Lost in translation

Whelks caught in Wales are South Korean ‘aphrodisiac’ (Neil Prior, BBC News, 10 February 2019)

👆 You are witnessing how an ‘urban legend‘ is born. An ‘Othered’ one at that. Whelks are not considered as aphrodisiac in Korea. It is a horrendous slang word to refer to women who have passed out on date rape drugs.

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Computer says so. [2]

Couldn’t get this out of my head either. Also remembered this clip where a 72-year-old vlogger, Korea Grandma, was grappling with a self-service kiosk at a McDonald’s.

RT @AskAKorean This image haunted me for this seollal. On the crowded LNY trains, all the old people are in the standing seats because they can’t figure out how to book tickets online […] (5 February 2019)

LNY is a big holiday, so lots of Koreans travel home. Train tix for LNY sells out within minutes of being available for sale. And most of them are snapped up online. If you don’t know how to book tickets online, like many old people are, you are often out of luck.

The article describes old folks who show up to the train station hours early just so they can have a shot at buying train tickets. When they’re lucky enough to do so, they are often relegated to standing tickets. Hence, the messed up trains where only the old people stand.

S Korea is the most wired society in the world, and it often decides to simply let people who can’t keep up stay behind and suffer. I hate seeing this type of scene happening again and again.

Happy Korean New Year [3]

Had a shaky start to 2019. Was down with the flu early January and I was out of commission for a week. It was a record in a sense. In the past, even when I was unwell, I didn’t usually take more than one day off, and I would still check my work inbox occasionally throughout that day. This time I was barely able to sit up, let alone move around, for one whole week. So I ended up doing nothing but drinking lots of tea and water while watching, in a half-asleep state, the full series of Parks and Recreation for the first time. The lesson of all this might have been that I am no longer that youthful version of me.

Anyhoo, because of this ordeal, I didn’t get to make any New Year’s resolutions. However, a good thing about being from a lunar calendar culture is that there is a second chance!

Well, actually, my resolutions are always the same: less sugar, less screen time on commute, and sleep earlier. Always these same ones, always failing to keep them, and always rolling them over to the next year. As a desperate measure, I have turned to audiobooks — something I would never have imagined myself doing. I don’t even like ebooks that much, so this is a pretty big leap for me. I am pleasantly surprised so far with this new commuting experience — but don’t confuse my new found love for audiobooks with how I feel about commuting.

Most importantly, happy Korean New Year!

Has the game changed?

I really am an omnivore when it comes to conferences. I attend ones on political communications, ones on research methods, ones on doctoral education, and ones on digital sociology. Among all these and more, I must admit that I find myself feeling most comfortable at events for “internet researchers“. Probably I identify with that label most closely.

In that circle, if your work is described as being technologically determinist, that’s never a compliment. “The internet is like a knife”, people used to howl. Or you can replace the word internet with whatever the next new thing is. Twitter, smartphones, blockchain, you name it.

If it were a binary opposition and I had to pick one over the other, I would also be on Team Social Constructivists. However, it is in fact never a binary opposition, is it? I am glad that even in my naïve years I appreciated that a real-life situation would always be somewhere in-between.

It feels like the field itself seems to be sliding back and forth too, depending on the characteristics of a given epoch. What I am hearing more and more these days is that there has been some fundamental change to our ways of being, and that change is as much from technology itself as from the social.

On a related note, here are some interesting reads for my own reference.

