“Fake news”, academia style

I believe the title says all. 

This is something I always mention when I do a session on literature review, but now my collection has grown too big to fit within one single slide, so here we are.


Mobility [2]

Hmmm, looks like this is going to be the third post in a row that brings up North Korea. Coincidental, but also indicative of the amount of media attention they seem to be absorbing at the moment.

Anyway, today I have come across an interesting article by journalist Joo Seong-ha. As a defector from the country himself, he offers various “thick descriptions” of contemporary North Korean life. According to Joo, apparently Bollywood has been huge in North Korea this year.

The article reminds me of a couple of other articles that I read years ago about how people of Manipur in northeast India were hooked to Korean films and soap operas.

I find such seemingly arbitrary popularity fascinating. The Al Jazeera article above says it has a lot to do with cultural proximity, but I think there still is more to it than that. 

Ripe for spoofs

Nike’s trademark has led to many spoofs. T-shirts with “Just Done It” or “I Just Can’t” are probably no longer novelties. However, its latest campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, besides the whole buzz it has created about “ethical investing” and #BurnYourNikes, has given me the gift of more snorting moments. Here are two examples. I am afraid I don’t know who their creators are; both have floated into my social media timelines.

The latter would also have been a perfect cue for me to move on to the topic of mansplaining and #immodestwomen, but that will have to be another post.

In search of a perfect analogy

I am a firm believer of the power of analogies. I rely a lot on them, not only when I am trying to explain something to others but also when I am trying to understand something myself. So, unsurprisingly, I do get a kick out of spotting a really good analogy while surfing online. I have been meaning to place all of them in one place, and am finally getting around to it today. I am on one day’s leave!

“Isn’t it great? We have to pay nothing for the barn.” (Geek & Poke, 21 December 2010; crossposted on 27 February 2012; see also “Facebook is basically designed like a lobster trap with your friends as bait” by Michael C. Gilbert, 2009, and “You are the product” by John Lanchester, August 2017, London Review of Books 39(16): 3-10)

RT @nickbilton Going to Facebook has become the equivalent of opening the fridge & staring inside, even though you’re not hungry. (29 December 2012; crossposted on 8 December 2015)

“Consent, it’s simple as tea” (Blue Seat Studios, as part of a campaign by Thames Valley Police, 12 May 2015; crossposted on 8 January 2018)

“Same reasons why in Mario Kart you don’t get blue shells or lightning bolts when you’re already in first place, assbag.” (crossposted on 19 November 2016)

“Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.” (Reddit user GeekAesthete, cited in Kevin Roose, Splinter, 21 July 2015; crossposted on 11 July 2016)

RT @halfscholar My PhD dissertation plan and how it went illustrated. (22 November 2017)

“The referendum was like making a cup of peppermint tea. You had to decide whether to leave the teabag in or take it out. If you leave it in, the cup of tea as a whole is stronger. Even though it appears that the teabag itself is getting weaker, it’s still part of a strong cup of tea. But if you take the teabag out, the cup of tea as a whole is weaker — and the teabag itself goes directly in the bin.”  (James Acaster, 2016; crossposted on 4 July 2018)

RT @anne_theriault I already have a cryptocurrency, it’s called Sephora Beauty Insider Points (20 January 2018)

RT @YankeeGunner Perfect analogy. Because that’s not a real target and you’ve put it there yourself. (26 January 2018)

“In real-world terms, a part of Facebook still sees itself as the bank that got robbed, rather than the architect who designed a bank with no safes, and no alarms or locks on the doors, and then acted surprised when burglars struck.” (Kevin Roose, The New York Times, 19 February 2018; see also Clay Bennett‘s cartoon on “security versus privacy”, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 October 2001)

RT @Theophite imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin (16 August 2018; see also “Imagine a conveyor belt sushi restaurant where everyone can see what each plate contains but no one can actually eat any”, 14 February 2018)

