Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Further Afield: Hong Kong

Hi from Hong Kong! I’m enjoying a short stay here at the end of my month of research, taking in one of the most interesting cities in the world and still managing to get a little more work done.

The view from my 19th floor hotel window, looking north to the "mid-levels."
 I arrived in Hong Kong yesterday with one goal: talk to some of the people behind the Weiboscope project at Hong Kong University. As I mentioned in my earlier post, my own research deals with online public opinion, and Weiboscope is probably the biggest name out there for public research into the China’s Sina Weibo social media platform. I’ve been working with my own set of data from Sina Weibo, and today I was very pleased to be able to compare notes with one of the individuals responsible for working on Weiboscope. He was able to give me a number of useful tips as I consider how to analyze my own data and also had some information to share about the HKU team’s experience collecting this data across a number of years. It was a relatively short visit to HKU but definitely worth my time.
The original main building at HKU.
A lotus pond dedicated to Sun Yat-Sen, with a statue of the man himself at left.

Since I didn’t have any further work appointments today, I took the time to wander around the university and the city for a bit. This is my second trip to Hong Kong, but my first was a brief couple of days staying in Kowloon nearly ten years ago. This time I’m staying on and exploring Hong Kong Island itself, which is a very cool place to be if you enjoy cities. To me, Hong Kong feels like the vertical scale (and grit!) of Manhattan built on the street plan of London, populated mainly by Chinese and some other Asian nationalities (Korean, Vietnamese, Indian etc.) with a notable Western minority. It really is a unique mix. It also has an interesting geography in which the original city and downtown area, now called “Central” as in “Occupy Central,” is built on a thin strip of land and reclaimed harbor wedged between the water and the island’s mountain, Victoria Peak. This makes it easy to orient yourself – downhill is north, uphill is south! – but can also make it a bit of a hike to get around if you’re headed in the wrong direction. On the other hand, east-west transportation is ably served by the Hong Kong MTR Island Line, easily one of the finest subways in the world.

For my explorations, this meant simply walking east since I’m staying at the west end of the island. The sheer density is both entrancing and overwhelming. Countless tiny Chinese congee restaurants, noodle shops, electronics stores and pharmacies are packed in between Japanese fine dining, Indian lunch buffets, luxury outlets, and all the other trappings of globalization like 7-Eleven, Starbucks, etc. Looking down an alley between two buildings reveals lanes of stalls with every kind of knick-knack for sale, and crowds of people rush to catch double decker buses that drive on the left. An eclectic mix, to say the least. The fact that despite a decade of Mandarin Chinese study I can’t speak a word of Cantonese, the main language here, only adds to the experience. It simply doesn’t feel like anywhere else in the world, Chinese, British, or otherwise. And at night, it has what must be the greatest skyline on the globe.

A typical view looking up one of Hong Kong's narrow streets.
It's not all buildings and people: here's some natural beauty away from the city itself, on Lantau Island.
Anyway, you probably get the picture! It’s a city worth a visit.

I’m happy to be heading back to the US on Friday. Overall, this has been an extremely successful research trip with nearly 25 interviews conducted in 30 days across three different cities, along with getting a lot of great feedback on a research paper presented in Shanghai with Prof. Dickson. Thanks again to the Sigur Center for the invaluable support!

No comments:

Post a Comment