Month: September 2014

Reflecting on my autoethnographic experience

Autoethnography: ‘research, writing, story, and method that connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political’ (Ellis, 2004)

Autoethnography has allowed me, as the researcher, to move beyond traditional methods of research and writing, and enabled me to use stream-of-consciousness thought and a digital artefact to help convey my own experience navigating my way through a foreign culture. Throughout the semester I struggled with, what seemed to be, a step-back from the theory-driven methods that are often drilled into us at university. However upon reflection, I feel that approaching my research autoethnographically has allowed for a more immersive and informative experience.

According to Bochner and Ellis (2006), an autoethnographic researcher is first and foremost a communicator and a storyteller, and this is something I agree with. I haven’t been just communicating someone else’s ideas, I have been experiencing a foreign digital media form and expressing my personal thoughts, feelings and observations, which is somewhat refreshing, in my opinion, for both the communicator and the audience.

Rick Sheridan, in his article ‘Autoethnography: An Introduction to a unique research method’ lists a number of autoethnography prompts, ideas to get the autoethnography research processs started. As I looked through these questions I realised that by attempting to understand/become involved in Now On My Way To Meet You, I have answered some of these questions implicitly. As I researched the context of the show I realised the assumptions and prejudices that I brought into the research as a 21 year old Australian girl who has never experienced one ounce of the struggle of the shows stars. And even after almost a whole semester attempting to understand the show, I am resigned to the fact that there will always be unexplainable holes in my general understanding because, no matter how hard I try, there is a cultural gap that can not be overcome by simply knowing the history behind South and North Korean politics.

‘The researcher shows people in the process of personal discovery, making choices, interacting with other humans – it provides insight into the meaning of their struggles’ (Sheridan, n.d). I think that my digital artefact (mainly the twitter feed) affirms this documentation of ‘struggle’. I found so much of my research frustrating because I was unable to find online versions of the show with English subtitles and was forced to rely on news articles and small translated YouTube clips.

By reflecting on my experiences of Now On My Way To Meet You throughout the semester I can confidently say that I have been challenged on a cultural and intellectual level as I attempted to transplant this digital Asian media into an Australian context. My research epiphany, an integral part of research as explained by Ellis, Adams & Bochner in their article Autoethnography: An Overview, came as I ultimately realised that this could not happen. Now On My Way To Meet You is so deeply dependent on the ingrained societal prejudices of South Korea that it would lose its social and political potency if it were to be implanted into another countries context. This is the most unique and powerful element of the show. The element that confused, entertained, educated, interested and challenged me throughout my research.

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Manga VS Manwha

In Korea, Japanese manga is becoming more popular but Korean manwha is also gaining popularity all around the world. Manwha is a Korean term for comics or print cartoon but outside of Korea, manwha is referring to South Korean comics. However, because of the history between Korean and Japan and the value of patriotism, manga in Korea is not as popular as other countries in Asia.

Comic culture began to flow into Korean peninsula from Japan during the colonial era (1910-1945) but manga start to fade after the year 1945. In 1945, South Korea enacted the laws that follow with many other laws to restricted the broadcast and distribution of content which is including CDs, games, manga and any other that media coming from outside the country. The laws did not specify any countries but the content of the laws was aimed at Japanese media. As a result, Koreans had no legal way to access Japanese media until 1990s. Even though all Japanese media was banned in South Korea, manga still available for people to buy and read in South Korea. Until early 1990s manga were being circulated in South Korea as manwha by hiding any Japanese elements in order to avoid criticism, for example, by changing authors name in to Korean. Manga were legal to publish in South Korea in 1998 when the law was revision, the revision allows comic book and Japanese version of comics publishing.

