A tale of two letters

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)

The whiteness of public space (Tom Trevatt, Discover Society, 2 July 2020)

From exotic to ‘dirty’: How the pandemic has re-colonised Leicester (Bal Sokhi-Bulley, Discover Soceity, 16 July 2020)

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

The COVID-19 “success story”: Why has the world singled out New Zealand for praise? (Houssem Ben Lazreg & Adel Dhahri, ABC, 24 June 2020)

Does global health still have a colonial mindset? (Jack Grove, THE, 15 July 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; see also: “I’m a nurse in a deprived area of the UK. Here’s the sinister truth about Covid and inequality“, 18 June 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)

How Asia’s clothing factories switched to making PPE — but sweatshop problems live on (Alessandra Mezzadri & Kanchana N. Ruwanpura, The Conversation, 29 June 2020)

Women’s research plummets during lockdown — but articles from men increase (Anna Fazackerley, The Guardian, 12 May 2020; see also: Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?, Katrine Marçal, 2016; “She divorced me because I left dishes by the sink“, Matthew Fray, HuffPost, 25 January 2016; “It’s so much more than cooking“, Zoe Fenson, The Week, 2 October 2019; “Pandemic lockdown holding back female academics, data show“, David Matthews, 25 June 2020)

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; see also my earlier post on “the moral policing power of the notion of 민폐“)

The Bluestocking: Woke Capitalism (Helen Lewis, 28 June 2020)

RT @mgwalks Every day, the internet picks a hero and a villain, and you just hope neither one is you. (6 June 2019)

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)

The only world you know

In Korea, all who were born in 2013 (!) were supposed to start their very first year of primary school together in March, which has been delayed for obvious reasons and is likely to be further delayed due to the latest spike following a long weekend. Someone has shared an anecdote on Twitter that those little ones get super excited whenever they see another kid around the same age in the neighbourhood, rushing to ask which year and class they are in. If it turns out that they are indeed going to be classmates, out of joy, they lift their masks a little to exchange a peek at each other’s face.

I had been containing relatively well all these weeks, but something about this scene broke my heart. I hope this was some dystopian made-up story and I was only fooled by it.

Politics of counting [4]

13 hours of Trump: The president fills briefings with attacks and boasts, but little empathy (Philip Bump & Ashley Parker, The Washington Post, 26 April 2020)

RT @AshleyRParker Over the past three weeks, Trump has spoken for 13 hours at coronavirus pressers. In that time he has:
—Spent two hours on the attack.
—45 min praising himself/his team.
—9 min promoting hydroxychloroquine.
—Just 4.5 min offering sympathy for the victims. (26 April 2020)

260,000 words, full of self-praise, from Trump on the virus (Jeremy W. Peters et al., The New York Times, 26 April 2020)

By far the most recurring utterances from Mr. Trump in the briefings are self-congratulations, roughly 600 of them, which are often predicated on exaggerations and falsehoods. He does credit others (more than 360 times) for their work, but he also blames others (more than 110 times) for inadequacies in the state and federal response.

Mr. Trump’s attempts to display empathy or appeal to national unity (about 160 instances) amount to only a quarter of the number of times he complimented himself or a top member of his team.

The minefield that is being a woman [3]

Was just reading up on the latest general election in South Korea, which took place yesterday, and how women’s interests and voices were represented amid the pandemic, the new calculation system, and the old and new forms of misogyny including the “Nth Rooms” abomination

Then this video has turned up in my social media feeds, confirming my suspicions that South Korean women share more commonalities with women on the other side of the world than South Korean men living next to them.

Ways of remembering

‘Sewol’ ribbon listed as standard unicode (The Korea Times, 20 April 2016, crossposted here)

(Image source: Hankyoreh, 2016)

(France 24 English, 13 April 2020; dubbed in French here;
see also her interview with Andrew Marr here)

We have acted quickly and preemptively, and that is not just our philosophy but is a reflection of our recent experience. You may know that in 2014 we had a terrible ferry boat accident where we lost 304 lives in the midst of a very inept response by the government at the time, and that has been a collective trauma to all Korean people. And the following year, in 2015, we had a MERS outbreak that lasted for about three months, didn’t affect that many people, but was very highly fatal. And I think the government’s reaction then was also initially very intransparent [sic] and dismissive, and so heavily criticised. […] So, this government has been very determined to be prepared when disaster strikes. We may not be able to prevent disasters from striking but we can do a lot to prepare so that we can minimise the human suffering and contain the socioeconomic consequences.

세월호 관련 7편의 기고글 (2016-2019) (김승섭, 15 April 2020)

In law-law land [4]

Here is a genuine question for you, particularly legal experts. On 14 March 2013, the Supreme Court of South Korea confirmed that some of the administrators of the Daum Café for Eonsoju were “co-principals” [공동정범, according to Article 30 of the Criminal Act] in the “obstruction of business” charges [업무방해, according to Article 314 of the Criminal Act]. Eonsoju is a self-organised group calling for an advertiser boycott against the country’s conservative media troika Chojoongdong — similar to one against Fox News or the News of the World. A Daum Cafe is comparable to a Yahoo Group or a Facebook Group. (In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote a paper about the case.)

