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Apr 04, 2007



Florence - this sounds like a great project! If I might self-reference, I want to call your attention to an article I published some years ago (available for downloading at my blog), “The Cultural Power of an Anti-Television Metaphor: Questioning the ‘Plug-in Drug’ and a TV-Free America.” While writing about a different medium & cultural context, I was trying to trace out the dangers of applying a drug metaphor to a medium via a discursive analysis of anti-television activism. Perhaps it would be helpful in thinking through part of your project. Good luck!


Jason--Thanks for the reference! I definitely welcome sources you or anyone else think might be of help as I'm especially in the collection phase right now. Much of the media/moral panic literature I have been reading center around television (Think: Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, Joshua Meyrowitz's No Sense of Place... etc). Television has been something derided in the media as the cause of the brain melt in our youth, but now with THE INTERNET and online games especially, those doors have been thrown wide open. Thanks again!


This sounds like a fascinating project. I wonder if the situation of the young people in Korea has any relation to the phenomenon of 'hikikomori' in Japan? I believe Michael Zielenziger's book touched on that subject, and perhaps it may contain some useful references.
Good luck!


Mark: Hikikomori implies a person's social isolation or withdrawal (more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikikomori)--a fascinating topic from a social analysis standpoint. However, while not completely unrelated... I would say that the phenomenon I am addressing in the Korean context presents a case that argues against games being perceived as a vehicle of isolation. Instead, a youth's participation in online games more often than not indicates an intense desire to socialize (and that is the compelling part). We still, however, have a long way to go before people's perceptions of those who game as 'isolated gamer geeks' are adequately tempered.


Hey Florence, welcome to TN! Great to get a broad-angle sense of what you're doing and where you're headed.

I wanted to mention that I happen to have *just* taught your Popular Communication article this week, in my seminar on games and culture, and the students enjoyed it very much. Your commitment to a complex (i.e., multi-causal) accounting for culturally-located gaming practice not only finally pushed against some students' continuing assumptions about addiction, it squared with a central theme of the class (and my work, as you know) -- the necessity of a processual approach to games. You allude to this more directly at the end of your post here, and I couldn't agree more. Good stuff.


Florence, I’m ecstatic to see you taking *complex* approach to ‘addiction.’ Korea sees a lot of these big sensationalist issues (addiction, violence) in a fundamentally different light, and you’d have to be partially lobotomized not to account for that (Then again, I guess that's not being fair to partially lobotomized people).

You’re right. Korea’s unique cultural, historical, and geo-political circumstances are, as you say, going to be key enablers, but we’re all still fundamentally using the human body to experience a game. In the ‘mysticising’ of addiction, we’ve lost sight of not only culture, but of how real addiction, chemical imbalance and mental disorders actually work. Some people really do get to a point where they're dependent on a game, and they can get to that point via a number of pathways. This 'mysticism' has also restricted new approaches to the topic. Games are new, and MMO games are brand-spanking new. They're not a drug, they're a platform for creative expression (a platform that can become ridiculously attractive). Might it not be possible that games toy with our perceptual systems in new ways? Ways which may ultimately be tricking the senses of Koreans and Americans alike (let alone people in other countries, or people who may pick up a game in the future)?

There are many, many elements to this which have not yet been explored, let alone made so that a general public can understand them. 8-item addiction checklists and online therapy (see Kimberly Young) are potentially very damaging, in both the way that they address an individual’s problems, and in the way that they portray the issue to a general public. It’s bad news for everybody when journalists focus on such people, especially the experts with vested interests in the status quo (addiction treatment is big biznezz). Worse, that coverage gives people simplistic impressions, and those are going to get harder and harder to shake.

I respect where you’re going with this (I mean, who doesn’t want to study games in Korea???). Seriously, though, this is excellent approach because it not only shows that “flux,” but because seeing parts of the bigger picture start us on the long road to earnestly helping the people involved in addiction.


And also to acknowledging those people for whom it is an integral pastime. =P


Florence -

I have been tracking the addiction issue at my blog, so I may have some reference material that is of use to you.


I am often asked about the difference between "hikikomori" i.e, social isolation...and Internet-related obsession. Most Japanese hikikomori (80 percent we believe) are NOT surfing the web. They do not want to engage in social dialogue with others...even former friends.

Therefore, the rise of "PC bang" and now Internet "addiction" in Korea relates to the different nature of social networks in the ROK vs Japan. I do touch on the differential natures of such networks in my book, Shutting Out the Sun.


Hi Florence, and welcome!

This is a really fascinating area I think, and one likely to have a growing impact on our lives and how we understand culture both as researchers and as individuals. And your piece has already started what promises to be a very valuable discussion.

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