Ajummas are now smart ajummas. They do mobile communication through using their smartphones in their daily lives. It is not a special thing to meet ajummas use their smartphones to take photos on the street or playing games in the bus while they’re travelling, etc. They are not outsiders of new technology any more. Who knows? They will be techno-savvy someday soon in the future, I sure. But I think there’s not enough apps for ajummas now! In my mother’s case, she loves playing Anipang and her friends send ‘hearts (lives to play Anipang)’ with each other almost every hour or more than three times per day. (my mum loves Anipang)
Anipang was very popular about 5 years ago and people rarely play that game any more, but my mum and her friends do! My mum said that Anipang is a simple to play but still very exciting. And I just ask her trying other games as well but she said other games are too complicated to play. And she and her friends use almost same apps everyday. I know and you know there are plenty of apps are inventing and developing every seconds and overtime it is so hard to choose one app among thousands of apps. But this story is only for us, not my mother and her friends at all.
Of course, she uses various apps such as public transport tips, schedule, radio, etc. But I think there’s not enough apps were developed that targets for only ajummas, middle-aged women in Korea. The biggest problem (I think) is there’s not enough research about ‘needs for ajummas’ has done yet. Ajummas and Ajeossi (middle-aged married men) are just use apps that were developed for younger people the most, I can say.
If I have any chance, I really want to research and develop the apps, especially for ajummas and ajeossis. I really hope. Then my mother, her friends and ajummas in Korea will enjoy and enrich their mobile communication through using smartphones.
About 3 months ago, I talked about Digital Swish of Skirt on this blog. As I mentioned in the previous blog, the swish of skirt means that mothers are getting overly involved in the schooling for their children, especially during 1980s in Korea. Due to the increase of using smartphones among mothers (ajummas), they are now getting involved in the schooling for their children through using their smartphones.
The use of smartphones brought a variety of advantages to our daily lives, this is so true. However, everything is a double-edged sword. Digital swish of skirt actually let mothers (ajummas) get involved in the schooling for their children easily. Through using various apps that are relevant to their children’s education, these mothers (ajummas) are able to control or help their children’s education systematically. They could share useful and voluminous information with each other instantaneously and directly.Without visiting every private educational institutes, these mothers (ajummas) can get information for their children’s educational needs. Besides, they are able to hear living opinions from other mothers who are in the same boat.
However, this SNS or Digital swish of skirt also have problems although there are a variety of advantages of doing Digital (or SNS) swish of skirt among mothers (ajummas). I don’t mean that these mothers are people who cause problems at all. They are too passionate about their children’s education (all of mothers are in the world) and the use of social media encourages them to get more involved into having the swish of skirt for their children because they are mothers and ajummas who love their children the most.
This Digital (SNS) swish of skirt tired teachers out. Mothers (ajummas) left comments or questions about schooling on teachers’ Instagram accounts. And you also know that, the advantages of using social media (well, it sometimes could be ‘disadvantages’) is ‘you can be always on’ and ‘you can contact someone instantaneously through using your smartphones’ without having barriers of time and space. YES, YOU CAN!
So, teachers are actually working for their students and parents for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, like a convenience store. Of course they don’t have to answer or react to every single comment or question of mothers that are left on Instagrams, but you know…it is a delicate situation for teachers I reckon.
(News article about SNS swish of skirt, SBS.co.kr)
Of course I don’t mean that I don’t understand these mothers (ajummas). I fully understand how these mothers are passionate about their children’s education and what they want to do for their children. However, I think that we should concern about the use of social media on our smartphones more carefully. The one of biggest advantage of using smartphones is that it allows us to have instantaneous mobile communication but it doesn’t mean that ‘you can get answers from her (or him) whenever you ask’. Especially, the teachers are working in the school for working hours and after hours are their own time to enjoy themselves. At the same time, social media such as Instagram is a personal space where people share their personal stuff with others, so I think mothers (ajummas) should respect the privacy of teachers in Instagram. If mothers (ajummas) have any questions about their children, they should use other ways to contact to teachers rather than leaving comments on photos of Instagram.
