Memosphere2009.03.31 09:57

In my first piece, I made two choices that were intimately related to the medium I chose --cyberspace. Firstly, rather than use a lower form of the Korean language, I chose to use honorifics. The Internet is not a place where one screams alone and disappears. Comments go up right away, the writer is influenced by these comments and his next piece evolves. It's a two-way street. Cyberspace is not a place where I simply proclaim something and disappear, but rather it is like a lecture hall where I share with you my knowledge and experiences. No one uses low forms of speech when conducting a dialogue with an audience. Accordingly, it was a natural choice to use honorifics.

In addition, I said I didn't know whether this serial would go on for dozens of installments or finish after just a couple. This is clearly a different approach from that of newspaper serials, which are run according to a table of contents in which the order of writing has been decided. This is because by leaving the fate of my writing to the interaction of cyberspace, posts can have an even greater sense of life. My writing will evolve, like a living organism, according to reader comments and my own circumstances. The Internet is not a newspaper published once daily or a broadcaster that changes its programming according to hourly time slots. In this space, the design of what I write follows the principles of the cyber world.

In my last piece, I defined not just newspapers and broadcasters, but all space in which meaning is exchanged as media. Do you, the readers, believe your own eyes? Are you confident that what you confirm with your own eyes is absolute fact? If so, why is it that magicians manage to fool us almost every time? Can you really believe your own eyes?

It has been pointed out that media controls content. Your eyes, too, are media. To put this a little more precisely, you see the world not through your eyes, but through the medium known as the optic nerve system of your brain. Even if information enters your eyes at the same time, the thing that decides what you see and what you don't see is your brain. The same world is seen in black and white through the eyes of a dog, but in natural colors through the eyes of a human. Media controls content. A magician is a person who has mastered the principle upon which your brain's optical nerve system operates. That is to say, he understands quite well that the brain is a very selective and incomplete medium that doesn't see things as they really are, but rather chooses only what it wants to see.

The optical phenomenon most loved by magicians is perspective. Newborn infants can't understand why their mothers keep getting bigger and smaller as they move closer and further away. The sense of perspective is not something we are born with, but rather an acquired capacity we obtain by training our brains over a long period of time. If you master the media's operating logic, you can also control the way the media's subscribers understand the world. You can control their worldview. It's all the same world, but between the readers of the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo (Korea's three biggest newspapers, which are generally conservative) on one hand and those of OhmyNews on the other, that world looks completely different. Words don't convey this. Media controls content.

Marshall McLuhan once expanded media to the body. A hammer, the hand; a car; the foot; TV, the eyes... Media decides the content, but more importantly, media is the scope in which the world is contained. How does the world look? Nobody has gotten a view of what the world is. How many places can you actually visit in your lifetime? With the media known as your eyes, trying your best, the world you can see would be hard pressed to exceed a radius of several dozens of kilometers.

Despite this, you know the distant United States, you know Japan, and you know there is a place known as Europe. How can you believe those places are really there without actually going there? This is because newspapers and broadcasters have informed you that such places do exist. Your worldview is as large as the scope the media covers. If those who control the media showed you only what they wished to show you, your image of the world as you understand it would be nothing more than what they showed.

If even the simple question of whether something does or does not exist is this complicated, imagine how much more so the complex world of ideology and socio-political tension must be.

Ultimately, there is no way to know what the world genuinely looks like. Nor is there a guarantee that the world as you understand it and the one as I understand it will be the same. Even if someone said they would show you the world, strictly speaking, there would be no way to distinguish whether what he or she showed you was true or false. Even with things we see with our own eyes, all we can do is make a judgment based on probability. Why? Because media controls content. We can only be sure that our worldview will change in accordance with the media's expansion and transformation.

You can't worry about something that doesn't exist. For example, when did you start worrying about and having an interest in events in some far off country? Wasn't this because the media informed you of those events? Scholars call this media role "agenda setting." This means that the media, even if it decides to simply show something without presenting any political analysis or opinions, can control its readers' or viewers' worldviews and ways of thinking.

They say you see only as far as you know. I've changed this phrase somewhat -- you see only as far as the capacity of the media you choose. The world you come to know through that will become the thing you understand to be the world of reality. For example, there is a world with the Chosun Ilbo stamp, one with an MBC stamp, and another with an OhmyNews stamp. The only thing you can choose is the image of the world these media provide.

Just as electronic signals inputted into the brains of the masses controlled "reality" in the movie "The Matrix," there is no way to prove whether reality as you know it is a dream or real. You can only be faithful to the logic of the situation as you feel and understand it.

