Memosphere2009.04.02 11:16
It is 7:20 p.m. and your phone beeps in your pocket


It is 7:20 p.m. and my phone beeps in my pocket.

"Your date is three stations away, interested? Push YES or NO" Sure! I tap "YES" and a cute girl pops up on a tiny screen. As I change subways heading to Gangnam station where my surprise date is waiting for me, I am reminded that I subscribed for an evening date alert service last Friday. 

In fact, there is no such service currently active in Korea yet but it would be one of the most intriguing scenarios DUO and other dating service providers in Korea could play with, capitalizing on GPS sensors now ubiquitous among latest mobile handsets.

A conventional online dating routine goes like this; you subscribe for a service after filling in your profile and a list of desired properties you'd expect from an ideal date. You get an alert and the date is finally arranged -- or not. 

Problems with such service is that it feels so plain obvious and contrived that you get no romantic surprise you've been fantasizing about from a perfect date. Truth is everyone anticipates a dose of serendipity when it comes to meeting his or her mate. 

Location based service or LBS as illustrated above would be an ideal solution to give subscribers an illusion of serendipitous romantic encounter.

Practical application of LBS on the mobile platform is well on the way and SK Telecom, Korea's top mobile service provider, has experimented with a wake-up call -- the phone alerts a subway passenger as the train approaches his or her pre-set station. It was very popular among those who tend to miss their stop while dozing off after a grueling day. Strangely, however, no carrier has so far attempted to use it for romantic application despite the intriguing possibilities of LBS.

For every chance meeting entails a risk of bumping into a moron though -- that is the risk you will have to stomach if you are willing to get exposed to such a tryst. Some dose of control and intervention would be inevitable to ensure safety in the serendipitous encounter. Hence we have a new oxymoron here; controlled serendipity.

DUO, for instance, maintains an arcane multi-layered matching system about its members that it built upon with their initial profiles. The bottom line is that DUO guarantees identity and reputation of its registered members with an option to upgrade to a premium membership. 

If you are going to get a mobile alert about a surprise date selected from a carefully groomed pool of guys and girls, bingo! You get both security and thrill, or controlled serendipity. 

I have been always reluctant to embrace RSS, Google's Web History or any widget that purports to turn up results that would pander to my unique taste. Would anyone in their right mind eagerly put themselves on the set of the Truman Show? I am what I am since I've been exposed to countless chance encounters and Black Swan moments over several decades of my life. I would be dreaded to know if my life is the result of a series of prearranged exposures in a carefully produced environment. 

In short, I am against any thing that hinders my discovery on the way and joy of serendipitous encounters with the wonders of life. 

However don't you hate to get infected with malicious viruses or get your identity snatched away by some online con artists despite the fact that you enjoy on line search and surprise discovery? 

Here comes the controlled serendipity again. Properly applied, it would vastly enhance the joy of Web-surfing as much as it would make mobile LBS applications exciting. 

Cutting through the obvious, a superbly designed controlled serendipity will lower your online dull factor by several clicks without necessarily turning you into a victim of an online scam.

Posted by PSB

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Korea Technology Review2009.03.31 10:06



Naver gives up 'walled garden' and introduces Newscast and Opencast

"If China has a 'Great Firewall of China,' Korea has a 'Great Firewall of Naver.'"

Many netizens unhappy about the ever-increasing power of Naver complained that 'Korea's Google' is destroying the Korean Web ecosphere by monopolizing the vernacular online traffic. Indeed if you listen to it very hard, you could almost hear the giant sucking sound of Naver gobbling up near 70 percent of Korean Web traffic.

Naver is Korea's top search engine but simply calling it a "search engine" would be a disservice to this Korean internet giant. Imagine Google, Yahoo, eBay and Electronic Arts merged together one day to create a one-stop online destination for every American -- only then you can properly appreciate its imposing presence among Koreans.
Unfortunately for many online start-ups, this home-grown Korean search engine did not just work as a conduit leading to the greater Korean Web; it instead built a giant walled garden where no content is allowed to leave once it comes in, destroying the delicate balance of Korean Web ecosphere.

So goes complain from many independent-minded net users, but it was not just sophisticated power users that were complaining about its arrogant practices. Korean news sites that sell bulk of their news content to Naver started to feel uneasy as well about the growing power of Naver as a news portal.

Newscast, a new platform Naver introduced this January is the Naver's answer to this growing concern.

