webbed feet, web log
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blog Cambodia; blog the planet.

Feb 14, 2006

Blogging Malaysia Part One

Blogging Malaysia Part One: February 14th: Via portal BlogsMalaysia, I'd sent out a few emails to see if anyone was interested in a weblog meetup. It's kind of like being a cartoonist; wherever you go, there are people in the same game.
food kamigaroshi_divabat tiara_geminaian
For some reason most went for Japanese food. Hey, my laptop can do tricks! Wi-Fi in the mall - I'm envious.
I got email back right away and over the next few days we set up a lunch meeting. I'd make contact at a train station not far from the conference. Breakfast is at a congee place just around the corner from the hotel. I'd brought my phone in hopes of getting a local simcard but never got around to it. I don't want to lug my phone around all day (like I'd done yesterday) so I decide to take my Cambodian simcard out. I spend most of the morning attending some meetings, and mentally reviewing my presentation plans for this afternoon's 'Weblogs in Higher Education' workshop. I always get a bit jittery before a presentation but this is a subject I know inside and out. I ditch the tie and long sleeved shirt for a t-shirt I have in my case, and head out around 11:30. I arrive at the station and there are three levels. I have 'Jinja' written on the back of my conference schedule in large print, and wander around a bit but can't seem to spot anyone. I go across the street to look for a net cafe - I can't seem to find the phone number I was given. Dang. Looks like I'm going to miss this meetup. Then Kamigoroshi walks up to me and says 'Are you Jinja?' Turns out my red hair looks more blond, that was the mixup. (Honest, it's 'red' on my drivers' license!) I should have said "I'll stand on top of a car and wave a scarf" or something. So we pile into a car and head over to one of the local malls, chatting a mile a minute about blogs, local culture, travel tips, current events - as if this is something we do every week. It seems the blog community is pretty big in Malaysia, everybody knows somebody online but not all have met in person. First thing at the mall? We hit a bookshop. Right in front, they have Lat books! Woo HOO! I'm able to get a collection of his short strips as well as Mat Som, a classic that I seem to remember reading over 10 years ago. Ever since "Kampung Boy" has been animated Lat seems to have been canonized.

mat_som_coverAt the store we connect with another of our Malaysian weblog diplomatic contingent who's been doing some shopping with her mother. (And possibly the parent was curious to get a look at this exotic foreign blogger.)

The amusing thing is my own Mom had just emailed me a 'Neighborhood Watch' alert about the growing popularity of MySpace.com, warning me that I should utilize caution when interacting with strange people on the internet. The 'alert' sounded a bit overstated, but the concern was appopriate. This is a theme that kept coming up in discussions on my trip, in and outside of the conference. What is a web community? Who 'owns' it, who 'polices' it? My thoughts? We should apply the same general approach to virtual space as we do to physical space. My web site is like my house. If you want to email or comment, that's fine. If you're rude I'll ask you to leave. For online communities, they should be governed by consensus, hopefully in a democratic way. Young children who use the internet should be supervised (according to age/maturity) in virtual space just as they are in the real world. Of course, you'll always have the challenge of children growing up - when is it appropriate to loosen the supervision? The most important thing I think is to raise your kids to have good values and critical thinking skills, so that they'll be able to make judgements independently as they move into the adult world. That's my theory for now anyway. Also, our mothers are the best. They care enough to watch out for us, and have raised us in an environment that's led to us becoming digital citizens who want to make a difference. Right. So our total ensemble is Jinja, Kamigoroshi, EternalWanderer, Geminianeyes, and EducateDeviate. They're curious about Cambodia's involvement in the blog world and I tell them a bit about Global Voices, IT challenges and how KhmerOS has been doing some cool stuff. After time out for ordering food (lots of cool choices) we talk shop. All like the idea that they can use a blog name, having a degree of anonymity lets them feel freer to talk. There's some discussion about Kelantan and Terengganu, the states that are governed by a pro-Islamic party. What's interesting is that stricter Islamic rules are being enforced, if it's proved you're Muslim. "How can you tell?" I ask. "People convert to religions or lose their faith every day." One of the technorati waves an identity card with a gilded tech tag at me. "With this." Holy cow, they've been chipped! Malaysia is looking more and more like the Singaporean model of government. If you've registered your religion then you can easily be identified - and disciplined. This seems to be a recurring thought of numerous people I talk to in Kuala Lumpur. They're not against Islam, but apprehensive about social freedoms being restricted. It's a little hard to believe this is happening as I sit in a shopping mall full of multicultural food and a table full of multicultural bloggers. After last night hanging with Justin at Petaling Street, and this afternoon, I've seen so much contrast. There's some amusement as they discuss a previous attempt to stamp out 'black metal'. (Yes unlike Cambodia, Malaysia has a rock and roll scene!) Of course the media attention just resulted in more interest over this sub-culture. I ask where I can get some Malaysian hip hop. We also chew over the idea that we should have some more exchange within Southeast Asia. Maybe a regional portal, or a Cambodia/Malaysia blogger exchange? Most of us have our laptops with us so we're busy showing sites we've cached or recommend. EducateDeviate is very big on alternative education and such programs as 'gap-year' breaks. She's about to get profiled in 'The Star', which should be fun. The clock starts ticking and we realize I have to go. I use my camera's video function to film some tiny profiles of each person. I give them some kramas, the Cambodian souvenir that never goes wrong. Then we head on over to the taxi queue and say goodbye. But there's always email.... Videoblogging: Eternal Wanderer, Geminianeyes,Kamigoroshi, EducateDeviate. I feel a strange sense of calm as I head back for my workshop. I've got my Lat books, like a totem. And it's great to meet people with similar interests, I feel like I've been upgraded from 'tourist' to 'guest'. Tags: ,Malaysia

- jinja Link

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I'm hardly anonymous. LOL. I have so many sites & blogs that if someone were to yell after me "EDUCATEDEVIATE!" I'd be like "@_@???"

Hopefully the profile comes out this week (got delayed) so fingers crossed and all...

Twas fun meeting you :)  

Actually, I think if someone yelled "Divabat!" she'd turn around quicker. ^_^

Nice meeting you too, Jinja.

That reminds me... I need to hook up with the Comic Fiesta people about the comics thing. ^_^  

Thanks for the company too, Jinja! It was a good eye-opener for myself, it's always good to share with each other our experiences. its the only way for us all to grow, isn't it?  
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