The new era: Webtoons

Independent Autoethnographies is something that I have experienced in another class – Communication across Cultures (ELL230). Although I have completed an autoethnography before, the Digital Asia approach seems much different as I have learned that there are analytical and creative approaches to writing an autoethnography. Previously, I have written an analytical autoethnography which relied heavily on other research and the reflection of my experiences in a standard essay format. With different ways to approach the Digital Asia autoethnography, I will be able to explore more options and platforms to share my research and experiences.

Sitting in my Global Media Interventions class, Monday morning of week 6 and our lecture is on Webtoons, transformation into the global space and the new era of platformisation. Webtoons history was introduced and I learnt that they were created in South Korea in the 2000’s where comics became digital and online (Yecies, B 2018). It’s the practice of using a mobile scrolling device with the flow of imagery to make a story. The lecturer Brian Yecies (2018), has completed studies on the popularity of Webtoons across countries. Statistics show that Webtoons has a large fan base in Japan and China and it is increasingly growing in Indonesia, Malaysia and even in the United States (Yecies, B 2018).

In my own research time, I googled “Webtoons” and I clicked on the first link. It was in another language and before clicking translate, I had a quick look around to see what I could discover without the English language at the forefront. I didn’t get very far until I was rummaging around in a rabbit hole with like Alice in Wonderland. I translated the page and found that what I was looking at was a gold mine for comic lovers – so many genres, types, and artists! With multiple genres in the Webtoons comic series, it made choosing a comic series hard. There are so many different types of comics within each genre all with a large number of likes and views making my decision difficult. Normally, I am a sucker for romance, action and drama but considering autoethnographies are about experiencing “new and abundant opportunities” (Ellis, C et al. 2011) exploring a new genre was on the cards. I decided to have a quick browse through the Fantasy genre to see what I could find.

With my brief research and viewing of Webtoons and the Fantasy genre, I can see that translation is not always correct which highlights the significance of the imagery used. This was a major epiphany as translations and meaning of words may have a different significance in different cultures and you can often get lost in translation without the images. Thus, making sure that I fully immerse myself into the Webtoons culture to have a better understanding of the comics that are produced. I will have to make sure that I read the text bubbles as well as taking in the imagery of the comics as images are a crucial part of Webtoons and comics. Translation can be defined as “a message that is transferred from one language to another and the tropes of border and bridge work powerfully” (Gambier, Y 2016). Translators for Webtoons, do not need a degree in translation nor do they get paid for their efforts. They are all volunteer which is seen as a crowdsourcing initiative to create a more socially inclusive platform for all.

This initial experience of exploring the Webtoons online community has gotten me excited to explore Webtoons and for further research that I will be conducting throughout the process of this autoethnography.

 

References:

Gambier, Y 2016, Rapid and Radical Changes in Translation and Translation Studies, International Journal of Communication, vol. 10, pp. 887 – 906.

Jenkins, H 2008, Convergent Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York University Press, Chapter 3: Searching for the Origami Unicorn: The Matrix and Transmedia Storytelling, pp. 93 – 130.

Johnston, R 2016, 42% of LINE Webtoon Comics Creators are female and half are read by women, Bleeding Cool, last viewed 28 August 2018, <https://www.bleedingcool.com/2016/02/29/42-of-line-webtoons-comic-creators-are-female-and-half-are-read-by-women/>.

Shin, M 2013, How Webtoons are Democratizing the Korean Contents Industry, Atelier, last viewed 28 August 2018, <https://atelier.bnpparibas/en/prospective/article/webtoons-democratizing-korean-contents-industry>.

Sui, 2014, Tower of God: Season 2, Ep. 108, Webtoons, last viewed 28 August 2018, <https://www.webtoons.com/en/fantasy/tower-of-god/season-2-ep-108/viewer?title_no=95&episode_no=188>.

Wass, J 2009, Manga Guide to Statistics: Statistics with heart-pounding excitement (well maybe), R&D Mag, last viewed 28 August 2018, <https://www.rdmag.com/article/2009/05/manga-guide-statistics-statistics-heart-pounding-excitement-well-maybe>.

Yecies, B 2018, Transcreation Intermediaries in South Korea’s Digital Webtoon Platform Ecosystem, BCM322 Global Media Interventions, University of Wollongong.

 

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Reflexive experience – Akira

Akira, my first Anime experience and it was an experience to talk about. I was lucky to watch this film in English, I think it would have been a much more difficult experience otherwise. Adding live tweeting into the mix made it more difficult as I missed a lot of the film. I have noticed that throughout the weeks of live tweeting it is becoming easier and I am getting the hang of it.

