DC to Hong Kong to Seoul in search of the future of Industrialization. First stop Hyundai

    

It was not my first trip to South Korea.  I had already made my maiden voyage in 2017 and landed in Incheon before visiting both Seoul and Samcheok.  During my initial journey, I was fascinated with how modern Seoul was and South Korea, in general.  Seoul is a metropolis of around 10 million people with every modern accouterments you would expect in any metropolis in the world.  It is gorgeous, in the nighttime especially, exceptionally clean, and easy to navigate via public transportation. 

On a Sunday, I took a very comfortable four-hour bus ride to Sancheok, which is a town by the seaside and I saw factories along the way.  I became more enthralled by South Korea and craved to explore more about this fascinating nation, especially regarding its industrialization.  South Korea plays an enormous role in most Americans lives whether they know it or not.  South Korea dominates consumer electronics, especially in the areas of smartphones, televisions, and home appliances.  Companies like LG and Samsung lead the way, with Samsung also serving a huge role as a supplier for Apple and LG supplying lithium-ion batteries for many automobile manufacturers. I even learned that in South Korea, Samsung is also an automobile manufacturer through a partnership with Renault.  I have been test driving vehicles by Korean manufacturers for years; my parents owned a Hyundai Excel in the 80s and my college roommate owned one in the 90s. The convergence  of all this strongly appealed to me. 

    

This year, I was determined to get a firsthand look and get a better cultural connection in Seoul, so I arranged a 5-day stay (which wound up being 7 days as I made an unplanned weekend trip back and even performed).  I coordinated with the great people at sister companies, Hyundai and Kia, to visit a factory and design studio. I would be traveling from Hong Kong, where I was attending the Hong Kong Electronics Fair that occurs every April, and is coordinated by HKTDC (Hong Kong Trade Development Council).

During my first trip to South Korea, I had met fans of music I had recorded as an underground hip-hop artist in DC (Da Great Deity Dah) and wound up collaborating with them to make new music.  I met with my fans again during this last trip and presented them with a CD of our music collaboration that was+ released worldwide commercially.  As an underground hip-hop artist in the 90s, I performed and released 4 albums on vinyl and 1 on CD.  Over the years, these records became incredibly value around the world with thousands of fans posting music on YouTube, selling vinyl on Discogs, and advertising the music on social media, with some copies selling for literally hundreds of dollars.  I had done something unique with my releases by never putting my actual face or image on the packages and instead using a comic book character I created as the image for my packaging.  In the spirit of this, I remade one of my releases, To Take Hip-Hop Back, and created new artwork that incorporated South Korea in comic book form along with the artist I collaborated with.  I was giddy to show my fans, who had now become good friends, this masterpiece and let them know it was going to be available on all platforms and distributed globally.  

   

As I landed in Incheon at this special time, I became excited, as I was now familiar with getting my shuttle bus ticket and arranging travel to the Yeongdeungpo area of Seoul, where I stayed at the Hotel SB. The ride was pleasant and over the weekend I got a chance to hang out in the Hongdae area of Seoul, which is frequented by a lot of American expats. I performed songs from the collaborative CDs with my friends, ate great Korean chicken, and enjoyed the hospitality of my fans as I waited with anticipation for my visit to the Hyundai Motor Studio in Goyang.  I performed at the appropriately named club, SWAG, and was awakened to Korean hip-hop culture.  

The Hyundai Motor Studio is less than an hour outside of Seoul by car and the experience was breathtaking.  I had anticipated some design language stuff and pictures of president and chief design officer (CDO) of Hyundai Motor Group, Peter Schreyer, and his team. What I got, though, was a more in-depth insight into what has been fueling Hyundai Motor Group’s remarkable growth.  

On the ground floor, I got a chance to see Hyundai’s portfolio and saw models like the Grandeur Hybrid, a successor of the Azera that we get here in America, though it has not been announced to be sold here.  I also saw the new Veloster, the Santa Fe, the Kona, the Genesis G70, and others.  Where things got interesting was in the studio where I got a peek at how Hyundai manufactures cars.  I saw raw materials and the process of how they were refined.  I saw robots weld and affix a windshield.  I saw a display of safety features and an interactive display on crash testing.  There was a visually stunning aerodynamics test and I learned how much detail is put into every sound a Hyundai vehicle makes from door chimes to turning signals.  I experienced a 4D cinema and ride along with motocross drivers, saw engines and learned a lot about Hyundai’s powertrains and so much more in my almost 2-hour trip at the studio. The exhibits were great and I left with a newfound appreciation for Hyundai.

 

My experience reconfirmed my confidence in the roll-out of the Genesis as a separate luxury brand that can compete and produce high-quality luxury vehicles.  I left with great anticipation of my visit to the factory of sister company, Kia, where luxury vehicles like the Stinger and the K900 are made.  The story of my trip to the Kia Sohari plant is next in this ongoing series of my global travel to explore the future of manufacturing and industrialization, while also meeting fans of my music and art and engaging in cultural exploration.

