Reading about the anxiety (the ‘mobile panic’) of the South Koreans, concerned that the mobile phone could be destructive to local culture, brought to mind an article I read by Peter Geschiere and Birgit Meyer about the “dialectics of flow and closure” that emerge with globalization. It also brought to mind Ien Ang’s “In the realm of uncertainty” and George Marcus’ point that “the globe generally and intimately is becoming more integrated […] paradoxically is not leading to an easily comprehensible totality, but to an increasing diversity of connections among phenomena once though disparate and worlds apart’ (163). This goes along with Geshiere and Meyer’s argument that the “homogenizing tendencies which appear inherent to globalization as such, seem to imply a continued or even intensified heterogeneity in cultural terms” (601).
This move towards an “intensified heterogeneity” is signaled by the mobile panic in the Koreans, who see the use of new abbreviations, acronyms, Arabic numerals, and English as a threat to the Korean language, which is seen as “a key cultural symbol of the imagined homogeneity and purity of Koreans” (113). Even as—or because of the fact that—technological devices facilitate the global flows of culture, which would seem to point to an eventual homogenization of the world (present perhaps in Jameson’s ‘nostalgia for the present’ and Appadurai’s example of the Filipinos’ nostalgia for a world (culture) they have never lost), there is increasing anti-imperialist sentiment (with America or the West as the cultural imperialists) “intrinsically related to a vision of authentic cultures that have to be protected against the onslaught of cultural imperialism” (Geschiere and Meyer 1998: 604). As in the South Korean case, there emerges a desire or necessity to define cultural boundaries, to determine what is and is not ‘Korean culture’, what is emblematic of this culture, and to somehow protect it. Geschiere and Meyer challenge this vision of the “authentic” or “endangered” culture. They do not do so specifically through a discussion of flows through new media, however, so I think it would be productive in section to discuss the ways in which flows and closure operate specifically through new and social media.