Also, I expect that a useful and helpful social media should be developed that satisfy both mothers (ajummas) and teachers. This social media will help mothers keep continuing Digital swish of skirt for their children and at the same time this Digital swish of skirt won’t disrupt teachers’ privacy and their own free time after working hours. I think Digital swish of skirt or swish of skirt is a desirable thing if there is a good balance between mothers’ passion about their children’s education and mothers’ concern about teachers’ privacy in their private social media spaces.
So it is all about passion and concern I think.
Digital Ppal-let-ter is a new digital space which illustrates the interactively remediated space and time of both the wash place before the 1960s and Kakao Talk’s group chat room in the 21st century. Digital Ppal-let-ter will encourage audiences to consider the existence of middle-aged and married women’s communal space that has formed and has been developed by those women from the non-digital (pre-smartphone) era before the 1960s to the digital (smartphone) era in 2015.
Digital Ppal-let-ter will take both analogue and digital technology to present a new digital space where ajummas communicate with each other. It is an imaginary space located in a time of coexistence between the face-to-face communication era and the mobile digital communication era. In other words, Digital Ppal-let-ter is located in an in-between space and time of actuality and digitality. For this reason, the creative project of Digital Ppal-let-ter is a converged metaphorical space of communication that transcends time and space among middle-aged and married women in Korea.
I tried to do an installation art but I’ve changed to produce a video instead.
Digital Ppal-let-ter is an imaginary space that does not exist in the real world. However, it asks audiences to think about how communication amongst middle-aged and married women in Korea has always existed even though various communication tools and the locations of communal spaces have changed over time. Digital Ppal-let-ter aims to emphasise that specific features of communication have developed subliminally through continuous interactive communicating among middle-aged and married women in Korea.
Middle-aged and married women used to be considered a peripheral group by the digital technology industry in Korea whereas younger female groups were given attention. However, it is time to look intensively at how these middle-aged and married women, ajummas, communicate with each other in the pre-digital communication era before the 1960s to the digital communication era of today. In general, ajummas used to be considered a group of ordinary middle-aged and married women but they are not ordinary when people look at them with affection. The group ajummas now attract respectful attention from the digital technology industry and Korean society. The creative project Digital Ppal-let-ter presents how the ordinary but not ordinary ajummas build their own communal spaces and have their own ways of communicating which have developed in line with technological developments in communication
Digital Ppal-let-ter is based on Korean sentiment but the convergence of digital and analogue technology in the project is universally relatable. To create this complicated but poetic and new experimental media art project that includes interdisciplinary academic research and mixed media art forms.
Digital Ppal-let-ter is a new digital space where the wash place before the 1960s and a Kakao Talk group chat room in 2015 coexist together. As an imaginary space that has been planned and created based on interdisciplinary research and creative concept of thinking, I have carefully considered how to present the concept of Digital Ppal-let-ter to audiences. Initially I planned for Digital Ppal-let-ter to be exhibited in a gallery or other space in the form of an installation. However, the plan changed to using video due to the difficulty of installing a reproduction of a wash place and the Kakao Talk group chat room. Through the video, the audience can experience the wash place prior to the 1960s with village women and a Kakao Talk group chat room in 2015 with Smart Ajummas at the same time.
The project will also encourage audiences to reconsider the communal spaces, the ways of communication and the communities of middle-aged married women, ajummas, in Korea from the past to the present. Furthermore, it can be expected that this opportunity will increase interest in ajummas and their ways of communication among audiences and the general public. Hence, both the creative project, Digital Ppal-let-ter, and the research project, Smart Ajumma, will awaken thoughts and value about the existence of ajummas and their unique way of communicating that has gone unnoticed.
Digital Ppal-let-ter Project
Centre For Ideas, University of Melbourne
Through various and deeper ways of study such as an academic research (e.g. literature research) and qualitative/quantitative research (survey and deep focus group interview), I could realise and identify who ajummas are and their behaviour of mobile communication through using smartphones in their daily lives. Digital Ppal-let-ter project is a part of Smart Ajumma research project that expresses my research findings and interpretations metaphorically through a video humorously but the stories are still based on academic research in order to avoid losing the purpose of this research project.
Ppal-let-ter (wash place)?
I was amazed through enjoying this research project for last few years. Ajummas in Korea, they actually have their own communal spaces and keep doing communication with each other by their own ways. We didn’t know about their communal spaces and their ways of communication because we just stared at them rather than looking inside deeply.
