I and my parents love going to 5-day market. 5-day markets (Oiljang Markets) are held every 5 days usually in the countryside of South Korea. In 5-day market, we can buy regional specialities that hardly found in a supermarket in my town. Especially, I love having local foods that local ajumma sellers cook with ingredients from their own farms.They look plain but the flavours of them are too beautiful for words.
I can meet so many ajummas in 5-day markets as well. Ajumma sellers bring and sell their harvests in this market to support their children’s education. And ajummas also purchase things they need in this market, too. These 5-day market is similar to the wash place in my PhD research, it is a kind of places where ajummas do social economy activities. Maybe I need to think more about the relationship between a 5-day market and our ajummas. But one thing that I can say is that 5-day market is another women’s place, especially place for ajummas.
For my PhD thesis, I had to write a dissertation (thesis) and make a create project. This creative project is generally called as a project-led research but my PhD project is different. I rather call my creative project as ‘research-led project’. Digital Ppal-let-ter project (Creative project) is mostly based on academic research then I put my imagination to create this Digital Ppal-let-ter project. Without advanced academic research about ajummas and their use of smartphones in everyday practices, Digital Ppal-let-ter couldn’t be created at all.
To create this project, I tried to use many different ways of ‘making’ an art work. I’m not an artist and my background is fully media studies. I had various experiences of working in the media industry and I worked as a script writer, producer, video editor, etc. I know how to use tools for making a film but I don’t want to make an actual film for this project. I rather try to experiment using non-professional filmmaking tools for this project. I always admire people who propose a new method so I tried to find a new method for this project. Through this blog, I will explain how I made this video with my own ways of using tools and softwares.
Firstly, I used still photos for Digital Ppal-let-ter project. The photos for the Digital Ppal-let-ter project were all taken on a iPhone 5 over a period of 2 years from 2014 to 2015. The majority of photos were taken in Seoul, South Korea. The subjects of the photos are mostly middle-aged women, ajummas, in Seoul. The photos were taken randomly in Seoul during the field research in 2014 and 2015. The reason why an iPhone was used as a camera for this project is because it has many advantages such as portability, convenience and instantaneous viewing. Using an iPhone camera for making this creative project has reminded me of the diverse theories about digital communication technology, especially the use of mobile communication devices (e.g. smartphones).
An iPhone allowed me to take photos whenever I found suitable subjects.I became a ‘phoneur’ (2006, Luke) as I took photos while observing people and the city in Seoul and it became a natural part of daily life during my stay in Seoul for the field research in 2014 and 2015.
The subjects of the photos that were used in the video were not asked for permission, however their faces were covered by a hand-drawn sticker of a smiley face to protect each subject’s privacy.
Most photos of ajummas that were used in the video are not taken from the front and some of them are blurry. Consequently, the subjects in the photos that were used in the video are not recognisable. In addition, the video in the Digital Ppal-let-ter project is not made for commercial use, rather it is produced entirely for a creative project which is a part of the PhD research project. For this reason, the privacy issues of photos that were used in the video should not be a problem at all.
Smartphones are now mundane communication device among ajummas in Korea. They use smartphones not only for communicating, but also for consuming digital products as well. The number of ajumma mobile shoppers are growing and they purchase both tangible and intangible products for example, clothes (tangible) and apps or ebooks (intangible). They were used to be TV home shopping lovers so there were various products aimed specifically at ajumma customers on TV home shopping channels. Ajummas are still important customers for TV home shopping in Korea but these ajummas are not watching TV home shopping channels on the couch any more. They are now shopping at mobile shops through their smartphones without barriers of time and space.
ajummas are ‘smartphoneing’ in the subway, Seoul 2014
Young women (younger than ajummas, I can say their age range is from early-20s to mid-30s) and Moms (early 30s to early 40s, usually they have young children-infants to around 15 years old-these Moms are not to be yet ajummas, it is like pre-ajumma level I can say), they are biggest consumers of mobile shopping but now ajummas become ‘mobile shoppers’. For this reason, many of mobile shopping sites provide specified products that are aimed for ajumma consumers.
Like photos I attached above, those mobile shops sell clothes especially for ajumma customers. They actually categorise those clothes as ‘Mom’s clothes, Ajumma clothes etc’. You can tell those clothes are very ajummarous items (according to stereotyped images of ajummas as I mentioned before). This is good development that mobile shops concern ajumma customers and it tells the number of ajumma mobile shoppers are increasing constantly. However, I would like say something about this.
Well, I don’t feel happy with some mobile shops that target to especially ajummas. Some of mobile shops sell limited items. I mean those sellers (maybe) have biased views about ajummas’ fashion tastes. When I google mobile shops for ajummas (or middle-aged women) I can find shops like above. I don’t know what I have to say exactly but I feel those mobile shops for ajummas (especially shops for fashion items) are quite different from shops for younger women (or non-ajummas I can say).
Whenever I go to Namdaemun market with my mum, there are several fashion malls especially for ajummas and their clothes are really fashionable (good designs, better quality, beautiful combination of colours and textures, trendy etc.). But what do you think about those clothes that I uploaded above? I think mobile shops especially for ajummas are not good enough yet. I’m sure they’re improving continuously but unfortunately there are not various choices for ajummas when they do mobile shopping yet.
Ajummas are not smart ajumma, I said. They’re using smartphones in their everyday practices in many ways for various purposes. Mobile shopping is no exception. Ajumma mobile shoppers will be increasing dramatically and I really hope there will be more and better mobile shops for ajummas.
Whenever I go to the market, I can observe the lives of various types of people. While I am staying in Melbourne or Seoul, going to the market on Saturday is a part of weekly routine for me. Now I more often go to the market since I’ve started doing my PhD research project about ajummas. In the market, I can meet so many types of ajummas who are yelling loudly to sell vegetables or haggling over the price of fruits between seller ajummas and customer ajummas. In addition, it is amazing that snack stall ajummas could remember every order without bills or calculators in the market! And there are strong ajummas who carry heavy shopping baskets for their family.
For last several years and even now, ajummas made contributions to Korean economic development. These ajummas in Korea, they are strong enough to support their family and Korean society.
In most cases, ajummarous women are judged by their appearance.
–ajumma hair, fashion and make up style
–behaviours(way of talking, loud voice, sitting with their legs apart in the subway, being meddlesome)
Especially, they are being meddlesome. So if you are in the subway and sitting in the cafe or restaurants, ajummas keep talking to you and even asking some personal questions as well. Whenever I travel on the subway in Seoul, I heard ajummas’ conversations. Interestingly, these ajummas never met with each other before, rather they just met on the subway. Their conversations were about everything, such as cooking, children, weather, culture, politics, etc. It might be strange if strangers talk to you on the subway. However, this is their ways of communication which is very ajummarous ways of communication that exists only in Korea.
With one of these ajummarous elements (of course there are more ajummarous elements than I mentioned above), any women can be called or recognised as an ajumma in Korea.
Here are some photos that help you understand what ajummarous elements which define ajummas in general.