An evolution: Japanese language and “connectivity”

Looking forward from a point in time: not too long ago, people used to think of that the Japanese had extremely advanced and sophisticated mobile device networks and habits, but not as advanced internet tools e.g. they paid their bills through their keitai and chatted with others using BBSes.

Looking backwards from a point in future: Now that it’s clear that what we previously thought of as “online” and “mobile” worlds are converging however, those looking back at this period in future (researchers, analysts, academics?) might see that the Japanese experience simply evolved differently.

Lisa Katayama sketches in a Wired article:

The Internet didn’t take off in Japan the way it did in the US. It was strictly a place for geeks and otaku until relatively recently. The key reasons were obvious: Most sites were in English, and typing in Japanese on a computer keyboard was arduous and counterintuitive. (Even today, more people in Japan access the Web via their cell phones rather than on their home or work computers.)

Tokyo had its own mini-dotcom movement called Bit Valley in the late ’90s, and a few of those boom-era companies remain today, including popular Web portals like Rakuten and LiveDoor. But there’s a generally accepted sense that the country has lagged behind the West in developing its own innovative companies focused on the Web. Tellingly, some tech companies that vanished entirely from the US when the bubble burst, such as Infoseek, still exist in Japan.

(via her blog Tokyomango)

This parallels a bit Chinese writing was first absorbed into Japan, innovated on to suit local conditions — hiragana, katakana — but had certain elements that stagnated, such as kanji writing. Visually, some characters in Japanese are still written in ways that aren’t used any more. Practically, meanings have changed too.


The absence of govt in creating the Korean wave

According to an essay a colleague referred to me, the Korean Wave / Hallyu seems to have happened with little direct govt support.

Rather, it was the happy confluence of:

– a large domestic population that could sustain local production

-Chaebols making early investments in filmmaking talent and facilities (mid-late 1990s), so they could get content for their cable channels (in turn facilitated by govt legislation). When the chaebols got out of the game, the talent stayed in Korea and joined indies.

– Legislation encouraging investment in film by chaebols first, then VCs, funds and individuals (perhaps the only good direct action by government?)

– K-drama being cheaper to acquire than J-drama

– Media liberalisation across Asia

Shim, Doobo, “The Growth of Korean Cultural Industries and the Korean Wave”. In East Asian Pop Culture: Analysing the Korean Wave, edited by Chua Beng Huat and Koichi Iwabuchi (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2008 )

The failings of a elite university education

This essay crystallizes some of the deep misgivings about my education and, well, life up to this point.

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

An excerpt:

This is not to say that students from elite colleges never pursue a riskier or less lucrative course after graduation, but even when they do, they tend to give up more quickly than others […] Why should this be? Because students from elite schools expect success, and expect it now. They have, by definition, never experienced anything else, and their sense of self has been built around their ability to succeed. The idea of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them, defeats them. They’ve been driven their whole lives by a fear of failure—often, in the first instance, by their parents’ fear of failure.

(Incidentally, I did get a Phi Beta Kappa, but it hasn’t done much good for me, halfway across the world. All I get are exhortations to buy their merchandise :/ )

Now imagine a whole country that worships academic achievement as the main yardstick for personal success. Behind that are the best of intentions — from parents, government officers, and politicians — and we all know where those lead to.

Another fine productivity sink: Battle Stations

Battle Stations is a Facebook MMORPG that you add as an app. Developed by local start-up Tyler Projects, who also have a few other interesting games.

(I did try to sign up for Mobile Weapon once, but was turned off by the need for registration.)

Addicting. Get an airship, arm it, and blow stuff out of the sky 🙂 Oh, and explore too.

Back to dollars and cents. They’re currently earning most of their revenue from online ads, as expected:

Since October, Tyler Projects, the company he set up with two friends, has been raking in US$3,000 (S$4,300) a month from just one programme on Facebook.

The money is coming in from advertisers who have been placing movie trailers in the Battle Stations application that the trio created in two months.

The mini online strategy game allows users to build battleships, which they can use to fight others.

It has already attracted some 36,000 users – and it is these users who are helping to attract advertisers.

For every 1,000 pageviews, advertisers pay anything from US$5 to US$50.

(from an ST article, Dec 8 2007:

But if they had a micropayments system here they could get much, much more.

Why isn’t there one in Singapore?

Interestingly enough, their current art was outsourced to a company in China.

Scenius and dilemmas for policymakers

Brian Eno, according to Kevin Kelly, proposes scenius

to convey the extreme creativity that groups, places or “scenes” can occasionally generate. His actual definition is: “Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.”

Individuals immersed in a productive scenius will blossom and produce their best work. When buoyed by scenius, you act like genius. Your like-minded peers, and the entire environment inspire you.

Read his blog entry for the factors.

Kelly cites Camp 4 as an example of “scenius” leading to innovations in rock climbing.

What Camp 4 illustrated is that the best you can do is NOT KILL IT. When it pops up, don’t crush it. When it starts rolling, don’t formalize it. When it sparks, fan it. But don’t move the scenius to better quarters. Try to keep accountants and architects and police and do-gooders away from it. Let it remain inefficient, wasteful, edgy, marginal, in the basement, downtown, in the ‘burbs, in the hotel ballroom, on the fringes, out back, in Camp 4.

That’s something policymakers everywhere (especially, I suspect, in our little country) don’t like to hear, because it suggests that innovation happens not because of but in spite of their efforts.

Once they get over that then, how should they “fan” the “sparks” (to use Kelly’s words)? Even if policymakers wanted to help, what should they do? Maybe they should simply leave it alone. Not even promote, but remove certain regulations?

No larrikins here

The Australian has a polite but unfocused article that starts with how the Esplanade has apparently defied detractors, but jerks halfway into a simple compare-and-contrast exercise about two Singapore Arts Festival events.

I thought this para was ironic:

Last Thursday’s official opening was a stately event. Singapore president S.R. Nathan attended. So, too, several government ministers, arts bureaucrats and local arts patrons. No sign of the artists and the larrikin energy they bring to such events, but the mood was upbeat as people filed into the theatre for the Asian premiere of a music and dance piece from Slovenia, titled The Architecture of Silence.