The Cosmo-Logics of K-Pop: Media Intimacies and Populist Soft Power

The Cosmo-Logics of K-Pop: Media Intimacies and Populist Soft Power


before I introduce professor Cho I want
to thank the Center for Asian Studies and department of Asian languages
for their support and sponsorship for publicity and
administrative efforts I want to thank Elijah Williams and Oscar who’s
not here and Jackie khone’s for arranging the logistics of Michelle Cho’s journey here and before I forget I was instructed by
Liza to circulate this sign in sheet I should also say
that today’s talk is part of the Center for Asian Studies theme Asian connectivities infrastructures
networks and mobilities earlier this year Director Kim Oaks, who is here today organized a five person panel on
infrastructure and development and today we’re talking about a different kind of
network within the pop cultural context the idea of connectivity is not something already established but a
potentiality as a kind of an opening that allows for a future yet unseen
connections to emerge and I think this way of thinking about connectivity seems
deeply relevant to ways in which popular culture is evolving today and the subject that Cho here will be speaking about so I’m very excited
to have Cho here who is Korea foundation professor the Department of East Asian
studies at the University of Toronto in Canada her research focuses on questions
of collectivity and popular aesthetics in Korean film media and popular culture
which is published very widely in academic and non-academic venues on
topics such as Asian cinema k-wave TV video pop music her first book genre
world’s global forms and millennia South Korean cinema is forthcoming and her
current work which phase of the talk will be drawn from theorizes the
convergence of platforms effect and globalization fantasy in Korean Wave
contents and candle so I just previously taught at McGill University and was a
postdoctoral fellow at Brown University after Custer chose talk lesser Aaron
eskalene will be providing some initial remarks and comments I’m delighted to
have her acting and discussing on this evening
she teaches at the department of semi studies of Moving Image Arts she’s a
filmmaker a writer and an editor splits her time between Boulder and New York
City through her research of filmmaking as she explores questions of
environmental history questions of the epistemology we can expect from the
moving image after best recipes official comments and questions you can open it
up to broader audience and you can have you guys chime in I am really excited to
share, so without further ado so I would love to hear feedback and any
questions that you have this is definitely a work in progress I am just
gonna read parts of the talk because I do have a lot of stuff I want to share with you so I’m a little bit
worried about time so also let me know if I’m taking too long but I actually going to start off the
talk with music video so I want to show you something and then we will talk more
but actually a quick poll how many of you are familiar with kpop in some way shape or form are fans consume it in a bit okay awesome I’m kind of debating for time management’s
sake whether or not to show the video by BTS called IDOL how many of you have seen it okay a
good number of you all right so then I’ll keep that in mind
alright so we’re gonna start actually with a different video that I am going to actually show you on YouTube because it has subtitles okay the 2015 music video by the South
Korean hip-hop group mfbty opens with a shot of an ambiguous space neither in
Dorner outdoor open or closed local or foreign where in the world are we a
figure intercept frame ambling along a loosely packed dirt surface towards what
looks like a pile of glowing trash bags as a channel twice half chance half
murmurs punk I’ve got to have come about let’s go ride um Punk people pom pom pom
pom so that’s the kind of chorus refrain which is really onomatopoeic it’s hard
to know what that means after a beat a classical Indian guitar
it echoes the child’s in plantations and responding to the child’s call R&B
singer and rapper Union and then begins the songs first verse with alright
alright okay I’m thinking about Tom kicks all together let’s bounce picking
on the bottom as a beat drop jump cuts introduce you PJ use at the other two
members of ety rappers Tiger JK and busy in alternating shots set in stylized
slum complete with clotheslines and targeted metal roofing and another
enclosure every of these walls are covered in black and white graphic
patterns and stacks of what look like pipes or plastic
there you see the kind of slum slum aesthetic and then this other sort of
what sometimes seems to be like music video land because this kind of room
setup is often what you see in music videos and they really Center the
performer by creating this kind of aesthetically interesting frame right
okay so a percussive track a vocalized Hindustani rhythm mounted to the sonic
texture of staccato rap and he repeated onomatopoeic
contain even bomb as the video proceeds hoon continues the next verse
Chen John Chun Chun ji hun Orton bungy commercial Jamaican beautiful teacher
which is actually a the first line of the tons of Moon which is the thousand
character classic that teaches children in Korea Chinese characters so there is
this reference to a mixed heritage that indicates the cosmic political tenor of
the track you also known as Tascha read or T is the daughter of a black American
servicemen and a South Korean woman she continues to reference her parents
trans-pacific Union by drawing on the Universalist claim of world peace and
harmony as well as hip-hop cultures affirmation of its reggae influences
with the line one left when I do it for my people use collaborator and spouse
Tiger JK continues with a burst structured by rhythmic repetition as the
lyrics string together the onomatopoeic verbs to nod and to run we took with a
bigot theme that’s like the the whole song is kind of like a sing-songy
children’s rhyme because it really uses all of these onomatopoeic herbs and
words in order to put together a song that doesn’t quite require translation
because it’s actually also mimicking the rhythm that structures the song itself
then use vocal cords announces the dominant popular form that unit unites
Korean sensibilities and South Asian rhythms on the track that is old-school
American hip-hop her line here comes that face that a really refers to the
Roland tr-808 an early eighties drum machine that’s now revered as a source
of the signature synthetic bass and percussion sounds of hip-hop and
electronic dance genres the video continues through another cycle of rap
verse and the base it away Korres to link a diverse array of scenes of group
spectacle from the explosions of pigment that that site for Hindu Spring Festival
Holi to be elaborate wigs and costumes of a disco ball lips club’s mean that
appears within the enclosed yard of the colorful fabricated
Oh MTU today’s authentic authenticating life story the videos used to pop images
of the global cell signals both an analogy like South Korea’s recent
