Japanese author Haruki Murakami is equally well known as a massive jazz fan. Before he embarked on a writing career, he ran a jazz club in Tokyo for 7 years. The reason was, as he explained here and there many times, one and simple: it enabled him to listen to jazz from morning to night. Indeed, he has also written a lot about jazz. I once read him going as far as to say that he believes, from his own experience, that there must be a god of jazz somewhere out there managing to make events look like they are all coincidences but in fact signalling what jazz numbers are to be listened to at a given moment. (I am pretty sure that I read this in a Korean translation of やがて哀しき外国語 [And Then, The Sorrowful Foreign Language], but I don’t have the copy with me now and hence no page numbers for reference. He has played with this idea in several other pieces too anyway.)
Where am I going with this? Sometimes I experience something similar. As you might have noticed, I don’t post very often at this blog. But then suddenly, there is a moment when I come to realisation that a hundred little things around me are altogether pointing me to a certain direction, which usually end up becoming a blog post.
A couple of days ago, within the same day, I encountered the following stories one after another.
- Kevin McGee, former civil partner of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, was found dead in his flat in Edinburgh. It was concluded as a suicide based on, among other things, his last Facebook status “Kevin McGee thinks death is much better than life”, which was updated 3 hours before the time of death.
- Two rappers, Ishmael McLean and Rowan Simon, were found guilty of trying to pervert the course of justice, for they placed, on YouTube with links to MySpace and Facebook, a song warning witnesses off talking to the police regarding a fatal shooting incident they had been arrested but not prosecuted for.
- The High Court gave permission for an injunction to be served via Twitter.
Two things out of these. First, these incidents illustrate how much Web 2.0 services have permeated our everyday life. (Incidentally, believe it or not, it was also the day when I was approached to for some freelance media analysis work and the employer told me that one of their Twitter followers had recommended me to them in response to their notice.) Second, the more I observe, the more fascinated I become by the mutual shaping of legal institutions and new ICTs. In Korea, for example, the ‘conflict’ between the existing regulatory factors and Internet political activity has been manifested on quite a few occasions. Some of such are covered in my thesis, and other examples include the recent arrests of bloggers and other participants to Internet-initiated political mobilisation. As I also argued in my latest article (Woooo, self-citation!), Web 2.0 does not necessarily signify a linear progression towards a higher level of interactivity and of citizen participation despite technological affordances, and – in the Korean context at least – the existing institutional dynamics has been a major hindering factor (2009: 322).
In his work titled “Korea’s Crisis of Success,” Byung-Kook Kim (1997, pp. 130–131) argues that the poor health of Korean party politics after the democratic transition is due to the lack of viable new “software” for running the “hardware” instituted and consolidated since 1987. Kim’s argument has nothing to do with the Internet, let alone Web 2.0, but a useful parallel can be drawn from it. To paraphrase him, Web 2.0 has not presented a linear progression towards a higher level of interactivity and of citizen participation in the Korean case, because the country’s market dynamics as well as its institutional dynamics (“software”) are not in keeping with its rapid technological and infrastructural development (“hardware”), and this somehow hinders creative interpretations of Web 2.0 on the part of individual users.
I don’t want to sound like a degree junkie, but you see this is why I have been contemplating doing a course in Law at some point in the near future.