Ever wonder what’s going on behind internet memes, especially the ones being used to talk about social and political issues?  Remember that amazing marriage equality meme that popped up with all the remixes of the marriage equality logo?

In the spirit of #AskACurator Day, The Civic Beat is hosting #AskAMemeMaker Day next week.  Just get online in the morning or afternoon EST and follow @TheCivicBeat to get the questions rolling.  We’ll be interviewing:

Laura Isaac (10a-12p EST) see the time in your time zone

Phil Good (5-7p EST) see the time in your time zone

And what’s The Civic Beat?  It’s a new online initiative I’m a part of–we’re hoping to tell the world’s stories through internet culture. I’ll be talking it up at TEDGlobal this coming week, and in the mean time you can visit our beta site, follow us on Twitter, and join our Tumblr jam page.  I’ll be tweeting from the conference from @thecivicbeat, and in the mean time, our amazing team–Jason Li, lida Shao and Ben Valentine–and group of writers will be moving the site forward with some very cool initiatives and articles in the coming months.

RIP Roberto Chabet

I recently received the image above from Ringo Bunoan, Roberto Chabet’s chief archivist. I’ve written about Chabet’s work before and had the pleasure to meet him when I was in Manila two years ago.  He has an amazing sensitivity and has certainly earned his place as the father of Philippine conceptual art–helping push the country’s art world into new forms and directions.

Bunoan, who is overseeing Chabet’s work being placed in the Asia Art Archives, sent it with the following note: “Sir’s epitaph, as he wished.”  It made me laugh, knowing that his sense of humor is distinctly Filipino.  We’ll miss Chabet, but his art–and his sense of humor–will live on.

As the Internetz Goes Global: Internet Culture in an African Context

Two articles I’ve written about internet culture in East Africa have now gone live.  As these things happen, they came out within days of each other, although they were written months apart.  Ah, serendipity.

As part of my work and studies with Art Center, I’ve been living on and off in Uganda for three months now, and I’ve been living on the Ugandan internet for much longer, and it’s been great to get a better understanding of how internet culture is working here and in East Africa more generally.  After looking so closely at internet culture and civic life in China and the United States, it was good to get a new perspective.  And these two articles kind of sum it up–the internet’s going to look a lot different, and we’re going to see more and more perspectives as historically marginalized people join the web.  It will look a little like Los Angeles or New York, maybe, with the hodgepodge of cultures bumping into each other everyday.

Chickens, Goats and Cows… Oh My!
The first went live on Ethnography Matters, and it’s a look at the chickens and goats of the Ugandan internet.  I presented some of this research very briefly at the Microsoft Social Computing Symposium at NYU ITP, but I’m glad to have a chance to expound a bit more on it.  As I’m not a traditional academic researcher, I use blogs and other media to get my thoughts out in the public.  There’ll be a book on all this one day soon too, I hope.

Here’s a little snippet, where I detail my surprise that lolcats really don’t resonate in Uganda:

And yet, when I showed some of my favorite lolcats to internet savvy youth in Uganda, they didn’t giggle in the same way I’d seen Chinese and Philippine users giggle. The idea was funny, to be sure, and they liked the idea. Long cat, grumpy cat, ceiling cat–what I’d understood to be the canon of internet culture simply didn’t translate.

So what did these urban, internet-savvy youth find funny? One individual, Samuel Kamugisha, sent me some of his favorite funny pictures from the the Ugandan internet. A large number of them contained the very animals I’d seen everyday on the streets: chickens and goats. Chickens wearing shoes. Chickens wearing sunglasses. A goat getting swabbed by a metal wand. Not all of these images originated per se from the Ugandan internet, but they certainly circulated amongst Ugandans as funny images.

Read more here.

I hone in on cute things, but it’s an entry point to my larger point.  Our assumptions about the internet, all the way down to a basic truth like cute cats, have been culturally situated.  Those who’ve been using the web so far have been the types of people who have cats.  The internet will look very very different in the coming years.

Be sure to check out the rest of the speakers at the Symposium for our panel, including Heather Ford, Morgan Ames, Mark Kaigwa and Panthea Lee.  It was really an honor to speak alongside them, and I’m especially grateful to Tricia Wang for inviting me to join and share my quirky curiosities.

