Thursday, May 21, 2009

Edison Chen and the Computer News Processing

One of the pleasures of my sabbatical year in Hong Kong has been reading the local English newspaper (The South China Morning Post) and getting exposed to a new universe of locally-interesting characters. Edison Chen and the Computer Technician has been my favorite story of the year. Lydia news analysis provides very interesting insights into the story and by proxy the culture here in Hong Kong.

Edison Chen, son of a local tycoon, became a Cantopop (Cantonese pop music) singer and general entertainment/media personality. Think a male Paris Hilton, with a similar set of unseemly incidents involving various fights with people and, in one case, a taxi. This explains his generally negative sentiment scores (shown above) up to January 2008, when he took his computer in for repairs and hit the big time.

The computer technician (Ho Chun Sze) found a nice collection of sex photos of Mr. Chen with several female Cantopop stars, actresses, and models (Gillian Chung, Cecilia Cheung, Bobo Chan). The technician showed them to his girlfriend, who showed them to somebody else, and then they ended up on the Internet. All of these figures show up prominently as statistically juxtaposed with Edison Chen. In the wake of this scandal, Edison Chen's sentiment score suddenly turns positive, resulting from respect for his healthy social life, approval of his apologetic behavior (including retiring from the Hong Kong scene to live quietly in Vancouver), and sympathy for the fact that he was ultimately blameless for the release of the photos.

Perhaps most interesting of all are the international heatmaps displaying the spatial reference frequency (left) and sentiment (right). The frequency map shows the most intense interest in China, with secondary interest in countries with significant Cantonese communities (Canada and Australia). Chen's Chinese name was the number 1 search term in China in 2008. The sentiment map shows a negative reputation in all countries except China!
Indeed, Chen finished second to Barack Obama in the Hong Kong Person of 2008 poll by RTHK radio, with almost 30% of the vote.

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