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. 

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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!

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“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)

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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)

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“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)

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“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)

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“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)

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RT @halfscholar My PhD dissertation plan and how it went illustrated. (22 November 2017)

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“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)

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RT @anne_theriault I already have a cryptocurrency, it’s called Sephora Beauty Insider Points (20 January 2018)

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RT @YankeeGunner Perfect analogy. Because that’s not a real target and you’ve put it there yourself. (26 January 2018)

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“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)

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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)

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“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)

#pearls

“구슬이 서말이라도 꿰어야 보배.” 선조들의 명쾌한 속담 하나가 오늘날 소셜미디어니 집단지능이니 협업이니 시민저널리즘이니 하는 것들의 가능성과 한계를 바라보기 위한 가장 유용한 틀이다. (@capcold, 17 August 2010; crossposted 27 September 2010)

특히 오늘날 같은 매체환경에서는, 건설적 논쟁이란 권투가 아닌 피겨다. 상대를 밟으면 이기는게 아니라(팬층의 성원이야 받겠지만), 두고두고 남을 퍼포먼스로 많은 제3자들을 납득시키는 것. http://capcold.net/blog/6047 의 8.참조. (@capcold, 28 February 2012)

이 편지가 번화가에 떨어져 나의 원수가 펴보더라도 내가 죄를 얻지 않을 것인가를 생각하면서 써야 하고, 또 이 편지가 수백 년 동안 전해져서 안목 있는 많은 사람들의 눈에 띄더라도 조롱받지 않을 만한 편지인가를 생각해야한다. (다산 정약용, 2009, 유배지에서 보낸 편지; crossposted 23 December 2013; see also Plato’s Phaedrus)

농담의 역학: 힘없는 사람이 힘있는 사람을 농담의 대상으로 삼는 것을 풍자(諷刺)라 말하고, 힘없는 사람이 힘없는 사람끼리 주고받는 농담을 해학(諧謔)이라 말하며, 힘없는 사람이 자신을 소재로 웃으며 농담을 던지는 것을 자조(自嘲)라 말한다. […] 힘있는 사람이 힘없는 사람을 상대로 던지는 농담을 희롱(戱弄)이라 하며, 힘있는 사람이 힘없는 사람의 이익을 탐하여 속이고 놀리는 것을 농락(籠絡)이라 하고, 힘있는 사람이 힘없는 사람을 비웃고 괴롭히는 것을 폭력(暴力)이라 한다. (@windshoes, 3 April 2014)

식당이나 길거리, 공원 등에서 셀카를 찍는 사람들의 표정이나 포즈, 행동이 과장되고 우스워 보이는 것은 그 사진이 궁극적으로 도착하게 될 가상의 공간과 그들이 현재 존재하는 현실공간이 만나는데서 생기는 불일치 때문이다. 여고생들이 입술을 삐죽이 내밀거나 우스꽝스러운 포즈를 취할 때 그들은 SNS라는 가상공간에 이미 들어가 있다. 같은 장면을 페이스북에서 보면 아무렇지도 않거나 오히려 재미있겠지만, 그런 촬영이 현실 세계에서 일어나는 장면을 목격하는 것은 어색하고 불편하다. (인문사회융합 동향, 2015년 9월, 통권 12호, p.57; see also the “heavily critiqued idea that selfies are frivolous/trivial, an assumption strongly linked w selfies being located within the terrain of young women”, @emvdn, 20 March 2018)

상호 악마화에 기여하지 않으면서도 서로 대화도 하고 논쟁도 하려면 어떻게 해야할지 고민해봤다. 상대가 이상한 말을 하면 그냥 지나치거나 댓글로 지적을 해서 이상한 말이라는걸 알리자. 적어도 자신과 다른 생각을 하는 사람이 있다는걸 알려주자. 다만 리트윗은 하지 않는다. 상대가 하는 가장 이상한 주장을 리트윗하여 내 지인들끼리 놀려먹고 악마화하는 대신, 상대가 하는 가장 똑똑하고 반박하기 어려워 보이는 주장을 퍼나른다. 그래야 내 지인들끼리 생산적인 고민을 할 수 있다. (뿅뿅이, 랟팸과 쓰까, 상호 악마화 하지 않고 대화하기, 23 June 2018)

Being human, becoming human, and ceasing being human

Was reading about a recently released PS4 game called Detroit: Become Human, and was going to add it to my list of games ‘too close to the bone’. But then it struck me that there is another, even bigger category that would accommodate this new game perfectly – i.e. popular cultural products that question what it means to be human. In my mind, The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) and The Wizard of Oz (1939) fall right into that category, so we are not talking only about the digital here.

