traces of races

So I conducted a blogging workshop a couple weeks ago and the feedback was better than I’d expected. There was one comment though that stuck in my mind and I spent some time thinking about it. A participant remarked that s/he wished that there were facilitators of other races, specifically Malays and Indians so that the audience could have more perspective from their points of view.

Perhaps the participant was not privy as to how the workshop ended up with a few speakers. I understand that, because these things are usually internal communication and mostly have nothing to do with the outcome of any events. For explanation’s sake, I was supposed to be the sole person to conduct the workshop. As mentioned in my earlier post, I approached a few of my friends whom I thought would have something worthwhile to contribute especially in areas where I am not very familiar with. For example, Cheng Leong is a practising lawyer and has given many talks on blogging and law. He is also an active blogger. That was why I thought he’d be a good person to elaborate on the legal parts of blogging in Malaysia.

No doubt I could have asked Nizam Bashir, a practising lawyer in Melaka who spoke on defamation laws at a previous conference that I attended. Unfortunately I do not have a personal relationship with Nizam; it is mostly a “I know who he is and I think he sort of knows who I am” thing. He is also based in Melaka and to me, it may be a bit of a trouble to ask him if he could come up to KL on a Sunday to talk for an hour, when he has a family with young children to spend time with.

Perhaps those are just excuses. Again to me, it boils down to the personal relationship bit. In my defence, the ‘all Chinese’ part never occurred to me as I was only concentrating on each speakers’ field of expertise when it comes to blogs and blogging, and how their experience could add on to the participants’ understanding and knowledge. I truly didn’t think that it would be any deal at all because I’d like to think that I’m generally above the ‘what race you are’, but ‘what you know and did and how you can spread it to others’.

Maybe that’s just me. Maybe in my limited life experiences, I missed something along the way. That’s why I’m blogging this, and I’d like to know your opinion. Let’s put aside possible immediate reactions that may imply the participant was being slightly racist, or limited/ single-minded/ narrow in his or her thinking. With that, I ask you this: is it important to have speakers of different races at a ‘how to blog’ or ‘writing blogs’ workshop because of his or her differing perspectives and POV? And how?

I’ll start off with explaining the outline that I designed for the workshop. A few hours dedicated to the history of blogs, what are blogs, how blogs and blogging exploded worldwide then to Malaysia, how to start your own blog, explanation of templates and designs, do’s and don’ts of blogging (e.g. auto-play music, mouse trailer etc), what are web feeds and how to use it to track other blogs etc and so on. Rudimentary stuff – then again do remember that this was targeted for adult beginners. David Lian talked about blogs and media from a communications person POV, because he works in an international PR company and IMHO, one of the first to understand blogs, blogging and bloggers (as a PR person). Timothy Tiah talked about blogs and advertising, and I approached him because he is the co-founder of the first and largest blog advertising network in the country. Cheng Leong spoke on defamation laws, as well as intellectual property laws which I think is slightly more important because a lot of people are ignorant of what constitutes copyright etc. Peter Tan shared his experience of blogging as an advocacy tool; as someone who has been reading local blogs since 2003, I followed his stories on how he corresponded with MAS, Air Asia etc. Yvonne Foong uses her blog to raise awareness of her life with Neurofibromatosis and to raise monies for her surgeries. I thought that would be a great addition as an example how blogs are beyond the personal stuff of what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Like I said, it was my workshop to conduct, and these are my point of views. It wouldn’t have mattered to me if David Lian Abdullah or Timothy A/L Tiah was the speaker, as long as they can convey and share their experiences on the subject. Again I admit that I may have missed something. What do you think?

comments

Comments

  1. It just so happens the people you know in those fields of expertise are Chinese, it’s not a conscious decision to only include Chinese.

    I think the person raising the question was being a little narrow minded and well perhaps not in tune with reality.

    There are 2 ad networks in Malaysia, both are run by Chinese.

    Out of the PR agencies I’ve worked with I would give a good estimate they are 80-90% dominated by Chinese.

    Plus really the blogosphere in Malaysia is segregated somewhat, you were more based towards the English speaking section (which is mostly Chinese) – there aren’t a whole lot of English based blogs written by Malays or Indians (popular ones at least).

    At the end of the day it doesn’t have anything to do with race, nor should it.

    It’s not like anyone you invited can’t speak English properly or blogs in Mandarin.

  2. I agree that the person was at the very least, being pretty narrow minded.

    That said, it’ll be interesting to have someone who can talk about blog & religion and how that fits together, seeing that this is a rather sensitive thing in our country, unfortunately. :/

  3. Frankly, I am disappointed that this was even brought up, as a topic. What happened to the whole idea of “Bangsa Malaysia” ?

    I think it should be made clear, that on the Internet, you could be a dog, and no one should/would care. Race, is something that *no one* on the Internet generally cares about (and I can speak on this with some authority, having been in the Malaysian Internet scene, from the time when we were on dialup, and jaring.* newsgroups were the way we spoke to each other).

    Chinese, Indian, Malay, who cares? The law, advertising, advocacy, and those raising awareness aren’t race bound.

