Monday, August 25, 2008

Arrival in Seoul

I'm here, in Seoul.

There's so much to do amidst the minutiae of everyday life. Just getting the 'embodiment' taken care of, and onto meetings.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why learning the language is preferable to 'translation'

I am very much looking forward to using my Korean on a daily basis again in its native environment next week, as there is nothing like full immersion. It is important to know both the langue and parole of the culture under one's ethnographic investigation. Human translators are great, but that is of course a layer of mediation that one would preferably strip away if possible. Time and money play a key role in what one is able to do by oneself, like transcription (an absolute pain to do, would rather escape the chore by paying someone else to do it, but there is some removal of data from the interpreter/researcher/writer).

While it's perfectly good and fair to not fully master a language in which one is doing ethnography (and many would argue not necessary at all), it is still good to at least try. Invoking the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis here, it postulates that a particular language's nature influences the habitual thought of its speakers....

So, to understand a culture more, it makes sense to understand the language.. what was important enough to 'make it' into the local vocabulary, etc.

Anyway, this post was more of an excuse to post some funnies with the translator widget on my dashboard. I initially started with a simple phrase,"What are you doing today?" and "translated" it to Korean. Then what I generally like to do is translate the Korean it spits out into English, and hilarity ensues.

What are you doing today?
너는 무엇을 오늘 하고 있는가?
(which translates to...)

It spreads out what today?
오늘 무엇 그것은 밖으로 퍼진다?
(which becomes...)

What it spreads out today at the outside?
그것은 무엇 외부에 밖으로 오늘 퍼지는가?
(and then...)

Does it outside what spread out today at the outside?
밖으로 오늘 퍼지는 것이이상으로 외부에 그것은?

Spreading out today at the outside at above outside it?
밖으로 오늘 퍼지는가 그것이상으로 상기에 외부에?

It spreads out today at the outside above it in minute description outside?
그것은 작은 묘사안에 그것의 위 외부에 밖으로 오늘 밖에 퍼진다?

It inside small depicting outside up of it spreads out only today at the outside?
그것은 외부에 그것의 안 작은 묘사 밖에 위로 밖으로 단 오늘 퍼진다?
(Last one...)

It outside it only small depiction spreads out only today at the comfort outside?
그것 밖에 에 의하여 안락에 단 작은 묘사 밖으로 단 오늘 밖에 퍼지는?

Lost in translation, indeed. Is this why Asians seem so stereotypically 'mysterious'? It all sounds like a haiku...

I know some of you in the field of translation might have something to say about this!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Official announcement of competition results

At last, I am pleased to announce that I am the grantee of a Korean Government Scholarship offered by the National Institute for International Education (NIIED) through the Foreign Government Awards program, jointly administered by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), on behalf of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT).

The KG Scholarship, along with a Graduate International Scholarship from the SFU Dean of Graduate Studies will directly support my dissertation field research in Korea for the duration of 6-months.

I'm headed there at the end of this week, with my truckload of official documents in hand. Stay tuned for the ride that will commence shortly!

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Almost there: Pre-fieldwork particulars

It's been a hectic little while...

In less than 3 weeks, I'll be heading to South Korea for 6 months of ethnographic fieldwork on the intergenerational use of information communication technologies (games, wireless, etc), and the changing social dynamics in the nation amidst the impacts of transnationality.

The Department of Communication at Seoul National University has invited me to commence a stay with them as a Visiting Researcher during that time. I'll be working with Professor Myungkoo Kang, who is a leading authority on the concept of East Asian Modernity and the study of media and culture.

In addition to the scholastic rigours that come with such an endeavour, I've also been distracted (to put it mildly) with the bureaucratic rigours as well. More than usual. It wouldn't be a blog entry without some inanity, so the laundry list of the last 3 weeks includes:

  • Phone calls with governmental organizations, with paperwork follow-up
  • Health exams: chest x-rays, vaccinations, blood, (and yes everything else!). I'm in "excellent" health, by the way--the paper says so now.
  • Administration: ordering documentation, booking flights, accomodation, registration, scanning, emailing... unsubscribing to this, subscribing to that, it's all stuff that needs to be done.
  • Purchasing research materials--books, equipment, favourite face cream. (ok, that's not research... or is it...:)

The problem, as many know... is that many of these things rely upon the schedule of others. So if there's not enough time to crank the wheels, there's simply nothing one can do. Wait in the cue. Have a good book. Get really practiced at saying, "it's alright" to people at the counter just doing their jobs.

Fieldwork is a full-bodied effort. It's the virtue and vice of being an ethnographer. You have to be 'there,' and take everything that comes with getting there, being there, and leaving there. In addition to that, there's the administration that comes with being here, leaving here, and coming back here..... nevermind securing the funding and support to carry those plans out.

So, I've been yammering about this trip for four years since my last fieldwork stint in Korea four years ago, applying for this and that grant, asking for reference letters, signatures, coffee talk, sanity checks. The time has finally come, and I bet everyone else is relieved along with me. Fortunately, I've encountered very helpful, kind, and positive people who are on my side when it comes to getting these things done (in all stages of the aforementioned tasks). There has also been some great news regarding getting this research funded, for which I'm just waiting on the official announcement of before letting the cat out of the bag here.

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