With the flow of manga into Korean peninsula during the colonial era, manga has influence Korean artist into creating their adaptation of manga. ‘the comics literacy of Korean readers and authors was formed in three ways: via adaptations of Japanese manga, by the distribution of pirated “how to draw manga” books, and through the spreads of comics by domestic artist who used manga style’ (Berndt, J, Kümmerling-Meibauer, B 2013, p88)

Manwha has been gaining a lot of popularity over the past few years. South Korea’s mawha related products were worth about US$133 million in 2011 which is an increase of 40 percent from 2009. Manwha is now being publish in North Africa, North America, South America, Europe and in Asia. Coming with the Korean wave, Korean Popular Culture (KPC) has been gaining enormous recognition around the world. The cultural items involve many things, such as, dramas, shows, K-pop, fashion and South Korean comics, manwha. South Korea’s government are now promoting manwha with a hope that it will take the place of Japanese manga.

Now, let us look at manga in South Korea. As manga just became legal to buy in 1998 and a popualrity of reading manwha and cartoons online (Webtoons), manga might be struggling in South Korea. Even though there are many store that sells manga and anime, many of the comic convention still focus on content from South Korea. For example, Comic World which is the biggest comic related convention in south Korea is focusing on manwha. Comic World is a event that being held quiet often both in Seoul and Busan. The convention is to celebrating ‘all things manwha‘. There is also The Seoul Animation Center, it is the first theater in Korea that devoted to animation and it also have cartoon museum, exhibition hall and many other things. The Seoul Animation Centre seem to be focus on animation from Korea but it also have Japanese anime.

Reference

Berndt, J, Kümmerling-Meibauer, B (ed.) 2013, Manga’s Cultural Crossroads, Routledge, United Kingdom.

Hong, S, Kim, C H 2013, ‘Surfing the Korean wave: A postcolonial critique of the mythologized middle brow consumer culture in Asia’,

A controversial topic…

So this week I will be looking at the controversy surrounding Sailor Moon. The video above gives a short look at the differences between the Japanese and American (Western) versions of Sailor Moon. In case the video isn’t working, or you just cannot be bothered watching it, i’ll give you a short run down. Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus are dating! *GASP* shock horror!

Or at least 90’s America thought it was.

Nawwww!!

Nawwww!!

However the world is changing. And fortunately for Sailor Moon fans everywhere (well outside of Japan anyway, because let’s face it, they are pretty ahead of the times when it comes to this sort of thing) we are finally going to be able to watch this romance play out before our very eyes.

When the original series was dubbed for Western Audiences Neptune and Uranus were shown as cousins. And as you can see in the YouTube video, their scenes together became pretty awkward, pretty quickly. As a consumer of Sailor Moon I feel robbed. I grew up with the dubbed versions of these shows as I have only just recently discovered the beauty of the Japanese versions.

Feminist site BitchMedia praise the series for helping “girls around the world come to terms with their sexualities” (2014) with the writer herself exclaiming that she grew up wishing for a romance similar to that of Haruka and Michiru (Uranus and Neptune). I myself grew up with a pretty open understanding of different sexualities, and although I am straight, I have a number of close friends who are not. A number of those friends found it hard to come out to friends and family for a number of reasons, and I can’t help but think that if they had children’s programs, such as the Japanese version of Sailor Moon, would’ve they accepted their sexuality earlier in their lives?

However, all is not lost. According to CAAM, Viz Media, who have just acquired the Western rights for both the original and re-boot, are releasing 200 original episodes un-cut. They are also promising to keep the new episodes the same as the Japanese version, when they eventually dub them over.

Here is a video promoting their progression.

Bridges, R 2014, The Feminism of Sailor Moon, BitchMedia, http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-feminism-of-sailor-moon

J-horror is where it all began

Throughout the duration of my research and analysis of Asian horror, the literature always turns back to inspirations and influences from Japan. Japan’s characterisation of horror is mainly engrained in the tales and history disconnected from the contemporary culture we see now. Therefore it’s understandable the market for horror cinema in Asia turns to Japan for its inspirations in creating an ideal performance for the genre.