After I found that there are communal spaces for ajummas’ own through doing field research, I could keep continuing this creative research project. And I thought about Ppal-let-ter (wash place)!
Of course, there are many countries had wash places but a wash place in Korea can be considered as a characteristic place than other countries’. As I mentioned so many times, a wash place in Korea is more likely a women’s communal space before 1960s. There are sill wash places in Korea but those places haven’t been used as a wash place for a long time. They rather became tourist spots today because we have washing machines at home to do our laundry instead of going to wash places regularly.
Whereas, going to the wash place regularly was a matter of course for village women (or ajummas) not only doing their laundry, but also meeting other village women (or ajummas). In other words, the wash place was a place for ‘socialising’ and ‘communicating’ for middle-aged and married women in Korea during 1960s.
They don’t have an appointment with each other, but they could meet someone whenever they visit the wash place. So it was possible to have conversations with each other about various topics from complaining patrilocality to boasting their children. The wash place functioned as more than ‘wash place’, rather it played a role as a women’s communal space. Thus, I got inspired by this important but being forgotten wash place to start doing my creative project so called as ‘Digital Ppal-let-ter’.
Even though there are various types of women’s communal spaces such as hair shops and jjim-jil bang (sauna), the reason why I chose a wash place as a key space to do my creative project is because I thought a wash place is one of women’s communal spaces and it has sentiments of Koreans and Korean culture.
In the late 18th century, ‘the wash place’ by Hong Do Kim shows how a wash place in Korea could be a women’s place even though there were no law and regulations that prohibited men from coming to a wash place.
Through survey and focus group research, Kakao Talk’s group chat room was the most preferred way of mobile communication among ajummas. Some of interviewees responded that they purchased smartphones only for using Kakao Talk’s with their friends and family. Like this, Kakao Talk’s group chat rooms were now newly used as communal spaces or the ways of communication today.
Of course, Kakao Talk is one of mobile chatting applications that anyone can use freely. However, I discovered that Kakao Talk’s group chat room in 2016 and the wash place in the before 1960s have much analogy with each other in many ways. (I already wrote about the 6 similarities between wash place and Kakao Talk’s group chat room in my blog)
These two dissimilar places that came from totally different time are very much similar with each other. This makes me so exciting.
Digital Ppal-let-ter = A communal place for Ajummas?
These two places are dissimilar, it is so true. However I realised that they are very much similar with each other at the same time. We’re now using smartphones and the use of smartphones allow us to do many things that we never imagined in pre-smartphone era.
I think ajummas in Kakao Talk’s group chat room and their communication in mobile space are not an entirely new things that could be possible due to the development of new technologies. Maybe, they’ve been communicating with each other in their own communal spaces by their own ways of communication.
In other words, the wash place in the before 1960s was not disappeared at all, rather I consider the wash place continues to exist with us in the shape of Kakao Talk’s group chat room.
We’re now using different communicative tools and methods. And we’re communicate in dissimilar communal spaces compared with pre-smartphone era. Even though many things had been changed, we shouldn’t forget one thing that middle-aged and married women in Korea have been communicating continuously regardless communicative tools, methods, time and spaces.
Digital ppal-let-ter in the future?
Digital Ppal-let-ter is not a new thing at all. It is a women’s communal place today.
The communicative method (from face-to-face to mobile communication), communicative tools (from direct dialogue to smartphones) and communal spaces (Ppal-let-ter (wash place) to Digital Ppal-let-ter (Kakao Talk’s group chat room) are changed, I expect that communication among ajummas will be evaluating continuously with their own ways.
Thus, a discovery of Digital Ppal-let-ter is very important and it must continue to research how this Digital Ppal-let-ter will developing or changing in the future. We shouldn’t be overlooked ajummas in new media and communication research. They’re one of unique female group in Korea and we’re ready-to-be ajummas in the future as well.
Happy New Year all the ajummas in Korea and everywhere!! Ajummas, you ROCK!!!
올 한해도 모두 수고하셨습니다. 아줌마 여러분! 새해에도 멋지고 즐겁게 그리고 건강한 인생을 즐기시길 바랍니다. 늘 응원합니다! 대한민국 아줌마 모두 화이팅!