Poking Fun at Foreign Media
Anyway, back to culturally situating on the web.  Case in point are the 2013 elections in Kenya.  In contrast to the 2007 elections, they were largely peaceful, and that’s a major success, a victory really and something Kenyans should be proud of.  Yes, there are still a lot of questions about the validity of the elections, but peaceful elections are not easy.

Which is why it was a downright shame that foreign media were focusing only on incidents of violence rather than celebrating the peace, which took years of hard work following the 2007 elections.  But we live in an increasingly connected world now, and Kenyans have a vehicle not just to share their perspective to make sure they’re heard.  And that vehicle is internet humor.  Here’s what I wrote in Al Jazeera’s Op-Ed section:

In her terrific TEDGlobal talk, Nigerian writer Chimanada Adichie spoke of the dangers of a single story: “The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

The rise of blogs and online publishing platforms was theoretically supposed to solve this problem. And in some sense, that is true: there are plenty of stories now available online and writers have a wider variety of outlets to choose from. But readers still have a finite amount of time, attention and cognitive energy in any given day. The cost of publishing has decreased considerably, but the chances of being heard remain slim.

This is where hashtag memes like #TweetLikeaForeignJournalist and #Ottawapiskat carry additional weight. Humour has a long history in politics, from satirical cartoons to the court jester. It breaks down barriers and makes difficult social and political issues easier to broach and discuss. What Twitter and other social media enable is a much broader range of jesters and joke makers to participate and form a community.

Read more here.

There’s something really interesting going on here.  In previous eras, there would have been no way for Kenyans by and large to talk about misrepresentation in the media.  It’s hard to get attention in this media saturated environment.  But that’s why memes are effective–by its nature, internet humor gets attention.  That’s what it’s designed for.  And it was so effective that many news outlets covered the jokes, then pivoted on their coverage.

The humor here is important–it set just the right tone to get foreign journalists blushing rather than defensive.  And it was a type of humor–internet humor–that anyone who uses the internet can understand.  The fact that it’s networked also helped.  It grew and grew, allowing for a form of digital public assembly that’s difficult to ignore.  The humor alone isn’t enough–there’s no texture, there’s no room for nuance–but it’s a start.  It’s a wake-up call that people around the world aren’t just listening, they’re ready to talk back and tell their own side in a way that will get attention.

In Summary: Kenyata Cheese Meets Uhuru Kenyatta
What’s the thread in all this, what binds internet culture and civics in Uganda, China and the United States (and elsewhere)?  There’s a story here about community online and what community looks like; about getting attention, whether in a censored environment or media-limited one; about  The fact that it takes me–an Asian American–to amplify these stories is not lost on me.  But many of these stories were already amplified, and many were never intended to be amplified.  They were meant for the community of social media users to discuss amongst themselves.  I just came along and started poking around and finding some really amazing stuff that I had to share.  The internet’s going to look very very different as more of the developing world comes online, and we’re going to see a lot more chickens, llamas, goats and pigs angling for space amidst the lolcats and lolruses.

One amazing tidbit, and something I don’t think we should set aside too quickly, is that my friend Kenyatta Cheese started receiving tweets intended for Kenyan President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta.  Now, I can’t think of anyone more perfect to receive these notes, as Mr. Cheese is an internet culture researcher and co-founder of Know Your Meme.  So when he started receiving notes of congratulations to his Twitter handle, @kenyatta, he changed his profile to read: “NOT THE TWITTER ACCOUNT OF UHURU KENYATTA but I will respond to questions posed @kenyatta.”

I endorse naming a city after me RT @: So will they change the new Post Modern City's name to @ now that he is president?
kenyatta cheese
I will refuse to stand trial RT @: The plot around @ #KenyaElections thickens http://t.co/MN3zcNHFyE via @
kenyatta cheese

This is amazing.  How could it ever have been possible for this kind of mistaken identity to occur between continents, between a Brooklynite and a Nariobian (is that the right word?).  Now, what makes this possible is that Kenyans on Twitter often speak English, and they are using the same platform as Kenyatta.  Something similar wouldn’t happen to, say, an English-speaking Chinese-American named Jinping, after the ascendance of Xi Jinping.  But it’s still remarkable to think about how we’re going to deal with millions more people coming online and sharing the same spaces that have traditionally been occupied by Europeans and North Americans.

