Research Project: MyDol and K-pop Loyalty

For this project, I was planning to download the MyDol chat app – MyDol was developed in 2013 as a virtual chat bot that connected people with their favourite celebrities. It is marketed as a ‘sweet virtual chat service’ in which the user role-plays with their chosen celebrity. The disclaimer that comes with the app is as follows:

Messages appearing on MyDol lock screen are virtual & computerised messages. Those messages are not from real idol group/members, but from MyDol Team and users.

 

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Source: (x)

My idea for the project was to download the app and experiment with the AI, seeing how far I could personalise it through our conversation. I also thought I would use MyDol to ‘chat’ with K-pop stars, as that is what I thought the app was specifically used for. I have limited knowledge on K-pop (and Korea) but have always wanted to understand the hype. If I decided to take this route, I would have left the app in Korean and conducted a sub-study on how easy it is to talk with Google translate as an assistant.

However, I never ended up making it that far. When I searched MyDol online I was bombarded with deterrents from various K-pop fan websites that came with warnings about the app. The forum threads discussed how ‘creepy’ the app was, and that (allegedly) the users weren’t talking to robots at all, but there were people running the app spying on the user through the camera and microphone. The app has been compared to Talking Angela, which was a chatterbot app that faced an information hoax in 2013. According to a post that circulated Facebook, the Talking Angela app was allegedly being used by pedophiles in order to find the location of the children using the app.

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The concern for the MyDol app is that the conversations often turn into something disturbing. Forums on the fan websites have reported that the app has described exactly what the user looks like, encouraged users to self-harm, identified the user’s location, and also started unprovoked conversations of a sexually explicit nature. Many fans have speculated that it’s not a bot they are talking to, but rather a hacker that is spying on them through their phone camera and microphone.

The MyDol app is rated 12+ on iTunes for:

  • Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity
  • Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes
  • Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humour

However, the app is rated for ages 3+ on the GooglePlay store. The main concern of older K-pop fans is that younger K-pop fans also use the app and there are no parental controls – and even though users are aware of the dangers, they still want to talk to their idol through the app.

 

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K-pop girl group. Source: (x)

 

From reading through threads on K-pop fan forums, it is evident to me that there is a strong sense of community in the K-pop fandom, even though the members have varying ages. I am also assuming that K-pop fandoms are predominantly female based from what I have read so far – and because it is always male idols that the users are talking to in the screenshots from the MyDol app. Because of this, I want to conduct an auto ethnographic study as to how deep the loyalty of K-pop fans extends, and also why they are a target for hackers – and possibly the prominence of these hacking incidents within K-pop fandoms. And obviously, I will be also be observing a wide range of K-pop music and watching music videos.

From the first draft of ideas above, this project is going to have quite a few aspects to unpack. It follows the ‘layered accounts’ approach to research with autoethnography, as I will be focusing my experiences ‘alongside data, abstract analysis, and relevant literature’ – it is procedural in nature (Ellis et al 2011).

 

Because of this, I want to present this project over three podcasts. I can’t foresee this project being particularly visual, but I’m predicting it will end up being quite text heavy because I will be utilising my user experience on Reddit and other K-pop forums as my main study. My vision (for now) of the final product looks like this: the first podcast will focus on the prominence of K-pop, the second podcast will focus on the hype and loyalty of K-pop fandoms, and the third podcast will focus on the MyDol app and other similar incidents.

For an outsider looking in, there is a lot of content to cover – I won’t be able to do it all, but I’m hoping I can understand a niche corner of the K-pop world.

 


 

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6 thoughts on “Research Project: MyDol and K-pop Loyalty

  1. Watashi wa kerushii desu says:

    Hey Cat,

    First off, this project sounds fascinating, and I cannot wait to keep following it. I’m a huge Kpop fan, and your perspective on this industry that I love is really exciting.

    Second, the way your post is written and structured is great. Ellis et al (2011) say that “autoethnography combines characteristics of autobiography and ethnography”, and to me this post comes off as quite autobiographical. You’ve decided on your field site, and now you’re writing about the epiphanies you’ve had so far (MyDol is kind of creepy, K-pop fans are extremely loyal, etc.), which may not have “significantly impacted the trajectory of [your] life” (Bochner & Ellis 1992), but do seem to have significantly impacted the trajectory of your DA!
    Someone else already commented along these lines, but the way you’re planning on conducting your project (immersing yourself in the world of K-pop, then delving deeper into fandom loyalty etc, and finally looking into specifics like the MyDol app) is also great narrative technique – the three act structure of beginning, middle, and end is the basis of most stories, autobiographical or not.