history of other development whose visible traces endure in the persistent
US military presence Byrd Stinson use Korean hometown of MU as well as South
Korea’s seventh aerial aspirations and its efforts to reorient global popular
culture coordinates towards Asia so here what I’m pointing to is this kind of use
of South Asian mountain to also indicate that South Korean pop music doesn’t just
speak to kind of your American audience but it is also a popular form that is
directed at other regions as an example of Korean artists grabbing signifiers of
globality through u.s. pop culture forms to achieve crossover success pop TV
Baumbach and mfbty are representative of what I’m calling hip hop’s Cosmo logic
so my use of this term evokes discourses of globalization world
cosmopolitanism yet i want to more specifically to note the operational ism
of south korean culture industries claims to both universal appeal as
spectacle and the unique ability to localize global culture through
juxtaposition adaptation and repetition i propose that this collective that this
cosmo logic emerges as the response to a historical predicament that is to
reconcile the core function of colonial nationalism with the wholesale revision
of the positive content of such national identity categories in the crisis
temporality of the millennial turn thus the cosmo logic in korean culture
industries posits a cosmopolitan national identity through the syncretism
and spread ability of its contents so what i’m trying to kind of point to here
is that there is a little bit of a paradox about the way that South Korea’s
culture industries try to brand this sort of pop syncretism so the most kind
of exclusively Korean part of this video is how global it much of the rising transsexual
popularity of kpop today has been correlated to the growth
of digital distribution especially in the realm of assemblies
Kim has recently written about the complementary forms of digital and
modern kpop performance cultures and a key example of this dynamic can be found
in the growth of fan conventions especially cake on a Korean Wave and
dimension operated by CJ entertainment and media K Khan began as a vehicle for
fostering American consumption of Korean Wave content but as rapidly expanded
from a single event in Irvine California in 2012 2018 s8 City edition with
gatherings in Paris Abu Dhabi Mexico City Sydney Saitama and Chiba in
addition to New York and Los Angeles what multi-sided events like kcon
suggest is not only the broad global appeal of k-pop idol celebrity and
hopeful contents but also k-pop support ability as an industry production and
distribution model across regional markets by portability I mean not only
the mobility of digitally distributed content but also the porting of
paradigms tastes norms and fashions in other words new models of
comportment disseminated by Louisville media producers and the largest mana
company in the kpop industry SM Entertainment mounted smtown live a
concert held at the 50,000 seat capacity is study of methanol in Santiago Chile
in February 2019 and since at least 2013 k-pop artists have sought to collaborate
with Latin pop artist songwriters and producers as k-pop interjects world
music and pivots towards new mutual markets
fans and observers may have products perceived opening through broader world
than nearly a thousand West Germany moreover in the pursuit of new markets
and audiences and all cardinal directions
hip hop’s pivot to Central and South America South Asia and Africa through
regional pop music elements constitutes k-pops
own anti-abuse cosmopolitanism from Bhangra to South African house feeds to
the Latin rhythms of about your topic dominance across the Americas to pop
melodies and song structures sourced from Swedish hip making some writers and
producers this is a Cosmo logic that attempt that aims to encompass the world
through populist appetites visible online in a version of the world index 5
digital platforms what I wish to problematize in this presentation is
this version of the world produced by kpop speculative capture and global
which remains enthralled by met measures of global influence determined by
national branding himself our influence which I’ll elaborate further however I
also want to highlight the sociology of k-pops global fandoms especially the
embrace of that effect as both an embodied often irrational sensibility of
access and a sphere of pedagogy knowledge sharing and communal harmony
date and I find myself in a kind of difficult position when I’m working on
the stuff because I’m a fan so I am very cognizant of need to be critical about
the way that national branding and the kind of commercial nationalism works in
the case of the Korean way of archiving contents but I also want to affirm that
the relationships that global fans create and forage across these digital
platforms I feel you know their substitute so I think that tension kind
of persist throughout the presentation okay so mfbty is an acronym acronym that
stands for my fans are better than yours and it’s a unit group that Tiger JK
explains was prompted into existence by his Twitter followers
so there’s a story that you know tiger JK was a little bit down because his you
know he was running out of money and wasn’t sure what to do with how to
negotiate his status as a kind of underground hip-hop artist in a musical
industry that seems to be focusing so much on this highly corporatized
production of pop music and so he turned to his Twitter followers death for
inspiration and they they came up with this acronym however the other point of
connection that mfbty and this video in particular has to the other stuff that i
want to talk about today is that the video was kin conceived and shot by
director called lengthens some of you may be familiar with that name
and it’s kind of interesting because I think but Rubin’s production company
also frequently creates visual content for BTS a seven-piece south korean idol
group that sees the attention of north american audiences and industry owners
since 2017 and remains the most active musical act on social media worldwide
for example Twitter lists BTS as the most tweeted event group of 20 20 18 and
the sheer volume of fans trying to access media content of the band has
crashed both in a reveal life platform that enables top celebrities to
livestream to fan viewers the the Seoul City website when it featured short ads
with the group members and YouTube just last week when the platform froze at the
release time of the group’s most recent single what boy with love Lupin’s
repeats sorry this is the Luminess repeats official visual motifs company
pub on throughout bts’s music videos examples include the playfully iconic
lassic feather pillows that spontaneously combust into informants
confetti the banal inflatable figures that us also seem to be parroting
celebrity attention-seeking behavior in the videos and Experion explosions of
supersaturated pigments so that kind of like you know rainbow effect of colored
powder and this is something that you see in the
background around them a lot of these videos this is also a beauty essence RM