There’s so much more I want to say about my time in Uganda, and especially my time in northern Uganda.  I want to talk about the physical structure of the internet, the amazing modes of informal data transfer I witnessed, how kung fu movies get translated into the Luo language, and the new project I’m developing to facilitate communications in a limited-connectivity environment, how the LGBT community uses Facebook (hint: they love to party), and the Ugandan chief who invented a new type of kimbap (aka Korean sushi) that I will call the “Kampala roll”.  But there will be time for that later.  And soon.

But for now, I have to thank the good folks at Afrinnovator (Mark Kaigwa), Urban Legend Kampala (Ernest Bazanye and Peter Kakoma), Zyee Idyaz (Samuel Kamugisha) and TechPost (Daniel Mwesigwa) for helping me navigate this new space.

Njaanuary, aka Jan-worry, the loooongest month of the year

What’s this squirrel complaining about?  Doesn’t it know there’s no month at all with 65 days?

Well, it feels like January has dragged on forever.  Maybe you spent too much over the holidays, and you’re waiting for checks to clear this month.  Maybe the reality of 2013 is finally hitting.  But in a month of 31 days, it certainly feels like the 65th is just dragging.  On and on and on.

That’s the idea behind this cute meme, as explained to me by creative technologist extraordinaire, Mark Kaigwa.  In Kenya, this month is called Jan-Worry, or Njaanuary, from njaa, a Swahili word meaning "hunger".  After all the revelations

Two small takeways from this image:

  • Cute animals are a perfect vehicle for  expression online.  There’s no way around it.  Mark tells me this squirrel isn’t even native to Kenya, but somehow it’s resonated.
  • The January blues cross many continents.  It’s well known as a difficult month, and, yes, it just keeps dragging on.  Feb 1st can’t come soon enough, whether you’re in Kenya, the UK, or elsewhere.

Which gets me thinking a lot about how animals and internet humor can serve as a cultural bridge, an entry point into talking about different world cultures and issues.  But I’ll save that for another day.

Love, Laughter and Censorship

Comedy changes the world by changing individuals from the inside out. Laughter causes a transformation in the person experiencing it. It loosens and opens us up. We let our guard down. We become vulnerable. Laughter helps expose who we really are, and when we’re being who we really are we can see the world in a more true light. We can accept truths that in a different package, we might deny. We can find common ground with people we would swear are our enemies. Comedy can help us see the world, not just as it is, but as it might be, and that can serve as a great motivator.

Barantunde Thurston, one of the great comedians of our day, said this recently in Medium.  I was reminded of this quote after reading Jonah Weiner’s long NYT Magazine profile of Jerry Seinfeld, who to this day continues to do stand-up.  One little snippet that stood out:

In the army, that’s kind of how you got through it,” Seinfeld says. “People would tell jokes by the score, because what else are you going to do to maintain sanity? The recognizing of jokes as precious material: that’s where it starts. If you’ve got the gene, a joke is an amazing thing. It’s something you save in a box in a war.

I’ve been thinking a lot about humor, especially in online contexts.  It’s no surprise, given my active exploration of internet memes, that I love humor and jokes and online.  I’m not so funny myself but I can repeat a good joe pretty well.

And I’m curious about memes in very specific contexts, namely, in civic contexts, especially when freedom of expression has been limited.  That limitation could be due to active censorship or, in the case of the Trayvon Martin meme (which admittedly didn’t have a strong element of humor–but that’s a topic for another day), a lack of voice or interest.

With some qualifications, I enjoyed what Nicholas Kristof wrote here about Ai Weiwei’s activism.  Ai, a prolific meme generator and participant, embraces humor as a tool against the authoritarian state.

One thing the party detests even more than being denounced is being mocked, and humor is the signature element of Ai’s assaults. Other dissidents, like the great writer Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize winner now in prison, write eloquently of democracy but gain little traction among ordinary Chinese: Ai’s artistic work also seems incomprehensible to many people, but obscene jokes about grass-mud-horses can get more traction — and be difficult to quash.

What Kristof missed is why these jokes are difficult to quash. And you can only really understand that when you spend time on China’s internet.  Because Ai’s innovation in activism is not just about humor but networked humor.  Indeed, his jokes don’t always come from him; they’re part of a jokey dialogue in China’s raucous social media sphere.  The famous video of him singing the Grass Mud Horse song was written by someone else.  Indeed, the grass mud horse pun belongs to a network of Chinese netizens fed up with the internet’s strictures as early as three years ago.  Ai’s contribution was placing it on his groin, creating an even more clever and obscene pun (see my talk at ROFLCon where I share a bit more on that) that lives on today.  You can shut down one jokey man, or try at least, but you can’t shut down the jokes.  Because jokes, once networked, are owned by so many more people.