    As for the project itself, I 100% agree that there’s a strong sense of community amongst K-pop fans. I’ve actually written linguistics essays about that before, where I argued that it was because the K-pop fan community is a collectivist society, and collectivism “stands for a society in which people… are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which… protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty” (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Geert_Hofstede). I don’t know if it’d help, but let me know if you’d like that essay at all!

    Again, this project sounds amazing. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. alexp997 says:

    Hi Cat,

    This is a really interesting project and I can’t wait to see what you may find at the end of BCM320. I have heard of MyDol but I haven’t got the chance to use it, I did use SimSimi though. The idea of MyDol is similar to SimSimi, the only difference lies in chatting with a yellow fluffy ball versus chatting with a K-pop idol. Both apps have been really successful, especially in Asia, although both have recorded many unexpected “incidents” as you mentioned above. While MyDol is reported for multiple happenings where the users feel like they are being watched; SimSimi, on the other hand, is known for its bullying and body-shaming messages (http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/39453778/anti-bullying-campaigners-call-for-a-ban-on-chatbot-app-simsimi).
    Shane Dawson has also made a video about MyDol if you’re interested in learning more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbwR_uHhiI0 (starts from 13:34)

    Personally, I grew up with Korean pop songs and I am still a huge K-pop fan today. So when you say you to explore the loyalty of fans within this community, I suddenly think of how you can truly immerse yourself in the making of K-pop. From my perspective, I think my bonding with the bands stem from me watching them grow from trainees to their debut, plus there are methods that the entertainment companies use to attract fans. One thing I know that in Korea, the relationship between fans and idols is no joke, some fans would even send a cafe truck or a food truck to the place where their idols are filming.

    Here is the finale of Produce 101 Season 2 – a reality show where they actually recruit and form a K-pop band

    In all, this is absolutely amazing and I really look forward to it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. elizaappel says:

    In high school I sat next to a friend in ancient history who was absolutely obsessed with kpop! She would show me various videos and tell me which ones she was in love with. It was my first glimpse at the enormous world that kpop is and it honestly scared me a little!

    Your DA sounds super interesting! I’ve never even heard of MyDol (tbh it sounds like a type of medication) but from what you’ve briefly described it sounds super controversial! I’m really interested into what you uncover from that corner and whether the popularity of the app continues even with all these issues.

    I like how you have planned to structure your DA, Ellis (2011) and our tutors continually drum in the importance of telling a story throughout your auto ethnography and through epiphanies. Starting out by entering the ‘world’ of kpop in your first podcast, your second podcast essentially becoming a part of the fandom and the third podcast looking into niche areas really feels like a consistent narrative of investigation!

    I’m an avid tumblr user I’ll admit, and even though I’ve never been a part of the kpop fandom, it saturates the entire platform! If you haven’t already looked at it, I think you’ll find a great resource there. Various groups trend daily and you can already see the obsession and loyalty that lies with the fans!

    Good luck with this, keen to hear more!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. phiphinguyen says:

    Hi Cat, when you initially talked about this idea in class I was really fascinated by it. The thought of conversing with your favourite k-pop idol sounded like so much fun, almost fantasy fulfilling. After reading this post, however, I started to backtrack, after you suggested that there may be a darker intent behind the app.

    If there is anything I can relate this to, it is perhaps it’s resemblance to the ‘Invisible Boyfriend’ app: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/22/invisible-boyfriend-actual-boy . From this, it’ll be very interesting to see how they interact with you, and if they take on genuine traits of the idol they are attempting to portray.

    In terms of how you are collecting your data, I like that you are taking initiative to immerse yourself in k-pop culture by watching videos and consuming content. In addition to this, I noticed that you will also be observing communities and forums. I feel this would be a great way to showcase a range of skills as an autoethnographer. If it’s any help, I know BTS is an incredibly popular (and relevant) k-pop group, I’m sure there’s an abundance of info available on them! Here are a few forums if you’re interested: https://www.allkpop.com/forum/tags/bts/.

    Finally, just out of curiosity, is there anything you’re particularly looking forward during this project? More interestingly, do you have any outstanding concerns? (I know I would!). All in all, this post was certainly eye-opening and I’m really looking forward to seeing your final project. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

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