Image result for akira

Throughout the film, I experienced a range of emotions – fear, confusion, surprise, sadness and I also experiences flashbacks causing me to look away. Live tweeting helped me deal with these emotions as those that were experiencing the same emotions tweeted similarly and I felt like I was not alone. Following the #BCM320 feed, I was able to get a good laugh out of some of the tweets that were coming through which helped distract me from the confusion, putting puzzle pieces together.

Ellis et al. (2011) say that autoethnography’s “introduce unique ways of thinking and feeling, and help people make sense of themselves and others” (p. 1). Reflecting on my experience of watching anime for the first time, I was able to make sense of the Japanese culture and their history a little more while making sense of my own feelings and thoughts throughout watching the film. Ellis et al (2011), draws on the fact that autoethnography’s should be a reflexive experience while you try to understand cultures other than your own through race, gender, age, sexuality, class, ability, religion and education (p. 2). Since watching and experiencing Akira and live tweeting I have a new perspective on anime films and Japanese culture. My perspective was originally closed off to the idea of watching and experiencing anime and Asian cultured films, but I now have become more open to the idea of anime. I feel that this may be a good experience for me to reflect on in my final project.

Live tweeting throughout Akira allowed me to share my experience, thoughts and emotions while watching the film which Ellis et al (2011) states to be an important factor to an autoethnography as it “brings readers to the scene” (p.3). While I am not able to experience Akira or any other cultured film from Asia in its true sense of being emerged fully into the culture as critiqued by Ellis et al. (2011), I will be able to compose a value piece that will allow me to step out of my comfort zone and into something I would have never imagined.

 

A Godzilla Task

Live tweeting while watching a foreign film in black and white while having to read subtitles was a mammoth task for 8:30am. It was hard to keep up with the storyline while commenting through twitter. The experience itself was great, I don’t think I ever would have watched the original Godzilla film if it wasn’t for this class. While I struggled at first and I wasn’t able to keep up with the storyline, but I then started to shift my way of watching and enabled myself to tweet and tune in and out to the movie putting the puzzle pieces together myself. At times I would be distracted by others posting on twitter, but some of the information others were tweeting were interesting reads and facts to know about the movie. For example, how they made Godzilla’s roar and how Godzilla was a metaphor for the Nuclear bombings a few years before the film was made.

At first, I thought that the graphics was cringe-worthy, but when I reminded myself that this movie was made in 1954, I readjusted my opinion and stepped back, appreciating how they made the movie. It got me interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ of the film, so I looked at a YouTube clip of photos that shows behind the scenes images. This gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the film. You can see through my twitter feed that my attitude shifted, and I had more of an understanding of production worked back then.

Another thing I appreciated about the film was the cultural differences from my own. After completing ELL230 last semester, I was opened to cultural differences and understandings of cultural practices. Knowing what I know how from last semester on cultures, I was able to appreciate Japanese culture and understand the cultural norms that I would have not known otherwise. I loved the fact that women were standing up to the men though. You wouldn’t see that much nowadays. I was able to live tweet about this which got most of my engagement.

While it was hard to keep up with the film, and I did miss a lot of the film, live tweeting made it feel as though I didn’t actually miss much. Students were posting frequently enough for me to feel like I was watching the movie through Twitter. I am conscious of how much I tweet though because I don’t want my professional followers to think it is annoying an unfollow me. Overall, I am glad that I have kept an open mind overall and I look forward to live tweeting and engaging through other platforms.

Live Twitter feed shots below:

Screenshot (94)Screenshot (93)

Is it time to say goodbye?

It’s time to rethink how Australians are creating content. The funding from the Australian Government is not sufficient; not enough money is put into the marketing of films. Creating less Australian content and more genre films and finding new ways to distribute films are all necessary to reach Australian audiences that “have turned their back on them [Australian Media Industry]” (Roach, 2014). These are aspects that were discussed as Australia’s Box Office returns were poor. By improving on these elements it suggests, the Australian Film Industry will be able to reconnect with audiences and produce an ‘industrial transition into a niche market’ (Verhoeven D et al. 2015).

The industry has struggled to keep up with the constant changes in technology and the shifts in media consumption. De Roeper and Luckman (2009), suggest that the industry has responded to changes in four ways – denial, panic, embrace and co-create. De Roeper and Luckman (2009) propose that rather than denying the past and panicking about the future, the film industry should embrace opportunities and co-create in the ‘shareable world’ (p. 12). Co-creation has seen emerging patterns of media consumption and digital storytelling become an ever-expanding feature in the film industry. With the expansion of Netflix, Stan and other streaming websites as well as illegal downloads, the Australian Film Industry has not been able to embrace the changes to the way that people are viewing content online. This has become a problem for the film industry because the Australian audience has kept up with the technological changes and have chosen to continuously watch content online. Australian content has lagged in securing spots online and on streaming services.

