Link Love: Mobile culture

future of mobility
Small pieces loosely joined. A curated selection of relevant and noteworthy links worthy of your attention.

From the archives


Link Love: Mobile culture and more

baby iphone
There are apps. for babies now. Photo by Kristine Imperio-Rey
Small pieces loosely joined. A curated selection of relevant and noteworthy links worthy of your attention.
I have been conspicuously absent from curating Popwuping this past month as much of my time has been spent accomplishing a goal I have had set for myself for the past 10 years. In September I enrolled in a local university program to study Mandarin. Work, laziness, busy-ness, disinterest and differing priorities have prevented me from making any progress in the past. This time I’ve managed to make real progress am looking to continuing through to the spring. But as many who have studied may comment, it’s an extremely time consuming effort and I really have to have my time management game on to find time for family, language study, making money and Popwuping. It’s a worthy resolution for the new year.

From the archives


Linklove: Eating in Bangkok

Bangkok food
Small pieces loosely joined. A curated selection of relevant and noteworthy links worthy of your attention.
Every article I read about food in Thailand wets my appetite for a quick weekend return to one of my favourite places to visit and eat. Not even Taipei can compare to what can be found on and off the streets of Bangkok. Here is what I have been reading lately.

Read, save the addresses to your mobile device of choice and you have the building blocks of an itinerary for your stay.
From the archives.


Link Love: Reading readers

Kindle 3rd Gen with Timbuk2 Case
Photo: Kindle 3rd Gen with Timbuk2 Case. Here’s the Timbuk2 case.
Small pieces loosely joined. A curated selection of relevant and noteworthy links worthy of your attention.

From the archives.


Link Love: Future screens

Sea Bird
Small pieces loosely joined. A curated selection of relevant and noteworthy links worthy of your attention.

From the archives


Link Love: trends, behaviour and design

Jatujak Weekend Market in Bangkok
Musicians at Jatujak Weekend Market in Bangkok
Small pieces loosely joined. A curated selection of relevant and noteworthy links worthy of your attention.

From the archives.


Link Love: mobility, cities and the myth of ‘open’

Buddha School
Buddha School by Trey Ratcliff. Last week was back to school for children here.
Small pieces loosely joined. A curated selection of relevant and noteworthy links worthy of your attention.

From the Popwuping archives.


Link Love: Mobile Culture

tokyo cafe snack
Photo by twinleaves
Posting will be regular but light as I travel with my kids over the next five weeks.

From the archives.


Link Love: Cultures

tokyo taxi
Photo by detestrian
Small pieces loosely joined.

From the archives.


Popweekly: Digest for 06.28.10

g20 police
Violent thugs and criminals disguised as protestors create mayhem in Toronto. Photo by poyanp.
As I enter my summer travel schedule I’ll be postponing gathering my weekly link digest until my return to Taiwan in September. My time will be tight and this is perhaps the most time consuming piece I prepare for Popwuping (and the most under read as well).

Rent a White Guy – Confessions of a fake businessman from Beijing

Not long ago I was offered work as a quality-control expert with an American company in China I’d never heard of. No experience necessary–which was good, because I had none. I’d be paid $1,000 for a week, put up in a fancy hotel, and wined and dined in Dongying, an industrial city in Shandong province I’d also never heard of. The only requirements were a fair complexion and a suit.
And so I became a fake businessman in China, an often lucrative gig for underworked expatriates here. One friend, an American who works in film, was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future. Another was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer. Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image–particularly, the image of connection–that Chinese companies crave. My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: “Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face.”

Indian outsourcing firms find greener pastures

As the business matures in India, companies are setting up offices in rural areas, with lower costs and, possibly, fewer office romances. In the process, they’re bringing middle-class values and modern aspirations to the tradition-bound heartland.
V. Bharadwaj had never used a computer before landing a data-entry job at an outsourcing firm here in India’s Karnataka state. Now he spends his days quietly tap-tapping on a keyboard in a converted school building next to a field of dirt-caked sheep.
Initially his mother was worried for her only child, fearful the 20-year-old would meet the “bad” women who populate the wanton call centers of Indian TV and movies. That changed, however, with his first paycheck, more than his parents ever made, and a new sari for his mother’s birthday.

