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  • Writer's pictureJisoo Seo

The Weather Theatre


When it snowed, people spent their time in the garden, rolling and shaping the snow, throwing it at each other or building snowmen. The snow fell in heavy flakes, covering the world in white cotton wool. There was a beauty to the snow-covered land that transformed the mundane, indifferent streetscape like a magic wand. The snow crunched under their feet as they made their way through the streets, leaving their mark. Some people lay down on the soft snow and threw themselves onto it. They buried their heads in the snow and spread their arms and legs to feel the texture of the ground. Their hair was submerged in the snow and their feet were wet on the way home. At the front door, people brushed the snow from their bodies. The snow melted as quickly as cotton candy, as if it had never existed. Today, snow doesn't come in the same form. People expect it to change their lives, but it never does. The dense, soft feel of snow on their shoulders is nowhere to be found, and only the irregular rhythm of the muddy water slapping against their shoulders hints at the changing seasons. Earlier peoples had lain in the snow, marking their existence through nature. The tracks were an affirmation of man's ability to conquer and dominate nature, but nature was indifferent, as if the seasons had nothing to do with it, and man could not leave his mark on the roads. People were animalistically aware that the cycles of the seasons, which symbolise nature and life, were slowly being disrupted, but they did not wonder why they did not appear. People saw nature as something to be conquered and were disturbed that they could not leave their mark.

Children who had never felt the touch of snow in their lives went to the weather theatre. Children flocked to the Weather Theatre to experience the myth of Snowland as told by adults. The theatre was set up with gadgets and the children took their seats and put the gadgets on their heads. But that doesn't make it snow. You have to hold the joystick in your hand and move it with your wrist to feel the snow. But the process was not smooth. Because their bodies hadn't adapted to the machine, it felt dull to them, and if they made a mistake in recognising an object after moving around, they had to go back to the beginning and move their bodies repeatedly to recognise it. Then a plain appeared in front of them. The sun was setting, the surroundings were green and dark, and in it their bodies were lying on the couch in the theatre, but their minds were swimming in a secret garden of flowers that spread all around them. In their excitement, the children began to press the joystick incessantly, bobbing their heads and enjoying the virtual plains. Distant reality had swallowed them whole. Forgetting that temperature and humidity exist on the ground, they began to lose themselves in the snow.

But the joy of immersion was short-lived: they ran across the plains like flying colts, found a mysterious ribbon that transported them to another world, and pressed a button in search of more fun. Then the comforts of the white world vanished before their eyes and they were plunged underground. The brick cellar curved like a maze, filled with incomprehensible signs. The children pressed every button they could get their hands on to escape the dreariness of the underground and return to the beautiful snowy world, but no matter what they pressed, things didn't get any better. The children complained of extreme dizziness, as if their brains were spinning as they tried to find the exit. The theatre was filled with their moans of pain. If they didn't stop this journey immediately, their brains would continue to spin against their will and fly away from their bodies. The thought of their brains flying away was a terrible horror. But the theatre was dark and there was no one around.








Background


In the contemporary era, we inhabit a hyper-connected society where a multitude of technologies, including robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and big data, interact to form platforms. These technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the platforms are increasingly driven by a dominant logic. Günther Anders posited that the world could be viewed as a giant machine, and that humans have become part of it, making it challenging to distinguish between truth and falsehood. This can be interpreted to mean that humans are biased towards the culture of technological dominance, failing to recognise the workings and effects of technopoly and thus becoming subservient to it. As Anders predicted, we are now unable to live without our devices, and we use technology without understanding how it works. However, a totalitarian definition of technology can serve to conceal its ideological nature, rendering it impossible to comprehend the "individual technologies being developed on many fronts" and establishing it as an insurmountable and inviolable entity. Consequently, it is imperative to investigate the technological dominance of the media environment by determining the extent of human agency within the context of a media environment in which technology is evolving.



