Teaching Examples

Blogging from China (speech wants to be free)
December 4, 2006, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have little time to follow developments in blogging around the world, but sometimes the world inserts itself into my consciousness and I have to pay attention.

In this case, the penetration came via Rebecca MacKinnon’s blog, where I saw a link to this post by Hong Kong blogger Roland Soong. Gosh, it’s just one of those things that make you sit back and start thinking hard as you read it, and afterward too.

This blog seems like ten thousand data points from Greater China, each illuminating some specific aspect but without any attempt to come up with a grand narrative. On a given day, you might be reading about youth gangs in Hong Kong, fist fights in the Taiwan Parliament, Chinese reporters getting banged on the head or yet another Internet manhunt in China. What is the sense of it? While this might be not be controversial in the sense that these events are reported (being fully documented) to be happening, it is not necessarily a good thing either.

Soong follows this with a quote from a book by Peter Hessler, including this: “They needed context, not trivia; a bunch of scattered facts only confused them.”

Soong’s blog, EastSouthWestNorth (ESWN), is no paragon of Web 2.0 design. It’s barely designed at all — but then, you can imagine how many diverse small and old and slow computers and Internet connections are accessing it, throughout the vast land of China and beyond, perhaps wherever overseas Chinese live too.

Maybe the best a blogger can do is offer the scattered facts — Soong admits: “At this point, I know that I do not have a grand narrative.” But in an article about Soong and other Chinese bloggers, a journalist for Hong Kong-based bc Magazine observes:

Until Roland Soong appeared in a four-page spread in the glossy Next Weekly magazine in December last year, local [Chinese] bloggers got short shrift from the media … bloggers mobilised with a letter-writing campaign to the press, explaining they were serious people contributing worthwhile commentary and analysis — a fact exemplified by Soong, whose ESWN receives a staggering 15,000 visits per day from an international following. With up-to-date translations of important and quirky Chinese stories, Soong, 57, acts simultaneously as journalist, tipster, and gateway to a world not easily accessed by non-Chinese readers.

By the way, Rebecca is looking for concrete examples of how specific blogs appear to have influenced foreign media coverage on specific China-related stories — so if you have any good examples to share, please click over to her blog and give her your tips.

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I came back from China on Saturday 2nd December. I teach Journalism in the UK (www.ukjournalism.org) and was in Shanghai doing just that on a new course. I ran a Moblog. By day 3 my mobile was barred and I couldn’t access the site from within China. Seems the govt are stepping up their filtering efforts in the run up to the Beijing games. There’s nothing contentious in the moblog – USSTmoblog.blogspot.com – but it’s a shame those it was intended for can’t see it. And with Google taking the wheel at eblogger does this mean they’ve also cut a deal with the Chinese on the blog sites further preventing free movement of information?

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