All this in the context of increased censorship in China.  As I write this, China is engaging in even more stringent control of internet expression. A friend recently told me she even has trouble getting on Gmail, which, when I was last there a year ago, was slowed down but not blocked entirely.  Earlier this year, Tricia Wang and I wrote a piece in Wired about the dangers of real name registration.  That threat remains.  Here’s what Tea Leaf Nation had to say:

On December 28, about 10 days after the first official warning appeared on People’s Daily, a new law aiming at enhancing the protection of personal information online and safeguard public interests was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. According to Xinhua, “The 12-article decision includes an identity management policy requiring Internet users to use their real names to identify themselves to service providers, including Internet or telecommunications operators.” This policy is outlined in article 6 of the new rules: “Network service providers should require users to provide genuine identification information when signing agreements to grant them access to the Internet.”

It’s a disconcerting move and something we should continue to pay attention to.  But, as I wrote when real name registration discussions erupted earlier this year, a number of memes sprung up to discuss it, often with a touch of humor.  And it got me wondering: can you really censor humor?  What are the costs of doing so?  Of attempting to do so?  And does attempting to censor humor just make it more likely to stick?

Jumping continents a bit.  I’m remembering #PLE2012, a Ugandan internet meme that erupted out of the blue in November.  I had the good fortune of being in Uganda at the time and was able to speak with a number of locals about it.  It was a hilarious meme, and truly diffuse, with multiple participants and no clear leader.  But it had a clear social and political bite.  Here are a few examples.  All are phrase as fake test questions for the Primary Leaving Example, a gateway exam for secondary school:

#PLE2012 English. Is the word #Museveni in Past Tense, Present Tense, Future Tense or Never Ending Tense? (10 marks)

#PLE2012 SST-While campaigning in 2006 #YKM asked the following from Ugandans to give him. (a. Sad term, b. ThIrd term, c. All thee above)

#PLE2012:Maths – If John earns 1.5M but owns a 10billion dollar complex, what is the probability that John is a Minister? (50 Marks)

These jokes are funny, especially when you understand Uganda moderately well.  YKM is Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s President of 20 years.  As humor and governments everywhere and every time in history, humor plays an important role in telling difficult political truths.

I’m not sure how much I agree with David Tisch’s assertion that "The Internet Will be ‘Fun Again’" (it’s always been fun for me), but it’s worth thinking about the way we bring joy to the internet and joy to our lives in general.  In China and Uganda, and in America during the recent political elections, joy and humor have jumped in in unexpected ways to talk about quite serious issues, from government corruption to feminist discourse.  This didn’t detract at all from their weight; humor in fact made their weight more apparent.

It’s certainly been a year of memes for me.  And if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s not just about the power of laughing, but the power of laughing together.  The healing power of laughter is well-known, and the role of the jester is well documented.  But what happens when we all have the power to become jesters, to create the jokes ourselves and share them with our peers?

As we turn the corner in 2013, I hope that, whether you’ve had a great year or a tough year, an up year or a down year or a so-so year, you also take some time to laugh with friends.  And I’ll see you in the new year.

Designing Nostalgia

Austin Yang’s iTypewriter

Core77 invited me to write one of their Year in Review posts, and although it did become something of an end-of-year list, I tried to add my own insights too.  I can’t see if this is specific to 2012, but I can say that I noticed a distinct sense of nostalgia creeping into designs this year:

If skeuomorphic design reflects the practical failures of design mired in the past, what I’m interested in is the emotional delights of deliberately designing for a rememberd past. I choose to call this phenomenon design nostalgia, rather than retro design. Nostalgia doesn’t have a functional purpose, but it does have an emotional one. There’s a certain joy at looking back while looking forward, the same way a momentous moment like graduation from design school might prompt us to look back at the challenging but mind-expanding assignments and projects that got us there.

More at Core77.

People will be people, online and offline

Wish I had more time to respond, but I just wanted to comment briefly on Alexis Madrigal’s response to Roger Cohen’s rant against social media and sharing.  Enjoyed the discussion, but this idea that social media promotes "oversharing" just keeps coming up.