Jisoo Jit Seo, AG Research, 2024. created an AI-generated image of people protesting in a future where artificial intelligence rules the world.


'The summer sun is shining through the window and there is a shining mass high on the table. The object is golden in colour and gently curved. Some think it is a long, stretched woman's smile, but it is actually edible. It's covered in a shell that bends slightly when you press it with your hand, responding to your touch, and the tangy aroma it emits envelops your nose and stimulates your taste buds. When you bring it to your mouth, it is filled with sweet flavour. It's like nature's own blessing.'


The above passage was written in an attempt to detect the essence of a banana by describing its external characteristics. I asked ChatGPT about the substance the passage evokes, but received the ironic result of accusations of violence and breach of ethical standards. It is very offensive when an individual's thoughts about an object are removed, as if they have committed an illegal act. In our common understanding of a banana as an object, it is understood through a process of listing its characteristics: the colour of the peel, the feel of the object, the shape of the branch, the sound it makes, etc. The representation of a banana is established through formulas such as golden colour, softly curved, sweet taste, and so on, and it is through these representations that it is perceived as a banana.

However, ChatGPT failed to print the code entered at the prompt and instead accused the author of a policy violation. The dominant media bias in culture influences not only cultural influences but also perceptions.

As Postman points out in the context of technological change, "When you drop red paint into a glass of water, you don't just add colour to the existing water, you create a new phenomenon: the water itself turns red." The advent of new media is not merely an expansion of existing media channels; it is also an environmental factor that alters basic human cognition. The structure of the media, its perception, cognition, and behaviour, create a sense of society and impose order. In order to create order, we must follow the process of "how to organise and distribute" and "how to dominate." To do so, we must decide what to organise and distribute, what to combine or eliminate. The direction of these decisions ultimately creates elements that are marginalised. Therefore, it is important to consider how our bodies are currently being given meaning within technological conditions. The question thus arises as to how the media is reshaping our perceptions, and who is being marginalised in this process.


 

The right shift of the Internet


In recent years, the divides and conflicts in Korea are deepening gradually. Various

rhetoric of hate and splitting are prevalent on the internet, and with the adoption of

community terminologies by mainstream media, these phenomenon had considerable impact on the political flow in Korea. Numerous digital contents are produced in various communities, from slang words using the names of politicians such as Moon Jae-in, Lee Jaemyung, and Lee Junseok to various composite images. These phenomena are relatively more found in the right-wing community than in the left-wing one: They established a specific image of the left part by using various terms and memes, not only leading the rightward shift in their 20s and 30s, but also affecting adolescents today. The problem is that this phenomenon divides the people by promoting hatred and causes a political regression that hinders political dialogue. In addition, exposure to image-oriented propaganda materials increases the possibility of moving away from the context of real politics and

conforming to a given organization uncritically. This is enough to be regarded as a molecular dimension of control that enables the dimension of micro-politics. The

research questions of this study are as follows: How do right-wing supporters

construct a specific image of left-wing politicians?


Note:

‘All cultural sites are powerful arenas in which political struggles take place. Culture is not opposed to politics. Culture is political, and politics is cultural’ (Weber 2005, p.188)
‘We use ‘unconscious ideologies’ to help make sense of our worlds, very often without realising it. And because we do not realise we hold unconscious ideologies or use them to make sense of our worlds, we very rarely interrogate them. We rarely ask difficult questions that might upset their status as ‘common sense’ (Weber 2005, p. 5).
‘Militarization is also a process that functions in disguise as ‘common sense’, through the seemingly apolitical. Consequently, to understand what militarization does, we must analyse the political efforts that go into the construction of common sense.'(Ahall, 2015)
‘Popular culture, then, is political in the most fundamental sense: it creates and entrenches a politics of identity. Representations of who ‘we’ are engender an emotional response that reinforces a narrative of national togetherness. How we feel about being part of a greater political community, even if we cannot possibly know every single person in it, is both contingent upon and reflected by the images we hold of ourselves and of those around us.’(Bleiker, 2015)

