After having spent an unhealthy amount of time loitering in the 연성 space this summer, I have had a moment of realisation that I have a perfect visual summary of what is going on in that space.
Team Broccoli versus Team Ice Cream
At the REDS conference in October 2019 (which, come to think of it, might have been the last in-person conference I attended before the world became what it is), one of the speakers, Sarah Blackford from Leeds, mentioned that there are two types of researcher developers. One is those who believe in guiding students to the training that is good for them (Team Broccoli 🥦) and the other is those who believe in letting students choose the training they want (Team Ice Cream 🍦). She shared this lovely picture from an 2016 event to make an illustrative point — also available in the conference slide deck, linked above (p.127).
Obviously you do both. The constant challenge, I find, is how you reconcile the two. This is something I regularly ponder, but I have been thinking a lot more about it recently, as I have become more substantially involved in our ESRC DTP this year. The funder articulates their expectations that each student’s self-identified development needs should be at the centre of the training programme and, simultaneously, that the institution should do something proactively about the fact that most students are not necessarily aware of the breadth of post-PhD career paths, especially beyond academia, and hence they do not always know what skills they need to develop during the PhD. Don’t these two statements contradict each other? More to come on my recipe for delicious broccoli ice cream. Watch the space!
In other words 
A language enthusiast in me is loving every bit of this thread of discussion while a political cynic in me throws hands up and goes “Awww, what’s the point?” His administration has apparently decided to rather gaslight the entire country, insisting that the word was never even uttered. 🙄
Tell me without telling me
A while ago there was this viral social media game that goes “Tell me you are from [a country name] without actually telling me you are from [that country]”. My favourite about Korea was “밥 몇 개 볶을까?” (which still cracks me up! 😂). Belatedly, here is my entry: K-dessert.
We ship you and we ship you hard. 
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!
A love letter to my slow self
I have posted love letters on this blog before (here and here). This is, in a sense, a third instalment.
I have written a few short pieces lately, all of which are intended for broader audiences beyond academia. I took the tasks on with my usual optimism or even more, but ended up spending days agonising over each of them.
Now they are all off my hands and navigating their own ways into the world, I can’t help but reflect on what made it particularly difficult this time — or was it really an exception?
I write extremely slowly. Even in my native language. I have always had awe and envy for people who can fill up pages ‘in one stroke of the pen’. This is not a new realisation.
On top of this, however, what I must keep firmly in mind is this paper that I came across a few months ago. In short, consumers tend to underpredict their future spending because they usually base their predictions on typical expenses alone, although atypical expenses are often more substantial in amount. The cognitive mistake we make by doing so, to paraphrase the authors, is that atypical expenses may occur at abnormal intervals, but they are not as rare as we think they are.
As soon as I started reading the paper, I had an epiphany 💡 that they are talking about deadlines.
S, who is my first and foremost reader, has just told me how many solid days I seem to need to produce a 800-word article, according to his observation. That is three times longer than how much time I would set aside when I organise my calendar. Three times!!! 😱 I have been saying I am a slow writer, but it looks like I have never truly embraced myself till now.
Archive fever 
Came back from a super interesting workshop. Looking forward to the second half tomorrow. Here is my soundbite from a little ‘game’ we played.
Hello, my name is Yenn Lee. I am an expert in digital fandom culture in South Korea and the possible toxicity of it. I am an expert because I have been embedded in that culture for almost three decades (28 years, to be precise), obtained a PhD on the topic 12.5 years ago, and have been researching and writing about it for almost two decades (19 years, to be precise).
No wonder I feel so 👵.
Déjà vu, déjà entendu 
RT @benjaminaengel Tip from Americans who dealt with Trump for 4 years for Koreans upset with Yoon’s election: don’t waste time talking about Shamanism and his wife’s scandals, etc. It happened already and people voted for him anyway… Instead… (1)
prepare your critiques about how his policies hurt people. Put women in danger. Make the rich richer and poor poorer. Bad for the environment. Whatever it is. Focus on the problems to come. Not the past…(2)
Especially since Yoon can’t stand for re-election. You’ll never defeat him by re-litigating his past. But you will have to defeat what he stands for again in the future. Move away from what this past campaign focused on—scandals—and start focusing on policy and solutions. End (13 March 2022)
RT @AskAKorean Belated condolences to my Pinoy friends. We know what it’s like to take a step backward with a dictator’s child. Hang in there. (9 May 2022)
Blast from the past 
Apparently Cyworld is coming back. Well, they have been saying so for years, and hence scepticism is understandable. Not everyone welcomes the news either, as it means you will have to embrace your cringeworthy photos and journal entries from 20 years ago.
I, for one, will always have a soft spot for it. No matter what shiny new things come along, I will never have the same level of energy and caring. I really put my heart into maintaining that little digital allotment.
I am still only given glimpses into the full archive, but here is a timely one that my baby sister has recovered for me. Awww, look at the 2-megapixel digital camera that I used to carry all the time with me.
Once the red pill is taken 
This has become a mini series of posts on decolonisation on this blog. I thought the ‘red pill’ metaphor makes an apt title, as you cannot unsee structural inequality once you see it. Though it has struck me that it could be misinterpreted as the metaphor has been appropriated by anti-feminist and white supremacist groups online. The irony of ironies.
I can’t think of a better title yet, so I will carry on adding to it for now. This post is about climate change and how it is a colonial issue.
- ‘Waste colonialism’: World grapples with West’s unwanted plastic (Ruth Michaelson, The Guardian, 31 December 2021)
- Pollution Is Colonialism (Max Liboiron, 2021)
- The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis (Amitav Ghosh, 2021)
- The unbearable heaviness of climate coloniality (Farhana Sultana, Political Geography, 2022)