Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I was talking to someone today about Marc Canter and all of the other people who think Wiki's are ugly. I was talking about how Marc Canter was a "media" guy and how Wiki's are for text people. Then, it hit me. (Apologies to everyone else who already thought of this before...) McLuhan talks a lot about how "looking" at TV is different from "reading" text. When you read a book, your eyes are focused a bit above the text and the text sort of just goes into your head to create symbols. With TV, you actually LOOK. You really care if the font on the TV is ugly, but you rarely remember the font of a good book you just read.

So, maybe this is the difference. When I am on a Wiki, the way it looks really doesn't concern me as much as trying imagine and understand all of the context that is captured in the web of pages linking to and from the page. I imaging all of the people from all kinds of places and what they must be thinking. It's less about user interface and more about code.

When I think about broadband, iLife, digital photos and things that I "look" at I CARE how the user interface works and how it feels as an experience. On a Wiki all I care about is that it is easy, which is part of user interface, but a different part. (I think I saw a discussion about the aspects of user interface somewhere... but I don't remember where.)

So... if you follow McLuhan's thinking, the looking culture and the reading culture are different. Are blogs/Wiki's going to merge them? What happens? Can the "keep it simple and easy, I just want the context, I don't care how it looks" people co-exist with the "give me an experience" people? Is it about meta data?

Again, another random note on a Japanese holiday...

I just downloaded iTunes 4, set up my .mac account for the music shop and started browsing around the music shop. Ooo, I don't have that Orb CD, "click", I wonder if they have.... "click"... "downloading..." "hey..." "click".

Now maybe I'm not a good sample, but iTunes 4 is to music downloads what iPod was to mp3 players. Of course you have to download iPod patch to play the AAC protected music format and you are not downloading sharable mp3's.

My little foray into the DRM'ed music space is really an experiment on myself to see if a proprietary system can make the experience compelling enough to make people say, "screw it, I'm going to use DRM." So far, the experience for me is that actually quickly finding clean copies of music I'm looking for and having it seamlessly arrive in my iPod is worth the $.99/song they are charging and the fact that it's protected. THAT'S SCARY. It's the sucking sound of Hollywood you're hearing here... hmm...

Anyway, I'm going to play around with it a bit more before I decide for sure whether this is a killer service, but I just thought I'd post this urgent news so you could try it for yourself. ;-p

Update: Not nearly as many songs that I want as I initially imagined. They're like trying to get my to buy the Village People and stuff... Search seems broken -- it gives me errors. Keeps trying to tell me I can't use the service because I'm in Japan -- I keep trying to trick it into thinking I'm in the US. a good roundup on Marc Canter's site.

Update 2: BAAAAD news. So I bought a bunch of albums and songs and was happily downloading them thinking about how much money I had just spent. Then. "There was a problem with Music Store. Please try again later." I still have the songs I've downloaded and they are there, but all of the stuff that was in the queue to be downloaded. Gone. "click" "You already have a copy of this dumbass, do you want to buy it again?"... fill out bug report asking whether I can reinstate the downloads or check whether I've been billed. "thank you for your bug report. We can will not respond to this request directly, but we appreciate your dumbass suggestions..." shit... Anyway, I will make sure I check my credit card bill next month. Until then, I will buy...download...buy... and not queue up downloads.

Update 3: When I restarted iTunes it started download all of the music I bought. phew...

Mayor Nakada officially appointing me to committee member. I was one of the people who recommended the Mayor to the WEF to be chosen as a GLT. He became a GLT this year. At 38, he is one of the youngest mayors in Japan.
Today was the first meeting with the Mayor of Yokohama and the committee for personal information protection. I wrote about it before here. I was happy to finally meet the 4 other committee members who turned out to be very smart and a good variety of backgrounds. One human rights expert, one lawyer, one law professor, one computer security professor and me.

Now that the privacy bill looks like it is going to pass, we deliberated about a variety of things, regarding what Yokohama should do after it passes. We also talked about what to do about the 845,000 people who opted out of the national ID. Currently they are going to send a type of deletion record to the central government, but I pointed out that this list is also information about the people who opted out and in fact is maybe even worse if you consider the fact that this list could be used to profile the people opting out. I suggested that we try to come up with some sort of technical option for the people who opted out of the national ID that would let them benefit from Internet enabled local government services without registering for the national ID.

