Naxi and internet

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
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Trip End Dec 31, 2011


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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Saturday, May 30, 2009

Interesting culture and techology study:

Elisa Oreglia has been examining the digital divide for migrant women in Beijing. She studied six women in Beijing from July to August 2007. Ms Xie (21) is from Henan, Ms Long (20) is from Shandong, and Ms Wang (23) is from Shaanxi. They work as fuwuyuan (waitresses/service). They migrate to send money home. The other three, Ms Wei (20) from Shaanxi, Ms Song (23) from Anhui and Ms Wu (24) from Shaanxi, migrated out of personal desire and are somewhat financially independent. Ms Wu worked in a massage parlor but realized the bosses took all the money, so she and her co-workers started their own massage parlor.

TV is the "old" ICT for these women. It is a synchronous social activity and space, fluid and has authority. New ICT includes mobiles and PCs. Three were on their 4th/5th mobile, though Ms Long was embarassed by her xiaolingtong. Mobiles are individual, virtual, often asynchronous, fluid, and bridge/network. Oreglia asks "but are these lasting networks?"

Only two women went to Internet cafes, which are male-dominated, dirty and not attractive. They would download music, use QQ, watch movies, but did little search. Learning how to search requires a community to teach you, and this seems to be lacking.

During the 2007-2009 longitudinal study, Song and Wu bought a laptop and stayed in touch with Wang. Oreglia hopes to continue watching how their behavior changes as they get older.
Jens Damm presents on Taiwan's policy of multiculturalism and multiculturalism online. Damm examines how the Internet is used by different ethnic groups (Hakka, Aboriginal Peoples, Hoklo, Mainlanders, and other). He examines how new media affects collective/historical/cultural memory, comparing online and state sponsored multiculturalism, the eeffects of Web 2.0, particularly in the context of websites for Taiwan's 4 ethnic groups.

Taiwan is 98% Han, which breaks down to 15% Hakka, 70% Hoklo and 13% Mainlander, with the remaining 2% as indigeneous Taiwanese. Multiculturalism became a major issue under President Chen Shui-bian who cast it as a form of patriotism. Multiculturalism is defined as including recognition by international law, which led to it becoming an instrument for independence movements. Chen announced multiculturalism as official policy.

Taiwan plays a major role in Asian mediascapes, such as soap operas, games and cosplay. The Taiwan Network Information Center http://www.twnic.net gives data showing 79% of households have computers, 71% internet access, 69% is broadband, and 105% have mobile phones. Young people use few blogs, but use Yahoo much as Mainlanders use QQ.

The Internet can be used by ethnic groups to explore their own "roots". There are 4 million Hakka in Taiwan, and there are an increasing number of offline museums and administrative units related to Hakka which also have online presences. They often emphasize local historical roots, locating the Hakka within Taiwanese history and culture. Besides museum websites there are also literature sites (one mapping to geographic sites) and BBS. There are blogs about Aboriginal Peoples, usually in Chinese and not written by Aboriginals. Hoklo tend to have self-affirmative blogs, while Mainlanders are defensive.

Teng Xiaoyan looks at gender and online discussion forums. 48.5% of Internet users in China are women, but are they using forums to engage in public affairs? Are women equally represented in forums? Do they prefer different topics? Are they less agonistic? Are they more likely to dropout and stop logging in (for more than 3 months for this study)?

Teng examined Maoyan, Tianya and Sina forums from Dec. 2007 to June 2008, roughly 23,000+ reply posts by over 11,000 users. Gender information is provided by profiles, which is taken at face value since users can choose not to provide any answer to the gender question. Teng found women are highly under-represented in root posting, but more likely than men to post replies. Men tend to root post about politics, society and culture, with while women tend to post about emotional life, family life, environment, culture, and "others", matching stereotypes. In terms of being agonistic or dissenting, women often matched men. Teng also found register rates were more important than dropout rates.

Professor Mo Qian couldn't come, so David Golumbia is presenting alone. The Naxi bring up questions about the Internet's ability to affect minority culture. The optimistic perspective says it could help disseminate Naxi culture, while the pessimist says globalization and cosmopolitanism could destroy it. Globalization advocates to say Naxi culture can only be viewed as "traditional" or "static", which they argue presumes Naxi culture cannot be "modern". Is there a way to understand them as no more or less modern than cosmopolitans? Naxi do not only use the Internet, but also describes Naxi culture from an outsider perspective for an outsider audience. Does this "museum-ize" Naxi culture?

Naxi pictographs are not a written language, but genuine pictographs. While important, these help museumize the Naxi and don't provide a system of writing allowing Naxi to use their indigeneous language online. Moreover, introducing writing would fundamentally transform their culture. While Naxi Internet users usually speak the language at home, 13 use it at work or school, and only occasionally do they use it in email (usually using Chinese).

Asking them what is important to Naxi identity, they offered language, clothing, living habits, Dongba religion, holiday traditions or music. Clothing (or costume) was the answer from 83 participants, while music/arts was least mentioned. Clothing is a crucial way of displaying minorities to outsiders. In China particularly there are "minority parks". With technological modernity, culture becomes costume as it formalizes identity according to rules and forms.

Emily Hannum, the respondent, points out that Golumbia's remarks intersect with concerns about economic migration, and asks if by examining if Naxi are modern, is he using the very juxtaposition he criticizes? What about other examples of being ethnic and cosmopolitan simultaneously? How were the choices of identity offered determined and selected, and were they open ended?

Regarding the digital divide and gender, she asks about the sociopolitical background of the two types of migrants, whether there are "migrant magazines" or the use of other older media technology as in some other countries?

For multiculturalism in Taiwan, it reminded her of Dru Gladney's work on inter-Han interaction. Are there materials related to transnational aboriginal movements in use as well? And what are the differences in terms of demographics and age compared to Korea and China, since Korea has a similar demographic profile.

For women and discussion forums, she asks about methodology. Are they getting a self-selected group of women who are "out" about being women?




Women and Minorities
Naxi and the Net: "Modernization" and Digital Culture in a Minority Frame, Qian MO, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications & David GOLUMBIA, University of Virginia
Exploring the Digital Divide Among Migrant Women in Beijing, Elisa OREGLIA, UC Berkeley
Taiwan's Online Policy on Multiculturalism and Multiculturalism, Jens DAMM, Freie Universitšt Berlin
Women and Online Civic Engagement: Exploring the Gender Gap in the Use of Online Discussion, TENG Xiaoyan, Peking University
Respondent: Emily HANNUM, University of Pennsylvania
Moderator: Randy KLUVER, Texas A&M University

http://www.lokman.org/2009/05/28/circ-09-day-2-women-minorities/
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