Makes you think

Naturally, I have been consuming a lot of reports, analyses, and opinion pieces about the COVID-19 pandemic — or rather, consumed by them — lately. The pieces listed below are ones that I do not necessarily agree with but that I can’t stop thinking about since. As always, I am placing them all in one place for my own convenient reference.

Othering the virus (Marius Meinhof, Discover Society, 21 March 2020)

The hypervisibility of Chinese bodies in times of COVID-19 and what it says about being British (Aerin Lai, Discover Society, 12 April 2020)

Why are Africa’s coronavirus success being overlooked? (Afua Hirsch, The Guardian, 21 May 2020)

Walmart workers say they face a choice: Their safety or their paycheck (Betsy Shepherd, New Orleans Public Radio, 9 April 2020)

“We’re not essential. We’re sacrificial.”

Food delivery companies share staff’s temperature readings (Madhav Chanchani, The Times of India, 10 April 2020)

Zomato and Swiggy, who are aggregators of restaurants, over the last few weeks have started highlighting restaurants that do temperature checks regularly more prominently on their applications. Rebel Foods rolled out the practice of sharing temperatures of everyone involved in making the meal last week and also plans to share a medical certificate of those involved from next week.

Covid-19 pandemic shines a light on a new kind of class divide and its inequalities (Robert Reich, The Guardian, 26 April 2020)

Sure, the velociraptors are still on the loose, but that’s no reason not to reopen Jurassic Park (Carlos Greaves, McSweeney’s, 6 May 2020)

The non-tactile world (Alex Sayf Cummings, Tropics of Meta, 5 April 2020)

The reason Zoom calls drain your energy (Manyu Jiang, BBC, 22 April 2020)

Put to the test — The sociology of testing (Noortje Marres & David Stark, special issue of the British Journal of Sociology 71(3), June 2020)

Thank God for calm, competent deputies (Sam Walker, The Wall Street Journal, 4 April 2020)

Why America can make semiconductors but not swabs (Dan Wang, Bloomberg, 7 May 2020)

Women’s research plummets during lockdown — but articles from men increase (Anna Fazackerley, The Guardian, 12 May 2020; see also: It’s so much more than cooking, Zoe Fenson, The Week, 2 October 2019)

The underlying sexism of the conversation about cleaners and Covid (Sarah Ditum, The Spectator, 14 May 2020)

How a 15,000-year-old human bone could help you through the coronacrisis (Remy Blumenfeld, Forbes, 21 March 2020)

코로나19가 드러낸 ‘한국인의 세계’ — 의외의 응답 편 (천관율, SisaIN, 2 June 2020)

Home sweet home

Everyone around me is telling me that I am pre-adapted to the lockdown lifestyle. Iron Bottom and all. Other than the constant, low-key humming of anxiety, I am indeed okay and acknowledge my privilege of being able to work from home. Whether there is a point to it⁠—well, that’s a whole other question.

Over the past two months, I have seen my fair share of all these jokes (or in-jokes) about Zoom meeting hacks (e.g. wine in a tea mug), revised dress standards (e.g. an ABC news reporter caught pantsless), seeing colleagues in a new, softer light, judging famous people by their bookcases (e.g. Owen Jones’s criticism of Michael Gove for owning a book by David Irving), and children immediately figuring out how to feign interest and attention “in gallery view”.

And apparently I am not the only one who is reminded of Goffman.

RT @BiellaColeman I wish Erving Goffman were alive to comment on this moment when parts of the back and front stage of life are blurred and performed via screen. (12 May 2020)

Once the red pill is taken [2]

Despite coming from a postcolonial society myself, I didn’t have much awareness of the decolonisation agenda, I must embarrassedly admit. I can in fact pinpoint the moment when the concept first registered in my mind. It was in 2007, in a mall in Kuala Lumpur where I was hanging out with fellow panelists after a conference and impulsively bought a book titled Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Then, to be honest, I didn’t think much about it for another few years. Now I am in an environment where hardly a day goes by without it being brought up, and this has enabled me to realise that it is a far broader battle than including non-Western books in the reading lists.

Let me share my bookmarks on this topic — style. (Remember

Geraldine Moane (1999). Hierarchical systems: Patriarchy and colonialism. In: Gender and Colonialism: Psychological Analysis of Oppression and Liberation.

Elijah Meeks (2011). Digital humanities as thunderdome. Journal of Digital Humanities 1(1).

