Recently, and quite serendipitously, I fell into the rabbit hole of fan-generated derivative works of K-dramas, including what’s called 연성, dispersed across YouTube, Twitter, Postype, Pushoong, and Peing. I am no stranger (read: 고인물) to fandom culture in Korea, but it looks like I have missed some interesting and sophisticated developments of late while being busy with 현생.
At this point, if the term ‘fanfic’ comes to your mind first, let me tell you — that term does not adequately capture the dedication, ingenuity, and multimodal skillsets of participants in the fandom space. No doubt that creating a new fictional universe from scratch is a Herculean task, but here what they do, which is extremely challenging in its own right, is to create a new universe while drawing on, and being loyal to, elements of the universes that others have already created, so that fellow fans can recognise shared referents. I guess the process is comparable to playing jazz variations.
I find such works in the form of micro novels on Twitter to be particularly fascinating, as I witness how creators turn the platform’s technical constraints to their advantage. Now I truly understand why scrolling is likened to pulling a slot machine.
Of course, not every thread is equally “delicious” (in the insider lingo). A bit hit-and-miss, I must add, and some were indeed way off the mark that I didn’t have enough 항마력 to read through. In any case though, I personally loved the prolific energy; everyone wants to create more content, everyone is hungry for more ideas and prompts, and, above all, everyone is willing to take the narratives into their own hands.
Besides, there was something else about the space that struck me familiar. There is an old Friends episode where Phoebe talks about how her mother would protect her from the sad endings of movies or TV shows when she was small. Not to that extent, but I do have a similar childhood memory. On occasions, after I watched or read something that ended ambiguously, my mum would come up with some ‘epilogues’ suggesting a happier ending. It looks like I was in fact introduced to the concept of 상플 very early on!
Tech protection at Kanda Myojin shrine. (December 2015)
[An San a été] harcelée par des personnes avec des idées du Moyen Âge mais des moyens techniques du 21ème siècle. C’est souvent un mélange très compliqué, et c’est un mélange particulièrement explosif en Corée du Sud.(From 0:52 in; any error in transcription is mine.)
While we are at it, let me plug in a couple of passages I wrote earlier.
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.Lee, Y. (2009). ‘Internet Election 2.0? Culture, Institutions, and Technology in the Korean Presidential Elections of 2002 and 2007’. JITP 6(3): 312-325.
From investigating the ways in which the Internet was conceptualised and positioned in the arena of Korean politics from 2002 to 2007, my principal finding is a tension at play in Korean society — a highly technologically advanced society grounded in very traditional notions of institutions. To be more specific, the interplay between the existing institutional values (including legal frameworks, Confucian ethos, and the 1980s’ pro-democracy movement tradition) and what the Internet offers (both technically and metaphorically) was possibly the most significant factor that this study has identified.Lee, Y. (2009). Internet-Facilitated Political Mobilisation: A Case Study of Nosamo, the Supporters Network of the 16th President of South Korea. PhD thesis, UoL.
Despite its significant political potential demonstrated, the Eonsoju case illustrates how ‘fragile’ P2P organising can be vis-à-vis legal and other institutional forces (see also Etling et al., 2010). […] the significance of the present study lies in the fact that it has thrown up some fundamental questions. One of them is whether horizontally networked efforts such as Eonsoju will ever be able to match up to vertically aligned institutions, especially in societies like Korea where the latter have always been more prominent (Lee, 2009b). Another question is, in a broader interpretation of the findings of Etling et al. (2010) and Dean (2005), how then to create a system that is more ‘responsive’ to the needs and opinions expressed through such networks and harness their democratising potential. Cyberspace is often presented as a clever means of circumvention for bottom-up initiatives, but the life of Eonsoju depicted here highlights that such initiatives cannot be a sustainable solution without being grounded in a physical world that is responsive to and supportive of grassroots development.Lee, Y. (2016). The fragile beauty of peer-to-peer activism: The public campaign for the rights of media consumers in South Korea. NMS 18(10): 2254-2270.
Finally a positive one in this ongoing series.
Interesting! See also:
💡 George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, 1980.
Try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war, where no one wins or loses, where there is no sense of attacking or defending, gaining or losing ground. Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently.
The term “greenhouse gases” is a case in point. Cultural Logic did hundreds of consumer interviews around the subject of climate change and hardly anyone spontaneously referred to greenhouse gases in their responses. When specifically asked about the term, few could explain how it related to global warming. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise, since few people have any direct knowledge of greenhouses these days. As a result, when prompted, subjects in the Cultural Logic study typically described greenhouses as “nice places where plants live,” according to Grady—hardly the right connotations for a discussion of global warming. Which suggested to the folks at Cultural Logic that “greenhouse gases” is an unhelpful metaphor. So they alighted on a more productive one—”carbon dioxide blanket,” which has the virtue of explicitly naming the offending gas (CO2) but the drawback of suggesting that its embrace is warm and cuddly.
And in all our talk about streams and exhaust and mines and clouds, one thing is striking: People are nowhere to be found. These metaphors overwhelmingly draw from the natural world and the processes we use to draw resources from it; because of this, they naturalize and depersonalize data and its collection. Our current data metaphors do us a disservice by masking the human behaviors, relationships, and communications that make up all that data we’re streaming and mining. They make it easy to get lost in the quantity of the data without remembering how personal so much of it is. And if people forget that, it’s easy to understand how large-scale ethical breaches happen; the metaphors help us to lose track of what we’re really talking about.
- ‘Hologram’ lecturers to teach students at Imperial College London (BBC, November 2018)
- Robots replace Japanese students at graduation amid coronavirus (Reuters, April 2020)
- Dead man teaching (The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 2021)