June 14, 2008

Blogging in Different Cultures

kanetsuna.JPGI had read a while back that Japanese had surpassed English as the most common blogging language in the world, and that the typical Japanese style of blogging was different. I was casually aware of most of the facts presented in this web video (click on "featured video, Blogging Japanese Style"), but the interviews with the Technorati board member and the food blogger made the differences more human. Blogging in Japan, as with blogging in the U.S., reflects the culture of the people creating the blogs and articles, and the blog culture represents the way many people in the culture think.

Joichi Ito from Technorati sums it up well:
I think alot of the American image of blog posts is posting to the public. How can I get more traffic to my blog? What do I have to say to the world? Whereas in Japan it's usually to your five or ten friends. A lot of it is writing stuff that you talk about when you meet, and then a lot of it is writing about what you did when you met.

I'll trust Mr. Ito's expertise when evaluating the Japanese market, but in the U.S., I can say from experience that he's spot on. With the exception of our editor Dialectic the Stealth MC, who is using the proceeds from the google ads on this website to upgrade his ride from a Lexus to a Porsche, and publisher Lopan, who is trying to catch up with Jerry Yang, I think most bloggers and commenters on this website are trying to reach a lot of people just to reach people. The questions are typical for an American blog: How do we get more people here? How do we increase our exposure? How can we change the world?

(In all fairness to the Stealth MC and Lopes, we all know it's not just about the Benjamins. World domination also plays a big role in the master plan. Bwahaha...[insert evil laugh like the one in Michael Jackson's Thriller].)

There are a few basic points that the video makes:

1. The Japanese blog a lot in part because they are a middle class society with access to mobile technologies.

2. Most Japanese bloggers write for their small circle of friends rather than for the world.

3. Japanese bloggers tend to stay away from politics and other divisive issues. They tend to say nice things about people. As the program host says, "Americans blog to stand out, while the Japanese blog to fit in."

4. Comments on blog posts are unusual.

That interview with Junko Kanetsuna put things into perspective. While I understand how a person could love food and blog about the different foods she has eaten, it would seem unusual to me that she could blog for three years and not comment on bad food, rude service, or high prices. Hard opinions are what I would expect her readers to look for. If I were blogging on her site, that would be the first topic I'd approach. But then again, that's an American-like view, which is the point of the video.

The lack of comments on Japanese blog posts also seems funny to me. For example, I can't imagine the 44's being interesting without the participation of the commenters. People come to this site for the commentary and criticisms of the blog posts as much as they do for the blog posts themselves. Often the conversations become much more interesting than the original posts themselves, both on the blog and on the forum. It helps us all because we learn from each other. Plus, we inform those who only lurk on this site.

It's a very strange phenomenon because we really do absorb the influence from whatever culture in which we live. Our values, ideas, and goals are influenced in large part by the people around us. There's no one right way of living or thinking, and it's interesting to see how other people around the world think.

What do you all think? (I know not all of our people here are in North America, so I imagine there might be some interesting perspectives.)


PS: On another cultural difference, I thought that dude blogging about his son was creepy. I was especially creeped out when I was watching him take pictures of his kid. Some things are just personal, and it's scary for Americans, I think, to learn about a guy posting pictures of a young child on the internet. It's also disturbing for me to think about how this might affect a child, how it might affect his individuality, and how it might stigmatize him in the future. But this, of course, is also an American view. The word for "privacy" in Japanese is borrowed from English ("puraibashii"), and people usually refer to each other by the family name, perhaps denoting the importance of the family unit over the individual. Stigma in this sense might be a problem in the U.S., but perhaps it's not such a problem in Japan.

Another interesting cultural difference...

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