of Basil’s work at UNIGE Dept. of Chinese Studies.

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A cultural difference: language. What happens when this kind of difference meets technology? Encoding issues. steph-note: don’t I know it! With Chinese, disastrous!

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This is related to production history. English-speaking users first, then others came along. “ASCII” = American Standard Code for Information Interchange.

Keyboards in China look just like ours, but how on earth do they manage? Most common method: they type phonetically and then choose amongst a selection of homophones. Very quick, with autocompletion. But the problem is that afterwards Chinese people forget how to write by hand (they forget the precise strokes).

The Google logo on the Chinese web. Localized Chinese versions are usually not very Chinese. How do you think they feel about it?

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Cf. List of unequal treaties. Everyone in China knows about these. Used to others taking advantages. Pay attention to this if you want to do business in China.

Successful social network in China, Kaixinwang.

Difference with Facebook: FB has two views, your profile, and info about your friends (newsfeed). Very strict policy about privacy (won’t reveal pages you view to other users on the site). Kaixinwang don’t do advertising posters on the main page, but design games with ad placement. (Design the games themselves.)

Virtual gifts. But some of the gifts are advertisements. Small applications, like a Smart car that you can play with, it grows bigger, and the skin changes.

Technology IS culture. The economy of China is growing really fast. What will technology look like the day it’s reinvented by the Chinese to fit their own needs?

Three things should happen:

  • language issues: technology is being developped *for* the Chinese language (already happening)
  • more abstract: computer technology is embedded with Western logic (good at chess! bad at go! really smart programmers are finding it impossible to write a programme that plays go well) — biggest user of the internet, government puts billions in new technologies, and to find out what is dangerous and what is not. Cf. Human Flesh Search (*steph-note: heard about this on On The Media.*)

Different way of looking at web pages in China. Also, they go online to have fun, whereas we tend to go online to work. Lots of gaming.

The Western media have a very black-and-white vision of China and its government. We talk a lot about censorship, but we have it here too. The Chinese government wants to make sure nothing bad happens. As an ISP you have to make certain that this or that type of content (considered harmful) is not made available.

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