SBS PopAsia

장애물 (barrier)

Autoethnographers strive to use language and methods of interaction to find themselves in the crosshairs of ‘autobiographic impulse’ and the ‘ethnographic moment’ (Spry 2001), but what if there is no convergence of language and access points, such as may be the case when using social networks in other languages (Sina Weibo). I have experienced this struggle when attempting to derive further external cultural experience from the learning and curiosity which the EYK community and content has fostered within me. It became important to me to reflect on the ‘interactional textures occuring between self, other, and contexts in autoethnographic research’ (Spry 2001). Thus, I ventured out from the protective wings of the EYK community to explore the wider context of their content through consumption of pop music throughout Asia without the lens of EYK and ‘KPop Music Mondays‘ (their weekly KPop review) filtering what I see and like.

The creation of a personal narrative and the ability to recognise the occurrence of reflexive ethnography allows an autoethnographer to identify the cultural baggage which we bring to a personal experience and subsequently reflect on the reflective changes which result from our participatory cultural experiences (Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). In order to examine my cultural baggage in an environment where a detailed personal narrative could develop, I decided to start at home (Australia) with SBS PopAsia. SBS PopAsia is a comprehensive source of Asian pop content from many different countries (particularly South Korea), in the format of a television show screened on SBS 2 and a 24/7 live music stream.

Reflecting on my first impression of the SBS PopAsia television show screened on Sundays, I can see an unfortunate and unexpected mirroring of MTV and the Top 40 countdowns of my childhood, with the hosts standing in front of a cheesy green screen background while introducing slightly 1990s-feeling segments such as ‘what do all these videos have in common’ (this time it was ‘rain’ and ‘mobile phones’). In the first few minutes I notice a complete lack of interaction with artists and fans. Immediately I feel the deprivation of the freedom which digital platforms such as YouTube have given me when exploring new forms of entertainment, as I can’t skip any of the content that I’m not interested in. Similarly, the 24/7 digital radio stream forces the listener to experience the whole song being played, and there was no cultural context offered e.g. country of origin of the music, or information about the band. Ironically, the part of the SBS PopAsia experience which I struggled the most with ended up being related to language barriers (considering it is an Australian program); I expected the music videos to have a subtitle option, particularly in English, to explain why they are so popular amongst their regular viewers, as I have found a barrier to my enjoyment of KPop is that I don’t understand the lyricism or cultural context of the songs. However, there were no subtitles, and very little explanation of each video, so I ended up turning off the television 20 minutes before the show ended. This drove me back to digital platforms.

This time I attempted to involve myself in the weekly Korean show Music Bank. Immediately I was drawn into the show, as there were English subtitles for each KPop act’s song, and I found myself really enjoying the experience of actually seeing major KPop idols dance and sing to a passionate (and very loud) local audience. I hadn’t realised until now what a big fan of KPop I had become until I realised I was ‘fan-girling’ over Taemin and his performance of ‘Danger’. I really loved looking through the comment section and seeing others feel exactly the same; after all, ‘fandom is not just about expressing to the object of your fandom that you love it — it’s also about connecting with other fans (Miller 2014).

Upon reflection, I could see how incredibly important my research of KPop bands and idols and observation of online fan communities had been in fostering a genuine connection within this cultural context. This experience has shown me just how valuable the EYK community is to me and the breaking down of barriers to participation in the wider Korean entertainment context, and how digital platforms allow much more inclusive access to the enjoyment of new experiences, particularly in comparison with traditional media forms.

SBS PopAsia: The Fandoms


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This week I tried to flip the coin so to speak and look at the culture of Asian pop fandoms as opposed to the Asian popstars and performers I’ve largely been looking at up until now. To be more specific I decided to narrow in on the peripheral fandoms that tune in every week to watch the Australian Asian pop music video show SBS PopAsia. A big part of every week’s countdown is Tweeting along with the episode using the hashtag #SBSPopAsia, which is used to play games, nominate artists/songs as well as create an actively vocal audience whose Tweets are cherry picked for screen time during the episode (SBS PopAsia HQ 2014). In the hopes of better understanding the fandom I decided to tweet along in the hashtag during the episode and collate some examples of the fandom in action (shown above).

 

What were some of the key activities, conversations, or internal thoughts that I experienced today? (Sheridan)
My initial experience was bewilderment as a scrolling wall of tweets cycled rapidly across my screen, filled with the kind of ecstatic glee you might expect from a crowd at a live event. It becomes clear quite quickly that a lot of these fans tweeting along with the show are active participants in the fandoms of these pop artists outside of the bounds of the show, as most of them display a level of knowledge about the individual artists and performers that is not only absent from the show itself, but recalled rapidly in response to the events of the show. In other words, the reaction time of the tweets suggests this information is not being looked up beforehand. I did try contributing to the discussion, guessing which common element was present in the 3 songs they played consecutively and generally commenting on the songs as they played, but I found the experience largely distant. Things move too rapidly; with too much vigor and desperation to be noticed for the fans to engage with each other too much it seems. Although the one question I did ask the group actually received a response, even if it was just the one.

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What would I do differently next time if I researched the same group or event? (Sheridan)
I think that researching these fandoms properly will require looking at how they behave on the other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, that move much more slowly and with more of an air of contemplation. I approached this group expecting more of a conversation but instead I learnt that it was much more like a mass-aggregation of quick, yet vocal monologues.


 

References

Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 31 August 2014 http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

SBS PopAsia HQ 2014, ‘Get Social with SBS PopAsia’, SBS PopAsia, viewed 31 August 2014 http://www.sbs.com.au/popasia/blog/2014/02/04/get-social-media-sbs-popasia