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Chesnut et al.: Between the Cute and the Lethal: Representations of COVID-19 in the Multilingual Linguistic Landscape of South Korea
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Michael Chesnut
Jun 16, 2021
Thank you for the questions and engaging with the presentation! For a more in-depth over of the COVID-19 context in Korea I strongly recommend Eldin Milak's presentation (Un)masking Seoul as it contains an excellent review of what happened in Korea. That being said, I'll do my best to answer your question here. Korea's experience with COVID-19 is quite different than other countries with several very specific places, organizations, contexts, and people being linked to the outbreak at different points and different regulatory measures being put into effect, without ever really going into anything like a complete lockdown. The appearance of the fear-based posters was later in 2020, my apologies for not including this in the video, after several different incidents led to larger outbreaks and, speaking perhaps more from my own experience, a greater sense of fatigue regarding COVID-19 had set in. The use of cuteness is perhaps more difficult to trace as it was often present in commercial settings and the use of cuteness coincided with changing regulations which required new signs. One important thing to note is that the fear-based posters appeared and then many disappeared and further similar posters have not appeared after, so this perhaps should be thought of as more of a 'burst' of fear-based signage rather than a larger movement. Also, there was some public pushback against these fear-based signs, which we did not include in the presentation, but this may have reflected a larger sense of discomfort with some of these signs. To tentatively answer your question, with the goal of answering it more thoroughly later perhaps, cuteness seems to appear to varying degrees whenever new regulations require new signs and fear-based signs appeared just once and have not appeared again since. Lastly, much of the scholarship regarding fear-based public health signage is quite skeptical regarding its effectiveness and how it shapes larger understandings regarding health and wellbeing. Perhaps I can add a note about this later. Thanks again for your questions and best wishes from Seoul.
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Chesnut et al.: Between the Cute and the Lethal: Representations of COVID-19 in the Multilingual Linguistic Landscape of South Korea
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Michael Chesnut
Jun 16, 2021
Hello as well, and thanks for much for the interesting questions! The interest in 'lethal' imagery and then fear-based public health signage came from seeing the 'lethal' posters in subway stations and being shocked as they were so unlike the other COVID-19 signage we were already examining. We then started looking at all of our data for how COVID-19 signage makes use of imagery and emotion, and signs which were obviously 'cute' and signs which invoked the lethality of COVID-19 were quite striking. Importantly, there are many signs, unfortunately not discussed in our presentation, which are informative and directive and are neither cuteness-based nor fear-based and these signs are, of course, important, but we wanted to examine what could be learned by looking at these cute and lethal signs in comparison, and as we moved forward we started to grapple with substantial bodies of literature that could support examining these signs. I'm still coming to grips with the cuteness studies literature which has some interesting fractures and divisions, especially as some examine cuteness from a business and marketing perspective and others from something close to a cultural studies perspective. I was not aware of Wee and Hiramoto's work so thank you for that suggestion. Some scholars such as some Dale (2019) separate Kawaii and cuteness but we have been examining literature on all of this so Wee and Hiramoto will be useful. We have a few examples where cuteness is discussed in relation to health, as with marketing food, but nothing yet on public health and cuteness but that is something we should look at more carefully moving forward so thank you for the suggestion! We have had difficulty in coding, not with the fear-based signs, but in deciding what is cute and not and that may present a significant challenge to this project going forward. Cuteness scholarship gives us some tools to work on this, but determining what is cute has been proving to be somewhat challenging. Thanks again for the questions! Dale, J. P. (2019). Cuteness studies and Japan. In The Routledge companion to gender and Japanese culture (pp. 320-330). Routledge.
