Month: August 2014

SBS PopAsia: The Fandoms


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This week I tried to flip the coin so to speak and look at the culture of Asian pop fandoms as opposed to the Asian popstars and performers I’ve largely been looking at up until now. To be more specific I decided to narrow in on the peripheral fandoms that tune in every week to watch the Australian Asian pop music video show SBS PopAsia. A big part of every week’s countdown is Tweeting along with the episode using the hashtag #SBSPopAsia, which is used to play games, nominate artists/songs as well as create an actively vocal audience whose Tweets are cherry picked for screen time during the episode (SBS PopAsia HQ 2014). In the hopes of better understanding the fandom I decided to tweet along in the hashtag during the episode and collate some examples of the fandom in action (shown above).

 

What were some of the key activities, conversations, or internal thoughts that I experienced today? (Sheridan)
My initial experience was bewilderment as a scrolling wall of tweets cycled rapidly across my screen, filled with the kind of ecstatic glee you might expect from a crowd at a live event. It becomes clear quite quickly that a lot of these fans tweeting along with the show are active participants in the fandoms of these pop artists outside of the bounds of the show, as most of them display a level of knowledge about the individual artists and performers that is not only absent from the show itself, but recalled rapidly in response to the events of the show. In other words, the reaction time of the tweets suggests this information is not being looked up beforehand. I did try contributing to the discussion, guessing which common element was present in the 3 songs they played consecutively and generally commenting on the songs as they played, but I found the experience largely distant. Things move too rapidly; with too much vigor and desperation to be noticed for the fans to engage with each other too much it seems. Although the one question I did ask the group actually received a response, even if it was just the one.

10637773_10153156747864778_663458475_n

What would I do differently next time if I researched the same group or event? (Sheridan)
I think that researching these fandoms properly will require looking at how they behave on the other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, that move much more slowly and with more of an air of contemplation. I approached this group expecting more of a conversation but instead I learnt that it was much more like a mass-aggregation of quick, yet vocal monologues.


 

References

Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 31 August 2014 http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

SBS PopAsia HQ 2014, ‘Get Social with SBS PopAsia’, SBS PopAsia, viewed 31 August 2014 http://www.sbs.com.au/popasia/blog/2014/02/04/get-social-media-sbs-popasia

Asian Social Media Exploration…

What is social media?

Well, media is an instrument on communication, like a newspaper or a radio; therefore, social media would be a social instrument of communication. Simple concept right? When I say social media I instantly think…

INSTAGRAM. FACEBOOK. TWITTER.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 4.47.34 PM

These are the top trending social media platforms in Australia. But I am thinking beyond that. I know all about Australian social media, I use it everyday. I am using it right now in fact as I look at my tab menu with Facebook open *guilty*!

What about Asian social media? Now that is an unknown phenomenon for me to fathom. I firstly don’t speak the language, secondly I don’t even know what Asian social networking sites are all. This calls for some help from Google!

China is one of the most populated Asian countries and its internet base is heavily protected. So protected that the Chinese population haven’t got access to the same Facebook that we have!! Due to these restrictions they have a Chinese alternative that only the Chinese can use called Renren.

So what is Renren?

Renren is very similar to Facebook in the fact that it allows users to connect and communicate with each other. Renren is the largest Social Networking site in China and has an active user base of 178 million people which is constantly growing. The site mainly caters to college students. An interesting fact about Renren is that it has cooperated with academic researchers to understand the growth and structure of its online community in helping the site become better and user friendlier.

Renren highlights the cultural barriers between Australia and China. A case study on
Social network sites comparison between the United States and China: Case study on facebook and renren network” (2011) talks about the difference between the Facebook and Renren network, it aims at finding the gap between China and the US. A few note worthy facts from this case study are that:

  • ‘Facebook users diversify the sources, while Renren network users have a single source’
  • ‘Facebook and Renren network users, who are mainly young people, but Renren network users focused on 18-34 years old, while Facebook have more widely user groups than Renren’
  • ‘Facebook users is similar to men-to-women ratio, and Renren users are mostly women, which may be due to the two sites provided different application, whose attractiveness is different between men and women’

Renren is a simple layout, easy to navigate – minus language barriers.

chinese english

So translated the page as Google gave me that option (which was incredibly helpful). I tried to make an account but you have to put in your phone number that I thought was a bit odd so I didn’t go any further. I found it funny that during the application process one of the questions is “Real Name” instead of simply “Name”. This definitely highlights the cultural differences from Western to Eastern cultures in the way that we label things.

