Lockdown #donelist [3]

Oh my goodness, this is my 10th year?! 😮I can’t believe I would have missed it without this “How it started” meme…

Lockdown #donelist [2]

At one point during the lockdown, I subtitled a Korean superhero animation film in English. Not my usual gig, but I had to do it. Yes, the director is someone I know personally and admire, but the real-real reason was that my namesake features as a complex villain in it. Could be my alter ego. 😈

The film is going to be screened at BIAF 2020 next month in the International Competition category.

Either invisible or hypervisible. Nothing in between.

A team of colleagues have just released a report that shares the findings and policy recommendations from their six-year-long project “Re/presenting Islam on Campus“. I wasn’t part of the original team, but I became quite closely involved in the project over the last two years and, in the end, named in several places of the research outputs.

The report has attracted a lot of media attention and heated debate within the span of a week alone. Too much to archive here, so I am just gonna list some of the pieces written by the team.

I am not actively contributing to the online debate myself, but if I were to summarise the 68-page report, the title of this post would be it.

When not sharing is caring

I have had a piece of good news, but have been having an irreconcilable inner conflict about sharing it, online or otherwise. Initially I thought the reluctance had all to do with my Confucian upbringing, but after having been mulling over, my conclusion is that it has in fact more to do with my line of work.

I am aware that there are different schools on whether we can choose (certain) identities. Not sure if being a PhD student is an identity one is allowed to choose, especially after a decade since receipt of the award, but I certainly symphasise a lot with what PhD students are going through in the current HE environment. I have spent more than a decade surrounded by PhD students, first as a student myself and later as someone who walks alongside. As an apparent consequence of that, it sometimes feels like I haven’t really graduated emotionally. Not yet ‘ascended’, to borrow words from one of the former students.

So, when I noticed a recurrent theme in #ECRchat of how the social media announcements of new jobs, promotions, and grant wins by those already in secure positions make precarious early career academics feel, I thought the least I could do is not to add on.

Then where is my dilemma? I have been ‘archiving‘ my thoughts and experiences on this blog for more than a decade and I am intending to carry on. Well, I guess sharing it here should be okay as it has a minuscule readership. 🙂 

With all being considered, this post is a low-key celebration of the fact that this summer I have been promoted to a Senior Lecturer in Research Methodology [Associate Professor in the US] and that today one of the two modules that I have built with my bare hands from scratch has gone live. 🎉

Challenge accepted [2]

I created a Twitter account in 2007, but have always been a half-hearted user. The reason has been quite simply the restriction on message length. However, in the age of TLDR, being able to summarise research findings in one or two tweets seems to be an increasingly useful skill. So, here we go, my attempts.

# […] The thesis was that the Internet is as much a ‘metaphor’ as a technology, and successful e-campaigns have been those tapping into the former discursively (rather than the latter logistically). (9 March 2019)

# […] News articles that attracted a large amount of reactions from readers and articles that drew *divisive* reactions were two distinct groups [in our new Quality & Quantity piece]. (23 April 2019)

A gendered tale from South Korea

Global Digital Futures – E09. Molka and Online Violations of Women in South Korea

I was honoured to be invited to the SOAS Coding Club, a student-led radio station on campus, the first tech one at that, last week to talk about the ongoing molka epidemic in South Korea. When the host Chipo and I were discussing a possible podcast on my latest essay on the subject and picking a date for recording, obviously we didn’t know that our conversation would be aired amid newer and bigger scandals such as a K-pop idol and his involvement in running a club that has been alleged to be a ‘date rape hub’, another K-pop celebrity being caught for years’ worth of sharing of his sex videos (filmed without his partners’ knowledge) with fellow celebrities for male bonding, and the arrests of two men for secretly filming 1,600 hotel guests and streaming the footage live as pay-per-view porn.

There is so much to process here, but in the meantime, I have listened to the full 26 minutes of recording – despite the inevitable cringe that comes from listening to one’s own voice!!! – and realised two errors I made that I would like to iron out.

  • I should have said passers-by, not passer-bys. (15:52)
  • It was the Prime Minister’s Office that tweeted out those ridiculous anti-molka cartoons, not the Ministry of the Interior and Safety [let alone Internal Affairs]. (19:40)

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)