In 2017, the Australian government released a parliamentary inquiry discussing how to grow the media industry and balance international and national productions in a way to benefit the Australian Media Industry. More specifically the parliamentary inquiry recognised that the technological advances within the industry have significantly changed the way that audiences are viewing and accessing content through digital platforms instead of cinema experiences. Therefore, these digital changes are shifting release patterns and audience behaviours. For example, ‘streaming online via Netflix, Amazon, Hulu (and Stan in Australia) have impacted these behaviours as most films are not making the cinema screens and are going straight online for a wider range audience’ (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017, Chapter 2). Chapter 2 concluded that the 40% offset is not enough because producers ‘simply do not have the budget to release their productions in a cinema and cannot make money if they do’ (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017, Chapter 2).

Chapter 4 in the parliamentary inquiry discusses the international aspect and co-production of the media industry. Significantly, they note that the competition to gain funding from Screen Australia is extremely hard. This suggests, going offshore is the way to go for emerging talent for more opportunities. Treaties are welcomed by the government as Verhoeven et al. (2015) suggests that it “promotes improved international relations between nations”. Australia already has treaties with 12 countries which is an “important source of finance and training and opportunities… making cultural connections both domestically and internationally” (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017, Chapter 4). While barriers, such as language and cultural differences, can prove a challenge for productions, co-productions are highly regarded and considered beneficial to the future of the Australian film industry. Productions may also be considered as “‘footloose productions’, productions that are not made in their country of origin, bring considerable economic benefit” (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017, Chapter 4).

The Australian Film Industry is just as successful as any other film industry although the quality of the films lags, compared to Hollywood films. With the provided funding given to producers specifically for “Significant Australian Content”, producers don’t have much of a chance to bring out their creative skills, market effectively and distribute the films efficiently reaching a wider audience.

References:

Commonwealth of Australia, 2017, Report on the inquiry into the Australian film and television industry, Chapters 1, 2, and 4, Last viewed 31 January 2018, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Communications/AustralianfilmandTV/Report>.

De Roeper, J Luckman, S 2009, Future audiences for Australian stories: industry responses in a post-web 2.0 world, Media International Australia, no. 130, pp. 5-16.

Quinn, K 2017, More for TV, less for film, foreign actors OK: Inquiry recommends sweeping changes, The Sydney Morning Herald, December 2017, last viewed 31 January 2018, <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/more-for-tv-less-for-film-foreign-actors-ok-inquiry-recommends-sweeping-changes-20171208-h01bl0.html>.

Roach, V 2014, Local audiences snub Australian filmmakers yet Hollywood loves them, News.com, September 2014, last viewed 31 January 2018, <http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/movies/box-office/local-audiences-snub-australian-filmmakers-yet-hollywood-loves-them/news-story/95338f7d82412c0ea02688fc8952d0d0>.

Verhoeven, D Davidson, A Coate, B 2015, Australian films at large: expanding the evidence about Australian cinema performance, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 7-20.

Global Culture over Australian content

The way that Australian film content is distributed has changed to new digital distribution methods, which means that Australian audiences are more easily able to access content from around the globe. This exposes them to a diversity of global cultures which entice viewers to continue watching non-Australian films. It can be argued that the Fair Trade Agreement has an element of protectionism on one side or an offer of free flow content on the other. The impact of distribution and the digital age has a huge impact on how Australians are viewing global films that have cultural diversity, rather than Australian content films.

The Fair Trade Agreement aims to “remove constraints on the free flow of trade between the US and Australia by advocating free market integration as the best means to enhance social and economic development” (Breen M, 2010). The Fair Trade Agreement impacts the flow of cultural products directly which enhanced the information and communications technology between Australia and the US, leading to the creation of ‘digital determinism’ (Breen 2010). The emergence of the digital power is considered a problem by some as they believe that ‘the world dreams itself to be American’ which is related to the media dominance that American has. Digital determinism is largely influenced by technology because of the ‘unequal degrees of power as well as unequal powers of awareness’ (political power) (Breen, 2010). It’s also known as a digital divide and is evident in the Deloitte ‘Media Consumer Survey’ report (2015) and Screen Australia’s ‘Australian Audiences are watching online’ (2015) infographic. Studies show that Australia’s preferred entertainment source and way of watching content is through the internet and the television on any device. Screen Australia (2015) states that 50% of internet users are watching movies and TV online. “The culture and its delivery system are impacted unequally at the level at which everyday life is lived” (Breen, 2010). When Hollywood boomed, the Australian media industry lagged which created the influences we have today within the industry in terms of the power structure. The issue with digital determination is that the power differentiates Australia from America although globalisation should have synced together to gain equal trade agreements. Due to the misfortune of being the lesser power to America, Australian audiences have become problematic to target as they are so immersed in foreign cultures’ that they have forgotten about their own film industry.

