New technology, old medium: Internet, television, and audience
The dissertation explores the issue of culture and power on the Internet. Specifically, using an ethnographic approach to a website of a Korean drama, primarily its BBS section, the dissertation focuses on examining the utopian discourse of the Internet as free, equal, and democratic space and as a revolutionary user-centered medium.
This study finds three aspects of the Internet in terms of culture and power. First, the Internet is a communal but exclusive space: although the participants tend to construct the BBS as a community, the community is not so much free, equal, and democratic as the utopians emphasize. In the process of constructing and maintaining the BBS as a community, the participants create new forms of identities, hierarchies, and disparities within the BBS. And the new forms of identities, hierarchies, and disparities are related to those in embodied world. In other words, the Internet is another hegemonic space and thus another space for hegemonic struggles over power.
Second, the Internet is a participatory but one-way space: the users of the website as the audience are very active and even aggressive for interacting with the production side of the drama and for participating in the production process of the drama. However, the production side of the drama has a non-participatory and indifferent attitude to interact with the users. In other words, the website is not an interactive space but still a one-way space. This result problematizes the utopian assumption of the Internet's interactivity and its role as empowering audiences over the production of media content. The result also reminds us that the issue of the interactivity of media should be understood not only as the issue of technology but also as the issue of overall media structure and industry.
Third, the Internet is a diverse but hegemonic space: although the participants' interpretations of the drama are diverse, they seem not to be free from the authorship of the drama unlike the utopian assumption of the Internet's hypertextuality and its role. The participants in particular produce an overwhelming number of dominant readings that reinforce dominant Korean culture. Most of the patterns that the participants produce in these dominant readings are significantly related to the logics of the narrative structure of the drama. The results of my research warn us to equate the participants' activeness on the Internet with the participants' power over the production of meanings of hypertexts.