Monday, January 09, 2012

Dissertation preview

What better way to begin the New Year, than with a dissertation teaser?

Here it is.

Title: Online games as a medium of cultural communication: An ethnographic study of sociotechnical transformation
  • Introduction
  • Methodology and Rationale
  • The Rise of Korean Gaming
  • Gaming: from Subculture to Mainstream
  • Conclusion and Moving Forward


This dissertation explores the place and meaning of online games in everyday life. In South Korea, online games are a prominent part of popular culture and this medium has come under public criticism for various societal ills, such as addiction. Humanistic accounts of Information-Communication Technology (ICT) usage are still a minority body of research. All too often, the explanations for engagement with technology are reductionist to the most basic variables and the social aspects omitted in the name of science. An ethnographic approach is employed in order to understand the place of games as a communication medium.

Exactly how has it come to pass, that online games have come to occupy such a prominent place in the media ecology in South Korea, and yet not been replicated in other national contexts? First, I outline the discourse on addiction as it pertains to online games and suggest some scholarly support for the viewpoint that the rhetoric surrounding a biomedical interpretation of online game addiction may not be the most appropriate way to address problems that have been typically laid at the feet of online gaming (or any other new form of media). Second, I transition into discussing my rationale for approaching South Korea as a fieldsite, the ethnographic methodology employed, and how this examination of online games is a particularly illustrative case of the profound role played by culture, social structure, infrastructure, and policy in audience reception. Third, I delve into the foundational aspects of Korean social history and culture that I assert, set the stage for the present new media scene in South Korea. Fourth, I explore what games mean in the lives of Korean youth according to the ethnographic data I have been collecting during research stays in 2004, 2008/2009 and 2010.

Overall, this dissertation examines the contextual factors of which a medium of communication in the sociotechnical transformation of South Korea can begin to be understood within the porous boundaries of its national circumstances.

Keywords: Games; Ethnography; Korea; Addiction; Sociotechnical; Media; Anthropology; Communication; Culture; Social Structure; Infrastructure; Policy;

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