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Strandberg: Solidarity for sale: Corporate social responsibility and news-jacking in global advertising during the covid-19 pandemic
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Michael Chesnut
Jun 16, 2021
Thank you for a very interesting presentation, for introducing me to the word 'newsjacking', and for getting me thinking about how messages of mask wearing and social distancing may be more or less acceptable in different types of corporate messaging or advertising. These are really interesting issues to me! While watching your presentation I found myself thinking about the 'Steak-umm' Twitter account which is noted for being the corporate Twitter account of a business that sells a thinly sliced meat product and, more importantly, a Twitter account which extensively discusses how corporate media manipulates public opinion in many ways, including corporate Twitter accounts that are personable and funny such as itself. In essence it seems to newsjack scholarly discussions of corporate media as a means of raising awareness of this brand. It was even recently retweeted by the Baltimore City Health Department with a tweet about health departments being inspired by this account. I was wondering if you saw any COVID-19 corporate signage that played with some level of corporate self-awareness or feigned self-awareness; signs that say 'we know we're just a big global corporation just trying to sell some product, but regardless everyone should wear a mask'. This also has me thinking a bit about the limits of newsjacking as a concept or if a particular discourse, media criticism in this example, can be newsjacked over the long term or if another concept is needed here. I suppose it also has me wondering if any differences were seen between advertising done by larger companies and that done by smaller companies, which might be willing to risk a more unusual approach to COVID-19 messaging as with company behind the Steak-umm account.
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Milak (Un)masking Seoul: The mask as a static and dynamic semiotic device for reconfiguring public space and redefining civic responsibility
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Chesnut et al.: Between the Cute and the Lethal: Representations of COVID-19 in the Multilingual Linguistic Landscape of South Korea
In Welcome to the Forum
Michael Chesnut
Jun 15, 2021
Thank you so much for the wonderful comment and watching the video. First, your comment about commercial businesses avoidance of fear-based messaging or threatening messaging has me rethinking some of the issues we discuss in the video. I am thinking now more about the differences between the COVID-19 linguistic landscape of different commercial businesses such as coffeeshops and pharmacies. The degree to which fear-based messaging is avoided by different types of commercial businesses is not something we discuss in our work yet, but your comment has me thinking along this track now, so thank you pushing me to think about these issues in a new way. Second, we have not examined potential differences between cuteness-based COVID-19 signage and more general cuteness-based signage but this would be a very interesting way of more deeply examining cuteness in the linguistic landscape of Korea. In general, I am not aware of any striking difference between cuteness-based COVID-19 signage and more general cuteness-based signage. However, I suspect examining our data regarding cuteness-based signage and perhaps signage regarding some other requirement or prohibition, such as a sign forbidding a single customer from sitting alone at a large table for six people in a coffeeshop and mask-required signage in the same coffeeshop, may show greater use of cuteness in the COVID-19 related signage, although plenty of examples of cuteness-based 'do not sit alone at a big table' signs exist, which would enable a comparison of the cuteness-based signs. We are still examining how cuteness may function in 'mask required' signage in cafes, and perhaps it functions as a means of mitigating the fear and discomfort that comes with being reminded of the continuing danger of COVID-19, although as I said, we are still working through these ideas. However, this does not exactly answer your question. I think we may have to examine some cuteness-based police signage and perhaps cuteness based commercial signage and compare that with our cuteness-based COVID-19 related signage to better answer your question. It may be that cuteness-based police signage is more aimed at children or at creating a warm and friendly image for the police, rather than convey commands such as 'wear a mask', but I am not sure about this. Third, as for the context of masks in Korea I can strongly recommend Eldin Milak's presentation (Un)masking Seoul, which gives an excellent overview of mask usage in Korea before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe the common use of masks in Korea because of poor air quality greatly shaped the take up of masks, but I am unsure how this impacted mask-related signage. Mask-related signage in Korea, over the course of the pandemic, has changed a lot as much of the early mask signage was about the availability of masks, the rationing system for masks, what days you could buy them, the fact a place was sold out of masks, and so on. However, yes, I think the mask signage in Korea reflects a context in which mask wearing is quite widely accepted, although not entirely, and so acts as a reminder to wear a mask in case people forget, informs people of the regulations or what were new regulations at the time, and just reinforces the understanding that the pandemic is ongoing and so COVID-19 mitigation practices should continue. The context of masks in Korea is quite interesting. Even before COVID-19 masks were heavily advertised, marketed as stylish, and something that could be bought and worn as an example of fashion, even if many people are very tired of wearing masks all day long these days. Thanks again for the wonderful questions.
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Michael Chesnut

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