Designing better urban noise

Earlier this year, Deborah Hall, a psychology lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, gave a talk about how listeners react to different urban soundscapes when put into a fMRI machine. It turns out that loudness is not the only factor that determines how people react to urban soundscapes. A perception of pleasantness actually changes the way we feel about sounds. Loud bird song is far more pleasant than equally loud beeping.
If there is no way, then, to make these sounds less loud (for reasons of safety) could we not have more bird-song, rustling leaves and waterfalls in our urban soundscapes? Dr Hall says
…while it is probably not possible to redesign warning alarms (like tube or lift doors closing) a lot of unpleasant noise can come from ongoing sounds in the background, especially the constant rumble of traffic sounds. In Sheffield planners have built a long water feature (water running down a wall) that separates pedestrians leaving the railway station from the dual carriageway around the city centre. This makes the five-minute walk to the shops very pleasant.

Social Networking Affects Brains Like Falling in Love

Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has discovered, for the first time, that social networking triggers the release of the generosity-trust chemical in our brains. And that should be a wake-up call for every company.
What explains the need of our BlackBerry-bearing, Twitter-tweeting Facebook friends for constant connectivity? Are we biologically hardwired to do it? Do our brains react to tweeting just as they do to our physical engagement with people we trust and enjoy?
The answers could have profound ramifications. As Zak and others deepen their study of oxytocin, we may better understand why people with friends live longer and get sick less, and why we are compelled to be social animals online and off. If these changes apply in the world of social media, the implications for business — for every brand, company, and marketer trying to understand the now intimately networked world — could be significant. Yes, there may be a dark side to all this: What if corporations come to understand human behavior and its root mechanisms so well that they can manipulate our biochemistry to trick us into buying more? But that’s a question for later.

Prince George’s bans student cellphone use during school day

That silent, studious classroom? Looks can deceive, say Prince George’s County educators, who have fired the latest volley in a technological arms race that pits student against teacher.
There is an epidemic of under-the-desk text messages during class, a virtual economy of exam pictures posted to Facebook, a trade in school fight videos on YouTube, they say. To combat it, the county school board voted Thursday to ban cellphones and other electronics during the school day, even as many school systems across the country are loosening their rules.
Also: A ringing endorsement for Prince George’s cellphone ban
We have created a culture of rampant attention deficit disorder. The fact that some parents object to the cellphone ban by the Prince George’s County school board tells us that this cultural warp has infected multiple generations, and many adults are unable to model appropriate behavior for their children.
People in business meetings surreptitiously text under the table. You see people in restaurants with phones buzzing on the table. Friends are distracted by work messages. Real life becomes background noise to the latest intrusion. As a social work supervisor, I’ve had to remind staffers to give their cellphones a rest during supervision and case conferences.


Link Love: Net Culture

Chair Hong Kong
Photo by Jonathan van Smit
Small pieces, loosely joined.

From the archives.


Popweekly: Digest for 06.21.10

shanghai bike
Living in Shanghai by cuellar

New Taipei-Shanghai air route begins operation

Great news for the legions of people living in Shanghai who return to Taiwan on a regular basis. Unfortunately the flights originate from Taipei’s redundant Songshan Airport which is unable to handle international flights. Many want the airport turned into a park but politics hold sway over the needs of the people.
Taipei and Shanghai have moved another step closer, thanks to a new air route between the city’s Songshan Airport and Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport.
With the new link cutting travelling time between the two sides, Taiwanese officials said it could boost Taipei City’s connection with other major Asian cities.
And the new direct flight, which began service on Monday, may be the symbol of hope for Taiwan’s stagnant aviation industry.
See also: It’s a Shanghai-Taipei short cut.

Bangkok parties on surface, but unease hides below

Tycoons and streetside vendors scrabble to recoup crushing losses. Bangkok’s pampered, golden set is again partying like there’s no tomorrow. And in the sprawling slums, among the poorest of the poor, there is an uncommon mingling of pride, hope — and fear.
Just a month after thousands of poor rural protesters ignited bloody street battles with soldiers and the night sky glowed with flames of burning buildings, the Thai capital has regained much of its around-the-clock vitality and self-indulgence. Even the charred hulk of CentralWorld, once one of Asia’s glitziest malls, has become a bizarre tourist attraction and photo opportunity.
But below the seemingly unruffled surface churns an anxiety stoked by hard political realities, individual traumas and even the predictions by some astrologers, widely trusted in Thai society, of more violence on Bangkok’s horizon.