This experience of Renren made me realize how different Asian cultures are. There are distinct differences between privacy and protection between Asian society’s compared to us. It is interesting to note that they filter a lot more content than we do. Not even letting them use Facebook (which I thought was everywhere) is bizarre but understandable if they want to keep all the Chinese together.

References: 

IEE, 2011 “”Social network sites comparison between the united states and China: Case study on facebook and renren network” [ONLINE] Available at: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=5917063 [Accessed  30th August 2014]

 

Cute… porn?

Before I start today’s post I want to add a (late) disclaimer on the term hentai and my usage of it. In Japan hentai can refer to sexually explicit manga or anime, but it denotes that this material is of an unusual, perverse or extreme nature.  The usage of the word hentai to signify the entire genre of what the Japanese call ero (erotic) manga, not just the really weird stuff, is a Western appropriation of the word and that’s how it’s being used in this blog. For more info on terminology and some interesting history, see here.

This week’s topic, peripheral media, was troubling me a bit because from what I’ve discovered about hentai so far it is itself on the periphery of anime.  Last week when trying to find out whether there were any celebrities or famous figures in the hentai world it became clear that hentai exists primarily on the internet and it was difficult to pin down any ‘major players’ so to speak. 

I delved a little deeper though, and discovered ecchi, a word adopted by fans and consumers of Japanese media to denote a sub-genre within adult anime. Ecchi as an adjective can mean ‘naughty’, or as a verb mean ‘to have sex’, and when applied to anime refers to content that is not sexually explicit. It is the softcore porn of hentai and these productions hint at sex as opposed to depicting it. 

Many ecchi fans use tumblr to share and view content, for example Cute Ecchi: “Ecchi and cute anime girls. No nipples and/or genitals”. It seems to me that ecchi is a response to the grossly explicit hentai out there, which frequently portrays scenes where girls are being debased and exploited. Women (or rather I should say girls as most of the subjects don’t look a whole like like women) are still the focus of ecchi, but the images are a little bit more palatable, the misogyny is not as heavy, and the viewer can use their imagination a little, which is rendered unneccessary for really graphic hentai videos.

While one article says that the “fantasy world of demons, octopus, and other sexual hijinks that are impossible to perform” is part of the appeal of hentai, I’m relieved that there is an off-shoot of this phenomenon that is comparatively conservative. Call me a prude, but some of the hentai I’ve seen seems unhealthy and potentially damaging. Just as real life porn can leave people with unrealistic expectations about sex, the way women are depicted in hentai makes the feminist in me pretty damn angry because of the potential it has to affect viewers’ psychology.  Seeing fans sharing ’nicer’, tamer content is a good indication that many others also can’t relate to hentai’s hardcore characteristics. 

carteles-ecchi-desmotivaciones

Me? Perverted? I only imagine beautiful things… 

 

Periphery? I’ll look at Canada!

This week’s focus of peripheral groups was hard for me to explore. The idea of periphery was so broad I began doing what I usually do and that’s over analyse, over think and come to the conclusion that I’ve completely failed in my attempts to understand Digital Asia and I should leave Uni forever and forget about the entire concept of periphery. Okay maybe I didn’t go to that extent but it was daunting for me to draw my attention away from the Ringu franchise and attempt to grasp an entirely new Asian culture.

Instead of doing the norm of film, music, fashion or video games, I found solace in comedy. I decided to look back on Russell Peters. Russell Peters is born and raised in Canada but is of Indian heritage. His comedy is also in relation to his heritage and his experiences of being an Indian growing up in Canada and the bullying he faced.

I found most of my access to Russell Peters through Youtube only. Considering it’s the primary platform for connecting or gaining an audience worldwide, it would only seem appropriate that the majority of Peter’s material is found on Youtube.