in a cameo appearance in the pump you can come by the video that I just showed
you so perhaps you saw that this theme that I’ve picked out also maybe show
some of the limits of kit props Cosmo logic in the sense that I know
some viewers were confused by this because it seems to be a desecration of
Fairbrook where I think that in the director is intent it that that drug in
the back background is just a kind of abstract signifier of you know exotic
locales so this is where he’s he’s on a toilet and then dead toilet explodes
into colored pigment again okay referential density reaches an apex and
bts’s late 2018 signal idol which was produced in two versions the
latter of which features a collaboration with American rapper Nicki Minaj Idol is
a raucous club track that uses South the South African house beat plum to weave
the sounds icons and visuals of communal festivity from across effort Caribbean
Carnival cultures Korean folk music and dance often performed during harvest and
New Year’s festivals and Bollywood cinemas large-scale group dances with
this collage technique the video links group celebration to the forms of
togetherness founded digital including multiplayer gaming internet
memes and viral video upon release of a teaser for the music
video two days before the full single and album dropped Korean viewers komak
coined the new genre label toke on EDM who ascribe with a purge which in
Congress mix of electronica and kuba traditional Korean instrumentation and
for them so I’m just going to show you for also these kind of sounds and like
lyrics which aren’t really clear gold content but our things that people save
during a live performance folk performance in Korea which is this kind
of encouragement from the audience to the performers so that others do it and
it’s definitely kind of folk reference okay so with the opening sentence of the
full-length version defied all expectations of traditional Korean
pageantry with the group members decked out in suits cut from both unger prints
against the CG tableau from what looks like The Lion King on acid so I’m gonna
show you a little video you don’t we’re not gonna watch the whole thing and
again this is a video that was produced in two versions and this is the second
version that’s like slightly less popular and it still has 72 million okay so the video proceeds through
fast-paced dance and scenery changes incorporate the final choreography for
the South Africans whare brought it down and also give an American rapper to
Childish Gambino’s this is America another viral video phenomenon from 2018
in alternating feature segments for individual group members rapid-fire
match and jump cuts paired with neon colors through a series of that land –
DGT backdrops so I just have like a couple of examples of the way that the
video is citing other viral video as a way to kind of celebrate the communal
nature of this kind of mitigated spectatorship so I don’t know I just
pulled this screenshot from baby shark and sort of compared it to this kind of
imagery so it’s not like a direct copy but there is definitely a kind of
referential referential practice going on okay and about the halfway mark the
music video fulfills the promise of the teaser video placing a group in an
electric electric yellow created pavilion is modified Korean traditional
dress taking folk dance steps to whistles and electron beam
each of these quickly woven segments across wrap first at the chorus and
vocal bridge references the future of multiverse with your group restaging
choreography from no less than 12 earlier samples this focus on identity
as iterative multiplicity also stretches the boundaries of text and work
BTS routinely built album series that add to remix or rework compositional
themes and they often release multiple versions of individual tracks either in
different languages so they often release separate Japanese versions of
singles albums or featuring guest appearances by collaborative artists the
group invited Nagy to contribute a verse to a remixed version available and
released a comparably edit video that places the American rapper in a pop
Orientalist setting I just wanted to show you a
couple more slides so this is actually uh this is a video of a really popular
Bollywood musical member from 2018 and so you can watch this on youtube it also
has hundreds of millions of views and so you can see the kind of direct reference
of the kind of scenery or iconography either kind of okay the group invited Minaj to contribute at
first and featured this in a remixed version of Idol that place is Nicki
Minaj in a pop Orientalism setting so well this might sound tasteless
what’s delightful about the video is the way that humble script in a similar
shade of electric yellow as a pavilion and Menasha swag sprawls across the
street behind her so this setup says she’s placing the scene and then she’s
talking to ETS maybe through her phone and then also this is happening in the
scene around her so so it’s interesting because the ammos script it doesn’t
translate the content of her lyrics into Korean it just takes the syllables in
terms of into phonetically into writing so um so well the parrot so while
parroting the Houston Asian lettering as try Orientalist decoration the scrolling
subtitles also foreground translation and the multiple worlds of meaning that
overlay in a video image idle connects world music and internet culture with
the kinds of collectivity associated with communal ritual and thus
constitutes a version at the top that marries folk culture with
commercialized cultural production and social media reflexivity arguably the
music video presents pure spectacle it also annexed a form of transcultural
communion based on the lateral connectivity of digital networks and
globalized view culture so in what follows I further elaborate kidsbox
cosmobonk mix and its can come to global fandom in relation to the aesthetics of
Idol mgs it’s at home since their official debut on the South Korean
television top performance circuit BTS has become accustomed to broadcasting
their lives and performing their boy Bible as one of their main pop idol
activities our management company big entertainment acclimated the members to
constant documentation by hiring videographers to produce common bombs or
mini clips of backstage antics music video set or tour travel footage to
generate content for the tomten official YouTube channel which whose home page
you see here while there’s a paradoxical quality to the figure of the pop idol
which is a product of intense disparity performing read radical individualism
this tension is often the main appeal of idol celebrity and it’s this exposure of
their so-called real lives and personalities that truly develop the BTS
RV so if you see on under these playlists with pom 10 Bob playlist has
hundreds of videos and so this is the repository for this kind of real-life
content that the group presents to expand
as a way to kind of cut past the manufactured celebrity image but as we
all know this is also a really important part of the manufactured celebrity image
this is a screenshot from the neighbor of you live app which is another