“나는 그러지 못했다. 내 안의 광인을 봉인 해제하기는커녕, 언제나 그러했던 것처럼 충실하게 학생 역할을 수행했다. 그리고 시간이 한참 지나서야 그것이 수치의 순간이었다는 것을 깨달았다. 나는 그때 왜 웃는 돌처럼 다소곳이 앉아 있었던 것일까? 예정에 없이 징집되지 않기 위해서 일단 심사에 통과하고 봐야겠다는 계산을 순간적으로 해낸 것일까. 아니면, 저 사람들하고 원수지고 나면 평생 학계에서 밥 빌어먹기도 어렵겠다는 판단을 한 것일까. 선생님들이 논문을 읽지 않고 저 자리에 나와 앉아 있다는 것은 나 혼자의 판단에 그칠 뿐, 그 사실을 증명하기 어렵다는 것을 체득하고 있었던 것일까. 그도 아니라면, 논문을 제대로 읽지도 않고 심사에 임할 정도의 형편없는 교수의 학생이 되고 싶지 않다는 무의식이 작동한 것일까. 확실한 것은 그 어떤 생각도 그 현장에서 의식의 수면 위로 떠오르지는 않았다는 사실이다. 나는 그저 평소처럼 행동했다. 우리는 서로 맡은 역할을 수행하여, 논문심사라는 부실한 역할극을 완성했다. 위력이 왕성하게 작동할 때는, 인생이라는 극장 위의 배우들이 이처럼 별생각 없이 자기가 맡은 배역을 수행한다. 당시 교수들도 자신이 위력을 행사하고 있으리라고는 새삼 생각하지 않았으리라. 위력이 왕성하게 작동할 때, 위력은 자의식을 가질 필요가 없다. 위력은 그저 작동한다. 가장 잘 작동할 때는 직접 명령할 필요도 없다. 니코틴이 부족해 보이면, 누군가 알아서 담배를 사러 나간다.” (김영민, 경향신문, 24 August 2018)

Last bank holiday weekend of the year

This summer I went on and on about how unbearable the weather was. The scorching sun, the drought, and above all, the lack of air-conditioning in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Now looking out the window at the all-too-familiar rain and gloom, I feel as if it was all a dream.

Anyway, while staying dry and cozy in the house the whole day today, I have been watching a few YouTube clips I had bookmarked for later, including, but not limited to, Yuval Noah Harari’s interview with Al Jazeera (August 2018), Gina Neff’s OII London Lecture “Does AI Have Gender?”, and Zeynep Tufekci’s radio appearance “Why Online Politics Gets So Extreme So Fast?”. All insightful and also all interconnected (although this was not intended on my part). This post is, nevertheless, to record one particular remark by Harari that I found amusing. From 11:59 into the video above:

My personal impression is that all these science-fiction movies about robots becoming conscious and then starting to kill people and things like that – these are not about humans being afraid of intelligent robots. Actually these movies are about men being afraid of intelligent women because if you look carefully you will see that in almost all cases the scientist who develops the robot is a man and the robot is female, like in Westworld or in Ex Machina, and these movies are actually about feminism – about this male fear that “Hey, we’ve created this thing and now it’s becoming more intelligent and more powerful than us”.


“구슬이 서말이라도 꿰어야 보배.” 선조들의 명쾌한 속담 하나가 오늘날 소셜미디어니 집단지능이니 협업이니 시민저널리즘이니 하는 것들의 가능성과 한계를 바라보기 위한 가장 유용한 틀이다. (@capcold, 17 August 2010; crossposted 27 September 2010)

특히 오늘날 같은 매체환경에서는, 건설적 논쟁이란 권투가 아닌 피겨다. 상대를 밟으면 이기는게 아니라(팬층의 성원이야 받겠지만), 두고두고 남을 퍼포먼스로 많은 제3자들을 납득시키는 것. http://capcold.net/blog/6047 의 8.참조. (@capcold, 28 February 2012)

이 편지가 번화가에 떨어져 나의 원수가 펴보더라도 내가 죄를 얻지 않을 것인가를 생각하면서 써야 하고, 또 이 편지가 수백 년 동안 전해져서 안목 있는 많은 사람들의 눈에 띄더라도 조롱받지 않을 만한 편지인가를 생각해야한다. (다산 정약용, 2009, 유배지에서 보낸 편지; crossposted 23 December 2013; see also Plato’s Phaedrus)