At one point my social media timelines were peppered with the word ‘singularity’. I recall it was around the time when the films Her (2013) and Lucy (2014) came out. Sooooo, my compulsion for list-making kicks in! I am going to write down only the ones that I have seen (although not fully in some cases). I am sure there are more comprehensive, even ranked lists out there – like the time when a friend and I were talking about The Great Wall (2016) and The Last Samurai (2003) and we found there was a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the “white saviour narrative” in films – but I will add on here as I find more myself. That would be more fun for me.

What distinguishes human beings from non-human beings? Could a non-human being become human? Would they want to, as frequently imagined in popular culture? Is there a moment where a human stops being human – with extensive technological interventions into body and mind, for example? Would one person become another with such interventions? Below are a few examples of posing these questions, intentionally or unwittingly.

  • Adventures of Pinocchio (1883)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Blade Runner (1982)
  • Robocop (1987)
  • Alien Nation (1988)
  • The Quality of Life, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992)
  • The Matrix (1999)
  • Bicentennial Man (1999)
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  • I, Robot (2004)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • Dollhouse (2009 to 2010)
  • Her (2013)
  • Lucy (2014)
  • Humans (2015 to present)
  • Criminal (2016)
  • Detroit: Become Human (2018)

Why we do what we do online

Certain themes have started to emerge from random, commuting reads. I have never done one, but I am sure this is how Magic Eye puzzles feel.

1. Our urge to express 

Why do we all feel compelled to tweet after a tragedy? (Jamie Bartlett, The Telegraph, 14 January 2015).

Why do we expose ourselves? (Astra Taylor, The Intercept, 23 January 2016).

One of the book’s more important chapters takes on the seemingly self-evident nature of the term “surveillance state,” which Harcourt argues is misleading. What we have, instead, is an “amalgam of the intelligence community, retailers, Silicon Valley, military interests, social media, the Inner Beltway, multinational corporations, midtown Manhattan, and Wall Street” that “forms an oligarchic concentration that defies any such reductionism.”

Why We Post: Social Media Through the Eyes of the World (UCL).

Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web (Joseph M. Reagle, Jr., 2015).

Uncovering Online Commenting Culture: Trolls, Fanboys and Lurkers (Renee Barnes, 2018)

Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right (Angela Nagle, 2017)

2. Our urge to distract ourselves 

Pay attention, please (Christine Rosen, The Wall Street Journal, 7 January 2011).

Why are we so distracted all the time? (Oliver Burkeman, 99U, n.d.).

Desperate times call for desperate measures (Y for Yenndetta, 15 January 2015).

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads (Tim Wu, 2016).

Digital addiction (The World Weekly, 31 August 2017)

Today’s public anxiety over extreme technology use might therefore be more grounded in social issues rather than any genuine scientific consensus. “It is important to remember that every new media from writing and reading onwards has been associated with addiction,” says Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent. “Reading addiction in the 18th century was a veritable moral panic. Today, concern with people spending too much time on the net is also medicalised,” he says. “That individuals may have problems with digital technology is not in doubt – but the diagnosis of ‘digital addiction’ is a simplistic formula for condemning behaviours that we don’t like.”

Modern media is a DoS attack on your free will (Brian Gallagher, Nautilus, 21 September 2017)

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: The tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia (Paul Lewis, The Guardian, 6 October 2017)

Zeynep Tufekci: How is our attention packaged and sold as a commodity? (NPR, 25 May 2018)

Why your brain tricks you into doing less important tasks (Tim Herrera, The New York Times, 9 July 2018)

3. Our urge to click

Irresistible: Why We Can’t Stop Checking, Scrolling, Clicking and Watching (Adam Alter, 2017).

4. Our urge to share 

Internet-Facilitated Political Mobilisation: A Case Study of Nosamo, the Supporters Network of the 16th President of South Korea (Y. Lee, PhD thesis, 2009).

In Korean cyberspace, however, the culturally encouraged collective sharing of digital content facilitates a cascade of messages that goes beyond the initial group of sources. Moreover, the act of participation itself in the process of distribution of (political) messages is valued on a par with the efforts of the initiators of the messages. In this sense, Hwang (2004: 129) even describes [content relay] as a 21st century version of smoke signal communication.