What I love most about Asian horror is the representation of females. Too often is there a portrayal of females as the damsel in distress, holding no authority in the scene or a domination of the script. Within the genre that sees a perspective rarely tailored to the villains but rather providing more substance to the victims and their survival, its refreshing to see a flip of roles within J-horror.

Japan’s implementation of traditional narratives within a contemporary film setting, enhances the fear attached to these old tales of vengeful spirits. The common narrative we see in such horror is the “innocent women who are victimised and brutally murdered by men” (Valerie, W, p.30). I find it interesting to see a representation of a severe social issue such as domestic violence in the genre of horror due to the silence it endures in other contexts. The topic is implemented into the art of performance and translating the grotesque effects into a film that does not censor the realities of the issue.

Japanese horror cinema seems to be the inspirations for other asian films especially in Thailand and Hong Kong with obvious extensions to the Western world. Adaptations of J-horror into American films can be an effective tool to communicate an ancient culture’s tales by means more understandable to audiences disconnected to the Asian continent. Whether it is effectively accomplished is in consumer’s interests which I find to be a polarising aspect to the discussion.

References

Wee, V 2014, “Japanese horror films and their american remakes: translating fear, adapting culture”, in Routledge Advances in Film Studies, Volume 27.

Pokemon and Soft Power Part 1: A Brief Introduction to Soft Power

This week I’ve been thinking about soft power. I first came across the term in my second year at university, and I haven’t really thought too much about it since until now. It can be argued that Pokemon has had a huge impact on how Japanese culture has spread and is perceived international in the past 18 years or so, and thus has contributed to Japan’s soft power.

So what is soft power exactly?

Let’s begin with the definition of hard power. “Hard power” can be thought of as the “A coercive approach to international politicalrelations, especially one that involves the use of military power (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2014). Countries can sometimes obtain the outcomes they want without the tangible threats of hard power. This indirect method is often referred to as “soft power”Soft power rests on the ability to shape the preferences of others.  It must be noted that soft power is a difficult thing to both obtain and to measure in a sense. Unlike hard power, soft power relies on the ability of a nation to influence others tends to be associated with intangible assets such as an attractive personality, culture, political values, institutions and policies that are seen as desirable or legitimate (Ey.com, 2014).

Joseph Nye could be considered the soft power Guru, and explains the concept quite well in this VIDEO.

Recently I found an article by Nissim Kadosh Otmazgin (2007) that examines the nature of the Japanese soft power that derives from the proliferation of its popular culture in East Asia. Otmazgin notes that the Japanese government has been examining ways to promote the country’s cultural exports, in order to generate economic benefits and nurture positive appreciations of the country overseas, through investing in Japan’s cultural industries including food, fashion and content production. By cultural production I refer to the Japanese television, film, music, print and gaming industries. It is no surprise that the success of Pokemon has contributed to Japan’s soft power. The franchises’ success over the past two decades has helped to change the attitudes of nations around the globe towards Japan and Japanese culture.

After reading the article, I’ve have tried to reflect by asking myself “how do I explore Japanese/Pokemon related soft power in an auto-ethnogrpahic sense?”

The more I tried to answer this question, the more difficult the task seemed. That was until I realised that I’ve been exploring Japanese soft power throughout my entire auto ethnographical journey. If soft power can be measured by the ability of a nation to influence others relations with cultural assets, like, for instance, Pokemon, then my exploration of Pokemon fan art online is in itself, an expression of Japanese soft power. Fan art produced online that is able to circulate and thus, be appreciated globally, shows the extent of the influence Japanese culture has had on my own online experience as well as thousands of others. People from around the globe who come together online to discuss, create and explore Pokemon online are participating in an expression of Japanese culture.

I’ll call this Part 1 of my discussion, as i feel like there is so much more to be said.

References:

Ey.com, (2014). Rapid-growth markets soft power index:Soft power defined. [online] Available at: http://www.ey.com/GL/en/Issues/Driving-growth/Rapid-growth-markets-soft-power-index-Soft-power-defined [Accessed 27 Sep. 2014].

