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Generation social media

Photos courtesy of Anja Konjicanin and Jeremy Lim

A large crowd packed into the Alice McKay Room at the downtown Vancouver Public Library last night for #NETCulture: Stories of Culture and Diversity in Social Media. The forum featured talks by social media leaders including VO contributors Ajay Puri, Zi-Ann Lum and Ray Hsu, as well as Paola V. Murillo from Latincouver and RJ Aquino from Filipino community group Tulayan.

The forum addressed two  Canadian obsessions: multiculturalism and social media. How do social media like Twitter, Facebook and Skype help diverse cultural groups get stronger? Can the power of social media be harnessed by people for whom English is a second language, or by older immigrants? Audience members from all different ethnic backgrounds and age groups were eager to find out.

"I work a lot with skilled immigrants, and I came here to learn how social media can help my clients find employment," Matt Oliver, a social media consultant, said. Kazuho Yamamoto, a community organizer who works with  Powell Street Festival and Megaphone, said she was reseraching social media and wanted to know how it's used by Vancouver's ethnically diverse population.

 Veronica Heringer is a journalist and community cultivation manager at DDB, one of Canada's largest advertising firms. Having arrived in Canada in 2009 as an ESL student, Heringer addressed the audience first.  She said  social media bolstered her career, helping her to develop new contacts in  the Latin American and Canadian communities. "Even if English is your second language, start with something that makes you feel comfortable," she advised, explaining how she gradually moved from blogging in Portuguese to English in order to cultivate a wider audience.

Zi-Ann Lum and Ray Hsu each spoke about their use of social media to cultivate the online group Way Too Azn, a response to the controversial Maclean's article "Too Asian?",  which was about the high Asian population in universities. Hsu, a creative writing teacher for Asian-Canadian literature at UBC, said his class responded to the article by creating videos and animations that were instantly sharable with hundreds of people.

Tulayan's RJ Aquino and Jay Catalan talked about the rapid growth of the Filipino community in Canada, and how Facebook allowed the group overcome "cynicism" because content on the site is shared through trusted social networks of family and friends. Jordana Mah, Editor-in-chief of Schema magazine, spoke of how she used Twitter to work with media outlets such as The Tyee and Giant Robot. She likened Twitter to a cafe pick-up: don't just approach someone right away, but linger and follow the person for awhile before contacting.

A highlight of the evening was Ajay Puri's father, Ashok, who became an avid world traveler after retirement through the use of social media. As a 67-year-old immigrant from India, he joked that he was probably not the kind of person people expect to teach others about these new tools. He talked about how he learned to use online tools from his son, and traveled around by building contacts through CouchSurfing. He encouraged people of his generation to get involved in social media, and said an openness to new mediums mattered more than typing speed or tech-savvy. 

More photos by Jeremy Lim on Flickr and

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