피고인들이 광고중단 압박운동의 목적에서 만들어진 인터넷상 조직의 운영진으로서 직접 광고주들 명단을 게재하거나 광고주들 명단을 게재하지 않았다고 하더라도 서로 공모하여 광고중단 압박행위를 하도록 독려하거나 광고주들의 홈페이지 운영에 지장을 초래할 수 있는 자동접속프로그램을 유포하는 등의 방법으로 광고중단 압박운동 참여자들의 개별적인 전화걸기 행위가 집단적인 광고중단의 압박이 되도록 조직한 사실을 알 수 있으므로, 결국 피고인들이 업무방해죄를 범할 의사 없이 광고중단 압박운동에 참여한 사람들을 자신들의 위력 행사에 이용한 행위는 이른바 간접정범을 통하여 그 범행을 실행한 것으로 보아야 할 것이고, 앞서 살펴본 바와 같이 피고인들의 경우 위와 같은 간접정범 형태의 범행에 대하여도 주관적 요건으로서 공모와 객관적 요건으로서 기능적 행위지배가 인정되는 이상 피고인들은 결국 이 부분 범행의 실행에 대하여도 공동정범으로서의 죄책을 면할 수 없다. (대법원 2013. 3. 14., 선고, 2010도410, 판결)

Now, fast-forward to April 2020. I have just seen the news that prosecutors have decided not to include the charges of “organisation of criminal groups” [범죄단체 조직, according to Article 114] and “preparations for or conspiracies of a murder” [살인 음모, according to Article 255] in the indictment against Cho Joo-bin, one of the operators of a digital sexual exploitation ring on Telegram called “Nth Rooms”.

How does one reconcile this?

While seeking answers, I am listing a few articles in case you need further details. Please proceed with a trigger warning in mind, although I have already excluded more graphic ones.

Alternatively, you can draw a parallel of some sort between this and the following cases.

One day at a time

Pandemics and PhDs (Pat Thomson, 16 March 2020)

I’m a PhD student and I’m worried by my university’s coronavirus approach (Jafia Naftali Camara, The Guardian, 18 March 2020)

Some advice for PhD students and their mentors in the time of coronavirus (Meghan Duffy, 15 March 2020)

Postgraduate supervision in the COVID-19 Era (for supervisors and students) (Miguel Nacenta, 25 March 2020)

Effective practices in supervising doctoral candidates at a distance (UKCGE, 1 May 2020)

Should you quit (go part-time or pause) your PhD during COVID-19? (The Thesis Whisperer, 8 April 2020)

Virtual Not Viral (since March 2020)

Remote vivas (Nathan Ryder, Viva Survivors, 6 April 2020)

Doing fieldwork in a pandemic (Deborah Lupton, since March 2020)

Doing arts research in a pandemic (Vida L. Midgelow, June 2020)

Social research for a COVID and post-COVID world: An initial agenda (Deborah Lupton, 29 March 2020)

Fieldwork in the times of COVID-19: Doing ethnography during a pandemic (Raul Pacheco-Vega, 17 March 2020)

Fieldwork in the context of COVID-19 (The New Ethnographer, 7 April 2020)

Doing fieldwork in a crisis or a quarantine (Benjamin Bowles, April 2020)

Research methods to consider in a pandemic (Helen Kara, 20 May 2020)

Security features in Zoom, MS Teams, and Google Meet (@joedale, April 2020; see also EFF’s advice on how to harden your Zoom settings, 2 April 2020)

Carrying out qualitative research under lockdown — Practical and ethical considerations (Adam Jowett, LSE Impact Blog, 20 April 2020)

How to conduct an ethnography during social isolation (Daniel Miller, 3 May 2020)

Doing STS research in a COVID-19 world: Voices from the global South (Joseph Satish Vedanayagam, Backchannels, 29 April 2020)

Participant observation: How does it work online? (Janet Salmons, Methodspace, 20 April 2020)

LSE Digital Ethnography Collective Reading List (since February 2020)

Collecting COVID-19: A crowd-sourced digital ethnography of the COVID-19 pandemic (since April 2020)

Why you should ignore all that coronavirus-inspired productivity pressure (Aisha S. Ahmad, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 27 March 2020; or as @robin__craig aptly puts it, “a pandemic isn’t a writing retreat”)

5 strategies for writing in turbulent times (Chris Smith, LSE Impact Blog, 30 March 2020)

The Science of Well-Being (Laurie Santos, Yale University/Coursera)

Are we all digital scholars now? How the lockdown will reshape the post-pandemic digital structure of academia. (Mark Carrigan, LSE Impact Blog, 10 April 2020)

The Politics of COVID-19 (daily reading recommendations from The Syllabus, since March 2020)

Public Books Database (Public Books)

Teaching materials for computational social science (SAGE Ocean)

Tools and Resources — Creative Commons (Open Access Oxford)

How to create an APA style reference for a canceled conference presentation (Timothy McAdoo, APA Style Blog, 16 March 2020)