Its main news box, previously edited by Naver's internal editors, is now open to near 40 independent news providers including OhmyNews.com. Naver will randomly show 40 different news boxes edited by each of them as a slide show. If a user clicks any news link, it now leads to a final article page of each news site.

Will this change mitigate their anger and make them happy finally? Their reaction so far has been mixed.

Each of the news sites invited to fill in its edited news box on the Naver's main page has been instantly bombarded with huge traffic, increasing its page views by two to three folds.

Some minor news sites with limited server and network capacity had to ask Naver to stop sending traffic after they saw its system keep crashing or slow down remarkably.

Even for a big name news site that can handle sudden explosion in page views, it is still unclear how they can make the best of this traffic from Naver given the absence of a working business model--Korean news sites rely heavily on the sales of display ads and sponsorship deals with big name advertisers and for now they are clueless about what to do with the mounting traffic. 


To make the matters worse, they will have to purchase new servers and network capacity to cope with the exploding online traffic whereas no new working business model is yet to be identified any time soon.

Still, Naver seems to be happy to know that it can finally put out an excuse for all those complains about Giant Firewall of Naver. Naver introduced Opencast at the same time, a platform targeted at bloggers but not unlike Newscast in its purported nature of traffic diffusion. Naver is also toying with expanding its concept to display ads -- it plans to allow users to select only ads they would want to see.

Whether the great diffusion of Korean online traffic triggered by Naver's Newscast and Opencast will lead to the diffusion of its Web dominance remains to be seen. The fact that everybody is intently watching Naver's next move is the one powerful evidence that Naver is still the kingpin of Korean online ecosphere.

Posted by PSB

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Korea Technology Review2009.03.31 10:01
This article first appeared in Harvard Nieman Reports Volume 59 Number 4, Winter 2005. Jean K. Min at OhmyNews International provided the article for Harvard University.

In a surrealistic bout of fate, passengers on JetBlue 292 en route to New York were watching their aircraft broadcast live on the screens of the in-flight DirecTV. The pilot was attempting an emergency landing on the tarmac of the Los Angeles International Airport with its front landing gear, clipped at a wrong angle, jutting out of the fuselage. 

While millions of viewers in America alone watched this nail-biting drama, 140 passengers aboard the Airbus A320 found themselves the subject of live television news unfolding before their own eyes. 

"It was absolutely terrifying, actually. Seeing the events broadcast made it completely surreal and detached me from the event," said Zachary Mastoon in an interview with The Associated Press. "It became this television show I was inextricably linked to. It was no longer my situation, it was broadcast for everyone to see. It only exacerbated the situation and my fear."

A couple of NBC executives were also flying in the JetBlue plane and managed to set up a mobile phone call to report the situation back to NBC headquarters. What if the rest of the passengers were able to hook up to a high-speed wireless network and report the situation inside the aircraft back to a television station? Instead of watching their mile-high ordeal covered by someone else in a remote station, they would have been the ultimate producer of their own news, delivering the story to millions in real time, including on JetBlue's in-flight screens. 

Oh Yeon Ho having a brief staff meeting in OhmyNews newsroom
©2006 Kwon W.S
"Honey, I'm on OhmyNews!"

Citizen reporters of OhmyNews, a unique news organization in Korea, now number more than 41,000 and are no stranger to the sensation that comes from producing their own news. It is this transforming and empowering experience that attracts thousands of "citizen reporters" to OhmyNews every day. Kim Hye Won, a long time citizen reporter of OhmyNews, described her excitement when she found her story published on OhmyNews for the first time: "As soon as I saw my article with my name, Kim Hye Won, attached to it, my heart fluttered. A housewife who for the last 18 years has been caught up in housework raising her children has now become a reporter. This was possible thanks to the OhmyNews spirit of 'every citizen is a reporter.'"

For lots of angry young Korean "Netizens" who felt their voice was perennially ignored by the overwhelmingly conservative Korean mainstream media, OhmyNews was a godsend when it was launched in February 2000. They were angry because the mainstream media constantly manipulated the nation's important agenda in politics, the economy and society for their own taste and purpose.

Oh Yeon Ho, the founder of OhmyNews, left his job at a monthly magazine to test his ideas about this new form of journalism through the Internet. He deeply sympathized with these young Netizens in their anger against the mainstream media. In an interview with The New York Times in early 2003, Oh hinted that a part of his motivation in launching OhmyNews was to fix this skewed Korean news market: "We have a real imbalance in our media-80 percent conservative and 20 percent liberal-and it needs to be corrected. My goal is 50-50." More recently Oh has written of his original vision that he "wanted to start a tradition free of newspaper company elitism where news was evaluated based on quality, regardless of whether it came from a major newspaper, a local reporter, an educated journalist or a neighborhood housewife….So I decided to make the plunge into the sea of the Internet, even though I feared that which was different from what I was accustomed."

