(Chapter 15) Gifts of Presence: A Case Study of a South Korean Virtual Community, Cyworld’s Mini-hompy Larissa Hjorth Information Society & Multiculturalism Professor Han Woo Park Presented by Se Jung Park 2009.12.1
This chapter will draw upon case studies conducted with sample groups of South Korean mini-hompy users and consider how exchange, representation, and copresence are conceived.
This paper will loot at the integral role of cute aesthetics in the customizing practice of gift-giving, and how this is configuring online/offline identification.
This chapter will also discuss the costs and benefits of Cyworld for Korean users and consider how the particular modes of gift-giving and copresence reflect a localized definition of the “gift economy” of the Internet.
Internet environments of South Korea Table 1. Internet Usage & Population Statistics *source: www.internetworldstats.com Figure 1. Hofestead’s Cultural typology *source: www.geert-hofstede.com Iran South Korea Country Population ( 2009 Est. ) Internet users /2000 Internet Usage, Latest Data % Population (Penetration) User Growth (2000-2009) Users (%) in Asia South Korea 48,508,972 19,040,000 37,475,800 77.3 % 96.8 % 5.3 %
Global Cyworld Cyworld in China- 7 million users http://www.cyworld.com.cn Cyworld in Vetnam- 450 thousand users http://www.cyworld.vn/v2/ Cyworld in Korea- 22 million users http://www.nate.com *Source: http://www.eto.co.kr/?Code=20091108115021770&ts=175857 Japan
Money pours when Cyworld population goes on a decorating, gift-buying, or music-downloading to adorn their “ rooms. ”
The more attractive and interesting the room, the more visitors it gets. Also minihompy ’ s popularity represents to fame and success. The site measures active, friendly, sensitive degree, which it gauges by the number of gifts a person gives or receives and how many users visit and comment his mini-hompy.
Cute aesthetics is one of the defining features in the customization of technologies. The use of cute capital has long been viewed as a popular practice for both young and old to domesticate new technologies, such the US.
By investigating customization techniques, as indicative of the sociocultural context, we can gain insight into the relationship between online and offline and attendant localized notions of individualism, community, and social capital.
The price of cute presence: cute customization and the politics of online/offline identity
One ’ s offline identity has ensured the success of Cyworld in South Korea.
The gift-giving culture of Cyworld, where ilchons can buy fellow ilchons cheap cybergifts for their mini-room with the Cyworld currency dotori, reflects already existing gift-giving cultures.
The rolf of the ‘ cute ” si pivotal in the aesthetics both of the avatars and the overall design landscape of the mini-hompy and attendant forms of customization.
Although the use of the cute in the West has been associated with child ’ s play, in the Asia-Pacific region, the cute plays in making warm the coldness of new technology.
The weight/wait of personalization: a case study of South Korean mini-hompy users
Gift-giving on Cyworld:
gift of visiting someone ’ s minihompy, the gift of leaving a message in the visitors ’ book, return gift of answering it, the gift of asking someone to be your “ cyberrelative ” , the gift of sharing a photograph with someone, or the gifts of dotoris or buying cybergifts for friends ’ home pages.
All these interactions can be seen as contributing to individual social capital.
We can see the downside to customization by way of the paradox of technology. Rather than freeing us, it further enslaves us. Behind the politics of immediacy or fast-forwarding presence, users lie actual labor-intensive customization techniques.
For many of the twenty respondents aged between twenty and forty years were interviewed between October and December 2005.
So much time can be spent maintaining connections through the various modes of gift-giving in order to maintain their online presence that users can feel enslaved to the community.
In the 2005 study, respondents noted that they would often upload their camera-phone images of an event to their mini-hompy immediately for friends to view and share. However, this meant the user had to defer experience of the present.
One female, aged twenty-eight years old, noted: I had to concentrate on getting “ good ” pictures of everyone. One time I pretended the camera wasn ’ t sending pictures properly so someone else would take the responsibility.
Many respondents thought they spent at least one hour per day. The compulsion to continuously update maintain, and check their own and others ’ mini-hompys was a time-consuming exercise. Many clamed they spend at least three hours per day on these activities.
The fast-forwarding presence means users are often documenting and sharing while experiencing.
However, Cyworld provide opportunities to extend social capital that may not be available to users in the offline world. It allows users to reconnect with long-lost friends and become a stranger's Cybuddy.
One of the defining characteristics in technological usage in the region is the role of cute customization to humanize technological spaces. This form of customization differs dramatically from Western SNS, such as Myspce.
This different forms are indeed informed by already existing cultural practices and customs. Cyworld remind us that gifts with presence are informed by localized notions of play, community, and social capital.