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As you know, iFans: Mapping Kpop’s International Fandom is a study seeking to understand the attitudes of global fans of K-pop’s most successful groups. You can now view the results of the analysis of the survey data and an email interview with a fan of SNSD! Click here to view the What Fans Think section of the digital exhibit. Sad that you aren’t included? You can always take the email survey online here! C’mon, SONES, you are one of the biggest K-pop fandoms out there! Click the link and represent!
The Saturday Mini Survey (SMS) is a two-question survey based on current events in K-pop. It allows fans to see research results on K-pop a little bit faster. Today’s SMS is on collaborations in K-pop. Click on the link to take the survey!
Crystal S. Anderson, PhD
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
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.
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!
“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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Crystal S. Anderson, PhD
Associate Professor, Elon University (U.S.)
K-pop girl groups tend to be described as sexy, fierce or cute. Some suggest that images of fierceness encourage girls to be empowered, while images of cuteness take away their agency. However, responses by fans of f(x), a K-pop female group, suggest that fans prefer unique and diverse images of women.
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.
While the world has been familiar with online video for a while now, “screencasting” is a relatively new term in our technological vocabulary. Screencasting is similar to a screenshot, but instead of having static images, it’s a video of what is happening on your computer screen. This can be a powerful tool to teach people using visuals and audio. At least that’s how Dr. Crystal Anderson, a professor in the English department, uses it.
Read more at Elon University – Instructional and Campus Technologies!
While some academics may be skeptical about the intellectual value of using a blog as part of their research, I have found that it has numerous benefits.
Some academics look down on blogging for research because it is goes against the conventional wisdom that the only things that matter in scholarship are peer-reviewed production: journal article, book chapters in edited collections, monographs. Scholars are concerned because we all know the weight such publications carry in annual evaluations, promotion and tenure and our overall reputations in our fields. We may reason, “If I’m going to spend my time writing, it needs to be on something that counts.”
Yes, these kinds of publications count, but they do not begin to capture the breadth of our scholarship. The process by which we engage ideas as we arrive at our brilliant conclusions is also scholarship, and blogging about our research can capture this. Kathleen Fitzpatrick notes, “When a scholar with a blog writes a bit about some ideas-in-process, receives some feedback in response, returns with further ideas, reiterates, and so on, we can glimpse once again the seriality that has always been at the heart of scholarly production.”
Blogging also documents that process. Rather than thoughts being lost in our own heads, blog posts capture our epiphanies as they occur. We rarely recognize how much intellectual labor we utilize. I find blogging to be a concrete way to capture that intellectual labor and map my own thought process. Nothing I write comes out fully polished and ready to go and that’s ok. In a piece last year for The Chronicle on Higher Education, Bruce Henderson noted what happens behind-the-scenes of scholarship production:
They do not see us reading, talking with—and listening to—colleagues, or translating new information into class notes or research ideas. They do not see us struggling to find out what is important in the overwhelming amount of new information in every discipline. Yet such consumatory scholarship is fundamental to up-to-date teaching, to the initial stages of research projects, and to institutional and community service based on expertise rather than just good intentions.
Blogging is one way to capture that consumatory scholarship. We all know you cannot write responsibly about something unless you know what’s already been written. I use blogging on my research site as a way to do that publicly. It’s helpful for me because I can see the product of my in-process thinking.
But there are other, less-discussed reasons for research blogging. Blog posts validate smaller sized articulations of our thinking. Being driven to write only journal articles or book chapters can contribute to the kind of unproductive mindset that Kerry Ann Rockquemore talks about in her essay on academic perfectionism. She asks: “Do you hold onto your drafts until you think they are perfect and only share manuscripts with others when they are in their most advanced stage?” “Do you have an intense fear of failure because it might reveal to others that you are not perfect (or have as much potential as others thought you had)?” “ Are you so fixated on the end goal of publishing your paper, receiving a grant, and/or getting stellar teaching evaluations that if you don’t meet the goal, it doesn’t even matter what happened in the process?” Positive answers to these questions may indicate a mode of perfectionism that produce ”self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that are aimed at reaching an unrealistic goal (perfection).”
I have found that blogging helps me to avoid these extreme views about my writing. It allows me to set smaller goals, and I write more. By writing shorter pieces, my writing improves in my peer-reviewed work as well.
Finally, blogging gave me a sense of control over my own work that we can lose working exclusively toward peer-reviewed publications. In exchange for the opportunity to be published, we give up the rights over our own work. This may contribute to the way academia operates an uncertain venture for some. Rockquemore notes that the academic environment is one “where there are no objective and transparent criteria for tenure and promotion, but instead a moving target of ever-escalating expectations” and “where success is largely under the control of others and rejection rates are astronomically high.”
