Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Twittering the Digu Way

If you dont' know by now, Twitter is a free micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates known as tweets -- text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length which are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them. It's being used by everyone, from the British Airways to Barack Obama. But we must remember that Twitter is mainly for English-users - a large population of this world don't converse or even use English in their everyday lingua franca.

While Twitter is often regarded as an information network for distributing and exchanging information, in China, users rarely surf the net for information. The Web in China is not a Tool for people’s daily life, but rather a venue for entertainment and relaxation. Not surprisingly, blogging is also viewed in such a way.

Digu is such an example of how microblogging works in China. Digo, a microblogging service from Shenzhen is designed in such a way that it is deliberately entertainment-centric. It's even got a Celebrities’ Digu channel where users can follow 62 Chinese celebrities. What does this mean for us out here in the West? Nothing, we just twitter along. But we must be aware that despite the global Web 2.0 phenomenon, we are still geographically silos in language and culture. We might be information-rich, but we are not pluralistic in knowledge as we may think. Information professionals beware!


Jon G said...

I have to say I don't quite get your point. By far most Americans I know use the web/internet for primarily entertainment purposes. Sharing pictures of random dogs, sending chain emails, watching videos, play games and the list goes on.

The people who use social networking stuff to communicate seem to be a far smaller subset, mostly younger people my age and some of the tech savvy people in the Baby Boomer generation.

And a lot of the social networking stuff is entertainment/celeb based. I mean, look at Oprah and twitter or the Scrabble game on facebook.

I really don't know many people at all that uses some of the "life tools" like some of the stuff I see on lifehacker. In fact, the only "daily tools" type stuff I can think of is two of them...some folks who put what they're reading up on various services and some friends of mine who use a website to track calorie consumption.

Allan said...

Thanks Jon G for your comments. I do agree - North Americans use the web for entertainment a great deal, too.

But how many of us use it exclusively for just this purpose of entertainment, (i.e. watch online video sharing exclusively instead of TV) . What I'm trying to point out is that for information professionals, the culture of information is different across geographical lines, and this has implications for searching, organizing, and dissemination of knowledge for our users. Some more food for thought. . .


Jon G said...

I'd agree that there most likely is differences between geographic lines, I'm just not sure this one is the best example. I think in this particular case we have to be careful of being skewed because of our very profession. It's rather like a doctor who thinks every around him is sick but all the people where he goes to on vacation seem healthier ;).

Most of my relatives still don't use the web for "information finding". They use it almost exclusively for games and media. (One exception I just thought of, maps).

I remember way, way back (a decade ago, wow) a roommate who never used the internet for research, but solely to watch tv and movies. In fact, I'd wager most of the students in the dorms I lived in used their computers occasionally for writing papers, but mostly for illegal downloads and games.

I would imagine there's good examples of the differences out there. I also would suspect that you're likely to see a wide variety of usage even within one culture or even in one individual over time.

Dean Giustini said...

I hadn't heard of "Digu" so thank you for keeping me informed of the microblogging practices of our Chinese friends.

It's difficult to clearly or emphatically say that the web (or the Internet, if you will) is used for entertainment in one country more than another. In North America, the web's growth from 1990-2000 (Web 1.0?) was primarily in the entertainment and leisure areas; however, wasn't the Internet used by the US government way before it went public? That suggests it has a clear history of being used for work and learning.

Perhaps it's more accurate to say that Chinese youth use the Internet ALOT. And that they use social media increasingly - as Digu illustrates to some degree.


Allan said...

Thanks for all your comments. I enjoy conversing in such a social arena. What I also intended to say is that social media technologies are viewed differently in other areas of the world.

For the Chinese on the mainland, for example, social media Web 2.0 technologies are often not meant to be for informational purposes. Because of censorship, such sites as Youtube and Wordpress are censored.

What does this imply about information behaviours? I didn't mean that in the West, we limit ourselves with what we can do on the Web. I'm merely trying to point out that in the East, practices are different due to different social, cultural, economic, and political contexts.