Mark Surman (2016). “The rise of digital empires is creating a colonial vision of the internet — we have to stop it”. New Statesman, 1st September.

Olivia Solon (2018). Elon Musk: we must colonise Mars to preserve our species in a third world war. The Guardian, 11 March.

Nick Couldry & Ulises A. Mejias (2018). Data colonialism: Rethinking big data’s relation to the contemporary subject. Television & New Media 20(4): 336-349.

Jeongmin Kim (2020). Former North Korean diplomat vows to improve protection for defectors if elected. NK News, 19 February.

Han Woo Park (2020). [기고] ‘대구’를 ‘도구’로 이용하지 마라. 매일신문, 23 February.

Marius Meinhof (2020). Othering the virus. Discover Society, 21 March.

Thus, what failed in Europe is not liberal democracy but postcolonial arrogance. There was no lack of information, language ability, or time to learn what had happened in China. There was a lack of relating Chinese disasters to ‘us’, due to prevailing notions of orientalism and colonial temporality. Regrettably, Chinese state media have now started, too, to tell the story of the outbreak as a contest between ‘our’ and ‘their’ political systems rather than a natural disaster, and started to spread similar conspiracy theories as new orientalists did before. This may in turn make them underestimate the danger of a return of the virus in the coming year.

Has the game changed? [3]

Initially I thought this post was about the emergence of a new genre, but come to think of it, the genealogy goes way back to Denise Calls Up (1995), The Contact (1997), and You’ve Got Mail (1998).

Nevertheless, I have noticed a group of movies and other cultural products where our digital and multimodal ways of being are finely weaved in. Here are some, for my own reference, and I will add more.

Metaphors we live by [2]

Would your football club be better run as a co-operative? (Dave Boyle, The Guardian, 9 May 2012)

How academia resembles a drug gang (Alexandre Afonso, LSE Impact Blog, 11 December 2013)

A degree of studying — Students who treat education as a commodity perform worse than their intrinsically motivated peers (Louise Bunce, LSE Impact Blog, 15 January 2020; see also Lee & Rofe, 2016)

Universities are more like sports clubs than businesses (Richard Oliver, Times Higher Education, 15 January 2020)

Hammers and nails

On two occasions I went on record and stated that digital technology has hit women and men so differently that South Korean women’s experience of being online has more commonalities with that of women at the other end of the world than that of South Korean men living next to them. I am mindful of how sweeping this statement could sound. As a researcher, I am also mindful of the possibility of everything looking like a nail to me because I have a hammer that is gender.

I have been pondering a lot about this and at least two things are certain to me. First, this hammer came to me – How Thor! – without me even seeking it out. Second, well, I stand by the statement.

For my own continuous pondering, here is a mini collection of studies and stories on gender, technology, and borders, which I have been gravitating towards lately.

# South Korea’s online trend: Paying to watch a pretty girl eat (Frances Cha, CNN, 3 February 2014; see also “새터민 먹방” and “탈북미녀 먹방”)

# The price of shame (Monika Lewinsky, TED, March 2015; see also trolling and cyberbullying particularly prolific against female politicians, journalists, and academics)

# My first virtual reality groping (Jordan Belamire, 20 October 2016)

# #ThanksForTyping spotlights unnamed women in literary acknowledgments (Cecilia Mazanec, NPR, 30 March 2017; see also Hadley Freeman, a woman who shed light on the issue a decade earlier)

# What Google bros have in common with medieval beer bros (David M. Perry, 22 August 2017; see also “life hacks”, “selfies”, “gossips”, and “nagging”)

# Thermostats, locks and lights: Digital tools of domestic abuse (Nellie Bowles, The New York Times, 23 June 2018)

# Donna Zuckerberg: ‘Social media has elevated misogyny to new levels of violence’ (Nosheen Iqbal, The Guardian, 11 November 2018)

# Online consequences of being offline: A gendered tale from South Korea (yours truly, r@w, 21 January 2019)

# Our incel problem: How a support group for the dateless became one of the internet’s most dangerous subcultures (Zack Beauchamp, Vox, 23 April 2019; see also Ilbe transgressions such as this)

# Female voice assistants fuel damaging gender stereotypes, says a UN study. (Charlotte Jee, MIT Technology Review, 22 May 2019)