Rip Tide Film 2017
Image: Riptide

Watching Australian content has become a thing of the past as the strength of distribution in the film and television industry is weak and almost invisible. If “distributors do not market Australian films effectively [they] therefore fail to maximise their commercial potential” (Aveyard, 2011). Distribution plays a key factor when films are trying to make it into the Australian market and if they are not marketed appropriately, Australians will not know about the content created. The ‘impact of internationalisation on locally made films’ has been more successful for Australian films due to other countries having a cultural interest in Australian content (Aveyard, 2011). For example; Riptide (2017) a film made in Kiama, Australia had more success in the United States (US) than here in Australia. Having Debby Ryan, the Disney star from Hollywood feature in the film helped with its success in the US but was only distributed in minimal cinemas across Australia. Australians have disconnected from the Australian market with limited resources and knowledge. This impacts the ‘strategies for connecting to the market’ (Aveyard, 2011). Online distribution has played a big part in Australian audiences, engaging with more global content and a significant increase in technological advances. It is “undoubtedly a more successful option” (Van Hermert and Ellison, 2015).

The value of cinema has changed and streaming services such as Netflix and Stan have become increasingly popular as Video on Demand (VOD). VOD and online streaming has allowed for easy access to globally distributed content. It has heavily impacted Australian’s viewing habits of homemade content. The Fair Trade Agreement has impacted global/co-productions as Australia is the weaker player in the contract with America.

 

References:

Alcorn, N Harding, C Johnston, S 2015, Media Consumer Survey 2015, 4th Ed., Deloitte, Last viewed 18 January 2018, <https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/technology-media-telecommunications/deloitte-au-tmt-media-consumer-survey-2015-100815.pdf>.

Aveyard, K 2011, Australian films at the cinema: rethinking the role of distribution and exhibition, Media International Australia, 138, pp. 36 – 45.

Breen, M 2010, Digital determinism: culture industries in the USA-Australia Free Trade Agreement, New media society, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 657 – 676.

Hemert, T Ellison, E 2015, Queensland’s film culture: the challenges of local film distribution and festival exhibition, Studies in Australasian Cinema, 9:1, pp. 39 – 51.

Screen Australia, 2015, Australian audiences are watching online, last viewed 19 January 2018, <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/fact-finders/infographics/australian-audiences-are-watching-online>.

Australian jobs are more important than Australian culture

Australian culture has played a critical part of the Australian film industry for many years now, although some may suggest that stories of our culture are old and worn out. This has impacted Australian cinema with a decline in audiences watching Australian content and watching more international content. Creating Australian jobs has been a significant talking point in the media and the government, policy makers wanting to increase employment rates in Australia and overall improve the Australian economy. Culture and creation of jobs are a significant influencer of the Australian film and television industry.

Image result for story of the kelly gang
Image: Story of the Kelly Gang

The United States (US) and Australia have been in constant competition within the film industry. Australia started producing feature films in 1906 with The Story of the Kelly Gang. Hollywood didn’t begin until 1910 with the release of In Old California. Fast forward to the 21st Century and Hollywood is the biggest film industry in the world, specifically, dominating Australia. Australian film success is not like it used to be, when in 2008 content creators were restricted by the Screen Australia requirements if they want to receive funding assistance. Australian audiences have taken their eyes off Australian screens and focused them on international screens because “immersion in another culture and society becomes a catalyst for creativity” (Goldsmith, 2010). If the industry wants to stay afloat, producers need to consider other ways to capture audiences and “access global distribution” (O’Regan and Potter, 2013). The films are not the only problem with the Australian film industry, the distribution and marketing of the films need serious consideration as “the culture and its delivery system are impacted unequally at the level at which everyday life is lived” (Breen, 2010).