Peter’s act, “Race and Culture” addresses the topic of being of a certain racial heritage but having no connection to their culture. He says, “I was born and raised in Canada, there’s nothing Indian about me.” This statement stuck to me as it’s something I can relate to. I was born and raised in Australia; however my heritage is Aboriginal and Pakistani. While I have a strong connection to my Indigenous culture and identity, it does not translate the same to my Pakistani background. I have knowledge and experience when it comes to Pakistan but my culture is not Pakistani, it is Australian.

Russell Peter’s comedy is an effective use of communicating the sensitive issue of race, especially being of a racial background that is a minority in western nations. Peripheral groups in digital Asia have an interesting platform when it comes to communicating personal experience and understanding their position and influence in Asian media. Russell Peters is a fine example of utilising experience to confront sensitive social issues in a form that both entertains and educates. I found myself connecting and relating to so many of his acts and finding comfort in the many similarities I shared in the stories he tells. Especially when it comes to comparing Asian parenting styles to Anglo Celtic.

References

Peter, 2012, “Russel Peter – Race and Culture”, online video, January 2012, Youtube, viewed 25 August 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPq34GVSuFE

English subtitles for Japanese Ghosts

While searching for Japanese ghost videos on YouTube I came across the above show. It seems to be a sort of reality TV show where they get people to watch a series of viral ghost videos and get their reactions. I’m unsure of the name of the show or of its popularity, but it’s existence and over 2 million YouTube views give some evidence to the pervasiveness of the horror genre in Japanese popular culture. 

The Ghost videos are all edited or faked, some significantly better than others, but still give off a creepy vibe followed by a good jump scare. Once the clip has played the show plays an instant replay of the jump scare but still with live footage of the people watching, seeing their horror intensify as they are forced to watch the scare again. 

After watching about 15 minutes of the show and understanding none of the Japanese being spoken I was a bit lost on the purpose or context of the show. I trawled the comments for some sort of insight and saw one user mention Closed Captions. I then realised that YouTube had Closed Captions available for the video, albeit in Japanese. Luckily Google has integrated all of its services so it can instantly translate the Japanese subtitles into plain English for me…
re-watching one of the clips (at 9:40) the only context it gave me was “Damage due to High Crude Oil prices also a profound…” JUMPSCARE! so that didn’t really help my understanding at all. Even further into the video I’m great with this translation

the installed ratattat

 

Which again gives me no context or understanding. Just an urge to make this

install

This week I was trying to look at viral Japanese ghost videos as a peripheral media and potentially look at the digital stories they told. Instead I was left struggling with translation and laughing at horrible subtitles, let’s call that a success.

-Nathan Smith

Dressing up is still cool!

So let me paint you a picture of every convention I have ever been to. I stand in line with my friends for nearly 2 hours to get in to the convention. While we stand in line we can usually see about 200 billion million people (because exaggeration is best way to describe anything) dressed up as something from somewhere. Now normally these people are waiting in the line to then go sign up for the cos-play competition, and about 50-60% of these people are dressed as something from Japan and about 80% of them are dressed as an Anime character.

People Dressed as Anime Characters (Source)

The Japanese have embraced this cos-playing culture to the extreme and it is something that they promote at every opportunity they can. “In 2006, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs started their support of the summit (World Cosplay Summit) that includes cosplay contests on TV, parades in various cities, photo shooting and more. The Ministry of Land and infrastructure and Transport also included the WCS as part of Visit Japan campaign in 2007 to promote tourism.”(Ito, Crutcher 2013) Cos-playing in Japan is a huge deal, bigger than I could ever have imagined. The fans even go as far as re-enacting scenes from their favourite shows Ito and Crutcher describe these events having their own area at most otaku conventions.  While this phenomenon has reached the western world the better cosplayers are those from Japan. Online, cosplayers have become famous and are instantly recognised when they are at conventions. People might know of the famous Jessica Nigri who makes money off cosplaying and being a cosplay model. Jessica has been able to reach her target Audience by having a facebook page with photos of her dressed up. She is constantly being interviewed and being asked what her next creation and she has come up with lots of great costumes.

