Archive | June, 2008

Raincity Studios Discuss China, the Olympics and the Internet with Business in Vancouver

Raincity Studios Discuss China, the Olympics and the Internet with Business in Vancouver

Raincity Studios in Business in Vancouver

Vancouver writer Jonathon Narvey
interviewed Raincity’s CEO, Robert Scales and President Kris Krug, and
chatted with some of the Raincity Studios crew, for an article in Business in Vancouver magazine.

He discussed the Raincity Shanghai office including the work/lifestyle, communication processes, team building across oceans and technical challenges and advantages of working with a very multi-cultural team.

Having attended open source software and blogger symposiums in Beijing
and Shanghai, Krug has seen China’s Web 2.0 dynamism up close. With a
team of 13 employees in Shanghai, mostly open-source online publishing
software developers, and their CEO Robert Scales, Raincity now has an
established beachhead in the country.

The article also explored the size of the Internet market in China and the rise of open source software and inpact on innovation.

“Web 2.0 is exploding in China,” said Raincity Studios president Kris
Krug. “The Chinese are totally wired, totally online, using web phones
and all the mobile technology we use here.

“There’s a growing middle class wanting to use all these open-source
tools, in part because that means they don’t have to worry about using
proprietary software and pay licensing fees to western companies.”

He also dug deep into the personal expression issues around the Beijing Olympics – a topic we’ve discussed a lot recently in the China, Social Media, Olympics, etc. series and Scales’ article at Now Public.

“Last time I was in Shanghai, the Chinese government announced they
had just hired 100,000 new cyber-police,” Krug said. “That’s on top of
however many they had to begin with.”


Krug has also learned how easy it can be to run afoul of vigilant Chinese cyber-regulators.

“We were running a bar camp (an informal Web 2.0 drupal tutorial
seminar), and our wiki was totally open. Anyone could register and
write on it.

“Within a couple of days, we received a letter [stating] that we had
to change our site in accordance with the rules in China. Users had to
be pre-approved, content had to be moderated and we had to make changes
on the website. We scrambled to make the changes in 24 hours.”

Mr. Narvey also checked in with Olympic pundit Maurice Cardinal of for his opinion about the regulations of athletes telling their personal stories online.

But the flip side for all these Chinese Web 2.0 enthusiasts is how
online communities and new media will be allowed to operate when it
comes to the Beijing Olympic Games.

This is a topic i’ve watched closey (see: Blogging, Athletes and web sites – to be continued … and listen to Olympic Outsider Podcast #3 – Coffee talk with Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati) and I am curious to see where the line between personal and professional is drawn.

The article is available at: “Internet technology to grapple with the Great Firewall of China – Beijing Olympic Games will test the host country’s ability to control information gathering and distribution.” We invite your comments about Narvey’s area of research and findings.

Hat tip: thanks to Jordan Behan for the paper copy.

Posted in Beijing 2008, Culture, Vancouver 20100 Comments

New Media Tools for Citizen Reporting at the Beijing Games

New Media Tools for Citizen Reporting at the Beijing Games

Faded Mao by Richard Eriksson

Continuing the dialog about China, The Olympics, Social Media and Everything … here’s a response to one of Dr. Andy Miah‘s questions for the 9th International Symposium on Olympic Studies:

"In what way are new media platforms enabling new forms of journalism to surround the Beijing Olympics?"

To craft well-rounded answers, Symposium participant Kris Krug (Robert Scales is also on board) sat round the table with Richard Eriksson (recently returned from Shanghai and currently stay-cationing), and myself, to tease out the issues which influence the answers.

In our chat, we reviewed each of Dr. Miah’s questions and tried to "twist the kaleidescope" a bit to reflect a broader world view in the conversational answers.

Here’s what we came up with in response to: "In what way are new media platforms enabling new forms of journalism to surround the Beijing Olympics?"