Otmazgin, N. (2007). Contesting soft power: Japanese popular culture in East and Southeast Asia. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, [online] 8(1), pp.73-101. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/irap/lcm009 [Accessed 27 Sep. 2014].

Oxforddictionaries.com, (2014). hard power: definition of hard power in Oxford dictionary (British & World English). [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/hard-power [Accessed 27 Sept. 2014].

 

Auto-ethnographical research…

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A quick recap into what is auto ethnography before I get carried away into researching into Asian Social media. Auto ethnography according to Ellis is “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis, Adams 2006) it is a way for you to personally understand and understand an unknown culture.

During the beginning of this subject I was very confused by the term “auto ethnography”. I was thinking to myself ‘what have I got myself into’ every assignment uses this word and I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT MEANS. Instead of using this blog at the beginning I’ve chosen to do it at the end when I had a clearer understanding of the concept of ‘auto-ethnography’

During the beginning of this subject I was very confused by the term “auto ethnography”. I was thinking to myself ‘what have I got myself into’ every assignment uses this word and I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT MEANS. Instead of using this blog at the beginning I’ve chosen to do it at the end when I had a clearer understanding of the concept of ‘auto-ethnography’.autoethno

After reading “Auto ethnography: an overview” it laid out this unknown term to me so clearly. I began to think as I was subjecting myself to new content to think about how it made me feel, what I experienced while engaging in something foreign to me, my reactions my emotions – frustrations, confusions; everything. This reading was key to unlocking the magic that is auto ethnography. I tried to think of it as another way of reflection. A form of reflection that will inform someone who is also unaware of the topic to have a better understanding – or at least less of shock.

After eventually grasping my head around this unknown term this assignment become a lot easier. It is merely a different way of thinking – I mean we all have these thoughts when subject to new media but usually we don’t pay attention to them, or even remember them clear enough to be able to explain them. Auto ethnography allows us to dig deeper with personalised analysis of media/mediums.

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: an overview. Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, pp.273–290

Information and Technology: Seeds of Change in North Korea

I know the past few posts I have said I will be discussing the illegal consumption of information and technology in North Korea, and I will! But first I think I needed to research where the government is at with their IT developments, what resources and infrastructure they provide, what is actually legal and who can actually access it. So, one of the biggest surprises when I started all of this research on North Korea was the abundance of material. Because North Korea is such a tightly controlled and isolated population the fairly recent introduction of information and technology, like mobile phones and a communications network, is an unprecedented development. People want to talk about it, which certainly makes reading and finding out about it easier than expected.

It was only in the last decade that the domestic closed Internet, Kwangmyong, and the mobile phone network was created. They are such a normalised aspect of our society, we probably have 10-year-old kids running around with iPhone 6’s. Meanwhile in North Korea it is only the countries upper class and elite who have access to 3rd generation mobile phones. North Koreas network, Koryolink, only allows for domestic calls, these are all monitored and tracked as closely as possible by the State Community Department. However, with now almost 1million cell phones in North Korea, the conversation between private citizens is becoming harder to follow (this is still a measly number compared to South Korea, where there are more cell phones than people).

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I think one of the reasons I find this research so interesting (umm epiphany?) is because I know I am going to be able to follow the story in North Korea for decades to come. For the last three years of this media degree I have been educated on the potentials and abilities of communications technologies to provide freedom and a movement of ideas, which can often result in liberating change. I feel as if North Korea is at the start of this journey. While it is still very early days and the future is always uncertain, I am going to witness the strengths and limitations of new media technologies, within a nation, that only a decade ago was completely debilitated in that field.

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On that note, I think it is important for me to understand why North Korea decided to expand the use of IT, even though it poses such a risk to the rigid control of the regime. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the North Korean economy is weak. The DPRK’s goal is to increase productivity domestically and attract international investment. Of course, these newly installed technologies will only reach their full potential if the DPRK opens up to the outside world. At the moment, North Korea has created something of a “mosquito net”, allowing for a flow of foreign investment while blocking infiltrations of foreign ideas, news and culture. As a result of this structure North Korea is currently stable and the possibility of a ‘North Korean Spring’ is pretty far-fetched.

