This Is Not An Article - How Journalism Has Gone Post-Modern

"Plaster Surrogates" by Allan McCollum
"Plaster Surrogates" by Allan McCollum
Jonas Pulver


GENEVA - Have you ever heard of Dan Rollman? If so, you are spending way too much time on your computer – just like me.

Dan is a Canadian native who now lives in New York and works in media. On May 28, he caught the attention of Internet addicts when he went viral with a nicely packaged little nugget: a tweet of a vine of an Instagram of a Tumblr post of a Facebook post of a tweet. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” as Mary Poppins would say.

This is a tweet of a Vine of an Instagram of a Tumblr post of a Facebook post of a tweet:

— Dan Rollman (@snerko) May 28, 2013

Rollman says he created an “Inception-esque tweet that integrates all major social media platforms.” On Vine, users can share 6-second video clips, while Instagram and Tumblr are fixed image platforms. He created a communications tumble and roll, an origami folding on itself, a tweet (-y bird) chasing its own (feathered) tail. A Droste effect pointing at the accumulation of social networks, and showing that while these platforms allow us to share information, they also result in its circularity.

“This is a tweet,” Dan writes brazenly. His crypto-artistic confidence is somewhat reminiscent of ready-made art, and French artist Marcel Duchamp. Who knows, surrealist Magritte might even have replied, “This is not a tweet”.

Have you ever heard of Allan McCollum? If so, you must be spending a lot of time in museums – at least more than me.

I found out about this American artist on my last visit to the Pompidou Museum in Paris. One of McCollum’s creations is exhibited in the 1980s section. It consists of a multitude of little black canvases in framing mats. Typically the kind of work that people allergic to conceptual art would hate, but which turns out really interesting and significant once you have read the explanatory notice (which was very helpful in this case).

Shapes by Allan McCollum - Photo: Lian Chang

Plaster Surrogates (1985) offers to replace paintings with castings of paintings, which are then reproduced on a large-scale basis, in order to question inspiration, artistic reference and remaking, art after art. It highlights the dialogue between plastic creation and everyday objects, institutional art and industrial products. In other words: “This is not a painting.”

Writing about a tweet of a Vine of an Instagram of a Tumblr post of a Facebook post of a tweet in a newspaper (or on the newspaper’s website), is like exhibiting a multitude of “fake” paintings with no “real” image in an art museum. At first, you’re not sure that you understand, but then, with explanations and context, the whole thing suddenly springs into focus.

In the 21st century, most journalists do not create content anymore, they are more like curators, like those guys at the Pompidou Museum who write the explanatory notices on artworks. Nowadays, the world of media is expanding in multiple directions, becoming faster and volatile as any user can share information through networks.

Consequently, the added value of journalism not only lies in the (verified) facts, but now also depends as much on how they are connected to each other, put into perspective. Being critical about the facts is now as important as reporting them – in content as in form alike. In a nutshell: journalism has become postmodern.

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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