Nigri as Vegeta from DBZ (source)

Reflections

So when I first saw these people dressed as their favourite anime characters I never really got the concept of it. I never understood why someone would go to all that trouble to create these elaborate costumes. However, after reading about this phenomenon that is cosplaying in Japan it dawned on me how truly incredible this idea is. Sure you can go to a convention and dress in a T-Shirt that says “I’m going Cakeless” but dressing up and going looking like Goku and finding a Vegeta and filming a fake fight to put online sounds like the best idea ever

References

Image sourced from http://tmsfiguregame.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/0108.jpg

Ito K, Crutcher P, 2013, ‘Popular Mass Entertainment in Japan: Manga,
Pachinko, and Cosplay’, SYMPOSIUM: SIGNS, SYMBOLS, AND SEMIOTICS, Vol 51, Issue 1, pp-44-48 <http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/208/art%253A10.1007%252Fs12115-013-9737-y.pdf?auth66=1409470864_16ff257c42481d546e9306a3f6fa55d0&ext=.pdf&gt;

TV North Korea – A life threating experience

Watching TV in North Korea appears to be a mix between propaganda and old western style TV programing. The programming is dictated by the State and all programs are made with the communist doctrine imbedded in it. It’s strictly prohibited to distribute or watch foreign TV shows and movies in North Korea. Kim Jong-un has reportedly sent security forces house-to-house searching for illicit DVDs and flash drives. If they do that for watching TV what is the consequence for using illegal use social media or Internet. This totalitarian control over television seemed to be extreme until I unearthed a newspaper article by David Boroff in the New York Daily News, Monday 11th November 2013. In this piece Boroff reported the public execution of groups of North Koreans found guilty of watching South Korean TV programs smuggled into the North as DVDs and on flash drives. These actions go against so many human rights seriously makes me feel ill.

However, the people of North Korea continue to watch TV smuggled into the country and live in fear of the consequences because they have a curiosity about the outside world which needs to be satisfied at some cost. North Korean Central Television endeavors to prevent this by offering alternatives by copying western style programs but in 1970’s formats. This programing offers the North Korean population fortunate enough to have access to a TV reflects only the western cultural aspects in a negative light. The west is still the enemy and must be portrayed as such. This is one of the reasons levels of curiosity are so high that North Koreans would risk everything for some exposure to the outside world through illegal TV.

We, on the other hand, can watch North Korean TV streamed live onto our computers through http://www.livestream.com/channelnk. This link is a window into the world of North Korea through TV and this helped me deepen my understanding of their world. The experience provided an interesting comparison between our obvious ability to freely broadcast content which reflects a wide cultural basis and offers a view of the world which gives viewers a choice. North Korean watchers are not afforded the privilege but in a largely peasant society where TV consumption I restricted they are unaware of the oppressive controls placed on their TV. They only know the martial music, military propaganda and State promoting content they are given by the Government. Until it is easier to access an alternative they will be unaware.

Opening the North Korean Digital Eyes

The more I explore the extraordinary space which is North Korea the more I am struck by the culture of the isolation. The Communist regime would very much like to maintain a firm controlling grip on the population – the proletariat that they create an imaginary façade of a culture which the west copies and follows. The creation of a pop culture in North Korea has been centred on creating an image of a controlled and orderly communist state. Whatever pop culture exists in the country has been placed there by the government so the North Korean people see only a cultural identity which has been chosen for them and not freely created by them.

However, this isolationist policy can only go so far. The westernisation of next door neighbour, China and the leaking of popular culture across the demilitarised zone from South Korea means that the Leadership of North Korea cannot completely blank out the migration of digital culture across borders. Rather than make it this illegal they destroy the credibility of the information and substitute their own.

WochitEntertainment

Published on May 18, 2012

‘Propaganda’ (95min) – Part 1

Sabineprogram

These examples demonstrate how the Communist Government of North Korea handles the incursion of western media influences into the population’s mainstream digital experience. Given this ‘propaganda’ and the abject poverty of the nation and the digital world does not exist within the political borders of the country. I found this extremely disturbing because living in our culture of freedom of speech and enjoying free access to the outside world, I have difficult coming to terms with a world which allows this to happen. In our culture we are fortunate to be able to experience the enormous changes that are offered and created by digital technology yet others in the world are given no choice and are told that our freedoms are imperialist attempts to undermine their world and threaten the cultural purity that is presented farcically to them.

