Reflection on Individual Digital Artefact

http://www.pikore.com/digc330kpop

As an addition to my individual digital artefact, I wanted to take some time to write down my thoughts and perceptions on my KPop experience.

First of all, this artefact was one of the most fun and exciting assignments I have ever undertaken. I haven’t had a university assignment to date, where I was free to choose my own platform, completely submerge myself into a new experience, and document my findings. When commencing this subject, I was really hesitant. Not being familiar with many aspects of ‘Digital Asia’, and basically being totally out of my comfort zone, made me question whether this was the right subject for me.

I can say now, that if I didn’t continue on in this subject, I would be so disappointed in myself. It has truly been an incredible experience which has opened my eyes to a culture that is so vast, exciting, broad, innovative and a one of a kind, and I’m so happy that I have learned the things I have.

My individual digital artefact took me to a place I never thought I would be. Attending a Big Bang concert is every VIP’s dream (or marrying one of the members), and for one night I was given the chance to become a part of the experience of being in the VIP fandom. And let me tell you, it was one of the greatest experiences, and one that I won’t forget. My artefact allowed me to analyse what I was watching, and what this boyband is all about. I had the opportunity to witness a subculture outside my own, and experience a true VIP fandom moment.

I was proved wrong on many occasions, which was great. I expected to be completely out of my depth. The language barrier was my biggest concern and I expected the band to not speak English and I would be stuck there thinking “What on Earth is going on?”. This was naivety at its finest. The way each of them spoke in English was so eloquent and I was taken by huge surprise. They connected with the crowd, the way any Western musician would, and I felt somewhat guilty that I had any doubt.

I was expecting to see a vast majority of Asian fans, given that Big Bang are not mainstream here in Australia. But again, I was so wrong. The fans in attendance were predominantly Westerners! I had no clue that there would be such an influx, and it made me proud to see an acceptance and love towards a genuinely talented music group, despite their ethnicity. The band showed photos of the places they visited in Sydney, tried their best Australian accent and had a million stuffed toy kangaroos and koalas on stage. There was a mutual admiration for both cultures, which is great to see.

Also, I assumed that the concert attendance would be small, and not enough people to take up the seats at Allphones Arena, given that they are a Korean band. My assumptions were again, WRONG. In fact, both their Sydney shows were SOLD OUT! And there was line that went around the ENTIRE arena with fans waiting for 3 days, to get the best possible spot in General Admission. There were fans dressed up as the boys, their music playing on loudspeaker and everyone singing along, food stalls, there was press from the Sydney Morning Herald and so much pre-concert entertainment from the official Big Bang dancers, which was the best way to get the experience started. I was exposed to a world of fun, colour, unique characters and I am honoured to have experienced what I did. If I didn’t then I would still have the same expectations and stereotypes I did, before DIGC330. And that wouldn’t be the right way to live!

This experience taught me so many new things about a culture that I have grown to love and appreciate. Without this experience, I would still have no idea who Big Bang are, what KPop is, the idea that there is no boundary between the language of music and how anyone, of any ethnicity can come together and appreciate one another’s culture in this type of environment.

Thankyou DIGC330, for this amazing and unforgettable autoethnographic experience.

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K-Pop Music Culture: One Final Look

Image Source: beyondhallyu.com

Image Source: beyondhallyu.com

Reflecting on my previous accounts on the K-Pop culture, I have experienced a lot! I feel so engaged and in tune with K-Pop, that I kind of want to be the love interest in Super Junior’s new song. Looking back on my experience, I feel that I engaged with the notion of K-Pop music culture rather than just with the phenomenon itself. It has been so enjoyable, and its like I have been of a different world, that is so amazing.

As mentioned before, I am quite the music lover. I was only open to any genre, as long as it was danceable and had a decent beat. The idea of K-Pop becoming part of my iTune playlist, was never something I considered, prior to now. In fact, I didn’t even know K-Pop existed until starting this subject. I am constantly looking into the latest music (although I must admit its been predominantly Western music) and I’m always searching for something new and so good that it makes your ears melt, that many people may not be aware of at the time, which is EXACTLY what K-Pop encompasses. Even though K-Pop isn’t really a mainstream thing in Australia, I believe that enough people hear about, they may begin to appreciate and get involved with the excitement and vivaciousness of the genre. This was definitely the case with Psy’s 2012 SMASH ‘Gangnam Style’ which literally took over the world. Everybody, everywhere was singing ‘heeeeeeeeeey sexy lady’ and couldn’t get enough of the catchy dance moves. This happening can lead to so much potential for K-Pop to become a mainstream, global genre, and its really exciting.