From Cohen:

So let us absorb the mass of unwanted shared personal information and images that wash over one, like some great viscous tide full of stuff one would rather not think about — other people’s need for Icelandic lumpfish caviar, their numb faces at the dentist, their waffles and sausage, their appointments with their therapists, their personal hygiene, their pimples and pets, their late babysitters, their grumpy starts to the day, their rude exchanges, their leaking roofs, their faith in homeopathy, their stressing out, and all the rest.

Okay, yes, we’ve heard that before.  But the funny thing is, I bet if Cohen were seeing these friends in person, and they were talking about supposedly trivial things, he would respond sympathetically or at least acknowledge them.  That’s how friendships are built–through feeling like you can share trivial details about your life.

Madrigal then goes on to respond, noting his own experience with his timeline:

Now, I’ve been on Twitter for a long time, Facebook even longer, though in a more limited capacity. And I’ve never noticed these topics permeating my timeline. 

He notes the useful things he finds on his feeds, from a Star Trek movie teaser to music videos and financial news.  And this makes sense — your news feed online reflects who you follow.  Certainly, my feed is filled with interesting tidbits and info because I take the time to follow interesting people.  But I also follow people who primarily talk about the food they’re eating and some of their life’s ups and downs.  I call those people friends.

I started to think Madrigal might be leaning toward satire, when he tells Cohen that "the manly, un-Generation Wuss thing to do, would be to simply stop communicating with all of your friends… Maybe stop talking with people all together. Without their insufferable problems like enjoying eating and having their teeth cleaned, you will be able to think in peace."

But he ends his piece with this:

Or, if you want (I’m serious here!), I’ll provide you with some more detailed social media consulting, helping you create a presence that’s actually useful. These tools are only as good as the network you create on them. And if you’re being honest about what you see on Twitter and Facebook, you’re a terrible builder.

And this, to me, is where I can’t agree with either writer: social media aren’t simply tools, like a hammer or a wrench.  They’re spaces, like a house or a car.  We don’t just communicate through Facebook and Twitter, we extend our lives through them.  This is especially true of a younger generation, like the teenager Cohen and his daughter poke fun at in his article, who are forming their identities through their social relations with their friends and boyfriends/girlfriends.  That’s nothing new; what’s new is that a good chunk of it happens online now.  (I do think that teens, and anyone, really, may want to think about filtering their messages online, so it’s not broadcast to everyone their lists.  But that’s another blog post for another day.)

But just because social media happen on a screen doesn’t mean we should think of them solely as broadcast messages.  Just because they’re written doesn’t mean we should think of them solely as journalism or media.  And just because they’re programmed and coded doesn’t mean we should think of them solely as tools.  They’re also spaces, social and expressive spaces with memes and jokes and general angst on display, and the fact that so many people feel compelled to share the minutiae of their lives in proof that they don’t see social media as tools at all.  And why do we share the boring things we do?  That’s an easy one.  We just want to get sympathy, get attention, get advice, get revenge, get other people jealous, get new friends… and just be the boring ol’ social creatures we are and always have been.

Beijing’s WEAR Journal… and My First Comic

WEAR Journal, published and produced by HomeShop Beijing, is now out!  I have a four-page graphic essay which I developed with the amazing art historian Orianna Cacchione, who’s posing above.  Here’s more about the journal’s theme this year:

WEAR journal finally arrives to its third issue in spartan outfit: double-pleated, DIY and pretty much naked. Following the first two issues’ design of a coverless magazine about urban dress, this issue thinks about the fashionable phrase “你有种 nǐ yŏu zhŏng” in a few of the other realms where HomeShop likes to dwell: critical theory, micropolitics and artistic production. “有种 yŏu zhŏng“—literally meaning “to have seed” and metaphorically insinuating that one is ballsy or daring—becomes here more than a launchpad for a series of rolling activities (like seed bombing or urban exploring); it is also the point of potential from which the likes of a film critic, organic market organizers and artist-activists engage in a context-specific dialogue on the global realities at play in China.

In the spirit of “ballsy”, we took an art pilgrimage to Marfa, Texas, where we (gently) tossed a (soft) baseball at the reinforced windows of the famous Prada Marfa. Hilarity, naturally, ensues, as I tell the story in my first published comic (and a bilingual one at that!).

If you’re in China, be sure to pick up a copy of WEAR for only 68 RMB at Home Shop.  Outside the mainland, you can order it via Paypal.  There are a lot of other artists and writers who’ve participated, and as HomeShop is one of my favorite Chinese-expat artist spaces in Beijing, I’m thrilled to be a part of their journal.