Why you just shared that baby video (Jonah Lehrer, The Wall Street Journal, 23 July 2011).

An anatomy of a YouTube meme (Limor Shifman, New Media & Society 14(2): 187-203)

Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks (a.k.a. that Facebook study, Kramer et al., 2014, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111(24): 8788-8790)

5. Our ways of consuming information 

Infographic: The optimal length for every social media update and more (Kevan Lee, Buffer, 21 October 2014).

The empty brain: Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short, your brain is not a computer (Robert Epstein, Aeon, 18 May 2016).

What the story of the niqab-wearing Welsh speaker tells us about what we want to hear (Sarah Ditum, The New Statesman, 21 June 2016).

10 percent is all you need (Y for Yenndetta, 21 July 2016).

Why facts don’t change our minds (Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 27 February 2017).

How people approach facts and information (Pew Research Center, 11 September 2017)

A hashtag worth a thousand words

Giglietto, F. & Lee, Y. (2017). A hashtag worth a thousand words: Discursive strategies around #JeNeSuisPasCharlie after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting. Social Media + Society 3(1): 1-15.

The above paper will be out any day now. It is another example of a blog post having evolved into a journal article. Two articles, actually. And it has been a demanding yet intellectually stimulating journey. Demanding because despite a finite set of data and time frame it felt “a lot like getting a grip on Jell-O”. I have borrowed these words from Steve Jones (1999: 12), who himself was paraphrasing his colleague Jim Costigan in order to describe the challenges of “doing Internet research”. I was writing my MA dissertation when I first read this book by Jones, in the summer of 2000, and thought it was the most apt way of putting it. Now internet studies have been much more structured and institutionalised than the book envisioned (p.12), but I think the challenges it identified are still valid.

My challenge this time was that the study had the potential to branch out into many new and substantial studies in their own right – especially with the world unfolding the way it did since. So, in a sense, this post is an epilogue to the paper. A few ‘avenues for future research’ are suggested below if anyone is interested in picking up the ball.

  • A comparative exploration between the Danish newspaper cartoon controversy in 2005 and the Charlie Hebdo case in 2015
  • How #JeSuisCharlie (and #JeNeSuisPasCharlie) users responded to Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon of Alan Kurdi
  • How #JeSuisCharlie (and #JeNeSuisPasCharlie) users responded to Charlie Hebdo’s “mask-droppingeditorial on Muslims
  • “A recently growing trend … [of choosing] a pithy phrase that serves as a ‘mini statement’ in its own right”: e.g. #BlackLivesMatter, #illridewithyou, #IStandWithAhmed, #portesouvertes, #ThisIsACoup, #PrayforSyria, #RestInPride, #내가메갈이다
  • Various functions of hashtags beyond folksonomy, including mention (as opposed to use), ironic and sarcastic use, and prompts for storytelling: e.g. #StopIslam, #myNYPD, #마음당_ series

No jokes are innocent.

No jokes are innocent. This has always been my mantra, if I had to pick only one, reflecting my scholarly orientation. Today, following Donald Trump’s “Second Amendment people” comment, I came across a brilliant tweetstorm on the topic of jokes and am saving it here for my future self. The original thread, created by Jason P. Steed (@5thCircAppeals), can be found here