After reflecting on the music I was exposed to (predominantly K-Pop boybands) along with the subcultures I have witnessed, I feel appreciative of this foreign culture and the influence that some parts of Western lifestyle (like the English language) play in the genre. Coming from a Macedonian background, I can somewhat connect to the differences in culture, which creates a deeper connection than I thought was possible. I have experienced an entirely new level of cultural identity and understanding, of which I am pretty thankful. This in turn, has created almost an epiphany within myself. It was so foreign, so strange, but it was right in front of me the whole time, even during the screening of Godzilla a few weeks. My instant connection with the Asian culture, and K-Pop in general, stems from my own background as a Macedonian living in Australia. I can connect with the differences and appreciate them more, because I am living it here in Australia, with my own cultural differences. I probably won’t partake in the K-Pop lifestyle myself, however it is so liberating seeing this in a world that is constricted in following the rules and social normalities.

The international bridges that K-Pop is trying to build is way too cool for words, and I really feel that it is such an important part of one society’s identity and cultural experience. I loved discovering every aspect of the phenomena, and maybe one day, it won’t seem so foreign for the Western world.

K-Pop Music Culture: Going A Little Further

Image Source: pinterest.com

Image Source: pinterest.com

In my previous blog post, I wrote a autoethnographic account of my experience watching a 2 hour special of the program, PopAsia, showcasing the classic and latest pop music hits around Korea. I was a bag full of emotions. Intrigued, shocked, interested and curious. My mind was trying to wrap itself around what my eyes were seeing, so it was a little hard to take it all in and consume and analyse at the same time. It was so foreign and new to me, that I completely forget to really break down the experience.

Instead of delving into what KPop means, as Ellis, Adams and Bochner (2011) discuss, autoethnography is not just describing but analysing your personal experience.

Since watching the program, I have officially fallen in love with the idea of KPop. It is so unique and interesting, that is impossible not to appreciate it. So, in order to make sense of it all, I have delved a little deeper into the many angles surrounding this funky musical genre, specifically looking into boy bands and how it all contributes to not only my experience, but also Korea as a culture/fandom.

Looking back on my PopAsia experience, I noticed a few things that can be categorised as subcultures within the KPop boy band genre.

Firstly, there was so much Fashion. For both male and female artists, their fashion sense and style was not only a reflection of their “performer” status, but a symbol of the Korean fashion scene. It was risky, futuristic, vivid and over the top. Something we are not used to seeing in a Western society.

Secondly, the stereotype of Masculinity. Typically, in a Western culture, we relate masculinity to strength, bravery and toughness. This is basically the opposite in the KPop scene, predominantly in the boy band world. The male performers sported long, colourful hair, a significant amount of eye and face makeup, feminine clothing and tons of jewellery. This was both bizarre and awesome coming from someone who up until now has been clueless to Korean music.

And thirdly, the cartoon form of anime. Anime is not as obvious as the other two, yet it is still present. Anime is such a huge part of not only the Korean culture, but Asia as a whole. There were two examples of this. 1. The singers were physically, almost cartoon like. The facial features were not stereotypically Asian, with double eyelids and large eyes, with all other facial features dainty.  2. The live programs consisted of the integration of anime cartoons of the singers, as part of the performance. Their human movements mimicked those of the anime, which in turn, was mimicked by the fandom.

It was obvious to me that these forms of subcultures play a significant role in the popularity, lifestyle and realm of Korean pop culture. Without them, I don’t think KPop would be, what it is.

To further investigate, I went a little crazy on YouTube searching for KPop boy bands, subscribing to as many channels as I could possibly find. Once again, I almost forgot about the autoethnographic experience, which is a side effect of what YouTube does to you. Boy bands including Super Junior, Big Bang and EXO, which proved to be the most popular regarding the fandom culture.

