The connected world we live in – of stereotypes and their limited range of exposure.
There has been quite some discussion around a German social bookmarking service called Mister Wong. The service is a nicely designed application and all that, but since some time some remarks are made about the icon of the company – a chinese guy hence the name Mister Wong.
The eruption came mostly from this I would say: 8 aisan:
Maybe people aren’t as sensitive to political correctness as they are here in North America. But seriously, one of their web badges has the slogan “ping pong, king kong, Mister Wong.” Which I, of course, interpret as “ching chong, Mister Wong” and get INCREDIBLY FUCKING ANGRY. It’s like Jeeves, the ask.com butler and Uncle Ben had a stereotypical illegitimate Asian son.
I don’t think I ever want to be “as sensitive as” people from the States to certain issues, the well known issues around decency for example, or just creationism.
But this takes it to a new level of what we experience with this newly connected world: I do not know what your life is about. What you care about. What is important for you. I do not walk in your shoes. Simple as that. In case of somebody living in the States and obviously having experienced a lot of stereotypes, this rings a bell with him and makes him angry. No denial on that.
But I am missing the point in this and the following discussions from there that he manages to see that there is a huge world outside, with different perceptions and memories. Which also have a reason to be there and a right. This is not a discussion about who is right or who is wrong, because life is not so simple.
As CEO and founder of Mister Wong, I feel it is my obligation to make a personal statement regarding certain allegations made about Mister Wong relaying a poor image of Asians in general.
It was never my intention, nor that of my company, to hurt anyone with the use of the illustration. We are extremely sensitive to this issue and the feelings of others. We removed the original illustration off the top of the page some time ago, when the issue first arose, in hopes that no one would be offended by it any longer. Though this was met with great disappointment from many of our users, we felt it was the right thing to do.
We consider each individual comment and suggestion made to us with all sincerity. We would like our users to feel as though they are part of our team by knowing that their opinions count. We’re a social bookmarking site that welcomes 2.5 million international visitors each month, which makes the social part very important to us.
However, certain comments have been made that I feel were below the belt, unfounded, and inappropriate. Even these we take into account, because what is first and foremost important to us, is the satisfaction of our users and that no one feel wrongfully harmed,
especially in such a manner.
We welcome your opinions and are open to discussion.
The “offending” graphic for me is not that of a stereotype, but more of a play with the name. I tried to digg into what I would call a racial offensive icon and so far I would only come up with an image of a slave doing slave work and call the service Mister Nigger. That indeed would be noticeable offensive.
Or having a German person in a suit and a turkish person [Germany has a lot of turkish people] in a working suit; that would give a stereotype of superior or not. But other than that I am baffled. Yes, I am sure there are stereotypes which are in heads, but then again, how will a society evolve when you do not even want to discuss possibilities? Or explain?
Because that is part of the problem. The discussion very often goes like this
Person A: THIS IS OUTRAGOUS! OFFENDING!
Person B: hm no?
Person A: HOW DARE YOU?! EVERYBODY CAN SEE THIS?
Person B: (irritated, but seeing that person A has an issue.) sorry not to me, please explain?
at which point the discussion moves toward A telling person be not to be so stupid, because it is so clearly visible etc.
But it is not. Culture, cultural taboos, evolution of a society are not shared on a global level.
Meaning they need to be explained for me, the outsider, to even understand what your point is. Which is your duty because let’s face it: Even if I try to understand you, I do not have access to your memory.
The comment I left on Kai’s entry for context:
As most Germans, I am amazed at the comments towards Mister Wong in this regard. Once learning about them, I do understand where they come from, but there are two things which stick out for me:
This is ‘suddenly’ a world which is connected 24/7 on a global scale. There is no possible way I know about every little taboo or every little implication somewhere on the world. It is not possible to know everything anyone somewhere might feel about it, that is a work in progress which needs to be taken step by step.
At the same time I feel that this is not only in your case YOUR obligation to do something. I expect from others a bit of understanding as well. Not on the issue, but why this was done.
There is not one single way how the world ticks, there is no one single way how “the people” think, there are several different ones. And I would like to see a bit of understanding from the other side as well – instead I see a lot of hatred and a lot of “how dare they and THEY have to change everything”.
I have read some of those comments and have to say that I feel sorry for you. Some of the accusations and visible moves to rally a negative buzz around it are just horrendous to see – lead by example should apply here.
My view of this icon, which I think many do agree on over here, is that it portraits a clever person to help me on with the platform, funny and wise. You can have a different opinion on how it is received by you, but you can’t declare this is how everybody felt.
Hint: The fact that I as a female am very outspoken is a an offence for some people as well. Shall I stop posting now, because it does not fit into what society thinks a women should do in certain areas of the world? I don’t think so.
In real life, if I don’t like you, I avoid you, because you and I do not get along. Yet in Cyberspace, we bump into each other over and over again. There is a reason why there are separate areas in real life, and maybe we should start building such places in Cyberspace as well.
Yes, this in part may become a problem if misused. But seriously: If both sides are not willing to change their perspective or enhance it, what reason is there to go through this tantrum over and over again? None at all, only brings misery.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Sure. But this is not your home aka Rome, but this is the internet. Everybody’s home, and at the moment, everybody expects everybody else to play to their rules. I suggest we ask someone who has studied how society has evolved into the smaller areas like towns and countries, what we can learn from them, because we are going to need it …