July 21, 2011 § Leave a Comment
While I’m here in Vietnam for fieldwork, I’m also part of a research group at UCLA that studies modes of participation and digital culture. You can find out more of our work here.
We’ve also recently published an article that provides a working schematic about the various social forms of participation and public on the Internet. It’s available for download now, but it’ll be chucked behind the paywall come September, so download here it while it’s hot! Or at least in homage to Aaron Swartz.
Title: Birds of the Internet
Abtract: Scholarly attention to new forms of participation on the Internet has proliferated classifications and theories without providing any criteria for distinctions and diversity. Labels such as ‘peer production’, ‘prosumption’, ‘user-led innovation’ and ‘organized networks’ are intended to explain new forms of cultural and economic interaction mediated by the Internet, but lack any systematic way of distinguishing different cases. This article provides elements for the composition of a ‘birder’s handbook’ to forms of participation on the Internet that have been observed and analyzed over the last 10 years. It is intended to help scholars across the disciplines distinguish fleeting forms of participation: first, the authors highlight the fact that participation on the Internet nearly always employs both a ‘formal social enterprise’ and an ‘organized public’ that stand in some structural and temporal relationship to one another; second, the authors map the different forms of action and exchange that take place amongst these two entities, showing how forms of participation are divided up into tasks and goals, and how they relate to the resource that is created through participation; and third, we describe forms of governance, or variation in how tasks and goals are made available to, and modifiable by, different participants of either a formal enterprise or an organized public.
March 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
There is English fever here in Vietnam and I’ve been really amazed as to how the quality of English speaking has changed so much from 2005 until now. As part of the English craze, there’s a lot of clothing here with English on it. You see English words on people clothes, with all your recognizeable brands, presumably fake: Gucci, Prada, Calvin Klein, etc. Sometimes you also see a lot of jibberish on shirts too, words that just look like someone slammed their fist on a computer keyboard. This shirt, however, is truly exceptional. At first, it made me laugh outloud in surprise. However, the more I think about it, it’s rather depressing.
While walking in district 1 in Ho Chi Minh City, we saw a street food vendor with this on the back of her hoodie:
January 12, 2011 § Leave a Comment
January 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Askew, askance. The way that it’s been put up, I think this sign looks in need of some confidence!
These letters have been carefully handpainted on a whiteboard, but the board itself been hastily attached to an old metal railing, that hangs and droops into the alley. In the back you can see the yellow signboard that announces the same sewing shop, this time directly in front of the house. Signs like these announce to folks traveling down the main alleys that there is indeed a full commercial life tucked away in streets barely four feet wide.
I especially like towards the bottom, the letter P. Did you notice that it’s the only one written in lower case on the entire board? I also find the letter G a bit strangely written, but I can’t put my finger on it. Is there something weird about that vertical stroke? I think the way that the diacritics have been aligned on the word “nữ” are especially beautiful. Back in the day, when penmenship was a strong focus in the Vietnamese curriculum, students were taught to handwrite beautifully, paying carefully attention to the placement of diacritics. Penmenship is such a lost art these days! In relearning Vietnamese, I’ve learned some rules about writing diacritics (i.e. always place them over the second vowel in a pair), but I’m no pro. The way that the tilda diacritic aligns perfectly with the little whisker at the U is especially nice. Compare that with the more haphazard accents thrown over the previous A’s on the board. With the bottom phrase, the use of underscores both on the left and the right make it seem like a gentle announcement: “fashion clothing.” I always thought that this sign looked a bit like the Futura font, no?
The word “Đo” unfortunately is spelled incorrectly, which only adds more to its charm. It’s mis-spelled in the same manner on the yellow sign in the back. It should be spelled “Đồ.” But I didn’t even realize this when I originally saw the sign. I only realized this mistake once I had snapped the photo and looked back on it on my computer.::shrug::
January 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
This hidden sign is at the intersection of a busy alley and a main artery in Hanoi, Hoàng Hoa Thám. It is a repair shop for various home electronics like air conditioners, clothes washers, and refrigerators.
On the left in green, it reads “buy, repair, sell.” If you look in the right hand corner, you’ll a seven digit number which is their landline and then below it, like for all shop signs, is their address. Unfortunately, you can’t quite make it out here because of the accumulated dust and (more likely) poor photography.
I’ve always admired this sign for the mix of international orange, marigold, and blue. What a wacky color combination! What shade of blue is this? Columbia blue? And the weirdly skinny letters at the beginning of “điều hòa” and “máy giật.” The red fonts though I think are really striking. I especially like : the way that the pac-man E looks like he is wearing a yamakah and about to eat the ghost U; or the way the other U looks like a mug of steaming tea. The use of the circles as diacritics is a really unique feature…I could easily see making a font type with this motif…albeit the strikethrough is a bit awkward, but in rather beautiful way. However, given the limited space, I think they’ve actually misspelled this sign. Isn’t it supposed to be “điện” rather than “điên” — i.e. “electricity” rather than “crazy?”
January 9, 2011 § Leave a Comment
There are no shortages of signs in Vietnam but what’s especially unique here are the lo-fi hand-made signs. I am including in this post my personal favorites around Hanoi.
This photo is of a sign for a bike shop down in an alley in Ba Đình district. It is a neighborhood of tightly clustered streets with mom and pop shops at every turn. This is one of them. I have passed this shop many many times and always admired the hand-painted typographic work: the italics in the first line, the use of alternating colors where “Xe Đạp” (motorbike) and “Xe Máy” (bicycle) are naturally grouped together, the hyphens. This is one of my most favorite signs in Vietnam.
I was riding around on my motorbike when one day I looked up and saw this little gem. Doesn’t it look like something straight out of some 1980s punk rock zine? The upward slant! The filled in O. The italics on the top. I especially like the C’s, and the negative space inside the letter, where it feels a bit like a sideways fat letter T. This sign is for a little barber shop on the bottom floor of someone’s house. He only has one chair but as the sign says, he’s only 10 meters down the alley!
September 24, 2010 § Leave a Comment
This is what our neighborhood looks like, in Ba Đình, Hà Nội. The photos aren’t the greatest, but they give you a sense of what it looks like. The alleys are small. The trash is pervasive in spite of signs that say “No trash dumping here.” In the nearby lake is a US B-52 bomber that was shot down during the war.