Also, following on from the PopAsia program, I went online to research other KPop music programs. One of Korea’s most loved is Music Bank. Music Bank is a live broadcast of KPop music performers and artists, along with a countdown of the top Korean songs of the week. After watching five episodes, the eccentric and bubbly lifestyle is evident each time. Anime, kawaii culture, karaoke and international focus, all contribute to the KPop genre, which I feel has given a new insight into how to make sense of KPop and adding to my viewing experience. The program is almost a reflection of past Australia music programs such as Rage and Countdown. This kind of took me back to a simpler music time, and it was really easy to connect and appreciate.

I also decided to follow the PopAsia and MusicBank pages on Facebook, to gather some perspective on KPop and make sense of what it truly means. Through reading and watching the feeds, I saw an entirely new side to not only Korean culture, but KPop in general (and what makes it so special). The connection of these news feeds to their fandom is the most important element. You can see there is a lot of mutual respect between producers and consumers. What I have always known about music just being about music, is greatly changing, given the subcultures that are present in KPop. I’m REALLY looking forward to researching even more into KPop music sensation and the effects this has on fandom culture.

K-Pop Music Culture: My Autoethnographic Experience

Image Source:

Image Source:

I have always been a huge music buff, and I’m open to any genre of music (as long as it has a danceable beat). Considering this, I have decided to investigate the music channel of K-Pop. Up until this point, I have only ever been exposed to K-Pop music in the form of the ever so popular, 2012 smash hit ‘Gangnam Style’. This was such a phenomenon, and I became quite intrigued with the whole ordeal. I wanted to know more, and hear more, from a style of music that was so foreign to me.

The likes of MTV and Channel V are the Western world’s go-to television programs for 24/7 popular music videos, so I thought to myself that surely there is something out there for Korean music.

Researching into Asian music television programs, the name that constantly kept popping up online was ‘PopAsia’. I thought to myself, clearly this is a winner, simply given the name of the program! The SBS PopAsia Show is an Australian music television show which broadcasts Asian pop hits from around South Korea, Japan and the Republic of China. I began my autoethnographic experience by tuning in Sunday morning, 9am, for two hours of non-stop K-Pop special.

The first song on the playlist was ‘Fantastic Baby’ by the Korean boy band, Big Bang. I am not going to lie, I really enjoyed every aspect of the video.

My initial reaction was laughter. I recall saying to myself “What the heck am I watching? What is this?” The eccentric costumes, the loud hairstyles, the random scenarios, the repetition of the word ‘boom-shacka-lacka” the cheesy dance music and the dramatic dance sequences were pretty overwhelming. My first impression wasn’t something I was expecting. I think my laughter came both from nervousness and culture shock. It didn’t take long to start dancing along to the catchy tune, and before I knew it I was submerged into the entirety of the K-Pop experience.

As the song went on, I also noticed a few references to the English language as an ideology of Western culture. This was a small shock, and I felt somewhat of a connection to the song (despite not speaking/understanding a word of Korean). This was evident in the songs that followed, with one to five English words, repeated over and over again. It was interesting as this gave a new perspective on the consumption of K-Pop music, as a Western viewer.

Also as the music videos went on, you can’t help but notice a sub-culture intertwined within the genre. The use of fashion and issue of masculinity is heavily present. The futuristic outfits, the men wearing makeup, with long hair and tons of bling (typically female things to do) were obvious from the get go, and made me rethink the meaning of masculinity and how it clearly differs to how Australians define a masculine man.

I believe it is important to look into more detail of these subcultures, and determine how they affect each other, along with identifying how this makes up the K-Pop culture.

Image Source: sbs.com.au

Image Source: sbs.com.au

The K-Pop genre is so unique and out-of-the-box that is hard not love, even if you are foreign to the language. As a starting point in my autoethnographic research into the channel of K-Pop, in an Australian context, I feel that I have gained new insight into a genre that is widely popular and I plan to further investigate into this rich culture.

Autoethnographic Investigation Take #3 (And not the most comfortable)

Referring to my two previous blog posts, and the reporting of my autoethnographic experience, I have been inspired by Godzilla to delve deeper into the gender ratio in Asian television and the gaming industry. As Godzilla was set in a critical time of gender imbalance, and male dominance (the 1950’s) I have ventured off to discover other areas in popular Asian culture to determine whether this issue has either progressed or diminished (or possibly both, if that makes sense) overtime.