AoT


In March 2021, a far-right online community called 'Right Patriots' published an article titled 'The fastest and easiest way to end Moon Jae-in'. The author underscored the efficacy of 'memes' by suggesting the political compound 'Moon Jae-ang' (Moon Jae-ang / Disaster) rather than 'Moon Jae-in' and the political compound 'Manjindang' (Manjindang Party) rather than the Democratic Party, in order to criticise President Moon Jae-in and the Democratic Party. The author presented a parody that combined an image of then-President Moon with the anime series "Attack on Titan," explaining that the content had the effect of spreading negative public sentiment towards the government. In response, community members agreed with the argument that memes effectively spread ideas and strengthen political influence, and claimed that they too produce memes. As Right Party members observed, hateful and divisive rhetoric is prevalent on the internet today, and terms used in the community have been adopted by the general media, influencing South Korean politics. Various communities are generating a vast array of digital content, ranging from slang for politicians' names to various composites, with memes gaining greater traction on the right. The right has successfully employed terminology and memes to shape their image, and their influence extends beyond the 20s and 30s to teenagers, driving right-wing radicalisation. However, the content of these hateful images organises the thinking of their recipients and makes real dialogue impossible, leading to the regression of democracy. Weber (2005) posited that the understanding of the world is not achieved through conscious examination but rather through the unconscious ideologies that shape our perceptions. Memes, therefore, can be defined as thought anaesthetics that disguise themselves as entertainment. This is due to the nanoparticles inherent in modern imagery, which has lost its symbolic meaning.


In order to analyse how 'Right Patriots' employs the narrative of 'Attack on Titan' in order to effectively construct political influence, it is necessary to examine the common codes between South Korea and 'Attack on Titan'. In the historical context of South Korea, the Korean peninsula was divided into North and South following the conclusion of the Second World War. On 25 June 1950, North Korea initiated an invasion of South Korea, which led to the outbreak of the Korean War and the establishment of a ceasefire agreement that delineated the Military Demarcation Line. This line symbolises the war on the Korean Peninsula.



(Left: military demarcation line, Right: Wall)


In Attack on Titan, the wall is a political tool that separates the inside from the outside world. Here we can see the similarity between the wall and the military demarcation line on the Korean Peninsula. In Attack on Titan, two groups, the humans inside the wall and the giants outside the wall, are antagonised by the wall as a boundary. In right-wing thought, nationalist ideas and technologies are central to the ideology. In this context, the narrative of the 'advancing giants' pitted against each other by a wall is an apt framework for examining right-wing ideology. Right-wingers project the collective value of nationhood onto the humans inside the wall, establishing the partisan value of conservatism. At the same time, they create a binary opposition between the normal and the abnormal by excluding progress as a negative value – the giant (inhuman) outside the wall. In other words, they are employing a strategy to legitimate themselves as human beings within the wall with a human appearance, while simultaneously positioning themselves as heroes engaged in a struggle against the giant monster, which they refer to as "the left," for the protection of the world within the wall. This process illustrates the strategy of establishing a boundary between the abnormal and the normal by portraying the progressive party as a giant that threatens the security of the world within the wall.



(보리스 Boris, 2020)



(Screen shot, Boris, 2020)


The memes 'Moonkjager' and 'Sergeant Myungbai', derived from the anime 'Attack on Titan', are central figures in this narrative. 'Munkjäger' is a negative nickname for former President Moon Jae-in, based on the film's giant Zeek Jaeger, and has reached unprecedented popularity, spreading beyond the internet community and into the mainstream media. The character of Sergeant Myungbai Ackerman is based on the film's warrior Levi Ackerman, who appears in conflict with Moonkjäger. Ackerman is a warrior with the highest honour. These two characters represent contrasting elements, and meaning is formed in the relationship between them. As with the concepts of civilisation and savagery, which are not mutually exclusive but rather intertwined, the relationship between Moonkjäger and Mungbai Ackermann is not one of independence. Rather, their individual elements contribute to the creation of meaning in the context of their relationship. This is exemplified by the worldview that emerges from the Attack on Titan franchise, which unites the spirit of the right-wing group and provides its members with a sense of belonging and mission.






