Monday, November 28, 2016

Teaching "Korean Popular Music in Context" at University of British Columbia

I've already been in Vancouver for months, but it seems that I cannot find time to catch my breath. My current backlog of things to do includes:

  • Writing half of a chapter for a book on how to talk about Korean performance, sort of an introduction to the specialized and representative terminology (the topics in the chapter have been divided, I'm responsible for half of them). After both of us have written, then I'll have to go back and work with my co-author on editing them into a coherent whole. The book is part of a series with many different countries represented, and the authors were all part of a workshop in Berlin last summer where we hashed out what to write about (and who would write about each topic). 
  • Editing and encouraging the writing of another chapter for the same book. I'm the native English speaker, but the other author is senior and more of a practitioner, so if he doesn't start writing soon I should put my encouraging hat on. As I understand it, I will be using my advanced knowledge of the topic and my English skill to make his writing more academic, more of a match with the volume, and of course, more fluent. 
  • Writing a chapter for a book that will accompany a museum exhibition in Germany. 
  • Reviewing a book (a solicited review for Journal of Western Folklore)
  • Reviewing another book (a solicited review for Ethnomusicology Forum)

  • Preparing my conference paper for Association for Asian Studies in Toronto in March. Yes, I know many people write their paper on the plane but 1) I don't work well that way and 2) I'm on the job market so I need to be schmoozing and shaking hands and attending talks, not locked in my room writing my paper throughout the conference. Also, it's a new project which means it requires more work to get it ready. 

  • Finishing up a journal article on K-pop cover dance that is more than half done (and the research is done-for-now, although it is an evolving field so I will have to write more about it in the future). 
  • Reading and responding to various other people's work (the only way to ask them to look at mine^^). I am really behind on this. 

-and most of all-

  • Finishing my book. The idea was to be done in the summer, then I got this postdoc and decided I'd rather finish it while I was here (the postdoc application did indicate I'd work on it this year), get feedback from people here, and take advantage of a little more time to improve it. But since I got to Vancouver I haven't even opened the files. 

What have I been doing? 1) Teaching my class, and 2) job applications (they take a lot of time as well as mental/emotional energy). Fortunately this year there are quite a few jobs open that are worth applying to. Unfortunately most of those jobs will get more than 300 applicants (and that's only for the jobs in the smaller fields or with more restrictive search criteria, some of them will probably get closer to 1,000).

I just find this photo (from promotions for Troublemaker "Now") disturbing on so many levels that I'm subjecting you to it. Sorry. 

But the good news has been my class. The class is great. Although it is lot of work to teach such a large group (120 was the maximum enrollment and we had many students clamoring to be added to the class, at the start we didn't know how many of the students who enrolled were serious about taking it, or had just "saved themselves a spot," so we gambled and took just about ten extra students to make up for people who were going to drop. At that point we were just over 120, and worried about the work of grading, but even after the midterm we lost a few students so we're now about 110 + auditors). Teaching such a big class does mean preparing lectures (you can't have much discussion when you've got so many voices!), but the lecture topics are fun and the students are really great.

It has been quite a learning curve for me. It's my first time to teach a class with my own TAs. I have two, both really excellent. One is a fourth year undergraduate, and she understands the system here at UBC perfectly, is very responsible and detail-oriented, and navigates the computer system / learning platform (connect) for the class. The other TA is an eighth year graduate student here. She's full of energy, very thoughtful, and quite knowledgeable. I am so thankful that I got TAs who help me and never cause any problems. I think I've done a fairly good job of asking them for help so I'm not overloaded, but not dumping more on them than they should be dealing with. One of them is better about protecting her own time than the other. Preparing lectures for two classes per week has felt like twice as much work as preparing for one a week, which sounds right if you forget that lectures in Korea are three hours long, and this is only one and a half (one hour and twenty since I need to give them time to get to the next class). On many instances I have prepared much more than I can cover in the time period and had problems such as transitioning into speed-lecturing mode (this is NOT helpful, not just because I have many exchange and international students, but because no one can process information as fast as someone else can spit it out). Since I teach the same class next semester I will be able to better divide topics so that the important topics get enough time to talk through them slowly and thoughtfully. I will also have time to refine and revise my lecture notes instead of just throwing tons of information at paper and scanning through it in class, hoping I organized it effectively.
Google results for a search for Korean "flower boys" 

As for topics, at the start of the class I had some orienting lectures (first about Korean music before the modern era, and second a quick swing through of Korean history), various lectures then covered the evolution of music in the modern era (music in the colonial era, music under the dictators and such). These classes were the first 1/3 of the lectures. After that I have been working topically. For example, last week we had a lecture on K-pop Consumption and Fandom (Tuesday) and on Choreography and Fans Engaging with K-pop through Cover Dance (Thursday). Obviously both of those are linked to fan practices-- I did always try to make linked topics appear in back to back classes, to the extent possible. So the class that dealt with Masculinity, Male Image, and Mandatory Military Service was right before the class on Femininity, Plastic Surgery, and the Obsession with Image. Tomorrow I will be talking about Tradition, Korean Image, and K-pop (so how tradition is used within K-pop and how K-pop impacts the way tradition is packaged/promoted). I am really looking forward to this topic, although I'm so exhausted I wish the semester was over already.

Colored light sticks wielded at concerts correspond to the K-pop group you are a fan of

There are always ways to spend more money on K-pop

The class has no attendance, but quizzes without prior notice (so a zero on a quiz is the penalty for not showing up that day-- students can roll the dice to see if they want to show up or not, but we did decide to throw out the lowest two quiz scores). Quizzes are operated on the iclicker system (so the computer grades the quizzes and inputs the grades at the click of a button). Quizzes are 20%, there is a midterm (20%) and final (30%) as well as a video project (done in groups, 30%). In general I have no problem with attendance, because students enrolled in this class because they are interested in the topic-- it will not help them get a job or fulfill requirements for graduation. So they come, they stay awake, they send thoughtful emails and do pretty well on their assignments.

Speaking of doing well on assignments: the video projects varied greatly in quality-- the best groups were really amazing, and most fell into the A range. Here are a few of the best videos:

A Case Study of the Singer CL
New Mediatized Depictions of Rap in Korea
Star Making 101-- or Why is Bae Suzy (MissA) the "Nation's First Love"?
The Role of Cover Dancers in K-pop
Korean Survival Shows and K-pop
Androgyny and K-pop
The Success of "Gangnam Style" in the US (focusing on dance and marketing)
The video that won the popular vote in class is currently private, but it's so good... I'll share it if they make it public again. It also got the second highest grade from the instructors.

These videos lacked something on the academic engagement end, but were well done and are worthy of mention:
The Future of Big Bang
A Close Reading of the Big Bang Video "Bae Bae"

So, that's a short update and links for you to follow. It would be nice if I could write a blog post more than twice a year, though.

Yes, we had a class on cultural appropriation and K-pop

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