Having minimal personal connection with any form Asian culture, I have to face a cultural barrier in regards to how I undertake this research. So, by listening to suggestions by fellow students and discussions that have taken place in class, I understand that there is strong popularity in the area of Asian digital gaming. The Secret World is one such game that seems to draw quite the attention, so I decided to see what it was all about (even though I am not the video gaming type).

Being a massive, online, multiplayer video game set, The Secret World has a culmination of both the Western and Eastern worlds, and pits them against each other using factions (which can be seen as a form of racism). As soon as you choose your character (only being male was an option) and faction (Dragon belongs to the Japanese) you’re taken to a room where you meet a mysterious Asian woman who instructs you what to do, and how to use your ability etc, and then out of nowhere, performs a sexual act on your character.

I immediately switched the game off and felt genuinely freaked out! It was way too uncomfortable and disgusting to even fathom that it just happened, and my eyes had witnessed it! The portrayal of East Asian women in this video game (the split second that I saw) is a typical approach to the ‘dragon lady stereotype”. This means that the women are depicted as mysterious, sly and seductive. This casts a blanket over all Asian women, and their role in society today (considering this game was established in 2012). From a woman being showcased as inferior and weak in Godzilla, to being an evil, sexual object in video games, it’s quite difficult for real women to escape this social stigma (which is also the case for us women in the Western culture).

Street Fighter

Street Fighter

This is also the case in other video games, such as Street Fighter and Virtua Fighter (although maybe not to such extreme as The Secret World), yet we do see more female anime characters being showcased behind their male counterparts and sometimes even take on the leading role (which is progress, I suppose?)

Virtua Fighter

Virtua Fighter

Moving onto the television industry, the term “gender bender” is fast becoming a new wave in the Asian entertainment industry. The idea of a woman, completely transforming herself into a man, seems to be the new craze. By cutting off all her hair, removing all makeup, wearing a plaid shirt and taping her upper region, out of nowhere makes her a man. Now, this can be perceived a number of ways. I see this as a clear-cut attempt for women to be as accepted and acknowledged the way a man is. It is a way of putting down women, and proving to the world that “men are better than women”.

Queen Seon Deok

Queen Seon Deok

Korean drama television programs, including Queen Seon Deok and Ma Boy, are two examples of this. Of course we see gender and role reversal in classic Western films such as Mrs Doubtfire and White Chicks, (men changing into women), it is represented in a form where it can be deemed socially acceptable, whereas in Asian cinematography, it is disguised as a way of demonstrating a woman’s worth (this is also evident in Mulan, from my previous post) by changing a woman into a man.

Ma Boy

Ma Boy

Although this was a heavy topic area for my liking, it was something that stood out from the beginning of autoethnographic research (which I cannot relate to AT ALL) and I will definitely be choosing a light-hearted and fun niche (like fashion or music) in Asian digital media for my final project.

A Reflection On My Autoethnographic ‘Godzilla’ Experience

Okay, so here is the breakdown of my “Autoethnographic ‘Godzilla’ Experience”….

Image Source: villians.wikia.com

Image Source: villians.wikia.com

After looking back on my initial reflection of Godzilla, there were a few instances where I directly wrote about my inexperience and lack of awareness into the Asian culture and digital lifestyle. As much as I tried not to make any comparisons and connections between Western and Eastern cultures, it became living proof of easier said than done. I feel that,at times, I posed difficulty in connecting my thought process with my experience. It was like they became two different things, and was only seeing the film at its surface, instead of delving deeper into the roots of the storyline and values behind it.

For this week, my aim is to stick with an analysis and research technique. I want to emphasise the keyword AIM, because as mentioned above it is easier said than done.

One (of the many) elements of Godzilla that stood out to me, and acted almost as a type of epiphany, was the ratio of men to women, and the roles they played. This naturally presented itself, and obviously I was not the only student to notice this gender divide. I suppose I was drawn to this element, because it is something I am familiar with, I am comfortable with and have grown up seeing in films, music videos and even real life. During the 1950’s, the issue of gender inequality was to be expected. Men were seen as strong, brave and active, whilst women were deemed weak, soft and passive. As I spoke about in my previous post, the female protagonist, Emiko, is the epitome of this. The portrayal of her behaviour and actions showcased her as someone who needed to be told what to do and how to do it. She relied heavily on the men around her to take down Godzilla, relied on her father and boyfriend to be her protectors and was depicted as incompetent in assisting the defeat of Godzilla.

