Trashing Celebs Online? Not in Korea!

AsiaMedia reports that the Korean government is going to crack down on cybercrimes including saying “defamatory” things about celebrities online:

The move comes after many celebrities claimed to have suffered psychological damage after defamatory comments were posted online. Political user-created content (UCC) is also in the police’s crosshairs.

[...]“Unlike previous crackdowns, which focused on specific types of crimes, this crackdown will be a dragnet that targets every kind of cyber offense,” an official at the National Police Agency said.

[...]In January, pop singer Yuni killed herself after suffering from depression, and her agency claims she was hurt by malicious comments posted on her blog and other Web sites. Such comments continued after her death. Some Internet users have comments making fun of the late female comedian Kim Hyung-eun. Actress Kim Tae-hee, pop singer Rain and transgender entertainer Harisu filed suits against Internet users who defamed them on the Internet.

I know nothing about Korean law and very little about the Korean social context in which this occurs, so other than noting that Korean youth are among the world’s most wired and tech savvy, I pass this along without comment. If there are any Koreans reading, I’d love to hear your take on this. Doomed to fail? Typical? Reasonable?

Hunters and Peckers

The music social network/mp3 download site Amie Street is getting a lot of positive buzz for its innovative business model. Bands upload mp3s that are initially free to download. The more they’re downloaded, the more expensive they become, eventually hitting 99 cents if they’re smash hits. Users can recommend the tracks they like and if they lead to lots of downloads, those early adapters get credit to buy other downloads. It’s got the social networking element so that if people like another person’s recommendations, they can create friendships and then see the songs that their friends have recommended.

I like the idea as I think it benefits both bands and fans. I’ve said before that one of the great pleasures of music fandom is making recommendations that other people like, and the way this is done to feed back to both artists and fans is really nice. It’s an intruiging way to monetize taste making talent as well as musical talent.

One thing a quick glance at the site will reveal is how important this makes the ability to write about music. Several of the recommendations say things like “this rocks” or “I love this song” or “this is better every time I hear it.” Not very helpful. Others are cryptic: “Like a slightly annoyed robot who slowly discovers hope,” “Nice song, alternating between two Ideas. Very original.” A few actually give a hint of what it might sound like: “Swing-y with a touch of soul…yum,” “Think Beatles/McCartney/John Denver, what a mix but it works.”

I think that like many music sites, this appeals to a particular kind of music fan, a “hunter” — someone who’s willing to go out and listen to a lot of things they don’t like in order to find something they do. This has been my experience of Reverbnation as well. Being told something is “indie” or “alternative” or that it “totally rocks” is a long way from there being a good likelihood I’m going to like it.

I figure I’m more of a pecker — I want that yummy seed mixed by someone (or an algorithm) that knows a lot about the dietary habits of a bird like me already or prepared by someone with highly similar taste. I don’t like listening to lots of stuff I don’t like en route to finding the stuff I do. Either that, or I want thick description, like mp3 blog writers who spend a paragraph or two telling me about the band and the song they want me to hear. It doesn’t mean I end up liking all I hear, but the hit rate’s high enough to keep me paying attention instead of throwing up my arms in despair and hitting shuffle on the collection I’ve already amassed.

Right now, all these social network music sites are being promoted as appealing to “music fans in search of new music” without differentiating amongst the kinds of searching for that music we’re willing to do. I predict that this ever-expanding marketplace is going to break down into niches based on the different search strategies people enjoy.

What are you talking about?

One big piece of the success of MySpace has been its direct tie to musical taste. Here’s a psychological study that has some provocative hints for why music might work particularly well in the context of a social networking site:

A recent study put participants in same-sex and opposite-sex pairings and told them to get to know each other over 6 weeks (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2006). Analysing the results, they found the most popular topic of conversation was music. [...] The number of people who talked about music was surprisingly high. In the first week on average 58% of the pairs discussed music compared to 37% of all the other categories of conversation combined. Other categories included books, movies, TV, football and clothes.

