More Than Passion: Kpop and the Everyday Work of Digital Humanities

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S

University of South Carolina Lancaster

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.

Sources

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.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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