The reluctant Web 2.0’er

Ever since the Internet came to my attention, I had a personal interest in it. This entailed surfing the web, downloading movies and music, reading in Usenet groups. All traditional stuff. Then came Web 2.0. And did things change? Well, yes: what was considered normal  to use did not seem normal to me. People asked me whether I Hyve (the activity to communicate and network through the Dutch social network site Hyves). Mmm, I didn’ t. “I’ll befriend you in Facebook!” someone wrote me. “Hold your horses, I don’t have a Facebook account!”, I replied. “Surely you use Twitter”, again someone else told me. “Nope, I don’t”, was my reply. This was some time ago. Not really interested from a personal point of view, that’s clear. Then again, I have my professional interests and found it necessary to experience myself to use Facebook, Hyves, LinkedIn, Twitter, Netlog, ResearcherId, Google docs, Zoho and the like. At first I only subscribed to see what the interfaces looked like, and what the applications could do. So, being a really really really passive participant. But, as often happens, one thing leads to another. Before you know it someone googles your name, and invites you to join his/her network. Well, I think it’s impolite to refuse an invitation, the more so because accepting these invites is merely a mouse click away. However, up till now I mostly accept invites from those I know. Recently I’ve been receiving invites from people unknown to me, and those that offer services that take relations to unwanted next levels. I’m sure you know what I mean. You don’t want to go there.

I’m still quite passive, only accepting invites, and rarely inviting others myself. There are those (even colleagues who shall remain nameless)  that compete with each other on who has the largest online network. This is quite similar as trying to get to most kudos on teen social network sites like Sugababes or Superdudes. But I digress…

Rereading what I am writing I must correct myself on my passivity in using SNSs: last week I even paid for a two year subscription of Flickr, the photo-sharing site. I ran out of the free online disk space. Since I have a website running at a hosting company I have ample disk space to construct my personal photo gallery. It would need some tinkering of the software and the online photo album would be a fact. But I didn’t. Instead I paid about 25 US$ for a two year expansion of the online Flickr disk space. Why? Web 2.0 is so easy to use and saves me a lot of time. And as we all know: time is money. And if I chose to setup my photo album I wouldn’t have time to post to my blog. And I know you don’t want me to stop my blog. So everyone’s happy: Flickr earned a buck, I can keep writing my blog and you can keep on reading.

WCU press coverage

Apparently the WCU project got some press coverage. One day you’ve never set foot on Korean soil, the next day you’re hitting the newspapers! Searching Google for the combination of Maurice Vergeer and WCU. Skip the first page of results (they contain our self produced web presence), results in quite a number of hits. Unfortunately, the further you go into these hits, the less I can read them. Even Google Translate can’t give a hint on what is written.

Just now I received additional hyperlinks of newspapers that followed up the WCU press release. And another one. I don’t know whether Greg Elmer and Nick Jankowski should thank me for ‘doing this. You may like it or not. But it’s part of the business.

Cross-cultural differences

Foreign languages always pose a problem. Even when the cultural differences are not that large, already misunderstandings may arise because of improper use. You can feel that on your wooden shoes. The use of language by people in culturally distant countries even more likely will result in funny, awkward cases. Being in South Korea a few caught my eye. In my apartment I have a washing machine. The model name (the brand in most likely LG, since most thinks are by LG) is Chaos. That would not be my first option, not even my 100th. I’m doing my first laundry washing so I am keeping an eye on the machine, especially the program controls are all in South Korean characters.

Yesterday I searched for an ATM accepting global bank cards. It being Saturday late afternoon, all banks were closed and the street ATMs only accepted Korean cards. Luckily I spotted a small convenience store with a global ATM. I went outside to mark the name: Buy the way. Whether this is really a mistake is debatable, since the alternative “By the way” seems strange as well. Maybe it is a creative twist. Further up the road, there was a small restaurant advertising Rear Meat. It’s uncommon to say the least. I would have thought ‘Rare Meat’ .  On the other hand, I am Dutch myself and maybe my English isn’t up to date to judge adequately. And yes, South Korea also has the sports clothing chain store called Athlete’s Foot.

Of course, this is a westerner’s view on Asian use of English. However, there is also the Asian view on westerners use of Asian languages. For instance, Asian characters are popular in tattooing. I hope for those people they are not the laughing stock of Asia, because of some misuse of characters. Lasering these off of the skin seems difficult and painful. Preparing for the blog entry I discoverd that you can earn a living by protecting ignorant westerners for meaningless tattoos!.

To see some more use of English, Asian style, visit engrish.com. If anyone has a similar examples of westerners’ misuse of Asian language characters, please post these in the comments.

Also in academics the use of English undergoes changes. Especially at conferences, talking to colleagues from different countries shows that academic English has many dialects. English is a dominant language in science and understandably not everyone or write can speak the language as fluently as native speakers do.  But sometimes I notice that I use incorrect English to increase mutual understanding. This is obviously a dangerous course of action,or isn’t it? Maybe this is how language evolves. For those that understand the Dutch language, watch the video of two Dutch comedians Koot and De Bie, impersonating a shop owner and a Turkish immigrant. Guess who speaks the Dutch language best…

On a more serious note, these intercultural differences are problematic from a cross-national comparative research project. Validity here is at stake, although progress has been made. See for example Harkness et al.’s Cross-Cultural Survey Methods published by Wiley. Mmm, succeeded to slip something scientific into this blog entry after all…

Note: the expression “You can feel that on your wooden shoes” is a literal translation of “Dat voel je op je klompen aan”. It means that something is very obvious.

Note 2 (11/11/2009): on English language skills, our first lady in Dutch rock, Anouk, has a new ‘video’ with only the lyrics. The song is good, but the lyrics are dreadful. This shows many people think English is easy, but it snot (pun intended).