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.

Advertisements

“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.

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. 😀

Digital natives, I bow to you. [2]

Last night I was video chatting with my mum and one of my sisters. My 24-month-old niece was with them and busy navigating YouTube on my mum’s phone while we were chatting through Skype on my sister’s phone. I was desperately trying to win my niece’s attention, waving and saying “Hi, your big auntie here” non-stop in a pantomime manner.

She proved to be too cool to respond to this imposition though. She cast a brief look and simply minimised the Skype app away. With one aloof tap. My mum and sister ROFL’ed. Me? I was jaw-droppingly impressed and feeling a little rejected at the same time. 😦

We hear a lot about the digital mastery of children and young people. I follow the latest developments in the field with interest. Among what I enjoyed reading most recently are Sonia Livingston’s comments on the YouTube Kids scandal and David M. Perry’s “How to teach a cyborg“. 

In the meantime, Livingstone recommends keeping an eye on children’s YouTube binges. “It depends on the age and resilience or vulnerability of the child, of course, but the best advice is occasionally to share an interest with your child on YouTube,” she says. “Don’t always look over their shoulder, or check up on them secretly,” but watch with them to see how they go about using the app and how they react to what they view. And make sure to turn on restricted mode for some basic protections.

Because while it’s Google’s responsibility to do better, at this rate, your toddler may well be a teenager by the time Silicon Valley admits it’s time to hire human moderators to make up for algorithmic failures.

Having an understanding based on second-hand accounts, however, means that certain things will always be difficult to imagine. For example, it didn’t come to my mind until the second sister told me that in order to fulfil the Santa role successfully this time, she had to make sure there were no shopping traces on the phone and the tablet in the lead up to Christmas. !!!!!

Archive fever – Christmas special

So that I can read again and again – the entire thread as well as all replies. ❤

In the meantime, at another corner of the world. 😀

As far as I am concerned, I think of this tweet around this time every single winter. Not the song but the tweet.

Metaphors we live by

Last month I kept thinking about the following passage from A Torture by Hope, a 19C conte cruel by a French writer Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam.

And, while the Rabbi Aser Abarbanel, his eyes convulsed beneath his eyelids, choked with anguish between the arms of the ascetic Dom Arbuez, realising confusedly that all the phases of the fatal evening had been only a calculated torture, that of Hope!, the Grand Inquisitor, with a look of distress, an accent of poignant reproach, murmured in his ear, with the burning breath of much fasting: “What, my child! On the eve, perhaps, of salvation… you would then leave us?” [emphasis added]

I know I am being overdramatic here, but it did feel a little like a “torture by hope” to be waiting to hear back about a project proposal that two colleagues and I had put together and be told that the review results would come out later than originally announced.

In short, we have now been granted what is called a “seed corn fund”. Some might find the amount modest. Others might be more concerned with the fact that the money comes with the not-so-subtle pressure of getting out there to yield a real harvest. As for me, I was simply ecstatic to hear the news. I had my heart set on it solely for the name – the sweet metaphor for potential and possibilities. I really am a sucker for metaphors.

In this confusing world, you are my familiar.

A quick post to record an interesting conversation I had with a colleague, Alison, a few days ago. We were talking about how smartphones seemed to have lowered access barriers for older generations. She then shared this insightful observation that our smartphones are now like our familiars, as in His Dark Materials. I have come across mobile phones being likened to cigarettes and pets, but this one is an unbeatably fascinating addition to that list of analogies.

We ship you and we ship you hard.

More often than not, people ask me whether in Korea or here I feel more at home. This is a question that I don’t think I will ever have a definite answer for. In fact, throughout my life, both personally and professionally, I always find myself somewhere between two worlds. On good days, I feel lucky that I am getting the best of both. On not-so-good days, I am reminded that I belong to neither.

I am also convinced that ‘bridging’ two worlds is what I do best. I am not sure which came first though. Do I get drawn to such in-between positions because that’s where I shine, or have I become better at it out of necessity? Dunno, so I have jokingly concluded that that must be because I was born on a cusp.

In-betweenness, of course, doesn’t mean an exact half point. More of sliding back and forth, I maintain. That said, it has recently struck me that my behaviour is that of a complete outsider when it comes to consuming Hallyu products. I have discovered that it is *addictive* fun to hang out among international fans of K-dramas. And the present post is to jot down a few notes from this accidental ethnography.

