Media Literacy & Blockchain in South Korea

This analysis was originally compiled in 2019, during the research phase of a brand redesign for the South Korean blockchain company, Hashed. More details on the project here.

The Temperature of the Internet

In order to speak effectively about media, one must establish an understanding of the two fundamental categories that a medium may fall under: hot and cold.

Hot media are those we engage with via a single sense in near or complete entirety. Akin to driving in a tunnel, they direct a sensory process and demand we interact with them as prescribed, prohibiting engagement with or deviation from the creator's designs at any given moment. Radio, in its auditory singularity and inexorable delivery, is an exemplary hot medium.

Where hot media afford high-resolution experiences delivered through one sense, cool media provide low-resolution information to multiple senses, and invite participation from the recipient to form a complete experience. Being collaborative in nature, cultural awareness and prior experience are often necessary for one to take full advantage of a cold medium. Video conferences are exemplary cool media, demanding consumption and participation via sight and sound on the part of all parties involved.

All of this makes the Internet the coldest medium humankind has created, by far. Nick Carr directly addresses the informational and cultural implications of the demands that such a cold medium places on its users, through the lens of pioneer media theorist Marshall McLuhan:

McLuhan understood that as media become more interactive, they also become more potent tools for manipulation and control. They not only transmit information to us but gather information about us. In anticipating the internet, McLuhan sounded a warning as much as a welcome.

[via the Guardian]

Blockchain & the Web as Participatory Media

In a modernly connected society where the web medium dominates all others and participation in it has become near homogeneous, consumption of content is indistinguishable from creation of content. Both are inherently participatory and each is necessary to the other: the front to the other’s back. It is a type of observer effect generated by universal connectivity and participation in the collection of media powered by the Internet.

Young demographics and cultures are more attuned to connected media processes, and instinctively understand this observer effect. Indeed, members of the "TikTok" generation readily assume compulsory roles in ever-cooling media, in order to be the center of a universe and observe others who do likewise—a transaction whose possibility depends entirely on the presence of people willing to transact.

This is also the fundamental principle of blockchain.

There is a monumental difference between a web medium powered by a distributed-style, blockchain-based, connective framework and a mainframe-style, service-based, connective framework: control.

The blockchain-powered web of the future that Hashed wishes to build wholly embodies the simultaneous creation-consumption anatomy of the web medium. It enables fully distributed and equitable participation and is shaped by those who connect to it, and them only. A blockchain-powered web’s medium, content, and technological anatomies are fundamentally the same.

The current framework of the web is a collection of services designed for asynchronous media consumption, working to carry out consumption and creation as distinct processes. Connecting to web services built upon this segregated framework requires them to be put to use in a manner that contradicts the nature of medium which they compose. The fundamental opposition between the web’s current anatomy and its application allows for manipulation of the medium itself, as the proctors of the services that power it retain the ability to oversee operation of the consumption and creation as distinct processes (which should be communally overseen, automatic, and simultaneous), controlling each as they choose.

Korean History & South Korea’s Relationship With Modern Media

Asian and most other Eastern cultures are traditionally orally-focused, which has led to a historically collective-oriented culture. The textual focus of the West has led to our historically individual-oriented culture.

The Asian oral tradition set the stage for a cultural understanding of collective mediums. Korea’s history further clues us into how South Korean society gained an innate understanding of the connected sense as part of the cultural constitution.

The massive changes afflicted upon Korea between 1900 and 1950 followed several hundred years of isolationism, and led to a governmental, economical, and cultural reset in South Korea. The nation was formed anew and its inhabitants left isolationism and entered a state of prosperity precisely as the tech-powered media that exploded the world into a global village took hold. “Since the 1960s, the country has developed from one of Asia’s poorest to one of the world’s wealthiest nations.” [History of South Korea — Wikipedia].

Initially, South Korea’s understanding of media was exercised through censorship and control tactics by its early government and leaders. Governmental control over newspaper, radio, and television media was upheld until the 1980s, when mounting public outrage led to reform. At that point, journalism and media development exploded and have enjoyed moderate to significant freedom ever since; the number of available TV channels nearly doubling from 74 to 125 from 1985 to 1989. Laws restricting consumption of music and television to sources of South Korean origin were lifted as well.

The drastic, unrestricted inpouring of global information and entertainment, as well as the broadening of media access, was hugely formative, creating the relationship with media that South Koreans have today. All of this coincided with the most significant and bombastic period of worldwide media development in modern history. The result is the nation’s innate understanding and considerable mastery of new technologies and media, as well as a penchant for speedy adoption. “When it comes to Internet use, South Korea ranked third in the world in 2003. [13] According to statics [sic] of the Korean Ministry of Information and Communication, 78.5% of families own a computer, of which 93.6% use the Internet (2005).” [Media of South Korea — Wikipedia]