— It’s the (democracy-poisoning) golden age of free speech (Zeynep Tufekci, Wired, 16 January 2018)

YouTube, the great radicalizer (Zeynep Tufekci, The New York Times, 10 March 2018)

— RT @JamieJBartlett One of the overlooked, but discombobulating, things about social media is the way delightful stories appear directly next to tragic, or trivial, or infuriating ones. With no time to process the emotion, we bounce directly from delighted to outraged, totally rudderless. (12 August 2018)

— How social media makes fascists of us all (Jamie Bartlett, UnHerd, 28 August 2018)

Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound. (Maryanne Wolf, The Guardian, 25 August 2018)

— RT @davies_will Something like the People’s March is an example of the post-representational politics that now dominates. Not direct democracy but not representational democracy either. I discuss in Nervous States here:

When politics becomes infused by the logic of crowds, it becomes less about peaceful political representation, and more about mobilisation. Whether on the street or online, crowds are not a proxy for something else, as, for example, a parliament is meant to be a proxy for its electorate or a judge is the face of the justice system. They don’t purport to <i>represent</i> society as a whole, in a way that a ‘representative sample’ is treated by an opinion pollster as a means of discovering what the whole nation thinks. If crowds matter at all, it is because of the depth of feeling that brought so many people into one place at one time. As in the wars that dominate the nationalist imagination, crowds allow every individual to become (and feel) part of something much larger than themselves. This needn’t be a bad thing, but it carries risks and plays on our nerves. […] The critical political question is who or what has the power to mobilise people. […]

— [cont’d] One word for it is ‘presentational democracy’: the people are just presented, but without that being a way of settling an argument. Big data suffers the identical problem, and it’s the entangling of those two things that accounts for where we are right now.

— [cont’d] Another thing to add on this: ‘presentational democracy’ does not look good when it is led by professional *representatives*. Remain urgently needs political outsiders. (21 October 2018)

— Town hall? 120 people. Live-streamed chicken dinner? 257,000 views on Facebook (Michael Scherer, The Washington Post, 10 December 2018); as summarised by @declan_djmn1, we are witnessing a move to a new ground [‘private’ platforms such as WhatsApp and Instagram] and a politics of intimacy.

— How much of the internet is fake? Turns out, a lot of it, actually. (Max Read, Intelligencer, 26 December 2018).

Not only do we have bots masquerading as humans and humans masquerading as other humans, but also sometimes humans masquerading as bots […].

Y’s picks this month

Not literally this month, but you know what I mean!

Rotten Apples
Like Rotten Tomatoes with a post-Weinstein twist.

Unpaywall
A new and legal browser extension to locate open-access versions of paywalled research papers instantly.

Library Extension
A Chrome extension that helps you find books at your local library while you shop for them online.

Fltgraph [플라이트그래프]
A crowd-powered travel metasearch engine that can help you pick a ticket as per your budget, not destination. 🙂 Comparable, in a sense, to Skyscanner’s ‘Still undecided? Explore our map’ service.

Sliding boundaries

How the South Korean language was designed to unify (Ann Babe, BBC Travel, 18 December 2017)

Nothing in this article is new to me, but I still found it entertaining and thought-provoking to read. Perhaps the author’s self-reflection on her ‘in-between’ positionality resonated with me. Moreover, the article, especially the following passage, supports what I have long hypothesised.

There is no clear boundary between the word ‘I’ and the word ‘we’,” Choi writes in her book A Postcolonial Self. “As the usage of the words ‘we’ and ‘I’ are often interchangeable, so too is the identity of the ‘we’ often interchangeable with the identity of the ‘I.’ The meanings of ‘we’ and ‘I’ are negotiable not only in colloquial Korean usage but also in the consciousness and unconsciousness of Korean minds.”

In Korean there is this idiomatic expression of having a wide ojirap. Its literal reference is to the front flap of an upper garment, but what the expression actually means is that the person in question tends to get involved in other people’s affairs, for better or worse.

I am sure that every language on this planet has some sort of equivalent to a ‘busybody’ or a ‘nosy parker’. However, my hypothesis is that the Korean variant has its extra something, which is that the ‘ojirapper‘ genuinely thinks it is their own business when they are meddling in someone else’s, even if that someone else is a total stranger who happens to be in the same carriage of the train. To put it another way, in that momentary context, the boundaries slide, at least in the ojirapper‘s mind.

By the way, ojirap is an established word in the language; ojirapper, on the other hand, is a modern slang born and used principally online, and as you may have guessed already, its connotation is never positive.