Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Mass Communication and Media Arts
In this dissertation, I interrogate the relationship of the smartphone as a mobile screen technology with time-consciousness demanded of the entrepreneurial self in South Korea since the 1997 financial crisis. Neoliberalism has been largely discussed in terms of the structural shift in economy by the S. Korean mass media. However, neoliberalism is not merely an economic shift, but an overhaul of society, whose impact is rehearsed and reinforced in culture. One of the key elements of this culture is the idealization of entrepreneurism. I explain the rise of entrepreneurship, especially self-improvement as life ethic in neoliberal S. Korea. I also discuss it in relation to the developmental democratic citizenship, meaning that democratization in the late 1980s has been co-opted by the national motto of S. Korea, “economy first” established under dictatorship in the 1970s. Within such neoliberal culture, the smartphone socializes users into relentlessly self-improving subjects, offering what I describe as the “attractions of participation.” I examine the perceptual relationships between the mobile screen and the entrepreneurial self, particularly set up by two specific apps: the Facebook app and a series of the tourist augmented reality apps called In My Hands launched by the S. Korean government to promote tourism in the country. The Facebook app, I suggest, promotes self-therapy that is built through a new mode of autobiographical narrative that joins together fragmented events, experiences, or thoughts in a user’s day with others. Self-therapy is also performed through incessant scrolling and checking. This mode of construction of self-identity is a response to and participates in neoliberal ethic of self-care in S. Korea under the hyper stimulated affective universe of contemporary capitalism. The tourist AR apps produce the “knowledge worker,” i.e., the self-motivated, self-educated and driven intellectual labor of the global gig economy. These apps encourage the user to seek information about heritage sites instantaneously and as if in a game, reconfiguring the user’s relation to the place. I also contrast these apps with contemporary arts practices that pose alternative temporalities in terms of a notion of community and history. I explore Heung-soon Im’s documentary film Factory Complex (2014) and Hyun-suk Seo’s performance Heterotopia (2011), for their surrealistic evocation of the disorientations and contradictions of the neoliberal turn in S. Korea. In conclusion, I suggest the user’s contingent and alternative relation to the mobile screen through individual practices, along with the example of the democratic movement from 2016 winter to 2017 spring in S. Korea. Overall this dissertation develops an understanding of the entrepreneurial individual in a neoliberal world. It elaborates on the contradictions in neoliberalism between individual freedom and the voluntary subjugation to capital by the increasing precarity of life. This dissertation offers an understanding of the neoliberal culture of self-improvement and its relation to the mobile screen in S. Korean context. In addition, this is a theoretical attempt to understand the visuality of the computerized screen. It raises a question computer user is indeed an emancipated spectator occupying multiple perspectives. Lastly, this dissertation provides an opportunity to reconsider a variety of media art practices highlighting interactivity and participation in terms of subjectivity and time-consciousness.
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