You are what you read - 身冊不二.

I'll conclude my second piece on this subject right here.

Posted by PSB

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Memosphere2009.03.31 09:56
 It's been nearly ten years since I started writing in cyberspace. There are people who like what I write and there are those who are less satisfied. There are lots of people who have asked how they could write like I do. In fact, a certain publishing house asked me to write a book on writing for working people. Having given it thought, I answered that this issue wasn't simply of writing, but one of communication.

I don't think I have much talent other than conveying my thoughts through text, but in fact, my area of interest is all places of communication. Of the countless means of communication that exist in this world, be it in cyberspace or "real" space, I chose writing, and even within that sphere, I chose cyberspace, which agreed with me.

To follow an adage by Marshall McLuhan, whom I admire as my spiritual teacher, "the medium is the message." No matter what I write, or what message I produce, I can't escape from the cyberspace medium I have chosen.

Not so long ago, a certain daily paper offered to run my column. After considering it, I turned the paper down. This was because it would have been entirely inappropriate to adjust my writing style, which had become accustomed to cyberspace, to the demands made by the printed page. It's like one of my favorite phrases, "You are what you read." The medium you chose defines your existential identity.

Besides writing, another medium I've grown accustomed to is "PowerPoint." There are scholars who point out the harmful effects of PowerPoint, but the latest version of PowerPoint allows for colorful forms of expression that surpass Flash animation.

If I were to choose PowerPoint, of the countless words I would like to use, I would work hard to choose only those messages that are appropriate to the PowerPoint medium.

The main point of what I'd like to convey to you today is medium. I'll have to start writing to know, but in fact, this doesn't look like something I could convey in a day. It might require dozens of installments, or perhaps just a few pieces. Because my writing method, or to go even further, that which has exerted a tremendous influence on forming the point of view I use to look at the world is media theory, and I have waited a long time for the chance to share my thoughts with readers.

My first reason for bringing up this topic out of countless topics of conversation in this world is that I'm confident in this area, and the second one is the phenomenon of media as a core topic in understanding the 21st century global village, and the Internet Age in particular. In the last Korean presidential election, we witnessed just how dramatic a result could be called by the two candidates' choices of media.

Moreover, it would be too narrow a viewpoint to reduce "media" to newspapers, broadcasts and the Internet. Computer operating systems, mobile phone screens, department store windows, the electronic advertising screen at Gwanghwamun (in Seoul), movie advertisements in the subway stations, the signs on the bathrooms doors reading "men" and "women," traffic signs, ATM screens, university classrooms... media encompasses all spaces where meaning and communication takes place. In my column, I once called this space where meaning is exchanged "media space." I shall get another chance to explain about this media space.

Well, perhaps I should begin this article; one I don't know when I'll complete.

Part I - The Medium is the Message

Let's first try to remember the following inequality

Book > font > type > letter > language > thought > meme > ?

The book is the most familiar medium to modern man, regardless of age or gender. Of the countless forms of communication, a book is a dignified one that even if the Internet were to swallow the world whole, it would stubbornly resist, having withstood the test of thousands of years. This is the story of the book.

The book is an expression of thought. The book is also a medium. If one closely examines just one simple volume, you can see it's a complex medium that contains layer after layer of other media, much like an onion. A book contains type, which has been decorated by font. Type is the medium that contains letters. Letters are the medium that contains language. Language is the medium that contains the brain's thoughts. Thought is the medium that contain memes. Are you with me?

How about we put it this way -- memes are the content of the medium known as thought. Language is the medium of the content called thought. Letters are the medium containing the content known as language. Type and font are the media containing the content known as letters. Books are the medium containing the contents known as type and font. Oh my! Perhaps I've confused you more.

Let's try to think of a couple examples. People who have written on the Internet and agonized over which font to use would understand. With 11-point text, should I use this font or that font... it's the same piece of writing, but you must have had a different feeling depending on which font it was written in. 

For a love letter, unless you're an unfeeling stone, you'll probably avoid using Gothic type. You can see that within the medium of font, there are already particular intentions; to wit, messages contained inside. Purely through the varicolored choice of font, one can convey countless messages.

The medium I have chosen to convey media theory to you is text. I could draw comics, use Flash animation or PowerPoint, or I could even call you together and directly lecture you on the subject, but I have chosen text. This is because for the message I would like to convey, I judged the medium of text as the most appropriate. Of course, my judgments could also be wrong.

