This is an old clip but a funny way to end the year. Stephen Colbert raps a challenge to Korean mega-pop sensation Rain, and "sings in Korean."

Do signs of Western envy of Asia convey growing attraction?

December 31, 2007

All three links generate Olympic excitement:

1. The official website of Beijing's five adorable Olympic mascots , collectively known as Fuwa and whose names form the sentence, "Welcome to Beijing" (bei jing huan ying ni).

2. Construction photos of the incredible National Swim Center, also known as the Bubble (link found on Virtual China).

3. Beijing billboards feature "Olympic 10 Dos and Don'ts." According to Danwei, these include "Respect Olympic Intellectual Property / Don't trade in counterfeit goods", "Save the beauty of the city and its surroundings / Don't spit anywhere", and "Promote the awareness of the Olympic regulations / Don't break the law with disregard to the broader impact ".

December 27, 2007

A survey of Chinese and American youth conducted by IAC/InterActiveCorp and WPP's JWT advertising agency found that Chinese youth under 25 exceed American youth in at-home high speed Internet access, ownership of computer phones and digital and video cameras.

"In China, 86% of young people feel they live some part of their lives online."

The Wall Street Journal connects this study with Motorola's heavy promotion of its Q smart phone using a cool Chinese animation figure named Tuzki, and with IAC's recent investment of $100 million in the Chinese internet.

December 20, 2007

This past month saw an unprecedented infusion of Asian capital into the West's leading financial institutions. Sovereign wealth funds from China, Singapore and Abu Dhabi have spent tens of billions of dollars acquiring shares of distressed U.S. and Swiss blue chip finance companies including Morgan Stanley, UBS, Citigroup, and Merrill Lynch. With a headline "Great Wall Street of China," the Wall Street Journal reports that this is the first time that Chinese companies and the government bought more overseas than foreign buyers have invested in China."

With shrinking credit, massive write-offs and talk of a recession, how can American companies make themselves look more attractive to Asian buyers? Can foreign ownership spur transformation and further globalization in the world's largest companies?

December 20, 2007

The New York Times reports on the growing popularity of the zebibah in Egypt, a dark circle of calloused skin on the forehead. Placement of the circle is where the forehead touches the prayer rug in daily ritual. While Egypt in the twentieth century was a leader of pan-Arab secular nationalism, now Egyptian men are taking to wearing the zebibah as a counterpart to women's wearing the hijab, a scarf covering hair and ears.

The NYT reporter compares this facial mark, and rumors that it can be created without prayer, to how workaholic Americans proudly wore dark lines under their eyes as evidence of long work hours and little sleep. In this time of United States primary campaigns, a more apt comparison might be to the repetitive invocations of Christianity by all major candidates, a display of religiosity that would surprise those in other advanced economies and many emerging ones.

What forms could physical and persistent piety take in mobile and digital technologies? Could a telephone exterior mirror its owners' skin? Could a text message conjure identity and community with recognizable codes?

December 20, 2007

As the seemingly mandatory Christmas shopping period climaxes, it is interesting to note how early young children adopt new technology. An NPD Funworld survey shows average adoption age dropping more than one year from 2005 to 2007: with portable digital music players (8.8 years old), digital cameras (7.9 years old), CD/DVD players (6.7 years old), and computers (5.5 years old). VTech Holdings Ltm of Hong Kong has introduced the Tote & Go Laptop Plus ($22) so that those 3 and up can imitate their parents without endangering their more expensive technology.

December 19, 2007

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating front-page article describing how Chinese government and business leaders maintain their jet black hair into their 60s and beyond. The reporter claims that today's Chinese leaders are driven by emerging cultural preferences for youth and public displays of health.

A photo of President Hu Jintao appears to confirm the report. Additional evidence is given in quotes from industry leaders and a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, in pharmacies promoting shou wu, an herbal liver and kidney formula, and in famed Hong Kong star Jackie Chan fronting Bawang Shampoo for "black and intact" hair. All this stands in contrast to the many, many gray-haired seniors I observed on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai.

Does this Chinese modern male fashion represent a break with traditional respect for elders? If head-shaving is a sign of Buddhist renunciation, is hair-coloring a sign of business abilities? With gray hair in the leaders of the United States, Japan and India, is China pursuing a unilateral coiffure direction?

December 11, 2007

''You want to make sure you're looking at what you think you're looking at,'' Robinson said.

58,000 gallons of bunker fuel poured into the San Francisco Bay after the Cosco Busan, a 900 foot container ship, crashed into the Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007. How did this occur despite high-tech navigation equipment and local pilots on board the ship? Apparently the local pilots have decades of experience, but the international ships do not have standard radars and electronic navigations systems. To add to the confusion, there is frequently a language barrier between international ship captains and local pilots. How will these ecological disasters be prevented in the future?

