Researchers of the Future

Last Thursday I met up with Dr. Lyn Jeffery, Research Director of the Institute of the Future and co-author of the excellent blog Virtual China. I invited her to stop by ChinesePod HQ to see what it was all about. Since what we’re doing over there is the “education of the future,” Dr. Jeffery was very interested in ChinesePod.

Accompanying Dr. Jeffery was Dr. Deborah Fallows, Senior Research Fellow at Pew Internet & American Life Project.

At lunch we chatted about internet usage, Chinese BBSes vs. American blogs, the China Blog List, our blogs, and other things. You know… the future. (The future is clearly very nerdy.)

At the time I opined that the Chinese probably prefer BBSes in general because blogging is very much an individual activity, putting one person in the spotlight, whereas BBSes offer a sense of collective security. Sure, BBSes can get shut down too, but no one person is likely to be targeted for action if the BBS members keep the scope of their comments within certain limits. Bloggers, on the other hand, are taking more of a risk. I admitted, though, that I’m no expert on Chinese BBSes, nor do I even read them often at all. I’m no Sam Flemming.

I later talked about this issue with a Chinese friend whose job in Shanghai is intimately related to the internet. He had a less political take on the issue. He felt the Chinese prefer BBSes because blogs are seen as private. BBSes are public forums, places where you can post something that can be read by thousands if you write something worth reading. Sure, blogs can be read by thousands too, but a lot of time and hard work is required to build up that kind of readership, and many just aren’t interested.

I consider myself very priveleged to be in a time and place where I can do work that appeals to me and just really stimulates me creatively and intellectually. It’s all part of the crazy exciting China feeling. Next week there will be a new editor to help me out with some of the day-to-day academic work at ChinesePod, so that will free me up for more creative and progressive work.

Frank Yu set up the meeting, and I thank him for that. It was good to see him when he visited from Beijing for ChinaJoy recently.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. John, I also just read this entry. No wonder you are so excited about being in China now. It’s the forefront of a lot of exciting happenings! Neat that you get to meet knowledgeable people in related fields. I followed the link to Sam Fleming. He looks like a young guy too in the midst of more neat stuff. Have you met him yet?

  2. Hey John
    I am listening to your episode “Discussing Photography” on ChinesePod. It’s awesome! The only thing I am sensing is that that’s probably good for learning English rather than Mandarin. Your spoken Mandarin is not bad at all, which doesn’t surprise me. The conversation between Jenny and you is super funny. wow…..golden ratio ……

    “ji4 shu4 is more related to technique in terms of knowledge”said John

  3. Marilynn,

    I met Sam Flemming once at a Shanghai blogger meetup last year (I think). It was right before his business (CIC Data) officially launched.

  4. Marco,

    Better for learning English than for learning Mandarin? How can that be, when it’s at least 90% in Mandarin?? You mean for you personally?

  5. Maybe, at least I was not feeling I was learning Mandarin. I mean, you spoke too little Mandarin. That’s not supposed to be Jenny’s talk show,right?I guess more explainations on your side would be great. Jenny was talking so much and I was not sure audience can understand since she simply didn’t have any explaination on what she was saying expect those picked words

  6. Marco,

    At that level we purposely have Jenny talking more because she’s a native speaker. I’m not a native speaker and I’m not even a Dashan, so it’s better for the students to hear Jenny’s Chinese more than mine.

  7. Da Xiangchang Says: August 14, 2006 at 1:19 am

    Hahaha, I just listened to a few of the ChinesePod recordings. They’re pretty good and quite practical. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say when John speaks in English, he sounds like he occasionally has a leer on his face.

  8. I like all the Chinese in the podcasts, now. I think I’m starting to get pretty used to Jenny’s accent. Next time I venture out of Taiwan and head north again, I think I’ll be able to understand 99% of what all you funky Shanghaiers (and Shanghailaowai) say.

  9. Yes, knowing John, I know that his English has a sly tone of ironic critique hidden beneath the earnest floridian facade.

    If he were text, he wouuld have curly quotes hovering around him whenever he “spoke”.

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