The biggest platform for enable new journalism is the ubiquitous camera phone. Everyone in the cities seems to have one. With this many people with cameraphones taking photos, text messaging and shooting videos, if something goes down, the world will certainly see it somehow.

While the public focus will be on the MSM journalists, the neat and surprising coverage stuff will come from camera phones and "regular people". Certainly there is a precedent of citizens breaking stories in emergencies and natural disasters.

Despite the government’s attempts to control Internet access, "unauthorized" pictures will get out somewhere, somehow (coded and filtered through networks as needed). And once the horse is out of the barn, it’s not going back in. And the more controversial the piece is, the more readily it’ll be replicated and disseminated. Imagine all the coverage of the noted Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 with today’s digital technology!

The tools and desire for truth will result in a huge amount counting just the social media generated on Chinese social media sites and BBS. Add in the international sites filled with content from journalism-minded amateurs and spectators making media for their own use and we’ll see a massive amount of content adding up to more quantity and possibly quality, than the MSM will produce.

Additionally, using social media to organize groups as well as covering stories will be a force. Using mobile phones, protesters can be nimble and strategic in planning non-permitted events. This will disrupt the government’s ability to control public assemblies and their reaction will be interesting.

Will the police use more soft-handed tactic instead of actively repressing events then rounding-up and detaining the perpetrators? Remember, the Free Hugs guy was detained (video) for unauthorized social gathering which he organized by using social media tools.


Next up in the China, The Olympics, Social Media, Symposiums, etc. series …more discussion about the convergence between "old" and "new" media, political motivations for social media; how social media production and distribution is distinct in China; and the IOC’s attitude towards, and regulations for, blogging by accredited and non-accredited journalists, and the public’s expectations of the mainstream media host broadcasters. What stories will we hear? And how are the stories told?

Posted in Beijing 2008, Culture, Fans, Featured1 Comment

The Role of New Web Media at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

The Role of New Web Media at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

Coffee with Ross by Rachel ashe on Flickr

I’ve mentioned some pre-Olympic and Olympic Games related activities coming up in passing. Now, as topics are piling up and the Beijing Summer Games are nearing (complete with controversy), henceforth begins a blog mini-series called, “China, The Olympics, Social Media, Symposiums, etc.” – I think I’ll need a better name for the series though. Suggestions are welcome.

we are the media


As you likely know, Raincity Studios actively conducts business in China with an office in
Shanghai and the Raincity Studios site is published in English and Mandarin (French underway) and we collaborate with Chinese colleagues and some of us (not me) study Mandarin language and foodery. Just so ya know where we’re coming from.

Social Media at Olympics

As for the Olympic games, RCS crew were at Torino 2006 – documenting the Olympic events as social media journalists using the Torino Piemonte Media Center and creating heaps for grassroots coverage (see Torino Flickr pool, DailyVancouver Torino, coverage) as well as participating in BC House activities on a professional basis.

Along with Scales, BMann and KK in Turin, Roland, Will Pate and I linked up for a cross-ocean symposium “Web 2.0 and the Future of Sport” about tech and athletics featuring gold medalist Ross Rebagliati (Flickr coffeewithross).

Live Simulcast

Among other topics, we discussed the restrictions (or lack thereof) put on self-expression by athletes as well as ways the participants can use technology to better communicate with friends and family back home. Really so many athletes will never make it to TV and their families seek the micro-coverage possible only by crowd sourcing e.g. the first ever Nepali winter Olympian (SLC 2002 Olympics collection).

Olympian Politics

With the 2010 Winter Games coming to our HQ city of Vancouver, and the resultant controversies (mostly concerning tax money spent on events rather than poverty and homelessness), we, like much of the world, are watching as the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing is becoming increasingly politicized and watching the reaction of the government and the citizens of the world.

The most visible conundrum is the torch relay which was used as a rallying point for anti-China protesters and widely reported about on Now Public among other citizen journalism and mainstream media sites.