I still believe that North Korea is moving in the right direction, but that is just the opinion of someone studying media and technology in a Western country. The notion of a modern revolution in North Korea is extremely tricky, in the West we are obsessed with the logistical utility of technology (it is very useful) and the legal importance of free communication (it is a right), but I think we may under-appreciate the psychological and emotional power of the tools we’ve created. As seen in the Arab Spring, social media has the power to diminish the loneliness inherent in discontent. Imagine being a North Korean and having the desire to overthrow the North Korean regime. Practically, how could you even organise anything large-scale enough to effect change. Psychologically, you would feel disconnected from others; unable to communicate on a large scale with fellow like-minded people. I think I would feel as if I was alone in my stance, maybe I was wrong? I feel as if I would be overwhelmed with a sense of alienation and paranoia. Especially after decades of education, propaganda and policy that have been put into place to make rebellion a deep source of shame and mortal fear. On top of this, many North Koreans are against any change, with the modern and materialistic ways of their South Korean cousins representing a polar opposite to their traditional, deep-rooted familial, political and traditional values. So yep… change in the DPRK = complicated to say the least.

Korea-light-map

This week my idea of what was going on in North Korea has been challenged and transformed. There are so many more complications to change in North Korea than what I originally thought, I guess my research was still kind of at surface level. Anyway, information and technology still has the force to challenge the DPRK, pushing for either reform or collapse. The thing is, North Korea has an ancient system in place for preventing political change. These foundations run very deep and I guess to shake them you would need a vast majority from all levels of the rigid caste system. At this stage, mobile phones, new markets and foreign DVD’s may be the sprouts that lead to this change, but for now they are just seeds… so next week let’s see where these ‘seeds’ are being planted.

Week 8: Japonism

This week I stumbled upon a discussion of a bi – directional feedback loop that has evolved between Japanese and “western” music which has intensified the differences between the two. FACT Magazine, who provided the discussion is a popular online publication which provides a running commentary on music, including general news and various opinion pieces such as reviews, lists and often insightful discussions on musical cultures. In attempts to justify some conclusions on a symbiotic relationship I have stumbled across as a result of my investigation of J-Pop I came across an article on Japonism in FACT. As it happens this discussion of cross cultural influence has been prevalent since the 19th century, Japonism a French term describing the growing influence of Japanese culture though it is only recently in the 80’s and 90’s that this feedback loop developed with the rise of J-Pop. An interesting development in this discussion by Fintoni is a key element of a distinct translation of western influences in Japan, the early influence of an opportunity for incubation. Japanese musicians were initially able to process western music with little historical or cultural context, which facilitated a rich conversation between the east and west, obviously a conversation that occurs more frequently today with the speed of information.

As I’ve been investigating J-Pop facilitations of this conversation have become more apparent when I then return to listening to my ‘normal’ music. Ryan Hemsworth, a Canadian musician has been collaborating more frequently with Japanese producers as well as promoting local translations of J-Pop, such as Kero Kero Bonito based in the UK.

It is evident that collaborations such as these will become more frequent, hopefully more effectively than the Avril Lavigne ‘experiment’, but it will be interesting to see at which point if not already discerning between the musical styles will become too difficult. I have a feeling that the environment that facilitates today’s discussion dictates that a middle ground will be reached in the not too distant future.

Who better?

This weeks post will be outlining the methodology of autoethnography and its relevancy to my research on Reddit, women and anime.

‘Women should represent women in media’, Megan Kamerick 2011

Researchers are often caught in a tug-of-war between objective and subjective approaches. Quantitative data – numbers and statistics – is considered to be more stable than its qualitative counterpart – interviews and focus groups. One side is labelled scientific, the other considerate (British Library 2014). Both are true, yet both are not. It is unproductive to argue either side in terms of truth-telling. Instead, it is appropriate to consider them in terms of the research you are conducting.