Due to the decreasing success of the Australian film industry, producers, actors, cast and crew, have gone offshore to succeed. The Fair Trade Agreement has had a huge impact on Australians moving elsewhere to secure work in the industry. The 2007 Labour government has since recognised this problem of not being able to achieve its goals of equal distribution and wealth in the industry. Thus, they created an alliance program enabling more employment opportunities on our local shores, bringing international productions to Australia instead of exporting opportunities (Breen, 2010). We are yet to see significant results. While it is important to support Australian productions and talent, it’s also important to mitigate the influence of multinational opportunities and allow creatives the opportunity to work internationally (O’Regan and Potter 2013). “The Australian Film Commission found that 17% of Australian crew has experience of working on a foreign film or television drama production” (Goldsmith, 2010). Allowing the opportunity to go offshore, they will bring back skills of integration and be able to negotiate the chaotic international media industry more successfully when inspired to return to what will always be called home (O’Regan and Potter 2013).

It may be time to move away from cultural films and focus on more genre films that will attract Australian audiences, revitalising the Australian film industry and boosting its economy. Doing so will create more jobs in Australia and resist Australian filmmakers from going offshore to seek better opportunities in the long run.

References:

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008, Television, Film and Video Production and post-production services, last viewed 2 February 2018, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/8679.0~2006-07~Main+Features~Commercial+television+broadcasting?OpenDocument>.

Breen, M 2010, Digital determinism: culture industries in the USA-Australia Free Trade Agreement, New Media Society, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 657 – 676.

Goldsmith, B 2010, Outward-looking Australian Cinema, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 199 – 214.

O’Regan, T Potter, A 2013, Globalisation from within? The de-nationalising of Australian film and television production, Media International Australia, no. 149, pp. 5 – 14.

Verhoeven, D 2010, Film video DVD and online delivery, The Media Communications in Australia, pp. 133- 154.

 

 

 

The problem is Australian audiences

The Australian film industry is successful and, like discussed throughout the past few weeks, we have been able to discover just how influential the government is in the film industry by providing funding to producers to encourage higher quality productions. This is despite the fact that it can be argued that the producers forgot to save some money to reach the Australian audiences and market the great Australian films appropriately.

Audiences haven’t known about movies produced in Australian because not enough money was invested into the marketing of the movie. With poor marketing and great productions, films that could have been box office hits weren’t, just like Babadook (2014). “Distributors have difficulty making money on most Australian films… [because] marketing of Australian films is often mis-targeted, underfunded or left too late” (Kaufman T, 2009).

Australians have a “practice of going to the movies in Australia [which] has been regionally widespread, economically significant, relatively socially inclusive and certainly more consistent than the practice of making movies” (Bowels K, 2007). People go to the movies to relax and not worry about anything for a few hours, seeping into a fantasy world looking for an escape. They don’t go out of their way to search for movies that aren’t advertised on the home screen of their local cinema website, hence it is the Australian film industry’s job to ensure that Australian know about local productions. Hollywood is ‘in your face’ with their up and coming productions and “Australian cinema-goers have also seemed to accept the enthusiasms of other international mainstream cinema audiences, in terms of popular genres, stars and fashions” (K Bowels et al. 2007).

 

Image result for choovie images

 

There is a new app on the market, Choovie, created by a Melbourne Economist and his wife that allows you to see what movies are showing and where giving you exclusive deals to watch films at off-peak periods. Ticket pricing fluctuates with session demands for example; seeing a film on a Monday during the day will be cheaper than seeing it on a Friday night. They have partnered with some specific movie cinemas across Australia to provide discount options for audience members. There aren’t many now, but I have no doubt that the numbers will grow as more people hear about Choovie. Who doesn’t want a discount on $25 movie tickets – the price is the reason I stopped going to the cinemas. The app was launched on Today Extra on the 20th of December 2017. It was discussed that Choovie allows audiences to now have the capability of viewing movies in cinemas and knowing when, where and which particular movies are screened, which will subsequently help the Australian Film Industry. Creators hope to use Choovie to boost the Australian screening industry through awareness of Australian films in the mix with Hollywood films which in turn will boost box office sales and the economy.

The problem is Australian audiences don’t go to see Australian movies, but there is a reason why they don’t – they don’t know about the Australian movies because they are not marketed appropriately.

While reflecting upon this topic and what I have learnt already, I thought that if the government is going to continue to support the Australian film industry, should they enforce a division of funds between marketing and producing to make the most out of the Australian film industry. What do you think?

References: 

Bowles, K 2007, Three miles of rough dirt road: towards an audience centred approach to cinema studies in Australia, Studies in Australasian Cinema. 1:3, pp. 245 – 260.

Bowles, K Maltby, R Verhoeven, D Walsh, M 2007, More than Bollyhoo? The importance of understanding film consumption in Australia, Metro 152, pp. 96 – 101.

Choovie 2018, Choovie Home Page, Last visited 20 December 2017, <https://www.choovie.com.au/>

Kaufman, T 2009, Finding Australian audiences for Australian films, Metro 163, pp. 6 – 8.