Many young Koreans who were already sharing their thoughts on the Internet found that it made infinitely more sense to write for a news media with a strong national brand and formidable presence in the news market than scribble their anger in a puny blog. Goh Tae Jin, a citizen reporter turned cyber columnist shared his revelations about how he felt when his harshly critical piece appeared on OhmyNews in 2000. In it, he attacked one of the nation's top newspaper columnists for "factionalism and arrogance" that he'd exhibited in his column. "Unexpectedly, my article was chosen as the top story and suddenly sparked numerous heated opinions. It was an astounding experience for me to have for the first time in my life. On that day, OhmyNews transformed me from a reader into a reporter, true to its motto that 'every citizen is a reporter.'" 

Typical citizen reporters write a story or two per week. After submitting a story, they can track their status. Stories remain as "Saengnamu" articles before being accepted by OhmyNews copy editors. Once accepted, citizen reporters can follow the status of their words in real time, observing the number of readers' clicks into each of the stories, the number of comments, or the money collected in the "tip jar." 

The Audience is the Content

What happens on OhmyNews is an intensely interactive online conversation. Citizen reporters have to persuade OhmyNews' front-line copy editors to have their stories accepted in the first place. As much as 30 percent of daily submissions are rejected for various reasons such as poor sentence construction, factual errors, or its lack of news value. After stories are accepted and edited, then placed in a more prominent space, usually within minutes they draw scores of readers' feedback. When the story is controversial, as in the case of Goh's, the number of readers' comments can shoot up to hundreds and even thousands. 

This feedback from readers, coupled with editorial advice by OhmyNews' copy editors, gives citizen reporters invaluable lessons in writing. A quick online search through the OhmyNews database yields 500 to 600 stories for some of our diligent citizen reporters and the difference of quality between their first and more recent writing is remarkable. Nearly 70 OhmyNews citizen reporters now have contracts to write books. If you believe, as I do, that an adequate level of writing skills is an important ability for citizens to have in a civil democracy, then OhmyNews' citizen reporters can proudly be named the most capable practitioners of "the Emersonian vision of an expressive society."

The New York Times-and many other prominent news organizations-appear to consider the Web as simply another format in which to sell their news content. They sold the news once in the paper medium, now they will sell it again to an online audience and increase the return on their investment. For OhmyNews, the Web is seen neither as a channel for information flow nor as a pipeline for news delivery. It is a playground for our readers, a cyberspace for Netizens. 

In accepting this Internet vision, a whole new horizon opens for us. The readers, or news audience, are no longer passive consumers of news produced by a few privileged, arrogant reporters. They are active producers of the news they will consume at the end of the day. Participation in this great news sphere is realized for them either by joining OhmyNews as a citizen reporter or by participating in the online forum offered at the very bottom of every story we publish. 

Only as an afterthought did it dawn on us that the audience is the real content on the Web. Like any nimble disk jockey in a cool nightclub in town would do, we gave them a place to hang out and mingle in with the brightest minds in Korean cyberspace. One survey by a major Korean portal revealed nearly 40 percent of users' daily mouse clicks on it were for user-generated content, such as readers' comments and blog posts. A similar result was also found for OhmyNews. OhmyNews readers generate on average somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of daily traffic on the Web site through their participation in various online forums (other than their reading of the news). This is surely a wealth of eyeballs that any shrewd advertiser would salivate for. The "audience as the content" model makes a lot of sense for our business as well. 

Bloggers, Citizen Reporters and Journalists

For many, citizen participation on a news site seems identical to blogging. But while Weblogs stimulate colorful outpourings of citizens' voices on the web, most of time a blog is one-person operation and many bloggers are pursuing their journalistic passion at their own peril. Without adequate advice from trained journalists, they risk being ensnared into potential legal disputes involving, for example, a defamation case.

The OhmyNews model is fundamentally different. We believe bloggers can work better with professional assistance from trained journalists. On the other hand, we also believe professional journalists can expand their view and scope greatly with fresh input from citizen reporters. News media as a whole can offer more diverse and rich content to readers by tapping into the wealth of Netizens' collective wisdom.