platform that’s used to create this sort of intimacy or the idea that fans have
access to the kind of real person and the real person’s life but it’s a
interface that resembles reaction video it also resembles the kind of
conversation that you might hold on Skype or FaceTime right so the form of
this platform is intended to create the kind of sensory experience of chatting
with a friend right so this is an important way that these kinds of
distribution platforms are structured in a video with commercial radio station I
Heart Radio that was filmed in New York in 2016
RM the group’s leader explains the SEC’s success of kpop as a transient
phenomenon based on what he calls real life contents our North American viewer
the meaning of this phrase might be hey however it has a certain common
sense quality in the south korean million as local jargon specific to the
development of cultural commodities through national branding as media
feller to name his detail the cultural policy position of the state through the
Ministry of Culture Sports and Tourism has been to actively promote the
development of Korean cultural contents for export through state funded
organizations like the Korean cultural contents Commission as well as do tax
subsidies and direct grants so let’s just watch this I think it’s a really
helpful explanation of what I mean as well by media so what is the trans media
delivery of Idol contents because again it’s important to remember that kpop
isn’t just the songs or the album’s that get sold but it’s the actual trans media
world that gets built up through the multiple forms of content that get
delivered works I think first we’re to get my right and
cape off as a great mix of music music videos and performance Cara gravities
and social media real-life content so I think when you get into our music for
example you search you so that you can search you can do for our chemistry and
like content and they and you could look for like social media team so it’s like
a really easy order for them super like dead to us so I think that’s why he was
popular for us I think we’re we’re talking about being right introduced our
cousin ourselves we’re talking about they don’t know people’s lives like
everything like like must of you so I think there is a specific concept for a
characteristic or and thanks to our fans they translate our legs and our
interviews languages that is how could they resonate
they’ll say fellas what else that’s why they and so based on this kind of
statement we like we might consider the nationalizing itself modifying the
implications of pop idols comments what does what does it mean that the members
of PBS think of their lives as contents having adopted this mentality through
years of training in the kpop production system for what particular media forms
and mechanisms does the self reflexive alienation divest these young
celebrities of their lives as contents and how does the spectacle of this
extraction generate fandom as the notion of life as contents pointed through the
ideology of self production as consumers the truth helps articulate the
pedagogical features of a variety of companies
yeah in particular the reaction video that is the sort of video that seeks to
turn the active media consumption into a spectacle that can be consumed by
another so this is kind of like serial production production of cereal consumption and it can kind of have this
endless trajectory so this is a form of media intimacy that insists that the
consumption of consumption is both extraordinary it produces the intense
pleasures of and enjoyment and entirely quotidian the form of genuinely popular
media news as the consumption of others reactions is also a routine and
necessary communication that facilitates this is a really interesting example of
the reaction video that actually does the critical work that I’m really
interested in this is a compilation of other family actions that was produced
by a youtuber in South Korea to kind of demonstrate the global fan base that the
group has and so it mashes up a bunch of individual reactions into one image and
you’ll see that the way that this sound books is actually very much like a crowd
so I’ll just I’m so if you watch the video in
Tarantino’s like and so I think the purpose also of putting all these
directions together is to emphasize the commonality of a communist of the
reactions that you know there are certain parts of the music video that’s
being directed to your event elicit a kind of bodily response an
uncontrollable response okay so kpop encourages ban media
production particularly of the sort that spectacular Rises consumption so this
reaction video genre is like proliferating it’s continuing to grow
reaction videos exist as a form of blog that’s very commonly found on YouTube
and one of the reasons for its ubiquity is often it’s easy it’s like not it
doesn’t require a lot of production like premeditated production strategizing to
make you just turn on their video to turn on your camera you record yourself
but there’s something about fandom that really it kind of calls for this kind of
media production or it’s incredibly important I think hurt
deviating fandom especially of global contents like kpop so in my larger
project by curious media from which I’m kind of taking these this talk I have
lived in three main sectors of kpop video sphere which are all of
disseminating on YouTube so first time with anthem music video reaction and
analysis video second kpop related mob on our broadcast eating videos and
finally kpop dance covers are the often communal restaging the kpop choreography
I read all of these storms as corporeal indices of kpop consumption that
performed the ubiquitous reflexivity that defines social media platforms as
sites of subject formation via media production and consumption while meta
media have been a topic of analysis in fiction film and television as well as
reality TV I argue that social media participation constitutes an immersive
everyday format the meta media by which vicarious substitution through the
consumption of vlogs or reactions induces acutely effective experience
however using the term identification I don’t need to invoke theories of the
cinematic apparatus that foreground the suturing effects of realist cinemas
formalism to describe how audiences are interpolated by their encounter with
media in other words in k-pops intimate vicarious media the
identification with bodies on-screen happens with heightened attention to the
separation between self and spectacle which in turn rationalizes the structure
of co feeling that could be said to characterize fandom as a communal form
on the other hand my approach stems from my ongoing interest in popular genre
frameworks and educational practices ovations cinemas as well as scholarship
on the effective force of images especially in my analysis of BTSs
transmedia strategies I read a catalogue of references that draws on the
affective texture of various sources from boy band genealogies so this image
is clearly citing every right to millennial East Asian cinemas to the
romantic narratives of the modern buildings Berlin which is an important