# The content is available outside Korea almost in real time – on video streaming sites such as Viki, but Korean TV stations upload soundbites one by one on their respective YouTube channels as the latest episodes are being aired within the country. No considerable time lag.

# Other important places include various social media platforms, particularly Instagram (where not only hashtags but also dedicated accounts newly emerge), and K-entertainment news sites such as Soompi (where relevant news articles are translated into English and reposted – again in real time). I see this as a typical example of how an ethnographic place is now “dispersed across web platforms, is constantly in progress and changing, and implicates physical as well as digital localities” (Postill and Pink, 2012: 125).

# Most fans who frequent those places do not understand Korean, and many cry for subtitles in the comment box under official YouTube clips, but in the end, the language doesn’t seem to be a barrier. There will always be some form of crowd-subbing. More importantly, seasoned ones are already proficient in the grammar of the genre.

# Related to the previous point, multiple interactions take place under each YouTube clip, and there is no one lingua franca. Sure, English does serve for that purpose to an extent, but only to an extent.

# So, we – and I say ‘we’ here consciously – don’t necessarily understand one another, but the bond is stronger than you’d imagine. Squealing and swooning together virtually while the main couple develop their romance is the core activity. Personally speaking, I find it even more fun than the drama itself! Reminds me of the participatory viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

# On whichever social media platform, several stock phrases recur across comment sections, such as “I can’t even”, “My heart can’t take it”, “I died today”, “This couple is the end of me”, “So sweet that I will get diabetes just by watching them”, “Relationship goals”, “Where can I find a man who looks at me like he looks at her?”, “How can I move on from these two?”, “What am I going to do with my life until next week?”

# If the story unfolds as they have hoped, they thank the writer-nim and the PD-nim for listening to them. The ways in which K-dramas are produced and communicated through YouTube seem to create this impression that their wishful feedback has actually been accommodated.

# Shipping a couple is not specific to K-dramas, but what seems to be unique is that viewers are clearly conscious that it is a make-believe world. Instead, what’s important to them is ‘off-screen chemistry‘. They like seeing the couple getting along well and enjoying themselves while filming romantic scenes. When they like what they see, they demand the behind-the-scene footage of it, a.k.a. BTS. It is a common practice that the production team doles it out, alongside the actual episode. To put it another way, the front and back of the house are no longer distinguishable. It is like taking the experience to a ‘meta’ level, with a curious twist of reality TV. This was the most fascinating discovery.

# Overall, I find non-Korean fans to be more expressive and more accepting. I hypothesise that they can afford to ‘bracket off’ the ugly social context surrounding those dramas. The industry’s cruel working conditions, sexism, and homophobia, to name a few.

Rising above reality

Jeff Kaplan’s keynote at the D.I.C.E. Summit yesterday has caused a bit of buzz in my Twitter bubble, so I thought I’d check the full speech out myself. He comes up on the podium around 7:20 and stayed until 40:00.

Listening to him, I felt overwhelmingly envious of being able to build a whole new universe. The same envy I have for sci-fi and comic book writers.

Anyway, the buzz was to do with his shout-out to the National Foundation for D.Va (전디협) in Korea. 36:40 in, he says:

At the end of January, we saw something very special happen. There was an international march for women’s rights that took place all over the world, and the thing that really caught our eye was that in Seoul, Korea, during the march, somebody was flying this flag that had the symbol for D.Va, who is our character from Korea, who in some ways challenges stereotypes and in other ways embraces them.

We saw this flag flying for D.Va and we looked into it more and there was this national foundation for D.Va, which was a feminist foundation for women’s rights. What really started to fascinate me when I looked more into this, as I read their charter, was this last sentence: ‘We decided to act for feminism under her emblem, so that in 2060, someone like D.Va could actually exist‘.

Which I thought was just amazing, and this came back to that original point I was trying to make: ‘Never accept the world as it appears to be, but dare to see it for what it could be’. And that was exactly what was happening in Korea.

In no way do we aspire to be a political game. We have no political motivation whatsoever, but it’s fascinating to see that the values of the Overwatch team are now being embraced and owned by the community in their own positive way.