 

Radio Caroline euan walker

 

I heard about the pirate radio ships which operated outside the British territorial waters when British radio stations attempted to break the BBC’s monopoly on radio frequencies in the 1960’s. This is what is needed to open North Korean people to popular culture of the world. Unfortunately the despotic instability of the NK regime would make this form of protest a perilous proposition given the leaderships willingness to shoot at things.

A Digital-less North Korea

 

Sometime ago I watched a Youtube clip of Denis Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters in North Korea. I only watched part 1 of the series of two because the absurdity of the event made a lasting impression of total oppression on me. I have travelled in Asia with my parents; hear stories of other people’s experiences and nothing compared to what I saw in that 14:32 sec clip.

When I scratched my head about the focus I need for my work in the subject of Digital Asia, part of my Media and Communications Degree, it was painfully obvious that the digital world in North Korea, or lack of it, might be an interesting place to start. This was not an easy decision to make because I had difficulty getting my head around the notion of an autoenthographic study, hence the tardiness of my initial efforts to blog. However, after visiting the DIGC 330 WordPress Blog I saw the types of subjects others were looking into and thought I may have an original idea.

My next thought was that it was probably going to be extremely difficult to source relevant research to expand my studies. North Korea being one of the most insular regimes in the world must have some stifling effect on the flow of information coming out of the country and the difficulties experienced by journalists and other observers entering the country made me sceptical concerning my information gathering fortunes. Nevertheless I will stick with my idea because the whole notion of total control of the digital environment in a country really made a negative impression on me. The totalitarian nature of the regime was so foreign to my psyche that I was drawn to find out more about it. It also made angered me that a population as large as North Koreas was being robbed of the entertainment, information and colour of the outside world. Sure it may not all be award winning stuff and there are negative aspects to the influences offered by aspects of the digital world but in the 21st Century people should have the choice – they should be able to enjoy the freedoms of digital communication and learn to deal with the Dark Side of the force.

So I will research what North Korea has to offer as a contribution to the digital Asia, it may be a very short case study or it may widening my conceptual understanding of a digital Asia and enthothnographic research. Only time will tell and I hope I can find some information to make it worthwhile.

 

Anime: Japanese Animation or Inherent Art Style?

In this weeks blog i wanted to explore what is and what really should be considered an Anime. Anime has long been the term used to define all forms of animated productions that are produced in Japan. Anime productions have a very particular art style when it comes to their character design and the way they present themselves. The concept of “Anime eyes”, which I will be discussing in my blog next week, is a distinct characteristic that is commonly found in Anime productions. Expressions are another concept that is commonly found in these animations, which are used to show character emotions more explicitly, and some examples of these “expressions” can be seen in the image below.

Expressions

Anime “expressions”- Image supplied by Photobucket.com

It seems to me that in todays society, the very definition of the term ‘Anime’ is outdated. I would argue that anime is not simply a representation of animations coming out of Japan, and that it is more an inherent art style. In a globalised society, it would be ignorant to classify and define these productions simply based on the location of it’s producers, especially if the style of art is identical to that of Japanese productions. Allow me to use an example.

The Logo for RWBY - Characters (L-R): Ruby, Weiss, Blake & Yang

The Logo for RWBY – Characters (L-R): Ruby, Weiss, Blake & Yang

RWBY (pronounced Ruby) is an animated cartoon series created by RoosterTeeth, an American studio that produces web content. The series, which is completely free to watch on the RoosterTeeth YouTube channel, emulates many aspects of the traditional Anime art style. An article written for CrunchyRoll, the premier website for watching free (and legal) Anime online, unpacks the contextual question of “what is anime and what isn’t”, and really puts into perspective the idea of an outdated definition of Anime.

Have your say, do you agree that the definition is outdated? Let me know in the comments below!