“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)

“Ritual technology”

Who would have thought that at a random exhibition on rice farming in a faraway land I would stumble upon what was going to be one of my favourite quotes?

This presents what French anthropologist Georges Condominas calls ‘ritual technology’ (1986) within which ritual and technology cannot be separated in order to produce the expected yield. Each tool and energy input are inextricably integrated into each task that withdrawal of either would generally result to a reduced production output.

As soon as I returned, I looked up the original source. Here is the passage.

When we look at people’s cultures from the inside, it is seen that they — ritual and technology — cannot be separated. To take once more the example of the Mnong Gar, religious activities associated with plant cultivation are indissolubly integrated into agricultural tasks. […]

Previously, I referred to these rituals under the category ritual technology (Condominas 1980). But I do realize that the expression may not be very appropriate because what I talk about really covers only an aspect of a bigger category — the notion of work.

(Condominas, G., 1986, ‘Ritual technology in Mnong Gar swidden agriculture’, in I. Norlund et al. eds., Rice Societies: Asian Problems and Prospects, pp.28-29)

Once again, you know what they say: serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.

Being human, becoming human, and ceasing being human

Was reading about a recently released PS4 game called Detroit: Become Human, and was going to add it to my list of games ‘too close to the bone’. But then it struck me that there is another, even bigger category that would accommodate this new game perfectly – i.e. popular cultural products that question what it means to be human. In my mind, The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) and The Wizard of Oz (1939) fall right into that category, so we are not talking only about the digital here.

At one point my social media timelines were peppered with the word ‘singularity’. I recall it was around the time when the films Her (2013) and Lucy (2014) came out. Sooooo, my compulsion for list-making kicks in! I am going to write down only the ones that I have seen (although not fully in some cases). I am sure there are more comprehensive, even ranked lists out there – like the time when a friend and I were talking about The Great Wall (2016) and The Last Samurai (2003) and we found there was a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the “white saviour narrative” in films – but I will add on here as I find more myself. That would be more fun for me.

What distinguishes human beings from non-human beings? Could a non-human being become human? Would they want to, as frequently imagined in popular culture? Is there a moment where a human stops being human – with extensive technological interventions into body and mind, for example? Would one person become another with such interventions? Below are a few examples of posing these questions, intentionally or unwittingly.

  • Adventures of Pinocchio (1883)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Blade Runner (1982)
  • Robocop (1987)
  • Alien Nation (1988)
  • The Quality of Life, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992)
  • The Matrix (1999)
  • Bicentennial Man (1999)
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  • I, Robot (2004)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • Dollhouse (2009 to 2010)
  • Her (2013)
  • Lucy (2014)
  • Humans (2015 to present)
  • Criminal (2016)
  • Detroit: Become Human (2018)

As long as there is wi-fi [3]

Rough translation: This is the [traditional Japanese Qinghai wave] pattern on my hubby’s handkerchief, which my son saw and said, “Wow, full of wi-fi!” Children seem to see things differently.

S: Perhaps this is evidence that there was wi-fi in those days.

Fostering interview researchers in an interview society

Challenging, no doubt, but one good thing is that there is never a shortage of resources for classroom discussions.

Fox News interview with Reza Aslan (July 2013)

Fairytale prisoner by choice: The photographic eye of Melania Trump
(Kate Imbach, Medium, 16 April 2017)

Trump gave an ‘impromptu’ interview to the NY Times. Did it grill him hard enough? (Keith Wagstaff, Mashable, 29 December 2017) — in reaction to Excerpts from Trump’s interview with The Times (The New York Times, 28 December 2017)

Uma deserves better (Anne Helen Petersen, 4 February 2018) — in reaction to This is why Uma Thurman is angry (Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, 3 February 2018)

Y’s picks this month

Not literally this month, but you know what I mean!

Rotten Apples
Like Rotten Tomatoes with a post-Weinstein twist.

A new and legal browser extension to locate open-access versions of paywalled research papers instantly.

Library Extension
A Chrome extension that helps you find books at your local library while you shop for them online.

Fltgraph [플라이트그래프]
A crowd-powered travel metasearch engine that can help you pick a ticket as per your budget, not destination. 🙂 Comparable, in a sense, to Skyscanner’s ‘Still undecided? Explore our map’ service.

On sportsing

It feels like in this household we make regular reference to this cartoon by VectorBelly.

And this time we went on.

First, Trevor Noah on American sportsing. I am certain this is not an exaggeration. This is the whole premise of Moneyball (2011)! By the way, his accounts of South African sports culture are also equally hilarious.

Next, Michael McIntyre on rugby versus football.

We then ended with the famous “This is not soccer” moment. 😀