Unlike Wikinews, which restricts their oversight role to a "janitor," OhmyNews works as a convener by actively promoting conversation among editors, citizen reporters and professional journalists. (We also, however, have a cyber janitor to clean up any mess that might be left in the aftermath of fierce online debate.) However, there seems to be a subtle division of roles between the OhmyNews staff reporters and citizen reporters. Citizen reporters understand that instead of copying the styles of trained journalists, they will shine brighter when they remain true to themselves. Citizen reporters excel when they write something they understand well and have a strong inkling for. 

No story is published before it goes through an extensive screening and copy editing process. Citizen reporters realize their edited text looks better with snazzy headlines and sometimes eye-catching thumbnail pictures. They also find their stories more polished after proofreading and editorial retouching by professionals, even if they occasionally face frustrating rejections of their stories. 

A recurring fear among journalists is that the coming age of citizen journalism would signal the end of "journalism as a serious profession." On the contrary, the OhmyNews experience shows that trained journalists will be in greater demand as an increasing number of "citizen journalists" start to produce explosive amounts of news themselves. Alas, if only journalists would understand how to reinvent themselves in this age of citizen journalism! 

OhmyNews editors spend a lot of time educating aspiring citizen journalists. We regularly invite them to our news room and give them "Journalism 101" classes. We encourage them to keep keen eyes on things going on and give advice that, if properly applied, would enhance the visibility of their writing as a means of effective communication. 

Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Recently, OhmyNews opened a new service feature in which our readers can participate in the editorial process by voting for their favorite writers or stories. OhmyNews servers collect the data and sort out the stories according to the number of votes each received. If we can define the first generation OhmyNews as "a massively distributed collaborative news operation on the Web," OhmyNews 2.0 can be described as "a massively distributed collaborative editorial participation on the Web." For example, when citizen reporters set up their personal blog site in OhmyNews, we encourage them to become an editor for their own edition of OhmyNews. They can drag and drop any of the few hundred stories available on OhmyNews each day to build their personal edition. Now every citizen can be an editor at OhmyNews. 

In OhmyNews 1.0, we tried to bridge the gap between pros and amateurs by introducing "journalism as a conversation" as opposed to "journalism as a lecture." OhmyNews 2.0 will continue to evolve with the development of more Web tools that will help us to harness the collective intelligence of Netizens on a global scale.
Posted by PSB

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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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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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Korea Technology Review2009.03.30 23:38


Want to be freed from paying your phone bills -- forever? That would no more be a far-fetched fantasy for Koreans according to a plan by a newly merged Korean telecom giant. 

The Korea Communications Commission approved Wednesday the merger of KT and KTF, its mobile service affiliate, paving the way for a host of innovative services across wired and wireless platform.

The merged KT, with its combined annual revenue of 19 trillion won ($14 billion), is expected to introduce a variety of hybrid service packages by coupling its land line, broadband and wireless assets. However the most intriguing concept by far is a WiBro phone KT is developing with its partner Samsung.

A KT official involved in the project told a local media outlet, "KT will install WiBro component inside a Samsung smart phone to provide both 3G WCDMA and WiBro service from a single handset."

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Codenamed Wi-Omnia since it will add up WiBro connectivity on Omnia, a Samsung’s smart phone popular among Asian and European consumers, the new phone is rumored to feature a 3.3 inch LCD screen, 3 million pixel camera, Bluetooth, WiFi and Windows Mobile 6.1 edition.

WiBro is a service brand for KT’s mobile WiMax which promises up to 50Mbits per second of seamless broadband data communication over wireless network. It currently covers Seoul and other major metropolitan areas and further expansion of the network is on the way. Theoretically, users with a WiBro handset can surf the Web at super speed in subways, bus and high speed trains without stopping for a wireless hot-spot, since it guarantees mobile broadband connectivity at up to 120Km per hour.

KT hopes to develop a fresh new market segment with the upcoming WiBro phone; however, the real potential of the phone is that it can double as a mobile VoIP phone, opening the door for completely free phone calls over wireless network.

Scores of VoIP phones and services are available already for sure and Skype is selling Internet call plans for mobile phone users available in two Nokia models. Truphone, Fring and other software-based Internet phone service providers are also giving away free widgets designed for iPhone, iPod Touch and other smart phones. 

However for many Koreans accustomed to over 100Mbps broadband Internet at home, Skype’s mobile VoIP service is far too sluggish a standard to be called a mobile broadband -- it still relies on the antiquated 3G network. 

