Circular Nexus of Screens
Why does Click Click Ranger need this complicate maneuver over multiple forms of screens, and for what purpose? In order to dissect the discursive logic behind this nexus of screens, we need to understand the current configuration of these screens in Korea.
Mobile Phones: The prodigy of Korean IT mythology.
Click Click Ranger‘s experiment of incorporating the mobile phone into a television show directly corresponds to the recent development of Korea’s mobile phone industry in the convergent media paradigm. Since ETRI and the consortium of corporations launched the world’s first commercial CDMA mobile phone service in 1996, Korea has been a step ahead in exploring CDMA based technological innovations and the latest mobile media services including mobile TV (DMB: Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) and Wibro (the first wireless high-speed broadband). Following SK telecom (the major wireless network provider in Korea)’s 3G mobile content service June in 2002, Korean wireless companies have explored the diverse forms of mobile multimedia content. I conveniently categorize content for mobile phone into two types: “migrated mobile content” which refers to repurposed and repackaged content from conventional media and “original mobile content” that is initially produced for mobile screen devices such as mobile cinema and mobile drama)(Ok, 2008). In the midst of industrial effort to find the ‘right’ content for mobile screen, these new hybrid forms of moving images explore the aesthetics of convergence that continues and at the same time disrupts the conventions of existing media forms. Mobile TV has expanded the horizon of the mobile screen by combining mobile telecommunication technology and broadcasting.
While mobile phone content service and Mobile TV serve as extended venues for conventional media, the conventional media have also tried to incorporate mobile screen technologies into their formats in many different ways. Overall, the most heated concern for both parties is how to develop ‘new’ content that fit the condition of media convergence, which is often expressed as a ‘media big bang’ and ‘content war’ in popular media in Korea (Kim & Lee, 2005). Click Click Ranger is an early attempt to tackle this challenge on the television network side, which continued to the fever of UCC (User Created Content). Following Click Click Ranger, other television networks and popular media organizations launched similar programs such as SBS’s “Uporter” system. Literally, “Uporter” means “ubiquitous reporter” and it mobilizes citizens to capture news on the street with their digital camera or mobile phone camera, which are then selectively shown through regular News shows on SBS.
Click Click Ranger‘s use of mobile phone imaging directs attention to the multifaceted nature of the mobile phone. Notably, MSM (multimedia short message) which allows users to attach pictures or short video clips to a mobile phone message is generally discussed as a private communication tool or a vehicle to expand private space with the combined practice of blogging. Although the formation of shared ‘community’- whether it is exclusive or relatively open to the general public- has also been discussed, the prevailing assumption is on the practice of ‘private imaging’ among individuals. Compared to this model of private imaging, Click Click Ranger’s adoption of mobile phone imaging is closer to and continues the practice of “citizen journalism” only with changed technologies- from the (video) camera and to the mobile phone-. Hence, while being true to the technological premise of the medium that provides ‘personal mobility’ (for the mobile rangers and citizen reporters), their mobile phone imaging resides in and further serves to reinstate the value of the public. Most of all, it is the particular use of the outdoor screen with the mobile screen that distinguishes Click Click Ranger from other home-video shows or citizen reports programs and enables it to construct a broader discourse of the ‘public space’ out of mobile screen usage in Korea.
City Hall Square during World Cup Soccer in 2002
Okay. Click Click Ranger was able to find a way to connect the mobile phone to the television. Now, what makes this nexus of screens unique is the presence of the large LED screen as an integral part of the television show. Simply put, in Click Click Ranger, the large LED Screen technically functions as an additional outdoor TV to broadcast its program. Although the use of the mobile screen is also equally unconventional, the potential of mobile phones as screen media has already been explored in diverse ways. Yet the large LED screen, in spite of its ubiquity in urban landscapes of the global metropolis, has received little attention in the conventional media industry other than in the outdoor advertising business. Becoming one of the latest form of screen media, the Large LED screen not only succeeds the function of the commercial or public advertising that outdoor billboards once fulfilled but also continues the visual pleasure of the urban spectacle. Since 2000, the LED screen in Korea was moved from the category of ‘outdoor advertising’ to the ‘LED display screen broadcasting,’ becoming one of the ‘broadcasting-telecommunication convergent media’ that would be governed under the new broadcasting laws.
Compared to the traditional TV at home, the experience of outdoor TV is deeply conditioned by the material condition of place, as TV screen is usually an implemented part of the architectural surroundings. That is, the location where outdoor TV displays, whether it be waiting room, subway/train station or rooftop of building, tends to predetermine the content and flow of content on outdoor TV screens. At the same time, the meaning of place is also rendered by the viewer’s activity of watching TV: If in Seoul, the subway station might turn into a living room momentarily for the passengers who enjoy entertainment show clips on ubiquitous screen panels installed inside the train and/or waiting area, beyond its practical functions. In Click Click Ranger, it is the symbolic meaning of ‘public space’ (as in the location of Seoul City Hall) that the commercial LED screen in City Hall Plaza embodies and that Click Click Ranger systematically appropriates and reproduces. Then, why is the location of Seoul City Hall Plaza crucial for linking up-to-date screen technologies?
