J Stands for Jordan

April 1, 2008

When I saw this week’s assignment, to explore the blogging culture of a country that starts with the same letter as your name, I immediately thought of Japan.  I’ve always been interested in Japanese history and culture and Japan is certainly a place people around the world identify with modern technology.  When I went to Global Voices Online, I actually only had two other choices, anyway: Jamaica and Jordan.

Japan certainly had a lot of entries on a wide range of topics.  Some of the posts were political.  There was a post about the failure of “Second Life” in Japan.  Others focused on sports.  While there was a lot to read, nothing really stood out as being that different from what one would expect from Western bloggers. 

When I went back to the site today, a story on GVO’s home page caught my eye.  Jordan’s Queen Rania is using YouTube to create a dialogue on differences between the Middle East and the rest of the world.  Her Majesty, who is clearly contending with the late Princesses Grace and Diana for the Hottest Royal by Marriage title, wants web users, especially young web users, to submit not only their questions about the Middle East, but to also share stereotypes about the region in the form of vlogs. Between now and August 12, i.e., International Youth Day, the queen will address the submissions with, she hopes, input from others in the online community. 

This might seem insignificant to a nation who saw all of their 2008 presidential candidates grilled on national television by random YouTube users.  Another entry from Jordan, discussing the conflict in the region over Valentine’s Day, puts Queen Rania’s idea into more significant context.  What the Western world takes for granted as a simple, even silly way for one human being to express their love for another is officially shunned in several countries in the region.  Those who disagree have found a way to voice their dissent through blogging.  One such person, “Shopaholic Q8eya,” did so with the following blog entry:  “And they say this is the religion of ease!!  Where is the ease in this?  If this is your religion, I don’t want it!!”.

We tend to think of the Internet’s ability to bring people together in a very casual light.  We fool around on Facebook and Myspace and use blogging to laugh at a politician’s misstep or a celebrity’s horrible outfit or as a learning tool in a class we freely elected to take.  People in other parts of the world have adopted blogging as a way, perhaps the only way, to freely share their thoughts, feelings and opinions with compatriots and foreigners alike.  Queen Rania’s adoption of YouTube, vlogging and online communication in general is a brave attempt to break down, figuratively and literally, international barriers to communication and an important step in applying real meaning to the first two of the three “Ws” we type on a daily basis. 

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