How is Patpong like Azeroth?

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More than a few months ago I was wandering around Patpong with some colleagues, exploring the infamous sex club and street bazaar district of Bangkok. There were five of us threading through the streets, one of whom used to live and work in Bangkok serving as our guide. The street hawkers were thick and determined, and it quickly became clear that it was important to travel in a pack, pulling each other along. When one person would lag behind, they were quickly snared by an enthusiastic vendor, gently tugged by the arm to the side of the alley, out of the fast-moving current of people. Another of the group would eventually notice the missing member and halt the group, turn around and fetch the straggler.

After an hour or so of this it occurred to me that walking through Patpong resembled nothing so much as wandering into a new area of World of Warcraft with friends who were a few levels below the level of the beasties inhabiting the realm. It’s crucial — and only seems like proper etiquette — to keep an eye out for the level 18 rogue when the crocs crowding the path are level 20 and above. Turn your back for too long and the stragglers get snared, pulled down and chomped, and then you’ve got to wait while they run all the way from the graveyard back to their body.

I can’t say as I ever expected to consider the question ‘How is Patpong like Azeroth?’. But I do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the ecology of technical artifacts within which people live — mobile phones and games and internets — and how that ecology evolves from pre-existing patterns of how people communicate, get information, navigate their world.

So this is a blog about technical artifacts, their social meaning within people’s lives, and how these objects, usage patterns, and relationships play out in a variety of global contexts. Oh, and pictures.

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