As Roland Barthes observed, a myth is a "parole," or a system of communication. This implies that a myth is not a specific object, concept, or idea, but rather a message. According to Barthes, the object of the message is not the defining factor of a myth; rather, it is the manner in which the message is conveyed. Consequently, myths are not limited to the narratives of the gods but can encompass any medium, including images and text. Accordingly, for Barth, the essence of myth is the manner in which the message is conveyed.

If we analyse the 'giants of progress' meme through the lens of Roland Barthes' semiotic theory, we find that several myths emerge.



Linked Horizon - 心臓を捧げよ! (Shinzou wo Sasageyo!) (English Translation) Lyrics 


We wanted to believe there

Could be no hell worse than this



I wonder what expressions they had




All our sacrifices were for this moment!

Offer up! Offer up!

Offer up your hearts!


(...)



- "Offer up! Offer up! Offer up your heart!" with the subtitle "Dedicate up your heart!" and the image of a party leader waving a national flag, with the words "A new future is coming" projected behind him. The picture is of Lee Jun-seok, a politician elected at the convention. This image, produced as a meme, can be translated into Barth's mythological model as follows.

- The 'signifier' is the 'elected politician waving the flag at the caucus'. 'signifed' is a young, newly elected politician from the opposition party who is the hero who will save the country from its crisis. These two elements combine to form the myth that a hero is waving the flag for a new future. But who are the creators of this myth? Objectively speaking, the creator of the myth is the YouTuber who created the meme, although he or she may be the one who imagines the political intent of the "party leader waving the flag" scene. The mythmaker has cleverly interjected the ideological code of militarism through the audio elements of the flag, the party, and the call to give your heart.




The leader of the Conservative Party is shown waving the flag energetically, followed by a group of members of parliament saluting the flag with their chests covered. Above the figures is the name of the party, 'People's Power', making their affiliation clear. In the image, the 'signifier' represents the saluting politicians and the 'signified' represents the memorial to the victims of the Progressive Party. These scenes represent the sublime moments of conservative warriors determined to save Korea. The myth of the determined and militant "people's power" warriors gives party members a sense of unity.


In the contemporary media landscape, the sender no longer has a monopoly on the construction of the message. The receiver is no longer a passive recipient of meaning; rather, they are an active producer of meaning, acting as both an agent and a receiver.



Deprivation


The term "uncanny valley" refers to the phenomenon whereby the emotional response to a human-like entity declines as it becomes more human-like. The concept was first proposed in 1970 by Japanese robotics scientist Masahiro Mori, who argued that the more human-like robots become, the more attractive people will find them. However, this effect is only valid up to a certain point, at which point it suddenly turns into a strong feeling of rejection. However, when robots become almost indistinguishable from humans in appearance and behaviour, the emotional response turns positive again, approaching the level of emotion that humans feel towards other humans. This unique descent between human similarity and emotional response is known as the "uncanny valley". In the decades since the theory was first proposed, it has transitioned from a philosophical theory to a phenomenon with practical implications. Computer-generated human characters are a common feature of film, and engineers continue to develop human-like robots. The official term among robotics scientists is "human-like robots". Humanoid robots are becoming increasingly capable of assisting patients in doctors' offices or even living in our homes. The way they interact and react with virtual humans is important.

