Of false imaginings [part2].

17 August 2007

Many people might argue that “the Pinoy blogosphere” or “the Filipino blogging community” is simply a buzzword. This may be so, but even if we mean something else when we use it, our intended meaning will be shadowed by what the phrase implies. Remember those times when our elders told us to be careful with our words? This is why.

 

Note that “_the_ Pinoy blogosphere” or even just “Pinoy blogosphere” refers to the blogosphere in the singular. Does this suggest that there is one overarching community (which means it subsumes other communities) of Filipino bloggers? I think so. And I think that this is precisely where Jayvee’s original claim of misrepresentation is coming from. Indeed, if we lumped together all the Filipino blogs, it would be impossible not to misrepresent them. Or consider the ruckus raised about the impressive marketing stint that is “Making money online with a 13-year-old”. Sassy Lawyer says in reaction to the reactions: “Now, I ask: Which community? What is “acceptable”? Exactly! If we weren’t looking at it from a we’re-all-in-this-together point-of-view, the transparency crusaders would all just tell each other to not visit the site instead of wasting time and effort spouting rhetoric which the other side will never pay attention to. And vice versa. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight to shape our part of the Internet in the way we want it to be – if we didn’t that would be boring. What I’m just saying is that by ridding ourselves of our false sense of community, we can avoid the ugly fighting that goes with trying to impose our views on others.

 

Correcting our misconceptions about a Pinoy blogosphere is not only a cure. It is also a form of prevention. By establishing that the bases of community are shared interests and beliefs, we avoid making generalizations. Imagine, a newcomer stumbles upon a network of blogs which claims to be members of the Pinoy blogosphere. Said newcomer observes how asinine those blogs are, and how they are mostly geared towards making money. Newbie then arrives at the conclusion that the Pinoy blogosphere is not really such a good place after all. I have read many people complaining about blogging not being fun anymore, about how Filipinos are always politicking, about how blogging is becoming an ugly business. They arrive at those views only because they only see the noisy people, who coincidentally are part of the group that advocates a Pinoy blogosphere.

 

I’m not saying that we should dump our Filipino identity when we go online. I think it is wonderful the way there many communities of Filipino bloggers. Let’s just please dump this concept of a Pinoy blogosphere. Seriously. It doesn’t exist.


Of false imaginings.

16 August 2007

The “misrepresentation” controversy (I’m not linking, I’m sure you know how to do your research) making its rounds in certain blogging circles belies dangerous and false notions that many Filipinos seem to have about blogging.

1. “Pinoy blogosphere” – This concept is problematic but to explore this question, we need to discuss a little social science.

Discussion regarding the nature of a nation tend to get tricky. In most social science classes, however, we go by the formulation “groups of people with a shared language, experience, and culture are nations”. Although technically, the Philippines does not really satisfy all these conditions, our shared historical experience has been enough to bring us together. As a result, the project of nation-building has been extremely hard (think conflict in Mindanao and the sad state of our society in general). Nevertheless, we are able to carry on because there are institutions which help in the effort: the state, school, the family, media, civil society. Their confluence helps us imagine ourselves into a cohesive community.

However, the Internet is different. It is not chopped up into regions and countries. There are no boundaries. There are no laws to be followed beyond those of ethics and conscience. In addition, the Internet allows people to share a culture that is transgeographic. Whereas before, culture is naturally tied to the land, here people from different places can share the same culture. Online, there is no need for a national (that is, country-centric) community. Instead, communities are formed around shared interests and interpersonal relationships.

In this context, is it appropriate to brand the body of blogs authored by Filipinos as the “Pinoy Blogosphere”? The only thing a Filipino’s blog will have in common with all other Filipino’s blogs is that they are both written by Filipinos. This is obviously a very tenuous bond if we consider that nationality has very little relevance online. We can insist on painting all these blogs as being one whole community but that will never be the case. Proof enough is the fact that of all the blogs authored by Filipinos only a small percentage reach out to each other. More proof is the misrepresentation controversy, with people slinging ad hominems everywhere and cries of “down with the elite” suddenly ringing out – all of which indicate that there never was a bond among these people – or if there was, it was wrongly imagined.

This is getting a bit too much for me (and probably you too) to digest right now so I’ll leave the idea here and continue with the implications in a follow-up post.


The future of call centers.

7 August 2007

For a short animated introduction, check out “Murmur in teh Philippines“. Murmur is an interesting Toronto-based mobile service. They put up street signs with codes and when you call those codes, they narrate to you stories about that place. Ka Edong has a more in-depth write-up.

What I am more interested in are the possibilities when you view remote services from the point of view of call centers. One of my favorite novels, Diamond Age, has a main character who is a “ractor”. These are people who provide voice and acting talent remotely, much like call center agents. I think it would be great if services like Murmur hired humans to answer their calls instead of just using prerecorded messages. This will surely enhance the service, because there is no substitute for real conversation.

Also, since real conversations are definitely more useful than recordings, there are more ways to make use of it. For example, with the poor urban planning of our cities, it is easy to get lost. I would prefer to ask locals how to get where I’m going but sometimes those kind people have no idea too. I won’t have to worry though. I can just pull out my mobile and ask for directions!


Naming and communities.

3 August 2007

I’ve long been wanting to write this essay and finally something erupted on of my mailing lists that made me see the point my clearly. I first got the notion of this while browsing one of my friend’s photo albums. The collection was titled “SciHi batch 2005 island hopping” or something of that sort. There are around 140+ people in my highschool class. There were around 10-15 people in the pictures. I don’t even recall being invited to a batch island hopping outing.

The point was illustrated even further when I joined the PinoyBlogoSphere mailing list. There was a lot of discussion about spam, about what the mailing list is for, etc. I was chatting with Rocky about our disappointments with the mailing list. My frustration was that it did not reach my expectations. Based on the posts, it seemed that the other bloggers on that list were not on the same wavelength as me.

I found myself disagreeing on the nature of this community. However, I knew that was not just the reason. I thought and thought and thought even harder and it dawned on me that I was disappointed because the bloggers I was looking for were not on that list. Not one of the bloggers in my reader were there. Which got me to thinking – is it right for a group to brand itself the PinoyBlogoSphere if it doesn’t count the majority of Pinoy bloggers as members?

This might simply be an issue of naming but more often than not, there is more to the name than meets the eye. I know this is completely half-baked, but the reason I blog is so that I can get other people to help me flesh out my ideas. I’d really love to hear what you have to say about this.


Regionalistic identification

2 August 2007

Pardon the title but I could not think of any other term to describe it. “It” being the way Filipinos always have to identify themselves with their region. To wit, the on-going Review a Mindanao blog contest.

The main objective of the contest is to highlight and promote blogs made by Mindanaoans.

The Mindanao Blog Directory takes it even further by categorizing blogs according to the specific region, province, and cities their authors hail from. Is there really a need to identify your blog with your place of origin? I’m thinking that this reflect people’s sense of deep-rootedness. An imagination that wherever you are from, there you will always be. A mentality that if you’re a Dabawenyo, your life will center in Davao. Is this kind of world view (or country view?) a good thing or a bad thing? That’s for another discussion.

I can understand why we might want to promote blogs. But to promote blogs simply on the merit of their being made by Mindanaoans, I don’t understand. Is it because we can find no other similarities that we only have a regional identity to rally around? Is this project to prove that Mindanao is not as backward as many people from other regions think it is? I feel like I’m missing out on something and I really want to know. Why?

Update: I just read the official contest guidelines and it turns out that what will be judged are the reviews themselves, and not the blogs they are reviewing. Things get even more confusing.