Asia, Africa, America

We’re walking past Makerere University, along a busy but (as far as I can tell) unnamed road. Two Chinese men in a truck are looking our way.  I am with a group of white Americans and one Ugandan, but they stare directly at me.  This is the not the first time. It’s also a common practice for white expats to glance briefly at each other as well, but the Chinese penchant for staring makes it more obvious. “Ni hao,” I shout out.  “Ni hao,” they respond.  Traffic moves forward before we can continue our conversation.

Having lived recently in a sizable chunk of Asia–China, Korea, the Philippines–I see Uganda through an Asian lens.  I spot Japanese writing on used cars and minibuses, Indian names on businesses, Chinese characters scattered here and there, even some Korean.  This is not a big surprise; Japan and India have had a fairly long history here, and China’s increasing investment in Africa is well known.

The surprise is the Philippines.  In most of the world I’ve traveled to, when I say my family is from Manila, they have nothing to say.  They might comment on the food, or talk about nurses and maids, but most people I know have very little schema of the country, or its capital city.  I once pointed out that the latest Bourne film was set in Manila, and an American friend asked, “Why would they do that?”  Even Filipino Americans were surprised.

In Uganda, when I say my family is from Manila, everyone I’ve spoken to so far gets excited. “Manila is so interesting!” they say. It’s not because they’ve been there, but because they watch the soaps.  I don’t know the shows they mention–I’m not really a TV watcher–, but I make a mental note to look for them. “I always turn on the TV at 8:30,” a Ugandan friend says. “Even if I am doing something, I stop and continue later, so I can watch the soaps.”  They have a mental image of Manila, and of the Philippines, and they want to know if it is accurate.

All of this has me thinking about globalization, and how the Western-centric model of globalization no longer fits the different trade routes, media paths and social media webs of the 21st century.  But it also has me thinking about the schema through which I see the world. American, on the one hand, and Asian/Chinese/Filipino (with a sprinkling of Latino), on the other, a mixture of the Los Angeles Asian/Latino culture and Asian Asian culture I was raised with. Both come with their own affordances, along with the third affordance of being a Third/Fourth Culture Kid–a term I don’t strictly identify with but which comes pretty close to my hodgepodge identity.

Traveling brings insights into the world, and as a designer/technologist/writer/researcher/artist, I love seeing how people live and engage in different parts of the globe.  I love seeing how the truths on the ground reflect or do not reflect the stories in the media. There are universalities and there are differences. Both are fascinating, both make for compelling design opportunities.

But traveling also forces a deep introspection, as we’re ripped from our usual routine and placed in a foreign/familiar/foreign context.  A fellow traveler once noted to me that you learn a little more about yourself with each trip. This, for me, has certainly been true.

Signing Off From Bird’s Nest: Ai Weiwei in English

Some two years ago, in the spring of 2010, Jennifer Ng and I founded Bird’s Nest: Ai Weiwei in English, with a great deal of help from a number of volunteer designers and translators (including our brilliant anonymous designer Fat Sun who set up the two-column format).  What started as an experiment in collaborative translation has since grown tremendously, with nearly a dozen contributors at all levels, from editorial to translation to news posts and copy editing, who’ve collectively kept the site humming with nearly 4000 posts since we started.  The site and corresponding Twitter feed following have since grown to nearly 14,000 followers, and our translators have been cited in publications like the New York Times, CNN and the Wall St. Journal.

It’s time to say goodbye to what’s been an incredible working experience in online collaboration for me, as I formally hand off the reins to André Holthe.  As I mentioned in my post announcing André as lead editor, he’s incredibly qualified for the role, as a dedicated translator, editor and polyglot.  (He also holds the distinction of having translated Weiwei’s first tweet since he returned from his illegal detention.)  We’ve all appreciated André’s incredible dedication to the site over the years.  He’ll be overseeing the next stages of the site, as he onboards new translators and sets up a Creative Commons License for translations, to ensure clarity about rights to their usage.  To help him, I’ve developed a back-end translation tool (pictured above) to streamline the translation process for our translators.

I’m sad to formally leave the site as an administrator but will be staying onboard as a translator and developer/designer to assist as helpful.  It’s been a great run, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the site grows and develops in the coming years.  As Weiwei’s tax case moves forward and he continues to push out new art works and to engage with his 150,000+ followers online, be sure to follow Bird’s Nest on Tumblr and Twitter – I certainly will be.

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