Physically located at the busy intersection of the political and economic center of the downtown Seoul, the Seoul City Hall Plaza has served as a central place for many important national events. By running the show on the rooftop of city hall building following the fashion of ‘live news report on spot,’ Click Click Ranger successfully appropriates the sense of ‘liveness’ and intentionally adds ‘moral weight – news-worthy-ness-’ to the clips. This simulated urgency and liveness that supports the show’s goal of being connected to everyday realities of Korea is intensified on the symbolic level since for Koreans the Seoul City Hall Plaza is the emblematic center for national identity as manifested during the World Cup Soccer tournament in 2002.
The image of the Seoul City Hall above illustrates the scene of World Cup Soccer frenzy during which, with the unexpected achievement of the Korean national team going on to the semi-final, crowds gathering in front of the large electronic screens to cheer reached the point of becoming a nation-wide ritual. The intensity and enthusiasm represented by the image of the ‘wave of Red Devils’ (the official name of Korean team supporters as well as the icon of 2002 World Cup) left an unforgettable impression on Korean popular imaginary. In fact, many Korean scholars agreed that World Cup Soccer frenzy in 2002 does not simply reflect interest in a national sports match but rather represents a demarcating historical moment in Korean society- a culminating point to celebrate regained national pride and strength after the collapse of the economy in 1997. More interestingly, the 2002 World Cup syndrome parallels the increasing self-awareness of Korea’s position as a world- leading player in the global information technology industry.
It is not a mere coincidence that the ‘mobile phone’ and the ‘screen’ were two of the primary export products of Korea at the time. Led by the semi-conductor chip, various sorts of screens (PDP, LCD/LED screens, computer screens, and the traditional electronic screens) and mobile phones ranked among top three export products in 2005 (Ministry of Information and Telecommunication, 2005). The first pivotal moment when large LED screens came into the public media awareness in Korea was also around the World Cup Soccer in 2002, when it served as a key display venue for broadcasting the Korean national team’s matches in public places. The large LED screen that Click Click Ranger deploys is one of the several LED screens that drew large crowds around Seoul City Hall Plaza. In its pilot episode, Click Click Ranger explicitly delivers this intertwined discourse of the screen and the nation. The show dwelled on the significance of City Hall Plaza by inserting clips of City Hall Plaza scenes during World Cup Soccer 2002 and charts with the statistics of mobile phone exports sales. In this way, the culturally accumulated meaning of the particular place of Seoul City Hall Plaza- a center of the civil and nationalistic ideology- enhance Click Click Ranger’s attempt to replicate the sense of ‘liveness’ of live broadcasting and foreground the ‘collective’ meaning of being networked.
All Together: Networked Public in Wired Korea
Overall, Click Click Ranger represents multilayered meanings of the physical and the discursive movements of images within current Korea: images migrate from the ‘micro’ screen to the ‘macro’ screen, from private space to public space and as a result, individuals are assumed to occupy the position of citizens. For instance, in Mobile Ranger, the implication of ‘private imaging’ constantly changes as it travels across diverse screens: from private imaging to public exhibition on outdoor screen, and back to the private viewing on Mobile TV. In this circulation, mobile phones and Mobile TV, which represent personal screen devices, are mobilized into the formation of ‘public space’ by conventional media. By creating public space within the domain of private space, Mobile Ranger inevitably questions the fixity of the boundary between private and public space which is considered to be contingent on the specificity of media. When the show is eventually broadcast in mobile TV, the flexibility of the public and private space becomes more intensified. Due to the mobility given to the viewer, the previously established and spatially fixed ‘public’ dimension of the outdoor screen in city hall square is disrupted as the diverse viewing situations of individual Mobile TV viewers multiply the meanings of space for themselves.
In the end, Click Click Ranger‘s complicated exhibition process does not simply aim to increase the pleasure of experiencing images, but to foreground the very technological competency of appropriating new technologies. The realization of the idea of ‘connecting’ these up-to-dated screen technologies symptomatically reveals the social discourse about the importance of ‘networked public in wired Korea’. Considering that mobile technology becomes a source of national pride, the cultural use of mobile technology in Korea, especially mediated through the conventional media practices, often invites the individual to the formation of national identity. Not only doesClick Click Ranger resonate with the popular techno-nationalistic discourse around the mobile and new media technologies but it also reproduces it through its construction of imagined citizen within networked screens. In this way, mobile phone imaging meets television and the outdoor screen in City Hall Plaza and in this more or less blunt self-explanatory gesture, Click Click Ranger conjures up the mobile phone exactly at the center of the ‘current’ Korea.
de Certeau’, Michael, The Practice of Everyday Life, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984)
Kim, Taek-Hwan & Lee, Sang-Bok, Media Big Bang: Korea changes, (Seoul, Korea: Knowledge Supply Publishing Company, 2005)
Jenkins, Henry, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, (NYU Press, 2007)
McCarthy, Anna, Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space, (Duke University Press, 2001)
Ministry of Information and Telecommunication, “Suchiro Bon IT 2005 ( IT 2005 by Statistics),” 29 December 2005.
Ok, Hye Ryoung, “Screens on the Move: Media Convergence and Mobile Culture in Korea,” ph.d dissertation, Department of Critical Studies, School of Cinema-Television, University of California, 2008
HyeRyoung Ok is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, Irvine, working for the Digital Media and Learning Hub. Currently she is carrying out research for the Public Participation Research Network led by Joe Kahne. As a cultural studies scholar, HyeRyoung looks at newly emerging transmedia culture from interdisciplinary perspective, with a focus on the transition of cinematic tradition to digital media, mobile media culture, and transnational flow of cultural content, particularly in East Asian context.