From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fieldnotes From History (13)—Property Rights

[a] Property RF
Part of an occasional Round and Square series that follows the blog’s main theme (east meets west, round meets square, and past meets present), these snippets from my early fieldnotes are reproduced as they were written by hand—and then revised on an ancient desktop computer—during my first fieldwork stay in Taiwan (1985-1987).  All entries are the way that I left them when I returned to the United States in 1987—some nicely-stated and some embarrassing. Although the series began with my assumption that the entries can stand alone, I have found that separate comments and notes might help readers understand a world that is now, well, history. These are always separate from the original fieldnote.

[b] AppleMan RF
This second in a series of three notes takes the implications of the first one (#12) and moves it to a very different kind of "copying" in Taiwan in the mid-1980s. I developed this way of "cutting" fieldnotes early on, and I still find it useful. From my perspective, a useful fieldnote should explore one (specific) idea as fully as possible. I often tell students that a footnote can be as brief as a paragraph (150-200 words) and as long as about 1,000 words. After that, it is starting to become something else—a letter (which is what mine became "next" in the process), an essay, or a blog entry. Clearly, I am just beginning to find my way here, and what I read below is a little clumsy and (again) annoyingly "breezy." Still, it would be just as impossible to write about Taiwan in 1985 without piracy as it would be to ignore the smog. I had only been on the island for a month by the time I wrote this, but I was noticing it everywhere.

WordStar. You had to be there.
John McPhee. Just an example (but one of the great nonfiction writers of his generation). 
16-bit processor. Click.

Related Fieldnotes: 1   2    3
18 May 1985
Taipei     (2 of 3)

In themselves, the perspectives in the last note are fascinating, and can help people understand what appears to be copying in a cultural light. But here in Taiwan the principle has spun out of control. Far from quietly emulating past masters to achieve desired artistic effects, Taiwanese free-enterprisers have invoked the principle and practice of emulation to make a fast buck. Their guru lies West, and his mantra is p-r-o-f-i-t. 

Taiwanese companies shamelessly copy, plagiarize, and pirate Western materials. If you want an American bestseller you can find it here for about a quarter of the price in the United States. The author won’t get any royalties, you can be sure. They even keep the foreign press names and jacket blurbs (“this is Mr. McPhee’s eighteenth book for Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux”), possibly to preserve the aura of authenticity and possibly because it didn't seem to matter. Computer hardware and software are also widely pirated. A word processing program (WordStar; I’m using it now) that costs $600.00 in the United States can be purchased for about $5.00. 

There are a passel of IBM and occasionally Apple “compatible” computers on the island, all claiming to be full-fledged sixteen-bit systems. Some of them are. Many of them are in the two-bit category. If you visit a computer store, the first thing the manager will ask you, once he sees that you are a foreigner, is whether you plan to use the system here or take it overseas. If you want to take it home with you, he’ll point you to the more expensive (still inexpensive by American standards) systems that stand a chance of getting across the border.
[c] Intense RF

No comments:

Post a Comment