  1. I wrote my PhD dissertation on the social function of humor (in literature & film) and here’s the thing about “just joking.”
  2. You’re never “just joking.” Nobody is ever “just joking.” Humor is a social act that performs a social function (always).
  3. To say humor is social act is to say it is always in social context; we don’t joke alone. Humor is a way we relate/interact with others.
  4. Which is to say, humor is a way we construct identity – who we are in relation to others. We use humor to form groups…
  5. …and to find our individual place in or out of those groups. In short, joking/humor is one tool by which we assimilate or alienate.
  6. IOW, we use humor to bring people into – or keep them out of – our social groups. This is what humor *does.* What it’s for.
  7. Consequently, how we use humor is tied up with ethics – who do we embrace, who do we shun, and how/why?
  8. And the assimilating/alienating function of humor works not only only people but also on *ideas.* This is important.
  9. This is why, e.g., racist “jokes” are bad. Not just because they serve to alienate certain people, but also because…
  10. …they serve to assimilate the idea of racism (the idea of alienating people based on their race). And so we come to Trump.
  11. A racist joke sends a message to the in-group that racism is acceptable. (If you don’t find it acceptable, you’re in the out-group.)
  12. The racist joke teller might say “just joking” – but this is a *defense* to the out-group. He doesn’t have to say this to the in-group.
  13. This is why we’re never “just joking.” To the in-group, no defense of the joke is needed; the idea conveyed is accepted/acceptable.
  14. So, when Trump jokes about assassination or armed revolt, he’s asking the in-group to assimilate/accept that idea. That’s what jokes do.
  15. And when he says “just joking,” that’s a defense offered to the out-group who was never meant to assimilate the idea in the first place.
  16. Indeed, circling back to the start, the joke *itself* is a way to define in-group and out-group, through assimilation & alienation.
  17. If you’re willing to accept “just joking” as defense, you’re willing to enter in-group where idea conveyed by the joke is acceptable.
  18. IOW, if “just joking” excuses racist jokes, then in-group has accepted idea of racism as part of being in-group.
  19. Same goes for “jokes” about armed revolt or assassinating Hillary Clinton. They cannot be accepted as “just joking.”
  20. Now, a big caveat: humor (like all language) is complicated and always a matter of interpretation. For example, we might have…
  21. …racist humor that is, in fact, designed to alienate (rather than assimilate) the idea of racism. (Think satire or parody.)
  22. But I think it’s pretty clear Trump was not engaging in some complex satirical form of humor. He was “just joking.” In the worst sense.
  23. Bottom line: don’t accept “just joking” as excuse for what Trump said today. The in-group for that joke should be tiny. Like his hands.

Let me repeat. No jokes are innocent.

A double standard? I raise you a quadruple.

In Korea, we have a saying “Paddle while the tide is high”. Yes, it is an equivalent to the English proverb “Strike while the iron is hot”. And that’s what I am going to do in this post – resurfacing one of my earlier studies to show how insightful it was.

So, this happened about two weeks ago.

South Korea is contending with a ‘Gamergate’ of its own – over a t-shirt (Mark H. Kim, NPR, 29 July 2016)

I also made a quick post at that time, but to reiterate, a voice actress in South Korea, Kim Jayeon, was fired for wearing a t-shirt with a feminist slogan. A ‘radical‘ one at that: “Girls do not need a prince.” Later she issued a statement that it was a mutually reached decision between her and the company that she left.

Then people seem to have moved on to a next target swiftly. Yesterday, an actress named Ha Yeon-soo issued a hand-written public apology for her ‘inappropriate attitude’ towards comments left on her Facebook and Instagram. What did she do? On at least two occasions, when she was answering questions about items in her photos (i.e. a harp in one and a painting in the other), she practically added “You could have Googled”.

She had been known for her formal tone of writing, but this time, her self-claimed fans said enough was enough. They said she was “condescending”, “full of herself”, and needed to be reminded of “her place”. After all, she is a celebrity and “lives on fans’ love and support“. I even saw forum threads discussing how she should have responded instead: e.g. throwing in a few emoticons to soften the tone.

In fact, many more public apologies were issued between Kim’s and Ha’s. According to the NPR article linked above, there have been some 80. I lost track of them myself, so I am just as surprised as the next person. What I can tell you, however, is that most of them were from young women in publicly visible professions.

This is where my earlier findings come in. After having analysed the individual tweets picked up as ‘news’ and reported across 1,777 Korean articles in 2012, I found that

  1. A tweet was likely to attract media attention in the Korean context if it was perceived to create ‘disharmony’;
  2. There was no either/or consensus on whether Twitter is a public space, but in the process of news-making, a dual standard was in operation: if the user had a ‘public presence’ (however loosely defined), their tweets were, regardless of the content or intended recipients, viewed to be fair game for public scrutiny;
  3. Almost all who were reported to have failed at such scrutiny were women, and that was attributable to a stricter application of moral protocols.

With regard to the third finding, those female users included a novelist, a girl band, and a teenage singer, and they were criticised for impulsivity, passive aggression, and “two-facedness” detected(!) in their tweets.

As someone who has been researching Korean society for some time, I think one of my biggest frustrations is the response I get, from Korean and non-Korean audiences alike, when I point to this subtle type of social gagging. “But you are better than other Asian countries.” Or in other words, the democracy and human rights we have are *good enough* for an Asian country.

If feels like you’re mine but not.