In a recent study, McDorman and cognitive psychologist Alex Dill demonstrated that configural processing, or the processing of information based on the relationship between parts of an object, is a key component of the uncanny valley phenomenon. Another related theory is the perceptual mismatch theory, which posits that humans become uncomfortable when they detect mismatched features, such as realistic eyes and unrealistic skin. (Grabianowski, 2023)


(Left: Richert, A. S., Abdelrazeq, S. M., Schroder , S., & Jeschke , S. (2018), Right: Screen shot, Project Affetto (2012) Prototype Upper Body for a Child Robot)


In the initial stages, the artificial faces are perceived as human-like and alive. However, in subsequent stages, the mechanical nature of these artificial faces is emphasised, reinforcing the perception of their lack of humanity. It can be concluded that these changes are expected to cause unpleasant feelings. The tendency of humanisation to mimic humans gives the observer the impression that this is similar to a real person. Although the observer may feel that these artificial replicas are alive, they are more likely to indicate that they do not have 'life' or a mind. As a result, the replicas are expected to be dehumanised and cause unpleasant feelings.



(전두환옥마을, 2021)


(Screen Shot, 문코리타, google, 2024)

Moonkorita is a synthetic meme of former President Moon Jae-in, which is consumed recreationally as a digital snack. However, from an ideological perspective, it has a performativity that emphasises the inferiority of the Other, treating a subject with the public status of head of state as a stranger, neither human nor animal.

In the digital realm, the files required to create Moonkorita are disseminated and disseminate freely, akin to the manner in which ghosts are said to wander the internet. The figure itself is composed of flesh that users can freely cut and assemble. The existence of the muncorita as a virtual reality is analogous to the circulation of meat that is slaughtered in a slaughterhouse.

The distribution of the blending files by right-wing groups enables the creation of Moonkoritas at any time and in any location. This has led to the emergence of a situation where the bodies of others can be cut up at any time. As a flesh-and-blood hybrid that is neither human nor animal, Moonkorita is a becoming being that must be banished in terms of hygiene.



(Play, 2022)


They are training to summon Munkorita to the 3D metaverse, setting him up as an object of hatred and firing guns at him.


(giheon.jang, 2024)

Based on the Blender file distributed by Moonkorita's creator, the puppet maker built a central skeleton on the file, drew a drawing of the 'head - belly - girth - back', transferred it to fabric, cut it out and sewed it together.



(screenshot, 전두환옥마을, 2022)
"Moonkorita is a completely new form of the man, a departure from the traditional upright, anthropocentric figure. Instead of wearing an animal skin and having a human skeleton, Moon is wearing a human skin and having an animal skeleton, which seems to be urging us to break away from anthropocentric thinking, but at the same time, Moon looks cute and sends the message that anthropocentric thinking is not the only beautiful thing."
"I believe that humanity will one day shed its human shell and build a more diverse society, which will mark the birth of a new humanity, the 'Mooncorritines', and the end of anthropocentric thinking. In order to reach the galaxy, humanity must change. I imagine the Milky Way streaking across the sky right now and call out "Moonkomoonko," which will be shouted by Moonkoritans everywhere in the distant future."


The creator of Moonkorita, who calls him "Moonkorita, the new humanity," not only encourages us to recognise him as a real thing, not just a meme, but also sees him as a hybrid being that the future will require. Instead of "human skeletons in animal skins," he uses the phrase "animal skeletons in human skins," saying, "It seems to be asking us to break out of anthropocentric thinking." And he presents Moonkorita as a product of this critique of anthropocentric thinking. Moonkorita, he says, has an animal skeleton but wears human skin. So, is Moonkorita a new entity as a human-non-human hybrid that " dissolves the boundary between humans and non-humans and emphasises the inseparability of the two ? " (Kim, 2017) However, he goes on to say, "I believe that humanity will one day shed its human shell and build a diverse society. It will be the birth of a new humanity, 'Moonkorita', and the end of anthropocentric thinking. Humanity must change in order to move forward into the galaxy." He says. The contradiction arises here: are the Mooncoritas " enhanced humans who have overcome the limitations of the human physiological and biological condition ? " What kind of new humanity does he want to affirm , and what does he want to achieve with this new humanity?



(Left: Moonkortia in Children's drawing, 2021, Right: Munkorita T-shirts go international, 2022)




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