Deepwater spills and short attention spans

Within a week of the explosion of Mexico’s Ixtoc offshore oil well in June, 1979, Misterveel Rodriguez and other village fishermen were pulling up nets choked with tarballs instead of red snapper.
Ixtoc’s blowout caused the world’s worst ever oil spill. More than 140 million gallons of crude poured into the Gulf of Mexico, eventually washing up on beaches in Texas, hundreds of miles away. That is roughly three times more than what has so far spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
That disaster made plain what could go wrong in deepwater drilling. After all, it took Mexico’s state oil company Pemex PEMX.UL 297 days and the drilling of two special relief wells — the industry’s slow moving but only certain fix for blowouts — to intersect and cap the raging Ixtoc well, located in 150 feet of water.
But a review of hundreds of pages of U.S. government documents related to the Ixtoc spill, as well as interviews with many experts, shows that regulators for years downplayed the possibility of a similar disaster occurring in the United States.

Sometimes a Bag Is Not Just a Bag

The mania for bags — an irrational passion if ever there was one — defines our acquisition-mad cultural moment as surely as the tulip fever that raged through 17th-century Holland defined the burghers of Amsterdam. Put it another way: we may have lost our moral bearings in these centerless and often incoherent times, but we know what bag we want to carry them in should we ever find them again. Where shoes once reigned supreme as the dominant wardrobe accessory, bags now lead the way as the top fashion signifier. Bags also serve as the portable manifestation of a woman’s sense of self, a detailed and remarkably revealing map of her interior, an omnium-gatherum of myriad aspects of her life — the crucial Filofaxed information as well as the frivolous, lipsticky stuff. Last fall, as if to underscore the point, the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London staged “I Want to Be a Bag,” by Alessandra Vesi, featuring sewn, crocheted and glued constructions that were like visual puns made delightfully concrete. As Anna Johnson suggests in her witty introduction to “Handbags: The Power of the Purse,” ‘a good bag becomes an intimate extension of the body,’ which is why an astute female reader will realize that Anna Karenina is about to end it all when she tosses aside her red handbag. “A woman who is sick of her handbag,² Johnson observes, ³surely, is absolutely sick of living.” (This explains, as well, why Diana Vreeland’s unappeasable dislike of this accessory and her dictum to “ban the bag” was wisely ignored by designers and why, when Tom Ford suggested in a recent interview that the hippest thing a girl can do is carry no bag at all, he instantly revealed the limits of his understanding of what makes women tick.) “The only way I know I exist is if I have my stuff with me,” explains Elizabeth Wurtzel, the author of “Prozac Nation” and “Bitch” and the possessor of a portfolio of bags ranging from a LeSportsac to a “slab of brown buttery leather” measured to the size of a September Vogue and handmade for her by Jutta Neumann.

Not believing what they read in the papers, China’s leaders commission their own

In a country where independent information-gathering is kept in check, what China’s leaders know and how they know it matters hugely. A recently leaked speech by Xia Lin, a senior editor at Xinhua, China’s government-run news agency, suggests that even though press controls have been somewhat loosened in recent years, leaders still rely heavily on secret reports filed by Xinhua journalists. Other evidence indicates this fault-prone system is actually gaining in importance.
In the speech last month Mr Xia revealed that the news agency’s public reports about an eruption of ethnic rioting in the far-western region of Xinjiang last July had played down revenge attacks by Han Chinese against members of the region’s biggest ethnic group, the Uighurs. Mr Xia said it was only after reading a classified “internal reference” report on the reprisals that China’s president, Hu Jintao, cut short an overseas tour. A summary of Mr Xia’s remarks was posted online by one of the audience. Censors removed it and tried to stop it circulating elsewhere.
The summary has not been verified. But filing secret bulletins to the leadership is one of Xinhua’s crucial roles. Many of China’s main newspapers also have classified versions covering news considered too sensitive for public consumption. They do not rely on secret intelligence, but merely report on issues that in most other countries would be the staple of journalism: public complaints; official wrongdoing; bad economic news; and foreign criticism.