part of BDS is to stock so if you have questions about the
second top bed at all but I’m going to kind of fly by it pretty quickly
okay a steampunk to keep on bottom and I don’t keep up super tips and today is
characterized by multiple layers of reference if I which the industry posits
worldliness or globality point that rests resonates with fans own tourist
impulses which are often expressed in the painstaking creation of images and
videos as well as the desire to produce images of their own consumption ok so I
want to your show this quick video of the way that the kpop industry is kind
of pulling in the fan produced media aesthetic as a way to reinforce this
kind of intimacy that it’s also producing through the constant uploading
and documentation the idols out of the world are doing things and realized so
um the group and in BTS is not unique and there are other k-pop groups that do
this too they’ve begun this practice eventually reacting to their own and
then sometimes they will film their reactions to others reactions if they do
it into this relay and so you can find
actually lots of videos kpop idols yeah a family produced we actually videos as
well but this is a kind of interesting example of the way that the group is
primed to consume themselves as an image so I’ll show you a little bit of this so I can do the fandom as a contemporary
form of populism in too similar to Pro senses first independence assertions of
the visual effect of Commons and its gift economy so it kind of practices of
gifting and sharing and sort of thinking about the idol as common property and on
the other hand in the resemblance between the so this is a very much a
stereotype that’s right about cake box dance is that they’re crazy unfair
especially before they’re scary you know this kind of thing and it’s effectively
the same language that’s used to describe the madness of the crowd right
in contemporary geopolitics are defined by the rise of various populist arms as
many political pairs have argued I propose that media fandoms be understood
as part of this same guys justice populist movements are often
harnessed by state power so too is k-pops visible global fandom given a
central role in affirming Korean culture industries strengths as soft cover
assets however kpop fan cultures also serve to index the whites but condition
of alienation especially for a young generation
environmental labor conditions as well as this kind of media environment that
light BTS forces young people to present themselves as contents because this is
something when when the when Aaron talks about the specific contemporary position
the world I think he’s talking about you know economic conditions that are
daunting for people were looking for the kind of stability employment but I think
he’s also referring to a media condition or media environment that requires the
people for who they are and exist through a kind of constant self
production on social network okay so I’ll pause here for a brief note about
the rhetoric of south power which is something that I have met in relation to
too well Joseph nice frame mark is notoriously us centered I found in my
research that the concept of soft power also frequently animates the
technocratic approach to globalization that’s characterized the South this
South Korean states in the early into 90s and thus has deeply permeated both
popular and autocratic approaches to culture industries especially in a
context in which the perceived intersection of diplomatic and
commercial extinct exchanges it’s giving such given such close attention the
rhetoric of soft power is so prevalent that has even entered into cultural
producers own marketing strategies one famous example is SM Entertainment
CEO CEO East months rebranding of the kpop training system as a form of quote
neo cultural technology to strengthen the Spitler culture industry innovation
indeed to conjure it into being please even named in SM idol group the acronym
for this for his conceptual creation NCT so NCT 127 and C teachers they all refer
to neo cultural technology neo culture technology which is what they are also
supposed to be demonstrating in my involvement in their ever done in
communities that have produce scholarship on the Korean Wave I’ve
often found many stock powered for Conan perhaps because South Korean cultural
policy is also so invested in the Academy as a site where soft power can
and should be cultivated yet but the concept of soft power cannot account for
the ebb and flow of national consciousness at the level of cultural
consumption and and suddenly the outcomes of South Paris M&C are clear
it’s been adopting an aggressive policy framework to support creative industries
as a privileged economic sector South Korea has experienced to study rise in
tourism and culture export revenues however the extent to
which this increase in consumption of Korean cultural commodities translates
into state power is rather unclear in fact OS brats tested by the deflating
outcomes of the u.s. North Korea Senate last month what I would argue is
eliminating about the preoccupation with cultural commodities commodities
contribution to soft power is the presumption of their eligibility given
the media types forms in which it’s said to register whether that the youtubes
counts Twitter metrics or revenue statistics media critics like Jody Dean
argue that the media dependent representation of soft power is actually
an empty signifier of the captured value in the circulation and recirculation of
mere acts of meaningless communication a system that Dean calls communicative
capitalism further PRCA refers to this condition as quote collective
speculation and mediatized populist democracy where the people have
increasingly been redefined as sovereign consumers and citizens whose affinities
with popular culture media and commodities are primed capitalizable
assets for industrial and political actors I agree that the claim is evident
areas of soft power that culture industries cultivation of eating
has explanatory force in the spirit of geopolitics destined to suggest a
problematic equivalence and popular media representation and social length
however this assumption is also a common self-reflection self-reflexive
conditions are bands embedded in digital communities as dealer as a common
assumption that is for fans driven kpop is a sub cultural space of remote
affiliation rather than a ubiquitous features maintain public culture you can
find actually lots of k-pops testimonials that will talk about how
powerful kpop is as a way of you know building a kind of youth movement and
this sort of thing and so there’s this idea that came up it’s doing more than
just serving as popular entertainment and I’m really interested in those kinds
of claims you know why why don’t need and how ok ok books by Kurt’s media
offer multiple forms of in intimacy first set of sympathy or Co feeling or
the merging of interior seats through the spectacular ization of fandoms body
genres but they also demonstrate the notion of intimacy as hidden
unarticulated connection that lisa louis recently articulated in her book the