The WiBro phone KT is developing with Samsung promises users that they don’t have be tied to a landline or hunt for a WiFi hotspot for VoIP calls and Web surfing anymore, leading to a complete freedom from nagging phone bills on the way.

Wi-Omnia for KT may be launched before this June and SK Telecom, KT’s domestic archrival also hinted at selling its own version as early as March.

Apple’s iPhone and other latest smart phones have resolved most of the thorny issues in user interface and hardware. And the VoIP phone market is forecast to jump from virtually nil in 2007 to over 250 millions by 2012 according to Disruptive Analysis, a London-based consultancy.

But smart phone users have complained that current wireless infrastructure cannot satisfy the demanding bandwidth appetite of today’s advanced handsets. Introduction of WiBro phone equipped with a potential backdoor for VoIP service signals that the weakest link of smart phone industry will be finally fixed. 
Posted by PSB

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Korea Technology Review2009.03.30 23:31


How do you know spring has arrived in Seoul? The answer: A sandstorm. Looming clouds of yellow sand blowing from China's Gobi Desert is the clear visual evidence for Koreans that long winter is finally over. The giant stream of yellow sand even blows over the Pacific Ocean and was once spotted as far a place as in California.

For Korean semiconductor and flat-screen manufacturers, the sandstorm is also an urgent warning to raise their dust defense to full alert. Lee Hae-sun, a line manager at LG Display's Paju fabrication plant says "it has already taken every preemptive measure in store" as the worst sandstorm in 58 years is forecast to come this spring. 

Memory chips and flat screens are assembled in so-called clean rooms, where the dust level is controlled at Class 1 -- no more than one dust particle bigger than 0.5 micrometer is allowed per each cubic square feet. Hard to grasp this? Imagine a coin-sized blob of dust particles in a mid-sized city. Any slight leak of yellow sand could mean a spike in the deficiency rate among finished components that would potentially lead to a billion-dollar loss.

When tons of yellow sand are blowing over Korea every spring, their fight against the yellow storm is a make-or-break moment not only for Korean manufacturers but also for the global high-tech industry. 

The global supply chain of DRAMs and flat screens can fall into disarray if the sandstorm ever disrupts those fragile fabrication lines--when massive earthquake attacked Japan in 1995 and Taiwan in 1999, the countries' high-tech industry had to spend for over a couple of months fine-tuning assembly lines until the production capacity was normalized back to previous level. 

Korea is now the No. 1 country in terms of DRAM and flat screen shipments. Korean Air was able to grab top market share in global air freight business by air-shipping those precious electronic components to the world. 

Their first line of defense against yellow sand is a carbon air filtration system. A line manager at Samsung says "since the carbon filtration alone was not an enough defense in time of the sandstorm attack," they blocked air stream entirely to the most sensitive area, where critical components are assembled.

High-tech assembly lines are mostly run by computers to minimize human contact with the sensitive equipment but some amount of on-site human supervision is always inevitable. When human supervisors enter into the clean room, they have to go through multiple air-showers in airlocks after putting on white dust suits. Samsung doubled air shower time required for its workers during the sandstorm event this spring. 

Every risk entails a new opportunity, however. While Samsung, LG and Hyundai are struggling to stop yellow sand affecting production, shares of Korean pharmaceutical companies and air cleaner manufactures posted a sharp rise Monday in the Korean stock market as Korean consumers are expected to buy more eye drops and air cleaning devices.

Struggle or benefit, Koreans are worried about whether the alarming deforestation of the Gobi Desert -- despite China's best efforts - could mean that they are ultimately fighting a losing battle.
Posted by PSB

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A giant Google logo was spotted over and over again roaming around universities and shopping malls in Korea last summer. The white double-decker, wrapped in the emblem of the global search king, was Google's latest foray into the broadband capital of the world, an unusual move for the Mountain View, California company that had conventionally relied on buzz and word of mouth for promoting its services. 

The potentially million-dollar marketing blitz that Google has never done anywhere but in Korea shows how much stake it puts on the world's 10th largest economy in its global expansion strategy. Despite this extraordinary effort, however, Google's share in the Korean search market measured by the total number of daily queries remains at a meager 3 percent, while Naver, its Korean archrival, attracts a whopping 70 percent of total search-related traffic, according to a recent survey. 

Google's dismal performance in Korea is all the more perplexing because it has never failed to conquer any market it has entered -- in most of the major markets outside its familiar Anglophone stronghold, Google's unparalleled technology has almost always guaranteed it the crown of the local search king, according to the spokesperson of Google Korea. 