Link Love: Fit to tweet

Harajuku graffiti
Harajuku graffiti
Small pieces, loosely joined.

From the archives.


Popweekly: Digest for 06.14.10

Japan lady with mobile and tchotchke
Shibuya’s shibuyette by colodio
I have been traveling recently which has meant less time to devote to Popwuping. I’m back in Taiwan – for now.

iPhone 4 announced

There are four things which dictate a great mobile device experience. The UI and integration with non-mobile devices and services; the screen; the battery; and the wireless network. Apple executes on the first two better than anyone else, they manage the third extremely well but they, like everyone else releasing products into the North American market, are being killed by the fourth. When the major markets have networks like what we have enjoyed in Asia for years, then I expect we will see some real innovation in mobile devices. The network is key.
Apple has unveiled its new iPhone 4 after a couple wild, unprecedented months of leaks. Sure, it looks exactly like we expected it to (Steve compares it to an old Leica camera), with a glass front and back, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, kids. The stainless steel band that goes around the phone is an antenna system, while also providing the main structure of the phone, though it’s plugged into the same old GSM / UMTS radio you all know and love — there’s a reason they didn’t call it the iPhone 4G. There’s also of course that front facing camera we were all anticipating, a rear camera with LED flash, and a new high resolution display that doubles the pixels in each direction (960 x 640) for a 4X overall pixel count increase — Apple calls it a “Retina Display.”

Inventor Proposes New Language for Cell Phone Messaging

Colorado native Kai Staats has invented a new language for cell phones that replaces words with pictures to represent actions, nouns, and places, making his invention essentially a modern form of the hieroglyphics used in ancient Egypt.
The language, which Staats calls “iConji,” consists of 32×32 pixel square images that convey either a single meaning, such as “sports car,” or a dual meaning such as “food” plus “to eat.” It’s available for Apple devices like the iPad and iPhone, as a Facebook application, or as a Web application that runs in Firefox or Safari.
“It’s just fun to use,” explains the inventor. “Using homonyms and plays-on-words, iConji messages are often quite humorous as well as informative. Whether you are sending a complete sentence with proper grammar to a co-worker, or a simple, one-character message inviting a friend for a drink after work, receiving an iConji message always causes me to smile.”
It seems similar to Chinese, but linguist Arika Okrent explains that the pictograms used in iConji are far removed from that language.

The Secret Weapons in Niger’s Fight Against Hunger: Photo IDs & Mobile Phones

What we are doing sounds easy when I write it, but delivering aid in Niger is anything but easy. Some of the people we need to reach are nomadic and frequently on the move in search of fodder and water for their animals. This is the least developed country in the world: roads, supply chains, and basic infrastructure are poor. Transporting large amounts of supplies over long distances is expensive and time consuming–and sometimes it’s not possible.
Most of the women we are targeting are illiterate and have no numeracy skills, have little access to electricity, and to complicate matters even more, mobile signal coverage is sporadic. But we decided that if we could make the mobile phone cash transfer program work here, we could make it work anywhere.
We started by tackling the biggest issues. We purchased phones for each beneficiary, sourcing new, very low-cost models now on the market. We produced picture-based teaching tools and mobilized community education teams to over a hundred villages. These teams taught women to recognize the letters and numbers on the phones, to send and receive a text message, and to redeem codes they will receive via text message for cash at mobile dispensing stations. Concern also gave groups of the women solar-powered chargers for the phones, and offered them training to use the chargers to generate supplementary income.