My research will be considering the experiences of women, the illustration of women in anime, and the construction and treatment of women on Reddit. It would not suffice to say women are mentioned so many times, or this many users reference women in this specific way. The experience of every woman is unique and personal, just as every post and illustration is different.

The methodology of autoethnography provides a unique approach to research, which is fitting for such unique experiences. Autoethnography will allow me to reflect upon my personal experience within the anime boards of Reddit. It will allow me to vividly convey the way women are treated, filling the hole in academic research that Jane noted (2014). It is not apt to clinically approach this subject matter as this would diminish the accuracy and integrity of the research. Afterall, as Kamerick noted “How do you tell a woman’s story? You ask her to tell it” (2011).

But of course it is not enough to simply recount personal experiences. While I am not advocating the use of numbers and statistics, the research needs to be grounded in academic thought and theories. This will enable me to step out of the experience, and to reflect and draw conclusions from it. As Ellis et al. describes, autoethnography provides the opportunity to use hindsight to construct research based on personal experience, but grounded in academic theory (2011).

Like any research methodology, there is criticism of the autoethnography approach. Mostly, its validity is questioned due to its reflection on the author and its lack of hard facts. In terms of my own research, I believe its lack of hard facts will benefit the overall result. Traffic stats or content analysis will do little to convey the true nature of these boards. And as for the reflection of the author, who better to tell the story of women than a woman.

Reference List

British Library 2014, ‘Qualitative and Quantitative Research’, viewed 24/9/14, <http://www.bl.uk/bipc/resmark/qualquantresearch/qualquantresearch.html&gt;

Ellis, C, Adams T E &Bochner, A P 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, viewed 24/9/14, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095#g4&gt;

Jane, E A 2014, ‘Back to the kitchen, cunt’: speaking the unspeakable about online misogyny’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 558 – 570

Kamerick, M 2011, ‘Women should represent women in media’, Ted Talk, September, viewed 24/9/14, <http://www.ted.com/talks/megan_kamerick_women_should_represent_women_in_media&gt;

A Parody of laughs

Have you ever heard of abridged shows? They are pretty popular on the internet, and Dragonball Z has a huge following on their fan made parodies. Team fourstar have started a popular webseries that is based on the original show that pokes fun at some of the inconsistencies and character types in the show. This show is a great find online as if you were a fan of the original TV show and can deal with off colour humour.  The show has all the characters from the original show and has made them more akin to the traits they showed during the original tv series. For example, Goku suffers from some form of mental handicap, Gohan is super smart and Vegeta has serious anger issue. These are just some of the many character tropes that the webseries developers use when creating and writing the show.

What does it mean to have a parody though? What is a parody? Well, Parodies are “a form of repetition with ironic critical distance, marking difference rather than similarity” (Seitz, 2011) I feel that if you create something and someone parodies you then your original thing must have some form of merit to it. It is rare to see someone from Saturday Night Live or a reporter of the Daily Show make a parody of something without the original material having some meaning at that point in time.  If this is the case then the parody that is abridged series for anime is always relevant to the fans of the original show.  Dragonball Z has piped up numerous parodies online but the most successful one is the abridged series.

The guys at Team Fourstar have created a masterpiece with their series. Watching the abridged series gave me a new sense of enjoying Dragonball Z again. I couldn’t believe how much they captured the original characters traits and expanded on them better. There are some points where you find it is better than the original series dub because it is so well written.  I think that is a testament to the parody nature of the show, the funnier the show is the more memorable it is in the viewer’s head. I think that is a good sign and it keeps the show fresh in our memories and that’s what really matters.

REFERENCE LIST:

Seitz D, 2011, ‘Mocking Discourse Parody as Pedagogy’, Pedagoy, Vol. 11 Issue 12, <http://muse.jhu.edu.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/journals/pedagogy/v011/11.2.seitz.html&gt;