intimacy innertext slow and covers the
relationship between colonial bodies Goods and ideologies and the development
of liberal thought an intimacy that remains in current international
relations discussions of a liberal world order that’s now imperiled by resurgent
populism in the media intimacy’s that kpop makes visible the intimate
relations of colonial and the immaterial relations in the development of pop
music coexist with the turning of private experience into private property
this privatization is then paradoxically also turned into a common property as
it’s shared on social media the proliferation then of spectacles a
reaction at the discursive production of media intimacy gives form to the desire
to be something like a concept of social totality in the relationship that the
public might have to the media texts that Hale said this is something that
twelve o’clock is called an occasion community rather than the classic
imagined community of South Korea’s robust ICT infrastructure his purview
is media public represented funded our real-time internet searches shoga and
the belief that media captures the national president’s of material form
however the claim of an integrated media public also fuels speculation about how
that imaginary public entity things feels and desires the threat presented
by craves to Nevison rate or provisional version of the madness of the crowd is
being converted into a form of soft power in the expansion of fandom as a
form of cultural citizenship or even civic duty in k-pops
MO fandom cultivates soft power against the assumption that soft power is
exercised by the state in honey 2.0 or the social networking fueled
globalization of the kpop market what the state requires is in addition to
industry cooperation and control is a kind of populist discourse that can only
be produced by integral fans thus kpop is in its present entanglement
and promise of digitally mediated sociality that have been alternately
labeled Digital democracy capitalism or Tai’s popular or media types popular
democracy helps us to understand the conceptual limits of a global public
defined by mediated effective bonds as well as the flows of lateral exchange
that establish all solidarity by forcing us to address forms of media populism
that produce felt community but that nonetheless infer modification so I guess I would start this
conversation speaking about Sidon and the way in which you video to this
larger idea of transmedia and the way their system built from that original
piece you talked about the at first that that
original piece in the way in which certain forms I mean to me at some level
it’s kind of operating almost as a gift at the level because of the repetition the dance moves that are
made even more of a spectacle in the way that the custom plays how that at some
level is a compression there’s no narrative
very little I’m curious about your class on that just as a defining so I actually think that yeah the
comparisons between the music video and it’s really interesting because in a way
kpop music videos are so quickly edited in so dense in there is onsen that they
are tailor-made for turning into gifts are beams or they’re aiming for virality
which is possible through a compression of content or signification I wouldn’t
say that they’re so so I did a little bit of a reading of the lyrics and how
they try to kind of transcend language by becoming sonic units of rhythm but I
think that also in the kind of density of Larry and the music video content you
almost have enough overabundance of meaning because someone can sort of the
the compression of signifiers is actually intended I think to produce a
sense of familiarity no matter where you’re coming at it from right so if you
love Bollywood then you’ll see there if you love American hip-hop then
you’ll see it there if you love EDM then you’ll see it there too right so
everything is kind of presented in a brush so that rather than being I think
very few well Hardware fans will do this kind of like dissection or analysis of
the video that really draws out and unfurls the multiple layers of reference
but I think a lot of people who are just watch me for entertainment value they
are not doing that and that’s a point that there’s this kind of
internationality that doesn’t require the sort of cult fan approach where you
really have to do in order to unravel I think though that those kind of cult and
and impulses are also entertained by the industry and that’s something that’s
huge and big yes if there are BTS fans here we know how
much the fandom is engaged in certain theorizing what’s happening and linking
together a narrative that is actually presented across multiple texts and
multiple video so not they’re not contained by one normative video but
they emerge through this transient world so yeah I think aesthetically what kpop
music videos are trying to do are get to be sort of everything all at once
except maybe for slow cinema right you understood aesthetic but so yeah in this
age say of almost fear of cultural
appropriation and and so there I think there are lots of the issue of cultural preparation is
about the industry as well I think the figure that I chose you know
specifically because it deals like that in a way that relies on the next race it
really kind of links the production of hip-hop indicate to a kind of
authenticated presence and also it was like pointing to the history behind the
the integration of us musical forms into South Korea given South Korea’s position
and page-specific as part of you know u.s. Empire so I think it’s because of
that historical connection that the same kinds of you know
criticisms as cultural preparation sometimes have a limit because we’re
talking about a very different kind of context and especially one that one
where you have to really be attentive to political the political forces in play I
guess so but there is this kind of freedom that’s being claimed by
performers to pull on cultural reference points from everywhere because of this
town government like you know it’s it’s different when a hegemonic kind of when
the global hegemon is doing it in a way that is extractive but you could argue
that you know the Korean pop industry’s relationship to the global south is
similarly extractive and I think that yeah there are discussions of
so this is kind of you know sub-material impulse I’m a portal to South Korean
South Korean industry – yeah exert a place in the forces you have there’s so many points to cover
and you’ve really really a lot to think about
politically aesthetically culturally cinematically and certainly in the way
in which the point in which we are right now I feel that people jumped in 2019
great picture of what’s happening and where we are
I just wonder this is a little bit of a general question but if you might
comment one of almost thrown a personal perspective of your research where you
see this going and I mean is this sustainable to have this kind of
manipulation of these groups that are so obviously expensive and masks and
discreet oriented now but I am curious if this is a
sustained our conversation on back yeah definitely well I think that
