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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.
When you click the “KPK Members” link on our site, our bios’ upbeat language states we have certain skill sets that match well with the work of KPK, and you know that we are Kpop fans. I think our identification as Kpop fans is one of the unique characteristics of our collaboration.
While KPK members approach the work of KPK as people who truly enjoy and participate in Kpop culture and some associated activities, our passion for Kpop is a minimum requirement for the work we do. Our work also requires the courage to forge a path in a niche research area within a discipline that is still developing, a willingness to perform due diligence, and not unlike the most successful Kpop idols, the will to perform seemingly repetitive actions in pursuit of a professional and cohesive body of work for an audience who’d like to consume a quality product.
This past January, KPK marked its second anniversary, and in that time we have improved our artist profiles and expanded our research projects. In the same amount of time, the DH discipline still struggles with its very identity – literally. In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, William Pannapacker (with KPK’s apologies) pleads:
Stop calling it “digital humanities.” Or worse, “DH,” with a knowing air. The backlash against the field has already arrived. The DH’ers have always known that their work is interdisciplinary (or metadisciplinary), but many academics who are not humanists think they’re excluded from it….it seems more inclusive to call it digital liberal arts (DLA) with the assumption that we’ll lose the “digital” within a few years, once practices that seem innovative today become the ordinary methods of scholarship.
DH (or DLA) labels aside, KPK is performing the unique work of organizing Kpop artist information and Kpop fan activities during a time when DH standards are wide-ranging and many actions that were once considered within the discipline have been challenged as the field evolves. When KPK considers adding new projects or updating current ones, we revisit the evolving rules of DH and work to reconcile them with the KPK educational mission. Because of this evolution, our passion for Kpop (“let’s gather every single photo we can find of Eric because Shinhwa is awesome!”) has always been tempered by the scholastic/research activity of due diligence (“which photos of Shinhwa reflect a certain aspect of the group’s position in/influence on Hallyu’s development”). Burdick et al. assert that one of the characteristics of DH is “an emphasis upon curation as a defining feature of scholarly practice” (2012, 122). KPK’s projects reflect this characteristic because of our ongoing commitment to adhere to the latest standards where we can, and to question any standards that seem exclusionary to scholars who are doing good works in unconventional DH environments.
Hand-in-hand with due diligence is the time it takes to seek, evaluate, master, train others, and implement new technologies and curate our information so KPK’s work can be made public and is easily disseminated. When we started KPK two years ago, we used two tools for content creation: WordPress and Google Docs. As our work evolved towards curation, we discovered more tools and applied them to our work. More recently, KPK members have been trained on or exposed to a variety of digital curation platforms, including Omeka, Timeline JS, and Mindomo.
While these technologies make information gathering and presentation easier, it still takes quite a while to get work done. For instance, it takes about 4 hours to gather and curate all the items for the average KPK artist profile, and another 2 hours to input the items into KPOPIANA. That doesn’t take into account how long it takes to set up the artist’s exhibit. Since a lot of Kpop information is strewn all over the Internet (and in some cases, is contradictory or not available at all), this work can be tedious and repetitive – especially if you’re working on an artist that you don’t know well (or know, but who is not your favorite). Add this time to the hours we spend tagging and adding news to our information archive, annotating interesting articles, locating scholarly work, talking to fans, and preparing data for presentations, it becomes quickly apparent that my while my enjoyment of Kpop helps me get the job done, it isn’t the actual work of KPK.
The interesting thing is this: when I’m looking for information about an artist who I don’t know that much about; watching a music video of a group that makes me wonder how they ever made even one comeback; or analyzing a concept photo that leaves me questioning the entire cordi-noona empire –that is when my passion for Kpop kicks in, melds with my love of scholarship, and stokes my determination to get our work done right for the long-term fulfillment of the KPK mission.
Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital Humanities. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012. Web.
Pannapacker, William. “Stop Calling it ‘Digital Humanities’.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 5 Mar 2013.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
IFANS: Mapping K-pop’s International Fandom is an 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 Designer and Curator of the iFans project site.
iFans Case Studies Survey captures fan attitudes about the following 12 K-pop groups that have global, active fanbases: 2NE1, Aziatix, BigBang, Epik High, f(x), MBLAQ, SHINee, SNSD, SS501, Shinhwa, Super Junior and TVXQ. If you are a fan of more than one of these groups, you should take this survey.
iFans Individual Case Study captures more in-depth information on fan attitudes about each group. Click on one of the following to answer additional questions about your favorite group!
Case Studies Exhibit provides digital tours and analysis of selected fansites that support 12 K-pop groups.
This resource organizes online K-pop fan communities, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other fansites. You can look up information two ways:
Watch the progress of the project on the Omeka site, IFANS: Mapping K-pop’s International Fandom.
*This human subject research has been reviewed by the Institutional Review Board at Elon University. Click here for study documentation.
Last month I shared why my background in Library and Information Science matches so well with the mission and work of KPK: Kpop Kollective. One of the roles I play is information provider (billed “Research and Information Clearinghouse” on that fine chart from last month’s blog). More and more frequently, visitors to our site are government employees, graduate students, and university faculty members from all over the world who have a strong academic interest in Hallyu. Since July 2011, I have been collecting and organizing citations of conference presentations, scholarly articles, book chapters and books covering all aspects of Hallyu, including popular music, television, fans, and more. In an upcoming series of posts, I’ll be sharing with you unannotated citations of items that I’ve discovered as I’ve mined information.
By CeeFu and Nunee
RIVENDELL (AHMN) – E.L.F.s have started to gather for Super Junior’s Super Show 4, to be held in the biggest tree in the elven city. Armed with their sapphire blue lightsticks, legions of fans look forward to cheering on the group at the history-making show. Super Junior is the first Kpop group to play the Rivendell Celebrian Arena, and rumor has it that SM Entertainment is currently contemplating additional dates in Mordor and Minas Tirith, with the possibility of holding a fanmeet on the Pelennor Fields.
But don’t log on to Ticketmaster just yet. Aren’t you a little skeptical? You should be, because news reporting in the Kpop world sometimes looks just as improbable. In our investigation of all things Hallyu, KPK has noticed several trends in the way information about Kpop is distributed. This article is about how Kpop fans are informed, or in some cases, misinformed, by coverage of Kpop. This is not about any one outlet or blogger, and the examples and photos within this article are used to illustrate a trend. They should not be construed as judgements on how individual sites choose to create or distribute kpop news.