A prevalent theory in Korean dotcom circles is that Google failed to impress demanding Korean customers with its lousy service. This is at least what Naver and other major local portals want Koreans to believe. 

Choi Mi Jung, who leads Naver's "Knowledge Man" service, a Wikipedia-like online encyclopedia built by the spontaneous participation of Netizens, scoffs at the sloppy interface and unfriendly way Google's Korean site presents its search results. "It is how meticulously their service was designed that made the difference," she says. 

However, the real reason behind Google's difficult path in Korea is that its highly praised search technology was rendered practically useless in the Korean language sphere when major portals decided to block Google search robots from crawling around the content they hold, industry observers universally note. 

Kim Joong Tae, an online columnist who writes for IT SpotNews, says that he dug up "robots.txt" from all of the top three portals. "The code, designed to prevent unwanted assaults on privacy by search bots, was never misused this extensively anywhere else to block archiving of the entire databases that portals hold," Kim says. Naver's Knowledge Man alone boasts over 37 millions questions and answers, but Google was never able to archive this massive database and show them to its Korean users. 

Empas, a midsize Korean portal that nevertheless stood up to Naver and Daum by archiving their databases, named its search service "Open Search" -- a tautology since search by nature relies on the "open" architecture of the Net, according to the consensus of the international dotcom community. Is it a pure coincidence that Empas formed an alliance with Google in developing its "Open Search"? 

How things have developed in this way is a long story. Back in 1997, when most of the Korean portals were launched, the total number of websites that existed in the Korean language sphere was barely over five thousand. For the Korean portals that were desperate to entice early Internet users, simply archiving the puny number of Web sites did not make any sense. The popular content providers at the time were news sites operated by the familiar names in mainstream media. 

Following the path of AOL that worked so well during the early days of dial-up connectivity, Korean websites decided to build their own "walled gardens" on the net, where users would create content themselves or copy and paste other content they found elsewhere. This strategy worked well for them. 

First, Daum introduced "cyber cafe," where online hobby groups, class reunions and various other discussion groups would generate tons of content by themselves. CyWorld came up with a personal homepage service festooned with lots of bells and whistles that allow users to socialize with others at a much faster pace than they otherwise could. 

Recently, Naver introduced Knowledge Man and blogs to users, giving them a place to play with their intelligent online peers. Even the news service was simply a tool to stimulate extended discussion, hence generating huge amounts of user-created content. One online survey found that Daum earned near 40 percent of its traffic from the user-created content, rather than the paid-for content. Finally, Internet-size fences were built up around the content reservoirs they accumulated over time in the form of search bot blockers. 

To be fair, the Korean portals should be given credit for realizing the vision of Web 2.0 for Koreans well before anyone in Silicon Valley started such discussions seriously. By simplifying the web publishing process with more standardized content creation tools such as online cafes, blogs and mini-homepages, the portals popularized the web experience for many Koreans, advancing the market to a maturity far earlier than in any other country. 

The caveat of this approach is, while putting more stress on users' content generation than on archiving the web, it ignored the enormous amount of useful content lurking outside the Korean language sphere. Kim of IT SpotNews warns that while Korean portals were gloating over the domestic success they achieved with the walled-garden strategy, they lagged behind Google in the development of more sophisticated search technology. 

A vice president of a major Korean portal observes that the unprecedented early maturation of the Korean web sphere drove the general Internet culture in a grossly entertainment-oriented direction. 

"With so many juveniles and even kindergarten-age children surfing the web," he laments, "Koreans would not be able to see in their web space the level of intelligence and sophistication that is easily found, for example, in Wikipedia." 

Already, Korean "power users" who can surf English language sites without much difficulty complain that Korean portals cannot compete with Google at all in the league of more advanced search games. University students looking for in-depth information for their research papers usually find far more useful content written in English from Google than Naver and Daum can do in their combined searches. 

As an increasing number of younger Koreans are getting used to the English language and starting to command a fair level of proficiency, they will realize that a bigger and more interesting world does exist outside the horizon of the Korean language sphere. If that scenario is ever realized, that will be the judgment day for those Korean portals that have basked in their protracted complacency. 

Meanwhile, Google's white double-decker will have to keep crawling around the streets of Korea looking for customers, while the legs of its search bots remain tied to its parking lot.
Posted by PSB
TAG Google, Naver

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