because kpop as an industry has newly skills like they’ve been able to target
its strategies to the kind of everyday media comportment that a lot of people
in many places are adapting to so this kind of social media just spending a lot
of time on social media social networking sites choosing to kind of
follow and consume media that’s not necessary and forging relationships that
our media I think that because kpop is so
adaptable to that kind of media environment it’s not good but there is
something about fandoms at least in North America or outside of the East
Asian region really growing in this environment of non mainstream this right
so once kpop becomes a bit more mainstream in the local market it might
start to lose its shine or lose its appeal and an alternative space right so
I don’t know we may see that but as from now I think that the also the industry
has been really good at using both this kind of digital space as well as still
fostering the kind of in-person live kind of events to make that make a pop
fandom into something that’s more than just I don’t know something that you do
when you’re typing comments on the YouTube page right so that you know with
the importance of choreography people are getting together in physical space
together concerts are really important right so so because kpop fandom is both
it’s very like live and in person kind of
and the conventions are also really good for that as well as something that
people can partake in even if they’re not in major Politan area I think that
it’s especially well-suited or yeah building on this idea of youth
consciousness a global youth consciousness everybody who’s affected
by the post recession condition can find something question that will open it up and back
to this idea of in the way in which relation to that as you said is giving
this and I’m very distinctive entry into a feeling of connectedness
spoke to the dancer but to what cell essentially other people doing them
yes and I wonder if you might talk about that in conversation
the fact that this is I mean I’m really interested in this
idea like immediate aliveness so when people talk about liveness usually you
find the term and concept coming up either into performance studies where
people are kind of talking about the difference between a live performance
that doesn’t rely on its documentation and are the access so the only happening
once the aliveness or you hear about liveness as a dominant feature of
broadcast media so like television radio these are live broadcast forms where
it’s all about like simultaneity of perception like you have the Super Bowl
everyone’s watching it live at the same time instead that kind of connectivity
is really bound to the present in time more than the present in space right so
but I think it’s really interesting about the kinds of and produced media in
response to keep up that are proliferating the most or that seem to
be the most they try to they try to take both of
those kind of effective rubrics of lightness and turn them into something
that you can access and watch over and over so I have really interesting at
some really interesting examples of reaction videos that will like perform
watching for the first time or where fans will watch and then comment below
this takes me back to the first time right so it’s the kind of capture of
that sort of lightness in order to make it I would periodically like something
that you can store and repeat and and we live in a way and so that kind of
effective quality is really always the point of this sort of media and it’s
also really important in in like reaction video they’re all about like
the spontaneous bodily response that kind of inarticulate I fell about like
fangirling or fanboy whatever and that word is supposed to mean really kind of like shock to the body but also like the
eating videos are really all about this kind of bodily sensation and then I
think in the choreography videos there’s so much emphasis on like bodily movement
and help us feel to dance in that way and so the tactility are the kind of
sensational quality it’s being moved in a way so that you don’t have to
experience it in person and with others you can talk about how you shared that
bodily sensation and that’s I think this for actually I don’t know Bali experience use I think use the phrase communicated
but I didn’t write I didn’t have a chance to write down what it means can
you just remind us what that is yeah so the term is used by a media critic Jody
Dean and she has a kind of theory of you know what late stage capitalism in
the condition that we’re in and with these kind of global platforms or global
media corporations that rely on the production of value through sharing like
Facebook Google Twitter all of these media platforms that are privately owned
that rely on users using them in order to generate revenue this is what she
calls communicative capitalism so it’s the extraction of value through the
effective communication where you know in the past in in like in a pre digital
age yes there was print capitalism where you had media forms that were sold as
commodities or traded as commodities like books like newspapers and magazines
but in this in this climate it’s not that
communicative capitalism is something that a separate front or disconnected
from print capitalism but it’s an intensification of the production of
value through communication so in her use of the concept she’s really kind of
she’s kind of pessimistic about it because she’s looking in her way that
politics or political discourse has become completely developed developed by
this in a capitalist apparatus so that you know there isn’t a space for people
to just come together as citizens and and assert themselves in a democracy
that they are always media consumers at the same time so you mentioned hardly a response to your
last question is essentially your screen way that we
physically interact with so I started to think about it
like why k-pop fans or cuba fandom is so interesting
spectacles like physical response with a trap viral video happen in 2012 and so I
was really keen about the reality of deception as a translation activist own
right so for a lot of people who are watching this thing in their life you
know I don’t know how to this is all my modeling the crazy you know it was the
show being able to show how immediate text was affecting new industry that
made it somehow fun to watch for others because they could sort of get a sense
of what it meant right if you can’t understand the lyrical content of the
song at least you can understand what it’s significance is as a kind of
cultural phenomenon which is that it like is funny and bouncy and people who
watch it like collapse into giggles or something like that right so it’s a meme
right and so I think I was meeting it’s
corporeality that is performed not always an exaggerated way people are
always that their reaction videos that are the most popular are the ones that
don’t seem contrived are the biggest they seem like they’re like authentic
reactions but nevertheless they’re always like perform before a spectator
