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’Net Junkie

Shawn "Speedy" Lopes

Monday, July 29, 2002


‘Asian’ is in eye of beholder

"Chinese. Japanese. Korean. What's the difference?" asks www.alllooksame.com, an intriguing Web site that tests a Webcrawler's ability to differentiate between various Asian ethnic groups. "Some say it's easy to see. Others think it's difficult -- maybe even impossible. Who can really tell?" Well, those of us born in Hawaii like to think we can. I mean, come on, we all were raised on sushi and kal bi, learned Japanese words by watching Kikaida and set off Chinese-made fireworks every New Year, Chinese New Year and Fourth of July. We knew Tamlyn Tomita was miscast in "The Joy Luck Club" movie, even if no one else in the country did.

All Look Same is the brainchild of Dyske (Daisuke?) Suematsu, Web wizard and creative director of KSK Design. The idea, as he explains on his site, came to him after a discussion with his girlfriend, who, although Caucasian, found it more difficult to identify Caucasians by ethnicity than she did Asians. Conversely, Suematsu, who had spent the past 15 years in the U.S., admits to having trouble telling Asian ethnic groups apart.

He also offers a few humorous anecdotes on his experiences in America with race and perception. Years ago, as a teenager and newcomer to these shores, he followed a P.E. instructor into the wrong class (after all, his teacher also had blond hair and a mustache), and once, while visiting a friend's apartment, a nosy neighbor asked him to which unit he was delivering Chinese takeout.

The test consists of trying to correctly identify the ethnicity of each person pictured. (Before reading any further, go to the site and take the test yourself.)

OK, when I took the test, I thought subjects 2, 9, 10, 13 and 18 exhibited classic Korean features, yet I was wrong each time. I also misidentified No. 14, a middle-aged Korean gentleman, as being Chinese. However, I would have staked my life on Nos. 7 and 15 as being Chinese and woman No. 12 as Korean, and those selections were dead on. I also figured the two hip blond kids were Japanese, and I was right both times.

My official score was 11 out of 18, which earned me a "Pretty Good" mark by the Web site's standards. "You may have a talent," said my report card. Still, the score was not as good as I'd hoped, but considerably better than the average score of 7.

A pretty interesting site overall, I'd say, and to those who wonder whether they should take offense to the opening query, Suematsu reminds them: "alllooksame is not a statement. It's a question."




Net Junkie drops every Monday.
Contact Shawn "Speedy" Lopes at slopes@starbulletin.com.



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