Monday, March 19, 2012

PhD Defence Announcement

PhD Defence::School of Communication::Simon Fraser University

Florence Chee

Date: Thursday, 12 April 2012
Time: 1:30 PM
Location: Harbour Centre, Vancouver Room HC 2270

Online games as a medium of cultural communication: An ethnographic study of sociotechnical transformation

Senior Supervisor: Richard Smith (School of Communication, SFU)
Supervisor: Andrew Feenberg (School of Communication, SFU)
Supervisor: J. Adam Holbrook (School of Communication, SFU)
Supervisor: Roman Onufrijchuk (School of Communication, SFU)
Internal Examiner: Ann Travers (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, SFU)
External Examiner: Bonnie Nardi (School of Information and Computer Sciences, UC–Irvine)
Chair: Stuart Poyntz (School of Communication, SFU)


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 Internet addiction and a hopeless dependence upon online games. Humanistic accounts of Information-Communication Technology (ICT) usage are still a minority body of research. All too often, studies of engagement with technology reduce questions to their basic variables and social aspects are omitted in the name of science.

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? The first chapter discusses 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). The second chapter transitions 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. The third chapter on the rise of Korean gaming delves 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. The fourth chapter explores 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, having analyzed the emergent practices involved in online game activity. The last chapter examines the Korean games industry and the role it has to play in the upward mobility of young Koreans. 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