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Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Elon University

Anybody can ask some questions about your favorite K-pop group but scholarship involves a lot more.  Enter the glamorous(?) world of K-pop fan research!

What is research?

That’s a good question. Most K-pop fans have taken polls asking for their opinion, but these are usually for market research or for fun. Academic research is different.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines research as “a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.” There is a method to the madness, so the first thing that research involves is knowing the method.  Some people work with quantitative methods (i.e. statistics), but I use qualitative methods (examining  text in the form of responses and interviews) to explain what K-pop fans think about K-pop.  In either case, you need to know what you are doing, and while a degree isn’t required, it helps.  But long before the questions go up, you need a healthy dose of curiosity.

The Bright Idea

lightbulb

Source: Light bulb

Some people look at K-pop and think nothing of it. However, I, as a researcher, wonder:  Why do fans like K-pop? How do they support their groups? What do they get out of being a fan?  As K-pop becomes more popular, news media and online commentators talk more and more about it.  They find the whole phenomenon strange and make assumptions.  For example, outlets like CNN talk about the groups and fans that support them as if they are all the same.

As a K-pop fan, though, I know those observations do not match what I see among K-pop fans.  From my experience,  I know that the groups are different. SHINee and Shinhwa may both be male groups, but they are different. I know the fandoms are different.  Shawols are not like Shinhwa Changjos.

In addition, these outlets never talk about fan culture. I know that fans of SS501 know why Park Jung Min and Kim Hyung Joon are called Tom and Jerry.   Shinhwa fans know who Mama Bird and Baby Bird are in the group. SHinee fans know what Onew Sangtae is.  K-pop fandoms are wonderfully complicated so I wanted to explore how the fandoms are different and how they interact with one another, since they are a central part of the global spread of fandom.

But first, I needed to find out what had already been written on K-pop fans.

What Others Say

Research differs from opinion polls in that part of its purpose is to contribute to new knowledge. There is no need to do a research project if it’s already been done.  You don’t want to look like a boob saying something that’s already been said.  I found that there were a few studies on K-pop fans, but they focused on K-pop fans in East Asian countries, and they didn’t address the unique nature of individual fandoms (see Sung Jung, Korean Masculinities and Transcultural Consumption: Yonsama, Rain, Oldboy, K-pop Idols).  For example, Shu-han Chiou did research for a master’s thesis which identified fans as “devotee, insider, intermediate of devotee-insider, and low-consumption-and-self-centered.” No K-pop fan talks about themselves that way.  You are a A+ (fan of MBLAQ) or a SONE (fan of SNSD).  People also form online fan communities that support multiple groups, like DongBangBLAQ (fans of TVXQ and MBLAQ), f(snsd) (fans of f(x) and SNSD), TripleKISS (fans of SS501 and UKISS) and SuperGeneration (fans of Super Junior and SNSD).

Once I got the lay of the scholarly land, it was time to develop the study!

Just Do It!

The iFans project was born! I developed a series of surveys where fans could talk about their perspectives about being a fan and promoted them on the KPK site as well as social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

 Source:  http://www.clker.com/cliparts/6/b/1/2/1194989167583201900aiga_waiting_room1.svg.med.png

Source: Waiting

Then, I waited. In order to study the data, you have to collect the data and you need to collect enough data to form valid conclusions.   You wait for people to share the survey with their friends (hint, hint).  In this way, part of the research is beyond your control.

You also may have to tweak your survey instrument.   Sometimes a link doesn’t work. Sometimes you see you can get information in a more effective way, like providing text boxes for answers rather than having respondents list answers in just one big text box.

At some point, you get enough data to work with. Analyzing the data is the most unglamorous part of research, but it’s also the most exciting.  It means reading each and every response and finding patterns in what people say. For example, the iFans general Case Studies survey had over 300 respondents, but generated hundreds of statements to analyze.

By systematically analyzing the data, I get to see what K-pop fans think about themselves, other fandoms and the artists themselves.  I can now say things based on evidence about K-pop fans.  As a result of my research I know, for example, that no matter the fandom, fans are fans of groups because of the music.  I know that fans of SS501 like the group because of the brotherhood they show, and that fans of SNSD like the group because they are cute and dorky.

So, this is why it takes so long! If you’ve taken one of the longer surveys, you’re probably wondering where your answers are. Some of them make up the infographics you’ve been seeing on the site. Other responses are in the research reports. Still others will be the basis of articles and chapters for academic journals and books. In all cases, analyzing and writing up the reports takes time because of the large amount of response involved.

So, I’ve created the SMS: Saturday Mini Survey. This two-question survey is based on current events in K-pop so that fans can get research on K-pop a little bit faster. Be on the lookout for it!

In the end, real research follows a plan and follows rules to provide a better understanding of K-pop and its global fans.