What Asia gets about the iPad that the U.S. doesn’t

A different reason why the United States lags here could be cultural. In some circumstances, computer illiteracy is worn as a badge of pride, a kind of rebellious symbol of anti-trendiness. In the same way that it’s cool to know how to drive a car with manual transmission, it can be cooler not to use electronic gadgetry when everyone else seems tethered to theirs. Combine the cultural factor with low overall broadband penetration and high subscription costs, and what you get is sluggish adoption rates of new technology across the board.
But the cultural argument is, I think, less convincing than the marketing argument. Take a look at Apple’s iPad advertisements. The TV spot targets casual end-users — ordinary consumers. The focus is on entertainment — streaming video, games, and novels, with a little music-making on the side. Apps are the iPad’s strong suit. Small, downloadable programs expand the device’s functionality beyond the boundaries of its hardware. Not only does Apple have a specific type of user in mind for the iPad; it’s also telling that user what she should do with the object in her hands. What sets the iPad apart from other tablet computers, though, is that its actual potential is largely measured in terms of context and scenario — not by its capabilities.
The conceptual hurdle that Asia’s innovators seem to have overcome — and Americans haven’t, yet — has to do with recognizing the iPad’s potential as a tool for accomplishing larger, more complex tasks in the real world. Apple thinks the iPad is meant to help users do more on the Internet. That’s true — to a point. But Asia’s up-and-coming businesses understand that the iPad’s appropriate place is actually closer to the intersection of reality and digital life.


Popweekly: Digest for 06.07.10

Mobile phone users walking away
Photo by seriykotik1970

An Untapped Phone Call in Italy? It’s Possible

Last year, the Italian authorities monitored more than 112,000 phones and 13,000 locations, according to the Justice Ministry, figures widely seen as among the highest in Europe.
“Wiretaps are now the most important tool against all crimes: corruption, Mafia, terrorism, white-collar crime,” said Armando Spataro, a veteran counterterrorism prosecutor in Milan.
While Italy’s quick and easy culture of wiretapping would never fly in the United States, where in most cases prosecutors must show “probable cause” to believe a crime has been committed before tapping a phone, the current Italian system seems to have some well-placed American fans.

With Foursquare, life is a virtual game

Dennis Crowley was jogging across a New York bridge when he spotted something exciting: a cartoon mushroom, spray-painted on the sidewalk.
It looked like something out of Nintendo’s “Super Mario Bros.,” which Crowley grew up playing. He stomped on the mushroom as he ran by and had a sort of nerdy realization.
“I was like, s—!” he recalled. ” ‘I should get a power-up for that!’ ”
Since that moment several years ago, Crowley — a 33-year-old who’s always in a sweatshirt and wears an eyebrow-length mop of Justin Bieber-like hair — has sought to turn adult life into a whimsical game. In his world, people should earn points and prizes for making random discoveries like that one.

Shifting Fortunes of Cellphones

Video may have killed the radio star. But in the cellphone wars, it’s the computing industry that is destroying the former leaders of the handset sector, namely Nokia and Motorola, whose roots lie in the wireless radio business.
The reason is simple. Handsets are quickly becoming all about instant messaging, Web access and applications that let you do nifty things like find a free parking space. Voice is becoming an afterthought, a trend that favors the Silicon Valley crowd.
The old guard still has a chance to halt the phone industry’s shift to Silicon Valley. But it’s getting late in the game.

Airlines Work to Catch Up to the Digital Age

Airlines have made great technological leaps in recent years, allowing passengers to check in from home or download boarding passes on their smartphones. But if you’ve ever been stranded at an airport during a raging thunderstorm, chances are you will end up standing in a long line watching a gate agent typing furiously on an outdated computer.
The airlines are still catching up with the technology many of their customers already carry in their pockets.
That’s a problem for an industry whose core purpose is customer service. Still, there is some hope for change.

New York burger joint goes social, mobile

An organic burger restaurant in midtown Manhattan is using social networking for menu development, marketing, entertainment and even social change. Its delicious plans suggest ways that businesses of all kinds can transform themselves by “crowdsourcing” not only marketing, but product development as well.
When the 4food eatery opens its doors at the corner of 40th and Madison on July 6, it just might usher in a new era in the integration of social networking with the real world.
A 240-square-foot monitor in the restaurant will constantly stream Foursquare check-ins, tweets from Twitter, and restaurant information. In other words, the restaurant itself will be a social networking application. Customers will be able to see tweets and status updates, and they’ll be able to reply to them or add their own with their cell phones or whatever mobile devices they have, using the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi connection.