From a couple of years ago, a slang ‘some‘ is very much part of the Korean lexicon. Used as in ‘being in a some with so-and-so’, it refers to ‘friendship-relationship limbo’ between two people. I believe the complex nature of romance is a topic of universal interest. Not only did Facebook developers feel the need to include “It’s complicated” as one of the relationship status options in its own right, but at the time of writing this, a simple Google search in English has yielded me tens of thousands of results on the topic including editorials and even scholarly papers. Nevertheless, the slang caught on like wildfire because it gave people one single word to acknowledge and encapsulate something that had been extremely difficult to put the finger on.

Swiftly following the popularity of the word, a K-pop song, Some, was released in 2014, of which the hook goes like this:

It feels like you’re mine, it seems like you’re mine, but not

It feels like I’m yours, it seems like I’m yours, but not

Where am I going with this? It struck me this morning that this could have been an apt summary of our relationship with the data we are generating everyday these days. A bit of a stretch? Here’s how I arrived at that thought. A colleague of mine, who graduated together with me, shared an old memory on his Facebook timeline a couple of days ago.

20160724_memory_of_graduation

Such a lovely photo, isn’t it? It made me smile and fondly remember the day. I immediately felt like sharing it with my friends too, but I realised access was restricted to the original poster’s friends only. So I asked him if it would be okay for me to take it away to my circle. “Of course”, he said, but looking at the photo got me thinking again about the entanglement of memories, material traces, and varying perceptions of ownerships, protocols, and etiquette around them. Is it my memory? Is it my photo? Is it within my right to publish it?

As a blogger and a user of social media, I tend to assume the most conservative scenarios. As a researcher, I have found Bruce Schneier’s taxonomy of social networking data helpful for a nuanced theorisation. The recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee and the new ethical guidelines for social media research published by #NSMNSS last week are good reference points too.

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Perspectives on big data, ethics, and society (White paper by the Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society, US, 2016)

Internet research ethics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016)

Ethics guidelines and collated resources for digital research (British Sociological Association, 2017)

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스트리트 사진의 윤리와 한국의 법 (Michael Hurt, 8 September 2016; see also ‘Photographic flaneurie in Seoul, or lamentations over the stillborn tradition of street photography in Korea‘ by the same author, 4 April 2016)

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Protecting journalism sources in the digital age (UNESCO, 2017)

10 percent is all you need.

Fascinated at the first encounter of PC-mediated communication in the early 1990s, I have been, in my small way, studying the internet since. One thing of which I am unreservedly convinced after all these years is that the eventual ‘winners’ of any battle on the internet are those who have the time and energy to write/rewrite/overwrite content. The numbers of contributors do not seem to matter that much; nor do their motivations.

On Tuesday, a voice actress named Kim Jayeon was sacked from Nexon, one of the largest game companies in Korea, for wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Girls Do Not Need a Prince“. Apparently the t-shirt upset male users as it was from a “feminazi fundraiser”. You hear so much about sexism in the gaming industry, exemplified by #gamergate and all, but it was depressing on a new level to observe how this case was unfolding.

I will probably end up writing a longer piece, so this post is in the interim to capture something about the case that has attracted my particular attention. On Twitter, on web portals, and in the comment sections of Anglophone magazines, those who argue that Nexon did the right thing are found to cite Namuwiki articles commonly and repeatedly. Namuwiki is one of the most actively used wikis in Korea. Whatever you search in the Korean language in Google, you will see Namuwiki entries among the first few if not the very first. For non-Korean readers, the closest I can compare the site to is Uncyclopedia.

Having originated from a subculture, Namuwiki is full of in-jokes, many of which are unfortunately at the expense of women. And now, in turn, its misogynistic content is treated as a legit introduction to feminism. Some Korean men are actually likening recent feminist campaigns in the country to ISIS activities (!) and presenting Namuwiki’s criticism of Korean feminism as a source of evidence. And we are starting to see journalists are doing the same (see Kukmin Ilbo and Hankook Ilbo).

Not only has the whole fiasco confirmed my long-held suspicions, it is simply amazing to realise how we will see more and more of this pattern in this so-called “post-truth era”. As Viner (2016) puts it:

Increasingly, what counts as a fact is merely a view that someone feels to be true – and technology has made it very easy for these “facts” to circulate with a speed and reach that was unimaginable in the Gutenberg era (or even a decade ago).

Then, what would it take for a minority opinion to become the majority belief? According to a 2011 study by scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, US: 

Once 10% of a population is committed to an idea, it’s inevitable that it will eventually become the prevailing opinion of the entire group. The key is to remain committed.