East Asian Media Culture in Facebook

The Facebook is not only about cheerful chat with lost and found friends or groups with witty names anymore as the academic world has begun to infiltrate the service. Many researchers, including me, have already linked their texts in Facebook and many professors are using it as a course site.
I was reminded about this when I cyber-bumped into one of South Korea's leading media culture scholars, Professor Kim Shin Dong (Hallym University, S. Korea / Sciences Po, France) opening his course site about East Asian Media Culture in Facebook. Knowing Kim's work I'm betting it will be interesting.

Pic above (originally from Newsweek) appears at Prof. Kim's FB course site.


Video conferencing becoming more popular due to recession

According to Wikipedia a video conference
is a set of interactive telecommunication technologies which allow two or more locations to interact via two-way video and audio transmissions simultaneously. It has also been called visual collaboration and is a type of groupware. It differs from videophone in that it is designed to serve a conference rather than individuals.
For various reasons such as intimacy and cost the videophone function on the cell phone has not become that popular whereas two-way video calls (e.g. Skype) over the Internet have. To have a group of people discussing matters over a video conference used to be more like a nice idea but because of narrow bandwidth and poor applications it was not widely implemented.

The meatspace is still considered as the locus authenticus for important discussion and decision-making but thanks to the recession and developing technology, cyberspace is becoming more attractive as the place to meet. Many organizations are already using applications such as ConnectPro but for a more natural experience with a bigger group you have to spend big bucks.

This morning, the radio news reported how the development of technology has made conferencing easy and smooth. Plus it saves money, time and environment. The head of communication of Telia-Sonera, a Finno-Swedish company, talked about the new telepresence system that, although being a very expensive one (a few hundred K in euros), had earned back the costs of its implementation in about 7 months. Over 500 trips between Helsinki and Stockholm were replaced by a video conference. During the first year a whopping 550.000 € was saved in flight tickets alone.

However, there are some prerequisites to the comfortable and "natural" use of video conference. The two conference rooms have to be equally furnished and have similar acoustics so that the illusion of presence is not shattered by the medium. Also, the screens have to be high definition and present the participants in real size. I would also add that the two conferencing parties would have to have relatively long tradition of cooperation so that the lack of intimacy would be compensated by the established familiarity of the parties. Or, the subject matter should not be of such importance that it would require deep involvement and interpreting subtle expressions of the participants. In other words, the users should be more or less old acquaintances or they should discuss less important day-to-day matters.

Although the new technology is cost-effective, the cost is also a problem as only big multinational companies can invest in high quality videoconferencing. Another choice, as also mentioned in the news report, is to rent the equipment.
In Finland, Technopolis, a company providing "optimal environment for high tech companies," is renting their conference rooms in eight cities. One hour of video conferencing costs 150 to 500 euros depending on the size of the conference space. Sound expensive? Obviously it depends on whether you are calling your mom to show your new pair of pants or having two armies of lawyers in two different continents discuss a million-dollar business deal. Here you can even calculate the cost-effectiveness of video conferencing yourself.

It's quite obvious to predict that the use of high-quality video conference applications will become cheaper and more wide-spread in the future and thus two-way meetings will be more commonly held virtually. The concept of the technology is quite simple and easy to implement.
What about more massive conferences where hundreds of people go around forming smaller groups and where individuals meet each other? How could the technology solve the problem of including vast spaces and mobile people? Today, the narrow bandwidth is the problem and that's why the closest thing is a more "artificial" conference space such as Second Life with more restricted data environment and simplified symbolic presentations of participants (avatars).
Perhaps in the future the terabyte-scale bandwidths, 3D-modelling techniques and high-precision GPSs will give me a chance to take part in a conference and have a close-to-meatspace experience of a conference in, say, Seoul just by walking around in my office in Jyväskylä, Finland.
Pic sources (from top down): Skype, History of the Button, Technopolis, Cisco.



Update on my research: Dokdo Island dispute and Korean mobile youth

Here's some stuff I've been working on lately.

Dokdo Island Dispute: Korean Reconstruction of History and National Identity in User-Created Content Media.
  • A paper for Digital Memories Conference, 17-19 March, Salzburg. Introduces the Dokdo Island dispute and its representation in cyberspace by Koreans. Discusses nation-building and revision of history in user-cretead content media.
  • Introduces the Dokdo Island dispute and its representation in cyberspace by Koreans. Discusses nation-building and revision of history in user-cretead content media.

Read the paper.

A Modern Fetish: The Value of the Mobile Phone in South Korean Youth Culture

Check out the draft sent for review.

In April I will also attend 3rd IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD2009) to get to know the latest trends and players in ICT in Doha, Qatar.