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Facebook will publish some of its research on teens and Instagram

Facebook will publish two internal slide decks detailing its research into how Instagram affects teens’ mental health sometime “in the next few days.” Speaking at an online event hosted by The Atlantic, the company’s policy chief Nick Clegg said the company would release the data to Congress before making it available to the public.

“We're just making sure that all the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted so that we can release it both to Congress and then to the public in the next few days," Clegg said of the slides, some of which have already been made public. His comments more than 10 days after The Wall Street Journalpublished an investigation into how Instagram affects the teens who use it. Citing internal research conducted by Facebook, The Journal wrote that “Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage” of teens, particularly teenage girls.

The investigation prompted immediate pushback from lawmakers, many of whom were already wary of Facebook’s handling of child safety, and its plans to build a version of its service for children under 13. On Monday, Instagram said it would “pause” that work in order to create more “parental supervision tools.” Members of Congress responded saying they want the company to end the project entirely. Facebook’s head of safety is scheduled to testify at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the subject Thursday.

Now, Facebook seems to be hoping that releasing more of its underlying research could help address concerns from lawmakers and others. In a separate statement published Sunday, the company’s top researcher suggested that The Wall Street Journal had mischaracterized its research. Clegg went a step further Monday, saying that the reporting based on documents “leaked by someone who clearly feels they have some points to make.”

“If you read the decks, and then compare it with some of the assertions that, you know, Instagram is toxic for all teens and so on, I don't think any reasonable person … would say that the research sustains that claim,” Clegg said. “When the dust settles people will see that we're just sincerely trying to kind of — like external researchers — are trying to work out what the complex relationship is between individuals, given their own individual circumstances, and their lives and their use of social media.”

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company would release “two decks” that were central to The Journal report, but didn’t elaborate on the timing of the release.

But the decks alone are unlikely to quiet Facebook’s critics. For one, Facebook’s own rebuttal of The Wall Street Journal reporting appears to undermine the significance of its own research. “This research, some of which relied on input from only 40 teens, was designed to inform internal conversations about teens’ most negative perceptions of Instagram,” Facebook VP Pratiti Raychoudhury wrote. “It did not measure causal relationships between Instagram and real-world issues.”

It also raises questions about how Facebook will present the data it does make public. Last month, the company released a report on “widely viewed content” on its platform. The report was meant to rebuff criticism that News Feed favors polarizing content. But researchers outside the company quickly poked holes in the report, and said it was emblematic of Facebook’s larger transparency issues, particularly when it comes to working with outside researchers.

Which is why it’s notable that Clegg would invoke “external researchers” in his defense of the company. If Instagram isn’t actually harmful to most teens, as the company is claiming, then researchers not on Facebook’s payroll may be positioned to credibly make that point. Yet researchers say the company has made data increasingly difficult to access. And in some cases, the company has actively blocked outsiders from studying its platform, like when it recently disabled the personal Facebook accounts of researchers at New York University and then provided “misleading” explanations about its reasons for doing so, according to the FTC. (Incidentally, the researcher at the center of that controversy is testifying in a separate Congressional hearing this week.)

They may seem like unrelated issues. But if Facebook had better relationships with researchers outside the company, and made more of its own findings public it might be better able to head off internal critics who “have some points to make.”

Twitch partners with Warner Music to host original music programming

One week after coming to terms with the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), Twitch has signed a deal with Warner Music Group. In partnering with the record label, a first for the Amazon-owned platform, the company says Warner Music will launch dedicated channels for some of its artists, including the likes of Bella Poarch and Saweetie. The label will also create a standalone channel that will air original programming from its IMGN production house.

But if you’re a content creator on Twitch, those are secondary to the other part of the deal. Much like its pact with the NMPA, this isn’t a licensing agreement; creators can’t include music from WMG artists in their streams. As part of the agreement, WMG has agreed to use the new process Twitch recently put in place to allow rights holders to report content. In an email last week to creators, the company said the new system is more forgiving towards individuals who may have inadvertently played music they weren’t authorized to use. 

'Babylon 5' is getting a reboot

Some 23 years after its original run, Babylon 5 is making its way back to TV. According to Variety, The CW has ordered a reboot of the seminal sci-fi series. What’s more, original creator J. Michael Straczynski is attached to the project.

That’s good news because Straczynski penned 92 of the 110 episodes that make up Babylon 5. At the moment, there are relatively few details on the production, but what we do know is that it’s being billed as a “from-the-ground-up reboot.” None of the original actors from the series, including Bruce Boxleitner, are currently attached to the project, but that may change. With its sometimes dated visuals, it can be hard to see what makes Babylon 5 so special. However, in many ways, it was ahead of its time. It told a serialized story long before shows like The Wire popularized the format.

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