Isn’t the ultimate goal of research to contribute to a body of knowledge that people can access? So, I decided that I would I write and publish small pieces of my research on my blog to share directly with the public: no paywalls, no passwords, no undecipherable jargon. Just the attribution will make me happy. I get to decide how others can use it through a Creative Commons license. If somebody asks me to translate a post in French, I can say yes because I exercise a measure of control over my own writing that I don’t always do in peer-reviewed publications.
It is also important to me that some of the writing I do should be the kind my family and friends can read. It was especially important for this work on Korean popular culture, because so much of my source material is in the public square and relies on the public production of others (i.e. fans) and their perceptions.
This writing has paid off I ways I could not anticipate. I have extended my academic circle and have been offered more traditional academic opportunities as a result of my blog writing. I engage with people who aren’t academics but have deep insights in my subjects. I talk to people.
Blogging our research may seem counterintuitive, but I know my traditional academic writing has benefitted as a result.
Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “Blogs as Serialized Scholarship.” Planned Obsolescence. 12 Jul 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2013.
Henderson, Bruce B. ”Just Because We’re Not Publishing Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Working.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 11 June 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2013.
Rockquemore, Kerry Ann. “The Cost of Perfectionism.” Inside Higher Education. 7 Nov 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2013.
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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.
KPK: Kpop Kollective will once again bring the knowledge at KPOPCON’13 February 16-17 at UC Berkeley!
BEYOND THE BIAS: WHAT K-POP FANS REALLY THINK AND DO
Crystal S. Anderson, Ph.D., KPK: Kpop Kollective
Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S., KPK: Kpop Kollective
Bianca Flowers, KPK: Kpop Kollective
Do you troll the Internet for pictures of your bias? Watch dance versions of videos on YouTube? Share your opinions on a forum? Go to K-pop concerts?
This interactive session will uncover the complex world of K-pop fandom and give tips on how you can be a better fan! We’ll talk about the different kinds of fans and ways they interact with and support each other and their favorite K-pop artists and groups. We will also share how you can enhance your own fan experience by learning how to protect your original fan production (like fan art and fancam video), organize and properly attribute your stash of pictures collected from around the web, and properly share images and video.
IFANS: Mapping K-pop’s International Fandom is a scholarly research project that examines global fan attitudes and activities through surveys, collection of information on online communities and analysis of websites. Crystal S. Anderson, PhD (Elon University) is the Principal Investigator of the studies and Curator of the iFans project site.
By Crystal S. Anderson, PhD
Elon University (U.S.)
Whether it’s excited yelling by fans or crying by K-pop artists, emotions run deep in K-pop. While some focus on obsessive emotional attachments and behaviors by fans, research shows that fans themselves describe a range of emotional responses to K-pop. 100 responses by 18- to 30-year-olds show that fans find K-pop to be a source of happiness, hope and motivation. These responses are part of a five-year study on international fans of K-pop housed at KPK: Kpop Kollective.
Some writers tend to characterize fan activities and emotional expressions in negative terms. Patricia of Seoulbeats describes emotional expressions of appreciation for K-pop as bordering on obsessive: “I think there’s something to be said about my stance on the emotional toll that idol fandom takes on its devotees. That’s why I become so alarmed when I see these SHINee fans writing these intense emotional outpourings about how SHINee has changed their lives, or how much SHINee means to them. It breaks my heart to hear fans say that they turn to K-pop as a distraction for real life because their friends and family can’t offer them the same comfort that K-pop idols do.”
Adeline Chia writes that such emotions translate into obsessive behaviors: “Then there is K-pop’s effects on listeners. It turns functional people into crazed addicts, acting in robotic idolatry. . . . K-pop is also unique in inspiring extreme behaviour from fans and generating psychosis. Cyber-bullying and online smear campaigns are common practices by anti-fans who target a certain entertainer they hate. Sometimes, anti-fans turn into stalkers or criminals.”
To view entire “Can’t Stop Loving You” infographic, click here.
However, fans talk about the emotional appeal of K-pop in more positive terms. Some talk about overall emotions that go beyond the lyrics. One notes, “Kpop has the power to touch people even for those like me who don’t understand the lyrics. I think [it] is the r[h]ythm, the emotion in the voices, the dances. Kpop is like a best friend, it is here for you whenever you are happy or sad. Powerful stuff.” Another said: “The music is more touching and you can feel the emotions of the singers when they sing regardless of what genre.” Others link emotions to performances: “They sing and perform with passion and emotions, so even if you can’t really understand the lyrics you will get to know what it’s about by just listening. Kpop is not just another type of music it’s much more, that I can’t describe it with words” (Anderson).