In Marshall McLuhan's book The Gutenberg Galaxy, a great vice of print culture was pointed out. That would be the lamentable way in which printing type has drastically condensed man's freedom of thought. McLuhan pointed out that despite the fact that expressions of thought could use innumerous and diverse media like pictures, music and dance, man has almost grown addicted to print culture, drawn by the bait of efficiency and productivity.

Like McLuhan pointed out, if we accepted the thesis that the medium is the message, the moment we chose the medium of print, we became shut off from the possibility of countless other messages.

If we rethink the problem from this point of view, we can conclude that things we take as common sense -- like campaigns to purify the Korean language, criticism of the jargon used on the Internet, and complaints made by adults about today's children who don't read books and are absorbed in online chatting and computer games -- are nothing more than the groundless ravings of a generation that has grown addicted to printed culture.

This is because the Internet generation -- compared to an older generation that has lived slave to print and books and hence were limited in scope of thought right from the start -- are experimenting with many more possibilities of expression.

Umberto Eco once compared Protestantism to MS-DOS and Catholicism to the Macintosh. In the age when printing technology was humble and bibles were the exclusive property of the clergy, the methods employed by the Catholic Church to convey its teachings to its believers were the sacred images that filled up the walls of churches -- icons -- and holy paintings. Splendid Catholic cathedrals were the best-suited medium of an age without printing technology.

On the other hand, the invention of printing technology was decisive in the birth of Protestantism. Martin Luther tried to awaken believers by propagating the Bible, and the fact that to this day, Protestants place more importance on Bible study than do Catholics is evidence revealing how Protestantism is a by-product of print culture. If one looks at the Reformation from a different angle, one could see it as the confrontation between the medium of sacred images or icons versus the medium of the printed letter.

I should probably end here for today.

Posted by PSB

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Memosphere2009.03.31 09:53
Oh my! News by million phonecams?
©2004 PhonePD
Mr. B is a man of routine. He takes the subway to school in Sinchon from his home in Jamsil. With the exception of a couple of streets he knows well, the only Seoul space that exists in B's head is the subway map between Jamsil and Sinchon stations. The rest of that city known as Seoul exists for him nowhere but in virtual space.

B, who managed the none-to-easy feat of getting a job at a bluechip company in Yeoido, buys a car. Having to drive rather than take the subway, Seoul is now a completely new world. 

He discovers on the map roads that were outside his attention when he was moving about underground, and he's awakened to how beautiful Seoul's Han River is as he takes the Olympic highway for his daily commute. For B, who now doesn't go anywhere if there are no parking space, Seoul gives an entirely different spatial ambience.

Even real space can appear completely different depending on the window through which you contact it. In that sense, you can tell that the subway or car is playing the role of media through which B's perception of space is controlled.

Depending on what medium a person sees the world through, his or her perception of space also evolves. At first, there was real space. As I've already demonstrated, however, people have their own unique sense of that space, even if the space is the same exact one.

With the arrival of the Internet, human history's most innovative medium to date, people have come to experience a completely new sense of space, i.e., cyberspace. Of course, people first accepted the Internet by trying to replicate the real space on the web with existing practices with which they were familiar. 

A Canadian experiment was typical. The Canadian government selected one village and installed broadband Internet, after which it observed what changes were apparent after members of the community began Internet communications.

The results were quite different from what was expected, however. Rather than communicate with the people in their village, they jumped into the vast sea of Internet extending beyond their geographic location and began sharing a completely new form of communication with total strangers throughout the globe. The Internet created cyberspace, a global cyber community that far exceeds the boundary of real space.

In the last 10 years from the full-scale introduction of the Internet, the entire world has welcomed and marveled at this New World of cyberspace, and despite the spectacular dotcom bust, that fervor has yet to cool. 

The wild enthusiasm for the possibilities of cyberspace as a method to overcome the limitations of real space in the United States is largely due to the nation's vast territory, in which it takes more than five hours to transverse the country by air.

For Americans, whose exchanges were inevitably limited due to geographic distance, cyberspace was the only real alternative. In a nation like Korea, however, with a high population density and over 70 percent urbanization rate, the very same Internet took on quite different characteristics, as we could see.

For example, there was the so-called beongae or "lightening" phenomenon demonstrated by the "I Love School.com" craze, in which Korea was so caught up by this cyber reunion service that at its peak it was impossible to make reservations at restaurants on the weekend with everyone meeting each other. 

