When I need something more powerful than Google

There was this strongman character who appeared across many entertainment shows in the early 90s in Korea. Last Saturday morning, for some trivial reasons, I ended up searching for a video clip of his performance, preferably where he would bite off the side of a beer can with his bare teeth. That was one of his signature gigs. I never knew his name, but I remembered that he had a very prominent mole in the centre of his forehead.

However, my extensive search, both in Korean and English, yielded nothing useful. It was a big blow on my confidence in my information skills! So I needed something more powerful than Google or Naver. I turned to the family chatroom. Literally within a minute, all siblings (except one who wasn’t online at that moment) fired back his name, his recent activities (including his volunteer work in the Sewol rescue operation), and suggestions on how I should have gone about my search.

You thought I had an elephant’s memory? That’s because you haven’t met my family. And this chatroom is like an external brain from which I am only one tap away. ❤

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The minefield that is being a woman [2]

A couple of days ago, I had an interview with a US journalist about recent developments on sexual harassment in South Korea. Our version of #metoo, if you like, which took place exactly a year prior to the Harvey Weinstein case. Those developments, often digitally mediated, appear to be empowering, as in “giving a voice to the previously voiceless“, but during the interview I found myself saying, even quite categorically, that speaking up and being heard are two different things and that seeing those courageous “silence breakers” in the US gaining public support and recognition is certainly encouraging but also a little ‘frustrating’ for victims of sexual assaults in South Korea, who had been saying the same thing all this time, if not for longer. I didn’t get to elaborate on this point as we diverged to other related phenomena such as the rise of a men’s rights movement, but by frustration I meant what Langton (2009) calls “perlocutionary frustration“, which may be experienced when one’s utterances are heard but not accepted.

I have been thinking a lot about global parallels in women’s life experience since I started looking into misogyny, online but also more broadly, in 2015, and the interview gave me extra cause for thought. Then, as if someone at SNL were telepathically in sync with me, they put on this delicious satire that summarises all. (My only complaint would be that the video is stingy with Leslie Jones’s dance moves.)

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.

Lunching al desko

Sandwiches and actor-network theory? I had to click through. The subject is also directly concerned with me as I am a regular contributor to that £8bn-a-year industry. 8 billion!

Speaking of sandwiches, here is another one for my file. Evening Standard printed this article about ten days ago.

Estate agent says London’s millennials should stop buying sandwiches, holidays and splashing cash on nights out in order to afford a house

I was born too early to be a millennial, but that didn’t stop me from rolling my eyes. Tim Gurner and smashed avocado all over again. Then once again a pearl of wisdom was offered in response on Twitter.

Full of beans

A few age-related articles have flowed into my news feeds lately, including a New Yorker article “Why ageism never gets old“, criticisms against the (promotion of) the “Young Forty” discourse in Korea, and some essays on pedophilia culture such as this and this. They have come from different sources and different time points, so it feels like a coincidence, but is it? Or is this one of those moments where the gods of blogging are nudging me to write something? 

All that have sprung to my mind subsequently are feel-good news stories that seemingly defy the natural and social laws of ageing.

  • RT @AJEnglish By day, this 87-year-old Japanese woman makes dumplings. By night, she’s spinning records in Tokyo’s red-light district. Meet DJ Dumpling (12 April 2017)

Then it has struck me that these stories form a specific genre of its own. It is always Japanese obaasan. Always.

Surrounded by nebulae

Last week I attended a pan-London meeting of researcher developers. My opposite numbers, so to say. It is actually one of my favourite meetings. There I heard a colleague saying that researcher development is not a profession for life. “We have come from different places and we are on our ways to different places”, she concluded. This remark was meant to be a positive one, and I did understand the point she was making. Nevertheless, my heart literally ached a little when I heard that, and I have been pondering since about where that pain came from.

I took on my role at my current institution five years ago. Besides how the role has evolved, the way I see it is that I wear two hats. When I wear the researcher developer hat, I help students grow into researchers themselves. When I wear the researcher hat, I contribute to the scholarship of researcher development while also carrying on with my usual research in digital sociology. This three-way split of identity has been posing challenges, and I have been asked by different colleagues if I am going to ditch the researcher developer hat anytime soon.

Perhaps that is a strategic thing to do, as a recent anonymous article in the Guardian seems to suggest, and last week’s meeting got me wondering whether I am being unwise. Then I recalled this following quote that a PhD student shared with me last year. The words were from her son.

The process of forming a new idea — be it a dissertation, a book, a work of art — is similar to the process by which a star is formed. In the beginning, it is just a cloud of particles — a nebula — floating in space. Slowly, over time, these particles are drawn by gravity toward the centre, coalescing into a more solid form — the first semblance of the star, of something new. As these particles continue to amass, the energy of the centre of the nebula builds and builds until finally, after crossing a critical point — after absorbing a critical amount of information — the cloud ignites and the new star — the new idea — is born.

I am eyewitnessing the births of stars everyday. In a courtside seat, no less. I guess that’s the privilege I can’t quite give up.

Researchers’ complicated relationship with data

RT @rasmus_kleis No, your findings did not “emerge” from your data. Frogs emerge from ponds. Findings are arrived at through analysis of data. In the first case, the frog does the work, in the second, you do the work. (8 November 2017)

Immediately hearted it, but then there is also this one below, reminding me that we cannot try too hard either.

“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything you’d like.” (Ronald Coase, n.d.)

I guess we are all flirting somewhere in between.

Not a cat person, but …

… darn, I had to reblog this. GOM Player, South Korea’s home-grown and most popular media player, now offers a ‘Cat Mode’. If you select this mode, all standard shortcut keys will be disabled, so that you will be able to watch a movie without interruption even with your cat sitting on your keyboard.

(Cat Mode on, as indicated by the paw symbol)

Since we are on the topic, let me also share another collection of mine that I put together a while ago. (There are quite a few on this blog alone, such as this, this, this, and this.)

The Cute Cat theory (Ethan Zuckerman, 2008)

Towards a theory of internet cats (D. E. Wittkower, MiT6, 2009)

Srsly phenomenal: An investigation into the appeal of lolcats (Kate Miltner, unpublished master’s dissertation, LSE, 2012)

RT @jeanburgess The internet is made *of* cats, and *for* porn. Get the facts right @Hermida #science #mit8 (3 May 2013)

Cats and academia: A short history (Glen Wright, Times Higher Education, 18 December 2015)

Downing Street cats: All the essential information about the most important Westminster residents (Robert Midgley, Telegraph, 3 January 2017)

A softer side of government: How Larry the cat became a purr-fect political companion on Downing Street (Lauren Scott, CBC News, 22 January 2017)

South Korean president’s rescue pets are so popular they have their own fan art (Yi Shu Ng, Mashable, 15 May 2017)

나는 정치하는 고양이로소이다 (Hankyoreh, 14 August 2017)