In December 2019, I transited from pre-fieldwork prep (previously in Canberra, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney) and started fieldwork properly for my five-year research study on ‘Social Media Influencers and Conduits of Knowledge Between East Asia and Australia‘.
This first leg kicked off in Seoul and Tokyo where I met many wonderful social media Influencers, agencies, PR firms, media companies, and activists and businesses who use social media creatively and meaningfully to disseminate important social service messages.
While navigating English and Korean information sheets and consent forms in Seoul, I soon noticed an interesting trend.
There were generally 03 types of reactions from my informants when we got to the part about ‘academic publication outputs’, and I gave them the option to decide if they would prefer to be legally named, moniker named, anonymous, or a combination of any of these:
( ´ ∀ `)ノ～ ♡
“Please use my moniker only, better if it is Googleable so people can find me if they want to.”
“My legal name means nothing to me – it’s Korea [many names are extremely common] – so you can put it anywhere you like. I don’t care.”
“What’s the point of making a decision anyway because Everything is stored in The Cloud, platforms are spying on us, government surveillance is acting on us, and foreign entities are infiltrating our systems everyday, so there is no concept of privacy anymore and whatever you pick doesn’t really matter and all choice is false consciousness so ???”
Having recently come on board my University’s Human Research Ethics Office as a reviewer, I am keen to dig deeper and think more carefully around informants’ agency and meaning-making during consent processes. If you have any recommended reading or are already working in this area, I’d love to get in touch.
In Tokyo, the complexity and contradictions of Japan as a unified entity or cultural concept surfaced very early on.
Thanks to my very helpful and insightful informants, I learnt that the Japanese Influencer industry is very fast and very slow and very new and very old and very international and very localized.
I will soon be dipping into all this data and am exciting to start writing up this research. For inspiration, much of my Christmas and New Year holiday reading was focused on Japanese ethnographies, and I have just procured a dreamlist of cornerstone and contemporary works to devour. I might consider sharing some recommendations in the near future if there is interest.
In January, I will be dropping by Singapore to catch up with a few informants, and in February, I will be embarking on my first leg to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shenzhen to continue with fieldwork. If you are based in these cities and would like to get in touch, please do write to me. I’d love to meet with any one who works in the Influencer and social media industries, academics and researchers, people who work in industry and tech, and friendly internet strangers in general.