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  • EpilogueWhat Counts as Deep Learning in Korean Studies?
  • Wayne de Fremery (bio)

What counts as deep learning in Korean studies? Certainly, what appears in this special section. How then might these articles help us to think about Korean studies and deep learning? This is a usefully tricky question. The phrase deep learning has become an important double entendre in our time, suggesting both artificial forms of "intelligence" and deeply engaged forms of human knowing. What counts is similarly plural, entailing processes associated with counting (who or what does it) and its consequences, especially who and what are made to count (i.e. matter). The meaning of Korean studies is as usefully amorphous as ever.

What follows is meditative rather than expository. A central hypothesis will hold my attention. It is uncomfortably simple: copies and practices related to copying are foundational infrastructure in the humanities, digital or otherwise, as practiced in Korean studies (and elsewhere). That is, as the articles in this special section demonstrate, a great deal of what we do as Koreanists and humanists concerns copying. Learning, especially the kind we call deep, is formulated through interactions with and as a function of producing copies.

A corollary to this hypothesis, one that I will take up briefly in my conclusion, is that bibliography, that old discipline which can never quite [End Page 300] decide if it is an art or a science, provides tools for counting and considering copies, as well as doing the generative work of copying and making people, places, and things count. Bibliography can help us to think about copies, how we count them and make them count, as well as how we use them to learn. If anything, my meditation suggests an attention to the material objects and processes that formulate some of the infrastructures that support our work as Koreanists and as humanists helps situate us in our community and among others. My hope is that this situational awareness will be useful as we collectively consider the tremendous contributions made by the authors presented in this volume, as well as the ways that we might support and extend their work.

Korean Studies

Benedict Anderson has made the case that nations can, at least in part, be understood as opportunities for individuals to imagine themselves as part of a community.1 He identifies a material mechanism that facilitates this kind of imaginative process: print capitalism, especially the production of newspapers. Implicit in Anderson's analysis is the idea that engagements with copies created with fidelity at regular intervals and at industrial scale can enable individuals to collectively imagine national communities. Korean studies, I've come to think, can be understood in a similar way, as an imagined community. Rather than daily newspapers, copies of journals like this one allow us to image a community of people who share an interest in the contested ideas and geographies that formulate and are formulated by Korea.

Similarly, and perhaps more pertinent to this special section of Korean studies, Korean studies is supported and shaped, I would suggest, by shared practices of copying and considering copies. The deep learning displayed by the essays here is a prime example. Despite their disciplinary diversity—a diversity not dissimilar to the eclectic news items of Anderson's community building mechanism—the research in each is premised on and supported by the collection, creation, and consideration of digital representations of historical phenomena: i.e. digital copies. The digital materiality of these copies and their similarity to the phenomena they copy facilitate the arguments about Korea. This obvious fact helps to make plain how copies serve as infrastructure for the kind of learning displayed by these articles. The digital copies, the specifics of their materiality, together with the creativity and insightfulness of the authors, help to formulate what [End Page 301] could be asserted about Korea and what we, as readers, can learn. And indeed we learn so much!

Just as copies produced with clay, bamboo, stone, or paper have powerfully shaped (and continue to shape) what can be formulated as knowledge, digital copies now powerfully contribute to formulating what can be known and learned. This special section is thus a marker in...

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