    Be happy, that everyone participating in this workshop, all the facilitators, were *Malaysian*. Don’t introspect, as to what “race” they were.

    (fast forward a century from this post, and with all the mixed-marriages, and so on, there will be truly, a “Bangsa Malaysia”, and we’ll all be laughing at the commenter… Oops, here’s hoping I’d be around 100 years from now :P)

  4. just do what u think is right and that’s it. where is the i dun care thing?

  5. Depends how you view it. IMHO, this is not race issue in blogging, but about digital divide. In fact, blogging in Malaysia is still limited to certain class of people.

    A cab driver in New York may blog, but it won’t happen for any taxi driver in Malaysia soon. So for a Malaysia hawker that earn more than you, he is not likely to blog in near future, because some of them still think internet and computer is something out of their reach(not about the money, but the knowledge).

    Let’s not forget the Babel tower. Even one who well verse in many language, they will choose the language that they feel comfortable to practice their blog. So those who blog in English, find it tedious to translate and rewrite in Malay, mandarin, Tamil, etc.

  6. Well, maybe there is a point of having a respresentative from all walks of life… the same could be said Where are the senior citizen bloggers? and Where are the disabled bloggers?

    Well anyone these days can have a blog.. Blogspot, wordpress.. very easy. So technically speaking no-one is being held back from creating a blog. Yet, I thought ethnic Malay people comprise 50% of the population in Malaysia, so in theory they should be 50% of all bloggers in Malaysia..is that right?
    Perhaps a successful Malay blogger could give advise to up and coming Malay bloggers ..but what about? Only a Malay person would understand,, maybe there are some topics you just don’t touch for example. And things Malay people should be telling the world.( the internet is a global thing you know)Perhaps a Malay blogger should be inspiring other Malay people to get a blog.
    I guess we would all love to live in a ideal world of equality, but in reality it doesn’t exist.

  7. I guess Horng’s absolutely right. You’re the boss, so you call the shots. Your panel was arrived at based upon a combination of your experience, your audit of the speaking done by those people previously and your networking. You basically brought these people together professionally and that’s what this workshop was all about – professional.

    That said, you do have an obligation to consider all feedback, professionally speaking. Then you have to give any important feedback due consideration (I’ll assume this one’s important since you’re blogging about it ;-) even just for 2 seconds. And then, once you’re done, you have every right to say “Nah..”

    Now, why someone might give that kind of feedback deserves an entire PhD thesis to consider.. heh heh..

  8. Would the same question be raised if an American were to conduct the workshop?
    Maybe the question then would be why is it not a Malaysian speaker?

    I guess the political scene in the country must have affected the minds of our fellow Malaysian brothers and sisters.

    Your explanation or clarification shows that you have made a just decision based on your powers and personal relationship. I believe the question would make sense if it was directed to NST and not to you personally.

    If NST was in charged of getting speakers, they could get representative from all walks of life, even senior citizen, disabled bloggers, as mentioned by Jeff. Since it’s you and you have the whole workshop sorted out with topics beforehand, it doesn’t really matter who the speakers are.

    Who cares if a 9 year old speaks about blogging if the child know what he/she is doing?
    It’s the content and not the speaker.

  9. Incredible.

    It’s a workshop conducted in English by an English language daily; so as long as the speakers and participants understand each other does it really matter that none of them are Malays/Indians/green skinned aliens?

  10. If your workshop was talking about Racial Tolerance or some crap like that, then the bloke would have a point. However, a beginner’s blogging workshop has no play on different races.

    That said, the point can be valid if it was a slightly more advanced workshop. There are topics which appeal to the different market segments (age, race, economic status). For instance, you should be familiar with Sultan Muzaffar, yes? How many Chinese would give a hoot about his Akademi Fantasia postings? But those topics appeal the the younger Malays (and dare I say, the more kampung folks) and is extremely relevant if you are conducting a workshop on Blogging For Money.

  11. You explain well why you chose the particular people you did – they were relevant to the talk, and you knew them well enough to ask for their help. From what I can see so far, most of the English language bloggers are Chinese also.

    But I agree with Vincent that it if you wanted to talk more deeply about the blogosphere, having Malays and others represented would be good; in fact that’s one drawback to my own research, because I don’t speak BM I can’t track most of the Malay bloggers – so basically I can’t really make conclusions about the ‘Malaysian blogosphere’ really. Often when I talk to people (typically English-speaking Chinese – which reflects my social circle also), they say ‘Oh there aren’t many Malay blogs anyway’, but if I ask them for more details, or if they know of some significant Malay bloggers, it transpires that they don’t know – they’re just assuming so because they don’t come across them. People like sultanmuzaffar and redmummy have quite big audiences.

    Also, just in terms of giving talks and so on – I guess if there were the different ethnicities represented amongst the speakers, it could make some people feel more at ease. Which isn’t a bad thing if one were to do such talks regularly.

  12. I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that there are no race flame comments on this post.

    My opinion is that race is moot anyways, we are all Africans anyway:
    http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/johanson.html

    Culture and language on the other hand, will be influenced by the environment you grew up in, but it can also be adopted.

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