Two in a row

Today, two of my publications went online on the website of Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. One study, titled Consequences of media and Internet use for offline and online network capital and well-being. A causal model approach, co-authored by Ben Pelzer. This is the abstract:

This study sets out to identify relations between people’s media use, network capital as a resource, and loneliness. Unlike many studies on this topic, this study aimed to test hypotheses on a national sample, and used insights from empirical research and theoretical notions from different research areas. Data collected via telephone interviews in 2005 were analyzed with Structural Equation Modeling. The assumption that traditional and new media destroy social capital is not supported empirically.Moreover, online network capital augments offline network capital and web surfing coincides with more online socializing. However, this additional capital appears not to have benefits in terms of social support and loneliness. The reverse causal relation between loneliness and media use also could not be established.

The second study, written by Liesbeth Hermans, me and  Leen dHaenens, is on how journalists use the Internet in journalism: Internet in the Daily Life of Journalists: Explaining the use of the Internet by Work-Related Characteristics and Professional Opinions. One of the most interesting findings is that practical considerations determine the use of the Internet stronger than professional considerations such as credibility and accuracy do.

Surfing the web in South Korea

As we all know, South Korea is famous for its Internet landscape: high adoption rates and high bandwidth. However, on browsing the web in South Korea I have some mixed feelings. Of course the speed is very high. Up- and downloading speed is very high. Even higher than my subscription (one of the fastest available from UPC)  in the Netherlands. However, the speed at YU considerably slower. In the Netherlands, in my experience, speed at universities are higher than in regular homes.

The websites in South Korea have an altogether different feel, appearance (whatchamacallit)  than western web pages. Important is of course the Hangeul character set. These characters seem to make the design more delicate. This is enhanced by the use of light and pastel colours on the page. Furthermore the pages often have some animation as the builds up quickly. See for instance these pages of YeungNam University, Lotte department store, and Ohmynews.

Unfortunately, there is a big problem, especially for people coming from abroad. All websites and computers are totally dedicated to Microsoft. First of all, you will not find any other browser than Internet Explorer. While the European Union forces Microsoft to show all different browsers while starting up the newly bought computer, in South Korea you are forced to use Internet Explorer. Without it you will not venture far in Korean cyberspace. Not only that, the dominant IE version is 6,  whereas Internet Explorer 8 is already released some time ago. There is an important reason for this: it turns out many Korean websites use ‘Active X’ controls for loading apps into the browser. Because it is not supported for other browsers, people only can use IE. Apart from this, ‘Active X’ is been said to suffer from security issues.

Coming to South Korea, oblivious of this issue and assuming browsing is browsing, using Firefox became quite frustrating. Gmail simply didn’t work on my university computer: I’d see my list of emails but was not able to open any of them. So what do you do when you’re an avid Firefox user with many add-ons installed, do you switch to Internet Explorer? I didn’t. Why? Well, when using Internet Explorer for all more special navigation activities, I was asked to install all kind of ActiveX things. What they were I still don’t know, because it was in Korean. My colleagues at YU assured me it was OK to install them. Also, it appears slow, and has little additional functionality. So, I decided to abort the use of IE altogether. Now, I use Google Chrome, and it works fine but not perfect. OK it’s lightweight, but little additional functionality. And in South Korea it is also a bit buggy: sometimes, I navigate to another website by clicking a link, which is not an uncommon thing to do. Then, Chrome tells me the link is broken. Oh? Then, copy-pasting the URL in the address bar subsequently shows no problems with the link whatsoever.

So, I still miss my Firefox, especially because of some essential Firefox add-ons, such as Zotero, Delicious, Downthemall! and Mouse-gestures. I hope for the Korean people and for researchers in general things change rapidly, because although Korea is famous for its Internet speed and Internet adoption, it is also infamous for the Microsoft monopoly.

Mobile phones in South Korea

Mobile phones are quite pervasive in South Korea. OK, being on the move and still be able to phone others or be phoned is the first principle of having a mobile. Or is it? Well, using the mobile phone in South Korea goes well beyond phoning home. Korean mobiles are all capable of accessing the Internet. The mobile (Samsung SPH-W8350) I bought for my stay can navigate all sites without a problem. And it’s very flashy, a thing Koreans like a lot, given their extensive use of flashy neon displays in the streets. The only problem with this phone is flash video, but even the IPhone has a problem with flash video. Furthermore it has many features a smart phone would be proud off.

The price of 80,000 Won combined with a subscription of 20,000 Won per month shows this is a very reasonable price. That is, compared to the Netherlands. They, my students at Yeungnam University,  however mentioned this is an expensive one. So, I should switch to another provider after three months. What? OK, so the phone and the subscription are quite cheap, and I can switch after three months already? In the Netherlands, when you take a combination offer of a mobile phone and a subscription you need to stay at least 12 to 24 months. A few reasons these phones and subscriptions are that cheap probably have to do with the enormous market and fierce competition. This means that the profit can be relatively low. Furthermore, a few of the largest producers of mobile phones are Korean, such as Samsung and LG. As such import taxes don’t apply for the home market.

OK, prices aside, phones are also used for payments. Phones with a special T-money card can be (re)charged at charge stations. Swiping the phone near a receiver deducts money from the card and ergo you’ve paid. You can also pay with T-money cards, but that’s not as sexy as a paying with your mobile.

Korean phones are quite distinctive when you see them. Not so much by their shape, but by the fact that there’s always something attached to it, dangling on a string. This may be various things. The most common attachment is an adapter to charge you phone with. Also attached are miniature T-money cards.

Another use of the mobile phone is using it to tell the time: ask a Korean what time it is and chances are high that s/he will pick up his/her phone to tell the time.

One thing that bothers me a lot though, is the enormous amount of spam I receive on my phone: at least 10 spam messages. I’d hope that some regulatory organization in South Korea would be as tough as the OPTA in the Netherlands who fines spammers up to 250,000 Euro.

As for smart phones, what struck me a couple of weeks ago was that the IPhone was not for sale in South Korea. Apparently, the telecom providers were very apprehensie to introduce it, because the IPhone’s Wifi connectivity could jeopardize there earnings.  With wifi, smart phones can easily use Skype as an alternative. Recently, however, the telecom providers decided to start selling the IPhone in Korea, two and a half years after its introduction. Talking about late adopters.

PS apparently the phone will costs 280 Euro’s in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch website.