For many, the Internet is linked with their expression of self (Poole 2012). Facebook feeds document feelings while Twitter records opinions. The online world offers an opportunity of expression and storytelling that has never been offered before (Pareles 2006).
Pool, C cited in TechWebTV 2012 ‘Web 2.0 Summit: Self Expression Through Social Media – Chris Poole’
Reddit offers this opportunity more than most sites. As a site that thrives on user generated content, it welcomes personal experience albeit usually for the purposes of comedy. Boards such as r/AskReddit, r/iAMA and r/TIFU are all based on users recounting personal experiences. But it is not only the places that specifically ask for users to recount their personal experience that tell an important story.
r/NorthKorea provides an insight into the shielded Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), but unlike most digital storytelling, it provides a voice for North Koreans through the documentation of the experiences of visitors and defectors, and the aggregation and discussion of everything ‘North Korea’ (Reddit 2014). While it is impossible to say whether this story truly reflects the average experience of a North Korean citizen, it provides somewhat of a voice and story to a nation that is confined from the rest of the globe.
Browsing the content of the board paints a picture of a nation that is built for show. Images show empty streets but extravagant statues. Scrolling through, I get a feeling of isolation and pride. The citizens isolated from others but prideful in their country. One user posted a poignant photo of a female traffic director smiling, which they say is a rare occurrence, amongst a reel of tourist snaps littered with propaganda (fatherdougal 2013). A sense of human delight nestled in a story of propaganda and poverty.
Through website of the nation’s main broadcasting service, presents an aggressive, proud and stiff voice (The Voice of Korea 2014). Same, same but different. The ‘Voice of Korea’ is littered with combatant rhetoric which is weakened by the outdated and disjointed layout of the site. As I listen to the snippets of news audio linked on the site, I can’t help feeling that the electronic voice of the news reader aptly matches the image the North Korean government pushes. Stiff, robotic and void of genuine emotion. Built for show, but showing nothing.
r/NorthKorea, although not voiced strictly by those whom it is about, provides a story that has genuine human sentiment. Through the aggregation of content, the Reddit community provides insight into a group that is forgotten under the weight of their governments actions. Reddit, as a community, has expressed the identity of a group that is unable to do so itself. A story within a story.
Fatherdougal 2012, ‘Just got back from a week in North Korea (Pyongyang, Kaesong, and the DMZ) – Here are some of my favourite snaps from the trip’, thread, 10 May, Reddit, viewed 28/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/northkorea/comments/1e2bw8/just_got_back_from_a_week_in_north_korea/>
Pareles, J 2006, ‘2006, Brought to You by You’, The New York Times, 10 December, viewed 28/8/14, <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/arts/music/10pare.html?ref=music&_r=0>
Poole, C cited in TechWebTV 2012, ‘Web 2.0 Summit: Self Expression through Social Media – Chris Pool’, web video, 3 April, Youtube, viewed 28/8/14, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYIingBky5A>
Reddit 2014, North Korea, viewed 28/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/northkorea>
The Voice of Korea 2014, Voice of Korea, viewed 28/8/14, <http://www.vok.rep.kp/CBC/english.php?sYear1=2014&sMonth1=8&sDate1=27>