The Yokohama City government also noted that data for the people who opted out was created during the trial and that in fact they all actually had national ID's even though the opted out. The local government has asked the prefectural government and the central government to delete these records, but they have not complied.

This committee will not have a regular meeting schedule or formal output style but will meet as needed on an ad hoc basis as issues arise to deliberate on.

Had lunch with Adam Greenfield. I met Adam online and recently have developed a relationship with him. This was the first time we shared a meal together. Recently he protected me against Richard B., coined the term moblog, launched a new site called Margin Walker and has a cool site called v-2 where he blogs. He wrote a paper called a minimal compact about open source constitutions for nation-state sized governance. He's currently organizing a moblog conference in Tokyo in July which I plan to attend.

We talked about a lot of things, but we agreed on two things. He is yet another person who thinks wikis are butt ugly (YAPWTWABU) but I said he should try Wiki's. So I agreed to try to read everything in Margin Walker and contribute and he agreed to post on a Minimal Compact Wiki Page on my Wiki and we'd both try each other's new sites out. Anyway, enjoyed the conversation, but you will hear more about it on Margin Walker and my Wiki. ;-)

The Japanese have elevated prostitution to a fine art.  There are many grey areas - between pure hooker (who are usually Chinese or Phillipina girls) versus Geisha.  Hostess bars plop a beautiful woman down - in between each business man - who put their hand on your knee, laugh at your jokes and pour your drinks.  They then accompany you outside and hail a cab for you.  But sex is never a part of the equation. 

Lots of blond and buxom American and Europeans are imported for both hostess bars and strip joints, but only a pure bred Nippon Jin (Japanese) can be a Geisha (do don't believe that Shirley MacClaine movie!)  Japanese actually take pride in their Geisha tradition.

I'm not going to take a moral stand here, but will try to point out some interesting facts and thoughts that this quote from Marc Canter highlights.

First of all, it's amazing what gets lost in the translation and the difficulty I am having in explaining the whole geisha thing really shows how different cultures can be.

I think almost all cultures have prostitution and I don't think Japan's sex industry is any different, but you're more likely to get a sex for money offer from Jr. High School girl in Shibuya than from a geisha.

I think geisha represent the polygamist past of Japan more than they represent prostitutes. Even one generation ago, many men had many women with whom they had children. One of my good friends has over 40 siblings, many of the mothers are geisha. Japan is still very arranged marriage oriented and until recently was almost entirely so. What was really happening in a marriage was two families negotiating a relationship that was solidified in the exchange of children. The geisha and other mistresses were often treated at part of the large extended family and were treated well and often publicly recognized. The children were not as recognized as the official children, but were also treated with a great deal of respect.

The geisha have gone through a variety of changes in their roles in the past and are now totally different from where they started out. I think the height of the geisha's role was when poor families would sell their young women to the okiya and the okiya would provide young women to the tea houses to take care of the powerful men. The powerful men would choose from these maiko their favorites and sponsor them to be geisha. The power men would support the geisha financially and indirectly the traditional dance and arts that the geisha performed. These days, people don't "sell" their children so most geisha become geisha to learn the tradition and to meet interesting people. Most people who go to tea houses can not afford to be a full sponsor of a geisha and corporate expense accounts pay for most of the drinks. People still sponsor geisha but it only usually works when both are truly in love and in many cases, this turns into a true marriage.

So, there are a lot of bars and even tea houses that are about prostitution. In fact there is even a service in Gion that provides prostitutes who double as geisha to tea houses for the foreigners who come to Kyoto thinking that geisha are prostitutes and insist on having sex. On the other hand, the bars that have evolved from the traditional tea houses and the old tea houses in Kyoto are still fairly legitimate places for people to meet future wives and for women to look for future husbands outside of the arranged marriage system.

I forget her name now, but there is a female academic who asserts that monogamy is a plot by the weak and poor men in Japan to get their fair share of women. She blames the drop in birthrates in Japan on this. She said that she would rather be the second wife of a wealthy man than the first wife of a poor man and that there weren't enough good men to go around now. ;-)

And as I said at the beginning of this post. I have a very torn moral stance here. I don't think it is fair that women are not treated equally in Japan and the "tradition" is not supportive of women's' rights. On the other hand, there are a lot of amazing things that tradition supports including a great deal of art and culture. The "value" of a man probably should not be defined by their wealth or their political influence. On the other hand, having children that you can't support is probably not a responsible thing to do. Then we can later about whether the fact that there are men who can't support their children is the fault of society or the men...