Certainly political gamesmanship is a staple in the modern Olympic games and the heavy handed security surrounding the torch parade is only the beginning of a conversation about the perceived emphasis on tight security and enforcing the stringent policies of the Chinese government rather than using this global event as a springboard to openness.

This is as close as I could get to the Olympic Torch Ceremony

Having met several Olympic athletes who are eager to chronicle their experience freely, I am curious if athletes will be allowed and encouraged to speak openly while at the Games? (Blogging, Athletes and web sites – …). Can they report on their experiences in candid fashion? Can they explore the region and travel the country without hindrance? or will the world see just the parts of China which look good on TV?

Make Your Own Media

Beyond the political conversations, as social media content creators and advocates of journalistic access for indie producers, we are also watching carefully as the policies about social media coverage are created (by who?).

So far there are mixed signals about athletes not/allowed to blog, and how amateur created content can be used (is posting your personal Olympic photos Flickr OK?) How about creating podcast coverage of the games with reaction to in-person and/or televised coverage?

Dr. Andy Miah at the Piedmont Media Center in Torino 06

International Symposium

Well, we’re not the only ones with these questions. Olympic scholar Dr. Andy Miah is organizing a panel at the 9th International Symposium on Olympic Studies, in Beijing, August 5-7, 2008.

Before we get too far along, what is the ICOS?

The International Centre for Olympic Studies, established at The University of Western Ontario in 1989, was the first of its kind in the world. It remains the only such Centre in the Americas. It has as its primary mission the generation and dissemination of academic
scholarship focused specifically upon the socio-cultural study of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement.

And the event blurb:

The Symposium’s theme, “Deconstruction and Discourse: Odysseys in Olympic Socio-Cultural Matters,” focuses on research studies dealing with the history, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy of the modern Olympic Movement.

Emerging Journalism Panel

Dr. Miah (who is a Reader in New Media & Bioethics, School of Media, Language & Music, University of the West of Scotland)’s topic is “Emergent Journalistic Practice at the Olympics” will feature a panel of Ana Adi, Beatriz Garcia, Raincity Studios President Kris Krug, Raincity Studios CEO Robert Scales,Garry Whannel, and Tina Zhihui.

Here’s the panel description from the abstract:

{Ed note: Paragraph breaks mine to make easier reading}

Research into the role of the media within the Olympic Movement has focused predominantly on representational questions. Far less research has investigated the journalistic culture of an Olympic Games or the Movement more generally, besides analyses of its contribution to sustaining the Olympic Movement.

Moreover, nearly no research has examined the work of those journalists who are peripheral to the organizational staging of the Games.

This category includes journalists who are associated with accredited media institutions, but whom might not have formal accreditation due to restrictions on numbers of passes. It also includes journalists who are from major media organizations, but whom have no intention of working from Olympic facilities. However, it also includes non-accredited journalists, which encompasses professional journalists from a range of organizations, along with freelance or citizen journalists, whose work is utilized by the mass media and is duplicated in independent domains.

This panel engages some of these issues in the form of a round table debate about the future of journalism at the Olympic Games. It reviews some of the implications of emerging new media platforms, arguing that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games can be characterized as the first Web 2.0 Summer Games. While some principles of Web 2.0 have been visible since the Internet’s inception, critical aspects of its current architecture began to flourish around 2005. Applications from this era, such as YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, more adequately enable users to report the Olympics as citizen journalists.

The implications of this within China and for the Olympics more broadly are considerable. As mass media organizations begin to strike partnerships with new media institutions – for instance, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) purchased a YouTube channel in March 2007 – questions remain over how the Olympic Movement will protect its intellectual property, as the base broadens over ownership claims and via distributed publishing syndication.

Next up, More Questions

Now that you are briefed with sufficient background, the next post will pose a variety of questions which the panel will discuss so you can share your opinions about “China, The Olympics, Social Media, Symposiums, etc.”

Posted in Beijing 2008, Culture, Fans, Featured0 Comments

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