This is also the case in many Western films, even from this century. The most prevalent example I can think of is Disney and their portrayal of a woman’s role and worth. Disney Princesses, for example, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Ariel (The Little Mermaid) are each made to have their happiness and worth depend on a man/prince. This ideology is something I grew up with, and thoroughly believed in for most of my life. However, Asian cultures are seemingly at the forefront of changing this concept, and empowering a female lead. This is evident in the 1998 Disney film, Mulan (which is based on the Chinese legend of Fa Mulan). An affluent Chinese woman whom disguises herself as a man to serve in the Chinese military, and saving the lives of the men around her, was unheard of during the time. Her portrayal of strength, couragousnesness, bravery and independence showcases the changing perspectives of both Asian culture and values. This can also be said for the television anime, Sailor Moon. A young teenager whom is given special powers to become a soldier destined to save Earth from forces of evil (this was one of my favourite shows growing up, and I had no clue that it was Japanese anime!).  

Image Source: slashfilm.com

Image Source: slashfilm.com

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 10.52.57 PM

Image Source: hitfix.com

According to the article, Damsels and Heroines: The Conundrum of the Post-Feminist Disney Princessthe idealised representation of women corresponds to cultural pressures. The gender ratio in Godzilla is an evident representation of a pre-feminist movement, however with changing attitudes, and the Asian culture/entertainment industry at the forefront of this change, western cultures will need to take note.

References

  • Stover C, 2013, Damsels and Heroines: The Conundrum of the Post-Feminist Disney Princess, Journal of Transdisciplinary Writing and Research, vol.2, no.1, article 29, pp.1-8

Autoethnographic ‘Godzilla’ Experience

Image Source: scifimoviefilms.com

Image Source: scifimoviefilms.com

Firstly, I would just like to mention that this is my first experience in the world of ‘Digital Asian’ study. And starting off our first class with a film, was definitely a shock, considering I am not familiar with any form of Asian culture. To say I was skeptical, is an understatement. However, I decided to go in with an objective mindset and I was pleasantly surprised.

The 1954 cult classic ‘Godzilla‘ (or formally known as ‘Gojira‘) wasn’t what I pictured as an introduction to Digital Asia, if anything, it was the last thing I expected. Not having seen any adaptation of Godzilla before (crazy, I know), the only thing I was sure about was a gigantic, unrealistic, t-rex look-a-like, smashing little Japanese towns. As the film started and went on, the first thing I said to myself was “Where is Godzilla?”. Naturally, I had presumed that the monster would be the focal point of the film, clearly this was a Western rookie mistake, and it turned out to be a reflection of the nuclear devastations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, during the time. Given this, there was a heavy presence of male dominated characters, whose sole responsibility was to take down Godzilla, along with a depiction of the female protagonist, Emiko, as a weak, co-dependant nurse, whom collapses into her boyfriends arms whenever things start to get too out of hand. This served as a reminder of the typical 1950’s stereotypes and demonstrated both the political, social and environmental attributes of that decade.

From the gate, the black-and-white cinematic experience isn’t a personal favourite of mine (perhaps its a generation thing) and I’m not going to lie, there were times where I found myself blatantly staring at the screen, not even engaging. This was probably the result of the differences between cultures, and the types of cinema experiences I am used to, as a young woman in the 21st century. However, during parts of the film, there were times where I was very attentive and I wanted to burst out laughing, given some of the dramatic and over-acting sequences (particularly in the case of Emiko’s shrieking and Godzilla popping its head up over the hills).

Looking back at the special effects and the appearance of Godzilla, I would definitely say that the cinematography was ahead of its time. The film was made with such polish, and possessed great depth, considering the tools available in 1954. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the Japanese culture and values, and how Godzilla plays an integral part in response to the history of World War II.

Overall, I enjoyed the film and I gained great perspective into my developing understanding of Japanese cinematics and culture.