December 6, 2007

Tokyo now offers the world a new geek fetish-- "eye-glass and suit" bars set up to look like a company president's office and staffed by attractive men wearing suits and eyeglasses. The bars provide a simulation of an executive environment, complete with a detailed organizational chart that assigns wait staff to corporate functional groups such as PR and marketing.

A make-believe environment that caters to real customers and emergent styles raises several questions relevant to mixed reality, where virtual and physical spaces collide. What does it mean to exclusively cater to female customers and desires? What makes geeks so appealing to women viewers? What elements do work and leisure environments draw from each other?

November 26, 2007

From Beyonce to Sonic Youth and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, United States musicians are touring China. Musical super-stars and underground bands are going to China for touring revenue, not CD sales. Given rampant piracy in China, the music market there provides insight into the future of the global music business, where CD sales shrink in importance, while touring, merchandising and endorsements provide new sources of revenue. Beyond music, this story also points to China's emerging role as new and voracious consumers of the global economy's goods and services, including advanced aeronautics, extracted minerals, mobile handsets and world-wide tourism.

November 25, 2007

Media mogul Barry Diller's IAC, InterActiveCorp, will invest $100 million in China. IAC is the parent company of and Citysearch. How will IAC fare in Round 2 of U.S. internet investment in China? Round 1 already saw Silicon Valley biggest stars fail to compete with strong Chinese competitors, including Google's second place to Baidu in search, eBay's trailing Taobao in auctions, and MSN's poor performance compared to QQ in instant messaging and online community.

November 23, 2007

Tales of super-low cost computers are in the news, reflecting falling prices for new consumer products in advanced countries as well as the multi-year One Laptop Per Child effort for the developing world. The Eee PC by Asus offers 512 megabytes of memory and four gigabytes of storage for $399. For the same price, the XO from One Laptop Per Child offers another Linux-based system for $400 in advanced economies, which pays for a donated computer for a child in a developing country.

What is the impact of falling prices? One clear indication of massive changes in the computer marketplace are the reactions by Intel and Microsoft at end-runs around them through AMD chips and Linux operating systems. Intel, which does not normally retail computers, introduced a special computer for developing countries called the Classmate. Microsoft, which typically charges hundreds of dollars for its software, is now offering poor countries a special US $3 bundle of Office and Windows.

Will falling prices mean an end run around the technology giants? Will low-cost machines on open systems allow for more specialized and unexpected uses? At what age do we want children to begin using computers?

November 22, 2007

New York Times article about South Korean government's campaign against youth internet addiction, including the creation of 140 internet-addiction clinical centers, 100 hospital treatment centers and the Jump Up Internet Rescue camp with "constant surveillance."

Up to 30 percent of South Koreans under 18, or about 2.4 million people, are at risk of Internet addiction, said Ahn Dong-hyun, a child psychiatrist at Hanyang University in Seoul who just completed a three-year government-financed survey of the problem. . . up to a quarter million probably show signs of actual addiction, like an inability to stop themselves from using computers, rising levels of tolerance that drive them to seek ever longer sessions online, and withdrawal symptoms like anger and craving when prevented from logging on. . .

"It is most important to provide them experience of a lifestyle without the Internet," said Lee Yun-hee, a counselor. "Young Koreans don't know what this is like."

Does the world's most wired country foretell a global trend? What does this tell us about youth, government and culture?

November 17, 2007

Just back from Japan where I met with Fujitsu, Sony, mobile visionaries, startups and partners. In November I'll be chairing a session at the Design for User Experience conference in Chicago on November 6, and speaking with Wendy Owen at Future Trends about Mobile China and mixed reality in Miami on November 13.

November 3, 2007

Japanese design clothes and handbags to hide from criminals. People become vending machines and mail boxes, bags become manhole covers. Part of a culture of "unuseless" inventions or chindogu. New York Times writes, "Inventors say a tradition of tinkering and building has made Japan welcoming to experimental ideas, no matter how eccentric."

October 25, 2007

Multi-media installation that premiered at Pompidou Museum is now in Shanghai. You can see Jared and others talking about the future on the online version. Created by German artist Gregor Kuschmirz, and sponsored by Benetton's Fabrica.

October 19, 2007

The Velib program allows easy use of public bikes around Paris. Technology permits low-cost sharing, with impact on environment and city life. See photos on Flickr. Why doesn't every city have this? In other intelligent urban design news, San Francisco is considering RFID sensors in metered parking spots to maximize revenue and use of on-street parking, using technology created by Streetline Networks.

October 15, 2007