# Apple made Siri deflect questions on feminism, leaked papers reveal (Alex Hern, 6 September 2019)

# The guy who made a tool to track women in porn videos is sorry (Angela Chen, MIT Technology Review, 31 May 2019)

# These North Korean defectors were sold into China as cybersex slaves. Then they escaped (Julie Zaugg, CNN, 10 June 2019)

# RT @JamieJBartlett Sadly I can well imagine that deep fakes will not be confined to famous figures & political disinformation – but a way for jealous co-workers & ex-partners to degrade women. (26 June 2019; already been happening! see also “지인능욕”)

# For recording her boss’s lewd call, she, not he, will go to jail (Richard C. Paddock & Muktita Suhartono, The New York Times, 5 July 2019)

# Protecting migrants at borders and beyond (Privacy International, 2019)

# A million refugees may soon lose their line to the outside world (Hannah Beech, The New York Times, 5 September 2019)

# Inside the secret border patrol Facebook group where agents joke about migrant deaths and post sexist memes (A. C. Thompson, Pro Publica, 1 July 2019)

# Race in the digital periphery: The new (old) politics of refugee representation (Matthew Sepehr Mahmoudi, The Sociological Review, 3 July 2019)

# Korean media coverage of Yemeni refugees and their digital footprints, such as thisthis, and this (2018; see also the Feminism Without Borders project)

# ‘베트남 여성 폭행’ 반전…아내는 왜 3일만에 비난대상 됐나 (박사라, 중앙일보, 12 July 2019)

# Marriage immigrants in S. Korea meet with their family members online (Korea Bizwire, 19 July 2019)

# Ars Praxia series, such as this, this, this, and this

# To learn about the far right, start with the ‘manosphere’ (Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, 7 August 2019)

# The misogyny of climate deniers (Martin Gelin, The New Republic, 28 August 2019)

# Attacked for gender, not views: Hong Kong women protesters facing troll army (Rose Troup Buchanan, AFP/The Jakarta Post, 2 September 2019)

On bodilessness

Speaking of space and place, here is something that I have been following and meaning to document for a while: bodiless protests. I am afraid I can’t afford to write it up in a more synthesised manner at the moment, but I thought I’d at least put everything in one place.

# “iPhone candles(March 2010)

# Patent for “robots for picketing” (March 2013)

# Julian Assange featuring in a US conference in hologram form(September 2014)

# Snowden hologram replacing a removed statue of his in Brooklyn park (April 2015)

# World’s first hologram protest in Madrid against the country’s new “gag law(April 2015)


(Image from International Society for Presence Research, 13 April 2015)

# Amnesty “ghost rally” in Gwanghwamun (February 2016)

# Projection of “@jack is #complicit” on Twitter HQ (Jan 2018)

# Projection of “This is not normal” and “sh*thole” (with emojis!) on the Trump Hotel in Washington DC (Jan 2018)

# #WeAreWatching project against institutionalised racism (September 2016)

# The internet is mostly bots (December 2018)

# Shut it downbeamed on the Chosun Ilbo building (July 2019)

# Hong Kong protesters use lasers to block facial recognition tech (2 August 2019; see also the “asymmetric haircuts” tactic and “garments covered in license plates“)

# Wearable face projector (from 2017, but I came across via a pushback against a 2019 #AntiMaskLaw in Hong Kong)

Choose wisely

And another one. I am on listing fire!

The Road to Representivity (Miller, C. & Krasodomski-Jones, A., 2015)

Understanding Society Innovation Panel Wave 10: Results from Methodological Experiments (Al Baghal, T. ed., 2018)

# On data linkage: interview with Joseph Sakshaug (Alexandru Cernat, 21 January 2019)

How accurate are survey responses on social media and politics? (Guess, A. et al., Political Communication, 2018)

Facebook digital traces for survey research: Assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of a Facebook Ad–based procedure for recruiting online survey respondents in niche and difficult-to-reach populations (Iannelli, L. et al., Social Science Computer Review, 2018)

# How to sample networks using social media APIs (Coscia, M., 11 December 2018)

# Missing the target? Using surveys to validate social media ad targeting (Sances, Political Science Research and Methods, 2019)

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. 

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)

RT @raulpacheco Is this the correct direction of my bracelet’s imprint? Or should it go the other way (upside down) (2 December 2018)

RT @KarlreMarks We’re basically switching our membership of the EU from contract to pay as you go. (5 April 2019)

Rt @riggaroo User Interface vs The Underlying Code #programming (30 June 2019)