In the United States as well, there is the Internet school reunion site Classmate.com, but with classmates scattered all over such a huge country, it was realistically impossible to hold a snap weekend evening "lightening" gathering by placing a single note on the site's bulletin board. Accordingly, the U.S. alumni reunion site was one that was inevitably limited to a phenomenon that could occur only in cyberspace.

On the other hand, Korean cyber alumni sites and the countless Internet cafes spawn lightening meetings almost without exception. In the Seoul metropolitan area, nothing is farther than a 30-minute subway ride away, and even in the provinces, one could make it a weekend trip if they really wanted, so lightening meetings are always possible. If there is such a meeting, the following classes always follow with their own cyber reunions, and those who fail to show up at such reunions naturally begin to grow estranged in the conversations of those who attended, even in cyberspace. 

In the end, there are cases when those who participate in the lightening reunions have seized control of the bulletin boards. Interaction in real space has begun to influence the operation and form of cyberspace.

With broadband wireless network and extensive LBS technology firmly ready for immediate application, the March anti-impeachment protest could quickly evolve into a dynamic Hypersurface
©2004 Kwon W.S
In this "lightening reunion effect" one could infer the idea of "hypersurface," raised by new-generation architect Stephen Perrella in his book "Hyper Surface Architecture." 

The idea runs that the sense of space obtained through experience in cyberspace is superimposed on real space, while experiences in the real world influence cyberspace, creating a third space which isn't real but isn't cyber.

I shall borrow Perrella's pioneering idea and refer to the world after cyberspace as "hypersurface" for further discussion. 

What kind of sense of space would hypersurface give us? Or before that, what kinds of things could occur in hypersurface? Firstly, in order to create true hypersurface, we must premise it on an "ubiquitous" environment in which people could access a network anywhere at anytime. In other words, just as the Internet gave birth to cyberspace, the ubiquitous environment shall inevitably give rise to hypersurface.

Let's look at a scenario that could take place in hypersurface. Mr. B, with his next generation mobile handset, finds an eatery near his office. As he passes one restaurant, basic information about the place, along with comments left by customers who had eaten there, pop up on the screen of his handset, which is registered for a LBS or location based service. In just a glance, B could decide whether or not he wishes to eat at that particular restaurant.

After eating, B could leave a comment of his own concerning the restaurant, or do nothing. It's a cyber bulletin board that exists exclusively when space, time and conditions are correct, but it is as if it were a real bulletin board with customer postings hanging right next to the restaurant door. This is hypersurface.

Now rewind your memory to Korea's presidential impeachment crisis in March. Those opposed to the impeachment held large-scale demonstrations at Gwanghwamun and held events for six hours straight that resembled carnivals. 

OhmyNews reported from the scene, but with a crowd of 200,000 people flowing all the way down to City Hall, there was no way for people at the rear of the procession to know what was happening on the podium. In the end, as strange as it may sound, it was easier for people who were following OhmyNews' on the scene reporting to know what was going on than it was for people who were actually there.

If OhmyNews had been able to use location information to send text messages of what was happening on the podium in real time to all 200,000 people gathered at the demonstration, the crowd could have enjoyed a much more dynamic gathering.

One could compare this with baseball fans who bring their radios with them to the ballpark to listen to professional commentary as they watch the actual game. This was a hypersurface experience that could have happend, despite the technology and infrastructure was already there for immediate use.

There is countless tourist information posted on major portal sites. OhmyNews citizen reporters, too, like to write stories about their own trips or places to travel to in the areas where they live. We could imagine a service in which OhmyNews stores such articles according to its place, time and season, and relevant articles appear on the screen of those readers who have subscribed to a location information system carrying mobile devices as they travel.

Readers could respond to travel stories by citizen reporters and additionally leave their own feelings on the comment section upon arriving at their destination. It's a moment when hypersurface materializes; cyberspace and real space fuse together.

Just as cyberspace grew rich not as a result of a hierarchical relationship between content providers and consumers but through spontaneous interaction between Internet users, we will be able to experience the true taste of hypersurface when one is able to make it not a unilateral information service provided by dotcom heavy-weights, but a place where users exchange their own ideas and opinions in a dynamic place as they freely move between cyberspace and real space.

What is Hypersurface? It is a whole new breed of hybrid space where everything is teeming with live information feeds. To borrow a line from the trailer of 'Ghost in the Shell: Innocence', the newly released sequel of the Japanese anime cult classic, the line between real and cyber space will blur beyond distinction in Hypersurface. Many find themselves bewildered and confused by the new hard-to-pronounce technologies of the 'ubiquitous' environment, but this is the nature of things to come.


Posted by PSB

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