but I am really interested to you than Canada remake of reality of our
relationship to so much our lives between like the real world the
tournament the virtual world and you know that dad
dad is also really interesting yeah definitely in discussions of like
portability so the devices are like how we are engaging with all the technology
that be like carry you are aware but also the way that you know the
Internet is not this space where you can transcend your subjectivity but it is a
space that actually produces a lot of yeah people are what they need so first thing to talk period sort of
talked about how any soft power was a valuable politically as sort of talked
about that maybe sometimes like the bring some of that much but I guess I’m
sort of curious to enter my made some the pts history was sort of integrated
political issue and self creative sort of mandatory hold a service to do
service before after all so it’s still coming yes ok so I guess that’s sort of
my follow-up question here is sort of how maybe you talk about me the citizens
are building more soft hard to govern itself I think that’s got to be
generating quite a bit of discourse witnesses themselves like you know value
we continue sort of mandatory military service one so I’m curious maybe three
thoughts are about maybe you like the coming popular kpop is may be generating
some more global discourse about things that would have been talked about population
I think it’s really interesting to think how to support the state including the
military because Ellis domestically you know there are lots of examples of
like keep up idols being sent to ensure up the troops
k-pop idols being filmed in a reality TV show being in the army you know to make
it seem like cool and fun like this fun place where you get to just like have a
fun time with your friends you know so keep up I also definitely been mobilized
in service man urging of public’s attitude
the continuation of military service and also I mean kpop has been used as a
propaganda tool like pipe through speakers over at the DNC that has a way
to kind of represent Korean South Korean development or something and just wave
over tinnitus or something but then also k-pop idols are diplomatic tool
so like there were kpop performer in performing a concert in town last year
right so so in all these different ways yourself idols are used as natural
representatives right almost as if they are Olympic athletes or something like
that you know there are their national whole subjects national servants public
servants so that’s one way in which I think kpop is used to facilitate heart
what’s called hard power power and soft power are contrasted I
think what I was trying to suggest is that that dichotomy is a little bit
unlucky because the idea that soft power is you know the way that Joseph nine
is that you know soft power includes Hollywood and ornate right it’s just
that a kind of state power that it’s exerted not through coercion but through
the fisherman jumpy but I don’t necessarily I think that part of the lightness of
all into social media is an extreme so there is kind of like an ongoing stream
and in order to maintain streams to be constantly refreshed and updated so
there’s a kind of rhythm of internet life and what this kind of you know
makes me think and I don’t know if you know this media packages I know it
contain these contexts but of you know actually but just people watching videos
and then commentating on the screens like in this very constant stream of
text so it’s I think that might be an interesting comparison actually because
it’s entirely text role as opposed to this very bodily live reaction that
you’re talking about and it can also be looped or you know refreshed and you
know could constantly accumulated yeah in a way that create that’s sort of
a different type of copula maybe so I wonder if you could kind of
speculate me I know this is not yet the content of your presentation but if you
could speculate did some of you know the different affordances of that type of
participation ad versus a kpop would you think is it seems much more specifically
tied to the kpop idol as my intuition but I think there’s definitely live
knows television lightness makes a lot of use of on-screen text and so I’ve
thought about it a lot in terms of you know variety shows that I wear textures
animated in a rude way to kind of introduce the voice of a viewer or
someone outside an image but the textual studies that you’re talking about
accumulation of responses that sometimes cover over like I believe oh right so
their area they can cover over the entire image so all you have is like the
comments that’s being incorporated into platforms
like you live there you can see the commentary doesn’t obscure the image in
the same thing but that – you can like turn it on if you want to watch it but I
think that it’s also yeah the corporeal likeness and textual likeness I think
they get kind of married together in a really interesting way and so I said no
he also looking at because it’s also a
space where you can see different like media worlds coming together right so if
in like on Instagram my feeds now there are also like scrolling comments this is
something that is relatively recent I think but even having the live streaming
Kappa capacity of YouTube or Instagram that’s something that is deleted right
it started after this was possible with other poppers because suddenly become okay
underneath Mandarin I need this what language is it in does
that alienate me or include me or the they split into different
channels it’s different different scripts all right no no I know I just
mean like as if you were when it’s words when it’s more bodily and it’s more
visual it doesn’t introduce that possibility and then it becomes word that which right which is forming the
community or tighter where is this what you’re talking about is like it’s time
to grab everything together can’t make those mr. magician okay the more there are does that mean
the more you know is that translating relating to different multiplicity of
identity is that that sprouts out of a group needs to be yeah there are seven members and there
they’re like a medium sized groups that have many more earth and I think the
primary reason for that is choreography because multiple bodies doing things in
coordination is very impressive as a spectacle but kpop like in contrast to
j-pop has fixed members that aren’t necessarily substitutable in and out
where it’s a pocket modular one which is something that so you can have like
akb48 is a famous example and you have a baby with a baby groups in different
cities and so there are 300 and Kitty 40 a universe that all upgrade and means
like life performance so but that’s also what is so yeah the
size is very again it’s time to like what sort of spectacle in one amount so
there’s like 13-member bigger ones but also it offers a variety of different
personas within a group that will be the favorite of people so you’re kind of
allowing the idol to turn into a character which is really interesting
and then people get particularly invested in you you

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