농담의 역학: 힘없는 사람이 힘있는 사람을 농담의 대상으로 삼는 것을 풍자(諷刺)라 말하고, 힘없는 사람이 힘없는 사람끼리 주고받는 농담을 해학(諧謔)이라 말하며, 힘없는 사람이 자신을 소재로 웃으며 농담을 던지는 것을 자조(自嘲)라 말한다. […] 힘있는 사람이 힘없는 사람을 상대로 던지는 농담을 희롱(戱弄)이라 하며, 힘있는 사람이 힘없는 사람의 이익을 탐하여 속이고 놀리는 것을 농락(籠絡)이라 하고, 힘있는 사람이 힘없는 사람을 비웃고 괴롭히는 것을 폭력(暴力)이라 한다. (@windshoes, 3 April 2014)

식당이나 길거리, 공원 등에서 셀카를 찍는 사람들의 표정이나 포즈, 행동이 과장되고 우스워 보이는 것은 그 사진이 궁극적으로 도착하게 될 가상의 공간과 그들이 현재 존재하는 현실공간이 만나는데서 생기는 불일치 때문이다. 여고생들이 입술을 삐죽이 내밀거나 우스꽝스러운 포즈를 취할 때 그들은 SNS라는 가상공간에 이미 들어가 있다. 같은 장면을 페이스북에서 보면 아무렇지도 않거나 오히려 재미있겠지만, 그런 촬영이 현실 세계에서 일어나는 장면을 목격하는 것은 어색하고 불편하다. (인문사회융합 동향, 2015년 9월, 통권 12호, p.57; see also the “heavily critiqued idea that selfies are frivolous/trivial, an assumption strongly linked w selfies being located within the terrain of young women”, @emvdn, 20 March 2018)

상호 악마화에 기여하지 않으면서도 서로 대화도 하고 논쟁도 하려면 어떻게 해야할지 고민해봤다. 상대가 이상한 말을 하면 그냥 지나치거나 댓글로 지적을 해서 이상한 말이라는걸 알리자. 적어도 자신과 다른 생각을 하는 사람이 있다는걸 알려주자. 다만 리트윗은 하지 않는다. 상대가 하는 가장 이상한 주장을 리트윗하여 내 지인들끼리 놀려먹고 악마화하는 대신, 상대가 하는 가장 똑똑하고 반박하기 어려워 보이는 주장을 퍼나른다. 그래야 내 지인들끼리 생산적인 고민을 할 수 있다. (뿅뿅이, 랟팸과 쓰까, 상호 악마화 하지 않고 대화하기, 23 June 2018)

Needlework [2]

Let me tell you a little story first. Are you familiar with the Thousand-Character Classic? That is what this story is going to be about.

The Thousand-Character Classic is a Chinese poem that was written circa the 6th century and has been used for teaching children essential Chinese characters since. It consists of exactly one thousand characters, each used only once, and those thousand characters form 250 lines of four characters. Each line makes sense on its own while the 250 together create a coherent work. Apparently they rhyme too. Nothing short of a work of genius.

There are several versions of its origin story. One I was told when I was small goes like this:

An extraordinary scholar has been sentenced to death (for some reason I can’t remember) and the execution is tomorrow. His talent is so exceptional that the emperor wants to find a way to spare his life. So he tells the scholar that he would be pardoned if before dawn he created a poem with pre-selected one thousand characters. The scholar manages to produce one such poem – as described earlier – but by the time dawn breaks his entire hair has turned complete white.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I am relating to the man so much at the moment. I am not likening myself to some legendary scholar, of course not, but it’s just that a 10K-word manuscript that I sent over for printing last night had felt like an impossible jigsaw puzzle at times.

Research writing is what I do, so I know some writing tasks come easy and some don’t. This was certainly one of the most difficult ones of which I’d had to untangle my way out. I kept thinking how Cayley (2018) was spot-on when she said: if you are struggling with your writing, you are in fact struggling with your thinking.

Anyway, in the end I have managed to pull together Cambridge Analytica, algorithms, alternative facts, hipster fascists, manosphere, the Chinese grass-mud horse, outsourced content moderators in South Asia, and the fundamental right to be let alone, together with a hundred other ‘buzzwords’ in the news, and weaved all of them into one single piece of tapestry. Tired but happy. Now I even feel a little as if I understand what’s going on in the world surrounding me a little better. … And I am convinced I have lost much hair in the process.

(Not quite related, but speaking of weaving, here is something I found fascinating
at the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila a few weeks ago
– stylised crocodile motifs from an olden time)