Soojin Kim

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Harvard U.

Grant number

Gr. 10697

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Kim, Soojin (Harvard U.) "Erase the Trace: Digital Data, Personhood, and the Right to Be Forgotten in South Korea"

With increasing awareness of unwanted online exposure, “digital erasure”–a set of practices to locate and remove personal and impersonated online data–is now provided by the state, non-profit feminist organizations, and private entities in South Korea. While digital erasure serves as an immediate and practical means to achieving an individual’s right to be forgotten, the extent to which this right actually leads to data removal remains vague, even contentious. What data qualifies for removal, by whom, with which methods, and for what ends? This project explores the cultural-semiotic renderings and genderings of the sensuous and ideologically saturated category of data “harm” that has emerged as the core criterion for data removal. By combining traditional ethnographic methods with programming skills used in digital erasure, I examine the politics of online data production, distribution, retention, and deletion in the following ways: (a) knowledge production and destruction through labor processes of human-AI machine for digital erasure; (b) the relationship between digital data and cultural concepts of personhood, referred to as data subjects; and (c) the intersection of digital erasure with broader legal, sociotechnical, and gender dimensions at local and global scales. The study contributes to ongoing discussions for data justice in academia and beyond.