It’s been almost 1 year since I’ve submitted my PhD project. Now I’m waiting for the graduation ceremony in this Dec. YAY!!!
I planned to start doing a new project from this year but I haven’t started it yet because there’re so many things to be done by end of May. But I will try to start doing a new project asap. Also I should keep writing blog entries as well. FOR SURE!!
About this project: https://smart-ajumma.com/2016/03/03/digital-ppal-let-ter-project/
Now you can watch this Digital Ppal-let-ter video on YouTube as well.
I just uploaded.Please enjoy watching Digital Ppal-let-ter!
디지털 빨래터 비디오를 이제 유툽에서도 볼 수 있습니다!
많이 봐주시고 더 많이 즐겨주세요!
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.
I found a painting from the late 18th century during Jo Seon Dynasty, when it was very Confucius society in Korea. The painting by Hong Do Kim (see above) is about the wash place. The most represent characteristic of his painting was “true-view landscape painting”. He illustrated the everyday lives of ordinary people in his paintings. In this painting, he actually satirised “scholar gentleman class’s Confucian society”. There are various paintings about the wash place in Korea but I chose his work because I thought this painting describes the wash place of the past vividly.
This painting is about the wash place, but as you can see, that guy (yang ban, scholar gentleman class) is looking at the women secretly hiding behind the rocks because he wanted to know what happens in the place of only women are allowed. In the late 18th century in Korea, (actually it was called Jo Seon Dynasty), these scholar gentleman class were usually known as being respectable and being laid off women. This painting is about the wash place, but at the same time it is actually about satirising the voyeurism of ‘scholar gentleman class’s Confucius society’ in Korea.
Also, it can be emphasised that the wash place was a space of women where men were prohibited to come tacitly. This painting is supposed to be one of the relevant references to support the idea that the wash places were women’s space where men are restricted to come in except children.
How the idea of wash place can be applied to the research project of Smart Ajumma? Wash place is rather relevant to link to the concept of mobile communication in Kakao Talk group chat rooms by ajummas through the usage of smartphones. A space of wash place is regarded as the equals of Kakao Talk group chat room. And both village women before the 1960s and ajummas in 2015 take the same duty of various houseworks for their family such as washing clothes. In addition, several similarities were found between village women of wash place before 1960s and ajummas of Kakao Talk group chat room in 2015.
Here are 6 similar points that were discovered.
1. Tranformation: transformable spaces depending on the purpose.
2. Keep in touch: to keep their relationship through continuous communication
3. Women’s place
4. A notice board: Information intersection
5. A bridge: pre-meeting to post-meeting
6. Pop-up communication: they don’t have an appointment for the meetings but they know they can meet with each other in the wash place and Kakao Talk’s group chat rooms.
Wash Place in the 1960s
Kakao Talk’s Group Chat room in 2015
The other five similarities between Kakao Talk’s group chat room and the wash place were mentioned many times in previous posts. So I don’t mention about the other five similarities between Kakao Talk’s group chat room and the wash place in this post.
In the post about ‘Kakao Talk vs Wash Place‘, I wrote what wash place worked as women’s communal place in Korea and how Kakao Talk and wash place could be similar with each other even though these places are located in dissimilar space and time. Kakao Talk’s group chat room of ajummas is located in the mobile space where we cannot do actual visit, whereas wash place was the actual place where village women could visit. In other words, wash place is a physical space and Kakao talk’s group chat room is a non-physical space that is located in the third space.
However, I think these two different places are very much alike with each other. In my research, I found six similarities between Kakao Talk’s group chat room in 2016 and wash place in 1960s. One of those similarities is both Kakao Talk’s group chat room and wash place act like a bridge between pre-meeting to post-meeting. Here is what one of my interviewees told about Kakao talk’s group chat room during having focus group interview. She explained how Kakao talk’s group chat room works for meetings with her friends.
Chatting in group chat room is also like an epilogue. After the actual meeting we can review about the meeting. And we suggest ideas for next meeting as well.
Like Kakao Talk’s group chat room, wash place in 1960s was also a bridge that connected previous meetings to following meetings. When village women came to wash place, they continued to talk about stories last time and they maybe meet again for the next time again in this same wash place. They probably didn’t make a confirmed appointment of meeting in wash place, but they could meet with each other again in wash place for the next time because these village women had to come to wash place for doing their laundry regularly. For this reason, Kakao Talk’s group chat room among ajummas and wash place in 1960s among village women are like a bridge that connect to the previous meeting to the following meeting.
After survey and Focus group interview, I suddenly realised that Kakao Talk can be a women’s communal space in these days. Of course Kakao Talk is not designed for only women and many people use it every day regardless of the age and genders. However, their group chat rooms, the chat rooms for ajummas where they’ve created and they’re involved in. That can be a women’s communal place, I reckon. So I started to find a women’s communal spaces. Hair shop, Sauna, etc. But I want to find a ‘Korean’ women’s communal spaces. For this reason, I found the wash place.
Of course, every country has or had the wash place. But, Korean wash place was a bit different from any others’. We don’t have to go to the wash place to do laundry today due to almost every house have technologically developed and upgraded washing machines. Or there are coin laundry shops nearby our houses. Whereas, back in 1960s, going to the wash place and doing the laundry is must do thing for women in Korea. And this wash place was like a multiplex where women not only do their laundry but also meeting others and even taking bathes.
They don’t make an appointment for meetings, but they expected to meet someone whoever they go to the wash place and of course they could meet someone in that place. As a social place, women in Korea they could share useful information or sometimes just mundane gossips about their mother-in-law, etc.
Thus, wash place for women in Korea during 1960s was not a place only for doing their laundry. It is more like a communal space at that time. Wash place during 1960s in Korea was considered as a ‘women-only communal space’ even though there was no law and regulations that prohibited men to come in.