Uncanny about the Cultural Essentialism

In the reading “Evil Media” by Matthew Fuller, it talks about the knowledge management that provides many means to combine ideas by “aggregation, testing, and propagation” (91). Once ideas aggregate in one state and location, they test each other whether each is complementary to the norms of the project/site/ecology, and they propagate themselves as they have become now indispensable part to each other of the ecosystem. The knowledge management, therefore, provides means targeting the machine efficiency and effectiveness to construct knowledge.

Referring to my site Korea Way, it is hard to dismiss the point that the 32nd street between Broadway and 5th Avenue was a very attractive place to start their businesses among the Korean immigrants in 70s due to its proximity to other city attractions. For example, being accessible to the Empire State building, Madison Square Garden, and Penn Station as well as the major shopping centers surrounding the 32nd street as a part of historicity of the place as a garment district provides the small strip an advantage to attract people from its surroundings. The stratagem employed in Korea Way is to operate as both a commercial street and an ethnic enclave.

What entails the combination of the commercial street and an ethnic enclave on Korea Way is to preserve a culture of Seoul, reflected on the kinds of services (food,entertainment,cosmetics,academy, etc) provided by stores and the ambient layout of the architecture, that is quite frozen in past and seemingly unchanging relative to the living culture of Seoul toward modernization. Therefore, the space has to live on the formations of the past of Seoul and finds itself as “useful by its composition within systems of relations” to other city spectacles as a mean of attracting tourists into its ecosystem. This invisible scheme of cultural essentialism – “a culture has its own set of essences that distinguish from each other” – is what I feel uncanny about the place because of the stark difference I find between the reality of Seoul and the supposedly familiar simulacrum of Seoul – the “Korea Way” on 32nd street.

Yet, the “prosperity of stratagems is ephemeral, dependent on local, timely, conditions,” and the “relations” must be manipulated. The rise of Korean corporate companies opening up their franchises such as Paris Baguette, Caffe Bene, or Tous Les Jours on Korea Way that create a more “Seoul-like” ambience to me is an interesting phenomenon. One might ask, what is so Korean about the seemingly French bakeries and cafes? I would say, it is the experience of the sites and manipulation of simulacrum that creates the values that go beyond what one can visibly see as to refer to a culture.

– Cindy

Works Cited

Fuller, Matthew, and Andrew Goffey. Evil Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2012. Print.

~ by Cindy on April 26, 2015.

2 Responses to “Uncanny about the Cultural Essentialism”

  1. I think that your post was be best overall. You represent a thorough understanding of Fuller’s ideas, and you parallel them directly to your ecology in a way that is feasible and understandable. I like the way you delved into the juxtaposition of culture and commercialization within your ecology, and how you identify culture as a set of distinguishable essences. Although these varied cultures ultimately unite, I like how you establish the fact that this unification is malleable in accordance to time and space, and that it can be manipulated.

  2. Hi! I thought your post was the most informative (1) and my favorite of this week (3). The way you put together your ecology and Evil Media was very captivating and helped me understand both much better! It was very interesting reading how you incorporated Evil Media into a physical, urban ecology. I particularly like your ending, which pulls into question what visual culture is and how it can extend beyond vision. I definitely agree with that, and I think it might also hint at how affect and culture connect.

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