Why then do we use music as a first port of call in getting to know another person? We probably think that music is indirectly telling us something about the other person’s personality. For this reason, the second question this study tried to answer was: how good is music as a measure of personality?

To measure this, participants were asked to judge people’s personality solely on their top 10 list of songs. [...] Overall the results showed that music preferences were reasonably accurate in conveying aspects of personality. Of the five traits, it was a person’s openness to experience that was best communicated by their top 10 list of songs, followed by extraversion and emotional stability. On the other hand, music preferences didn’t say much about whether a person was conscientious or not.

One of the points I made in my work about online community is that people tend to study online social dynamics, processes and formations without paying attention to the topics around which they are organized. But understanding what people are talking about is absolutely critical to understanding how they’re doing the talking and thus the microprocesses through which they are forming relationships and communities.

One need only look at the comments on YouTube posts to realize that in many ways, video sharing doesn’t lend itself to conversation that builds connection and community the same ways that music sharing can. But music sharing still falls short of serial drama in its ability to keep a group of people sustaining ongoing conversation over time.

The other point that emerges from this study is the centrality of fandom in defining who we are, how we understand one another, and the voluntary relationships we form.

Social Network for Wine Fans

I am one of those classless losers who has trouble telling the difference between fine wine and grape juice that’s gone bad (though I excel in my ability to appreciate fine champagne). But even I know enough to know that wine appreciation is best done socially. Everything I have learned about wine (and I have learned that I do in fact kind of like some of it a little bit more than I thought) I’ve learned from wine parties where smart people cultivate clever groupings and everyone stands around talking about it. My friends who host these wine parties can only be described as fans — they browse the wine aisles like I browse record stores, they wear t-shirts and baseball caps from their favorite vinyards, they plan vacations around visits to wineries, their favorite movie is that one where the two middle aged guys go on a wine-tasting tour of California before one’s wedding that everyone liked so much (typically, I thought it was overrated).

So I think the founders of Vinorati are really on to something by creating a social network site specific for wine lovers. I especially like the tag clouds.

I’m sure they don’t call it fandom, but if that ain’t fandom…

…maybe this is?

ST. CHARLES, MO—Print-shop manager and potato-chip connoisseur Nathan Sterken, 26, was surprised by the “exceptionally rich mid-palate notes of onion” and “wonderfully creamy but sour overtones” in a fresh Big Grab bag of Lay’s Sour Cream & Onion potato chips he purchased from a local deli Tuesday. “I find myself enticed by the playful salty-sweet flavors of this blend,” said Sterken, who first developed a taste for potato chips during his four years working at a St. Charles–area 7-Eleven convenience store. “The flavors are robust without overpowering the fragile potato, and they mature into a rich, truly unexpected canola-oil finish.” (from the inimitable Onion)

A digression about teaching

This has very little to do with this blog, but I just wanted to share parts of a really nice letter I got recently from a former student. Those of you who aren’t in the education business yourself ought to know how much those of us who are love hearing things like this. I think they go unsaid too often:

Dr. Baym,

It has been quite some time since I spoke with you, but I wanted to contact you because out of all of the courses I participated in at Kansas, your courses have stuck with me the most. Your class in Internet Communication was way ahead of its time. In 2004, we were just beginning to discuss the impact of Facebook was having on the way we socialize on the internet. [...] Many of the topics and issues we covered in your course on Internet Communication come up every single day in my life. [...] I just wanted you to know that I think about your class and what I learned in it almost every day. [...]

Teaching is a lot like gardening — you plant seeds. Some of them never sprout, some bloom profusely within weeks, some keep growing back and others have one good season, others take root but don’t bloom for many seasons. Once you’re out of our classrooms, we never know the long-term impact we might have.

So if you have a favorite teacher from days gone by, send him or her a letter and make someone’s day like this person did mine.