New Media Research Workshop: “Hooking Up ‘Gangnam Style’? The Internet as a Vector of Gay Class Conflict and Moral Anxiety in Post-IMF South Korea” / “Copying as Everyday Entrepreneurial Practice: The Social Worlds of Software Discs in Hanoi”

thumbnailThis meeting of the New Media Research Group will feature two speakers, John – Song Pae Cho, Ph.D. (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Lilly U. Nguyen, Ph.D. (UCLA).

“Hooking Up ‘Gangnam Style’? The Internet as a Vector of Gay Class Conflict and Moral Anxiety in Post-IMF South Korea”

Spurred by the Korean singer PSY’s viral sensation, “Gangnam Style,” the Gangnam District of Seoul has become indelibly etched onto the minds of many people around the world. But what exactly is Gangnam Style? And how is that different from Gangbuk Style? In this talk, I provide one answer through examining the hook up culture of gay men in South Korea. Through the Internet, they can not only quickly and anonymously meet other gay men, they can also specify the type of men whom they want to meet, hailing their “ideal man.” More often than not, however, this “ideal man” hails from Gangnam, the richest district in Seoul. If so, how do gay men from Gangbuk, the older and more impoverished sister of Gangnam, negotiate the conflicts of gay class and morality on the Internet? In examining the hookup culture of Gangnam and Gangbuk gay men, this paper contributes to a broader understanding of the Internet’s role in transforming South Korea’s formerly vibrant gay and lesbian movement into an online consumer market and sorting sexual outlaws into class-differentiated neoliberal subjects, who must not only work but also work out, in order to remain desirable as erotic subjects.

John (Song Pae) Cho is an SSRC Postdoctoral Fellow for Transregional Research at UC Berkeley. After completing his PhD in socio-cultural anthropology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011, he served as the Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley. In fall, he will serve as the Soon Young Kim Postdoctoral Fellow in the Korea Institute at Harvard University. He is currently completing his book manuscript, Faceless Things: South Korean Gay Men, Internet, and Sexual Citizenship. His research has appeared in several journals, including Anthropological Quarterly (2009), Journal of Sociolinguistics (2012), and GLQ (forthcoming).

“Copying as Everyday Entrepreneurial Practice: The Social Worlds of Software Discs in Hanoi”

Copied software discs readily circulate in Vietnam. In light of the country’s recent entry into the WTO, these discs have come under increased scrutiny and criticism. Communist party leaders, software trade groups, and technology advocates increasingly demonize what most Vietnamese understand as an everyday affair. In spite of this rhetoric of piracy, copied software discs continue to circulate. In this talk, I describe the social world of software discs within shops along Hanoi’s commercial streets. Such copying is situated in the city’s history of trade streets. As a technical practice of transferring and circulating bits across storage devices, the artifacts of copying produce technological stability amid material breakdown. As an everyday social practice, copying comprises an important practice for knowledge formation. Thus, I argue that copying reproduces more than discs but produces stability among a trade network. This approach departs from normative frameworks of piracy that assume its illegality and illicitness. As such, this talk describes copying as a vital practice that produces and sustains work and knowledge within alternate digital economies. By thinking through copying as an everyday practice, this talk provides new insight into the ways that innovation discourses shape and often limit how we think of work, knowledge, and technology.

Lilly U. Nguyen is a Ph.D candidate at the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. Her research explores the cultural significance of information technology in global contexts, with a specific focus on Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora. Her areas of research interest include critical information studies, science and technology studies, and ethnography. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Program, and the US Department of Education’s Foreign Language and Area Studies Program. She previously received an M.Sc. in Media Communications from the London School of Economics and a B.A. in Political Economy from UC Berkeley.