Sources

“Code of Federal Regulations.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/45cfr46.html

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Manse in the USA!: What K-pop Means in the United States

April 12, 2013 ♦ Binghamton University

Crystal S. Anderson, PhD ♦ Elon University

Despite its status as a subculture, Korean popular music of the Hallyu era (K-pop) has a significant cultural impact in the United States. Combining elements of Korean and other cultures, it appeals to fans of varying ages and ethnicities. Using surveys and analysis of online K-pop culture originating in the United States, this paper will show that hybridization explains the appeal of and the backlash against K-pop. K-pop appeals to American fans because it is simultaneously similar to and different from American popular culture. American fans recognize elements of American culture and they embrace Korean cultural elements. At the same time, critiques of K-pop in the United States target those very elements, mocking K-pop and its fans for the ways they diverge from mainstream American cultural norms. For many in the United States, K-pop represents a complex negotiation with a Korean global culture.

Hybrid Hallyu: The American Soul Tradition In K-pop

2013 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA)

Washington, DC • March 27-30, 2012

Crystal S. Anderson, Ph.D. • Elon University

Hallyu (Korean wave), a Korean cultural movement directed towards global audiences, represents hybrid and transnational sensibilities.  Ever since the debut of Seo Taiji and the Boys in 1992, Korean popular music (K-pop) has been influenced by American soul and R&B.  This paper examines the soul tradition in contemporary K-pop by interrogating the adoption and adaptation of the genre by several K-pop groups.

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Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

Earlier this year I introduced KPK readers to the work I’m doing to collate and annotate as much scholarly information about Hallyu as I can. Without further ado, I share with you the first section, focusing on books covering Hallyu. Subsequent parts of this series will be identified by SUBJECT rather than format. Please note that these entries are listed by year, starting with 1991 (TIP: If you know about a title or author and you want to see if it’s included in this listing, use the CTRL +F function).

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Crystal Anderson appeared on a brief segment on Talk Asia on CNN International on October 6.. She spoke about the reasons for the popularity of Psy, a Korean rapper who has gained international success with his video for “Gangnam Style.” She also discussed the future of K-pop in the United States.

Crystal Anderson spoke about Afro-Asian culture, K-pop and K-drama with Michelle Clark-McCrary, host of the podcast ITYCRadio, which can be found via ITYC (Is That Your Child).  The podcast covers issues related to race and social justice.  Listen to the entire podcast here.

Seo Taiji, Gaon Chart

Seo Taiji: President of Culture is the first digital essay for Hallyu Harmony: A Cultural History of K-pop.

Pioneering a hybrid Korean popular music with global aspirations, Seo Taiji set the tone for contemporary K-pop through his fusion of multiple music genres with a Korean sensibility, global fan activity, and groundbreaking industry practices.  These activities continue to be staples of K-pop today.

Read the entire digital essay at Hallyu Harmony.

Image: “Seo Taiji, Gaon Chart,” Hallyu Harmony, accessed October 9, 2012, http://kpop.omeka.net/items/show/48.

Seo Taiji, Gaon Chart

Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Elon University

I just finished my first digital essay, Seo Taiji: President of Culture, for my digital humanities project on the cultural history of Hallyu-era Korean popular music, 1992-2009. But as I continue to build this Omeka site and design the project, I wonder:  Is my project a digital humanities project? What am I doing? And am I doing it right?  Such questions reflect recurrent anxiety about doing digital humanities with a popular culture project and how it might be perceived in the digital humanities and Korean popular culture studies realms.

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Credit: Crystal S. Anderson, PhD (Elon University)

Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Elon University

Academic research suggests adults like K-pop for a variety of reasons, the chief of which is music.  These findings complicate assumptions about the identity of international K-pop fans and their preferences.  According to 638 responses among 18- to 30-year-olds from around the world, other top reasons include choreography and idols.

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Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Elon University

This past spring, I attended my first THATCamp at the University of Virginia.  I was nervous. Although I’ve been a humanities person practically all my life, I was unsure if the collaborative projects I manage on Hallyu (Korean wave) popular culture on the Internet qualified as a digital humanities enterprise.  After attending THATCampVA,  I realized that my projects embraced  several central elements of digital humanities.    

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Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

By the time this post is published, Wikipedia (the English site) will not be accessible. That’s right, the place where you go to gather preliminary information on everything from the history of the letter “A” to breaking down the MBLAQ acronym will be blacked out on January 18, 2012. When you go to the community-driven Internet-based encyclopedia, all you will see is a black screen. That means for 24 hours, you won’t be able to access quick biographical information about Shakespeare or Martin Luther King, hear what a kayagum sounds like, or see the latest geographical or cultural statistics of Taiwan.Why? Because the site, along with other companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, are actively protesting the proposal of pieces of legislation called SOPA and PIPA.

Wikipedia implementing a 24-hour Black Out to protest proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation  (January 18, 2012).

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U.S. K-pop Fan Survey

Are you a fan of Kpop in the United States? Are you a K-pop fan of color? Make your voice heard in this brief survey for research!

U.S. K-pop Fan Survey

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