These responses echo what scholars have discovered about emotional responses to music that transcend cultural differences. In a study with Western listeners listening to Hindustani ragas, Laura-Lee Balkwill and William Forde Thompson find that it is possible for music to travel cross-culturally: “According to our model, this indicates that the psychophysical cues for joy, sadness, and anger were salient enough to enable listeners to overcome their unfamiliarity with culture-specific cues and to make an accurate assessment of the intended emotion. . . . That naive listeners demonstrated such a high level of agreement with expert listeners, who were deeply familiar with the culture-specific cues embedded in the music samples, is remarkable” (58). In other words, listeners from other cultures can identify emotionally with music of a different culture, and this may shed light on why global fans identify with K-pop emotionally.
This emotional response runs the gamut. Many respondents describe how they find K-pop to be fun and happy. One notes, “Cause the music is always so free and fun to dance to. It simply makes me happy.” Another adds, “The songs are really refreshing, and listening to it puts me in a happy mood because of their lyrics and beats.” Other respondents link the happiness they feel from K-pop to their lives in general: “It always puts me in a good mood and makes me feel energized. Kpop sometimes can make you feel like your part of something bigger. It’s hard to explain but the feeling it gives you is great” (Anderson).
Others related K-pop to more somber emotions. One respondent says, “Because it’s very different and the music touches something in me, I mean this is not superficial, there are feelings in every song, this could be happiness or some sad feelings.” Another notes, “When I listen to sad songs I find that it have feelings in it and it will touched me too.” One says, “There’s an upbeat to the music that sometimes make you want to dance other times depending on where you heard it from makes you sad” (Anderson).
Some fans talk about how K-pop helps them through hard times. One respondent notes, “It was introduced to me at a hard time in my life and it has been the only music I listened to help me get through it.” Another says, “Kpop appeared in my life all of a sudden. I was really depressed back then and it helped me get out of my miserable state, pulled me out of the worst” (Anderson). Music can have the therapeutic effect these respondents describe. Annemiek Vink explains therapy methods, such as Guided Imagery in Music, which is “based on the assumption that the most appropriate music can be selected for healing purposes.” She further finds that the choice of music impacts the therapeutic results of GIM: “In all aspects, carefully selected music based on the person’s preference and personal background was far more effective than standard relaxation music” (153, 154).
This range of fairly positive emotions challenges negative characterizations of their emotional expression. These responses come from adults rather than young teenagers, so it is less convincing to describe them as obsessive along the lines of Chia. She refers to incidents involving K-pop celebrities, but respondents speak about their emotions mostly in relation to the music. When they do comment on the artists, it is often in terms of the positive relationship they have with fans. One notes, “The singers are so dedicated to their music and their fans. They put their real emotion into every word” (Anderson).
This emotional connection that some K-pop fans feel also translates into a discourse of protection, the desire to protect their group or artist from mischaracterizations. The Triple S Pledge encourages fans of SS501 “To support and shield them through hard times…To ignore rumors.” The same sentiments can be seen in the “Prom15e to Bel13ve and 10ve” philosophy held by some fans of Super Junior, which acknowledges every member regardless of current status or sub-group membership.
These findings suggest that emotion plays a role in the attitudes and opinions of adult global K-pop fans, often in a positive way.
Anderson, Crystal. Infographic. “Can’t Stop Loving You.” 14 Dec 2012. Web.
European Kpop Fans. Digital Image. WeHeartIt. Originally posted on european-kpop-fans.blogspot.com. 14 Dec 2012. http://weheartit.com/entry/29104058
Anderson, Crystal S. “Data Set: Hallyu Kpop Survey 2 and Kpop Kollective KiFs Survey 2, 18- to 30 Year Olds.” Korean Popular Music International Fanbases Project. 29 Apr 2011 – 15 Apr 2012.
Balkwill, Laura-Lee and William Forde Thompson. “A Cross-Cultural Investigation of the Perception of Emotion in Music: Psychophysical and Cultural Cues.” Music Perception 17. 1 (1999): 43-64.
Chia, Adeline. “Sick Cult of K-pop.” Originally published on Straits Times. 8 Dec 2011. SGSJELFs & SupershowSG. Web. 8 Dec 2012. http://sgsjelfs.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/sick-of-k-pop-cult-by-adeline-chia-of-straits-times/
Patricia. “Fans Love Oppa, But Oppa Is Uncomfortable With Such Feelings.” 24 May 2011. Seoulbeats. Web. 8 Dec 2012. http://seoulbeats.com/2011/05/fans-love-oppa-but-oppa-is-uncomfortable-with-such-feelings/
TS Pledge. Triple S: The States. Web. 8 Dec 2012. http://triplesstates.blogspot.com/p/about-triples.html
Vink, Annemiek. “Music and Emotion.” Nordic Journal of Music Therapy 10.2 (2001): 144-158.
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