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Representation 2.0

How Amanda Jung is helping young people find inspiration, one story at a time.

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.
Nick Jarvis

There are people online who are donating their brain power and their time, sharing their knowledge to make the world a smarter place. We created the Intel Smartest Brain campaign to celebrate people like Amanda Jung, whose idea won her a laptop powered by the smartest brain for your PC the Intel® Core™ processor.

Growing up in South Korea, Amanda Hyun Kyong Jung never thought about what the people on TV looked like; they all looked like her. South Korea is one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world, with more than 96 percent of the population claiming Korean heritage. Ethnic Koreans dominate movies, music, and pop culture at large. A concept like representation doesn’t bubble up into the general consciousness in a country like South Korea because it doesn’t need to, and Jung never thought twice about who was on a billboard or a concert poster.

Things didn’t change that much even when Jung came to the United States in middle school. She settled in northern New Jersey and Jung was immediately struck by the diversity of her classmates — and how accepting they were. “I didn’t think people were judging me about my skin color because I was put in an environment where there were enough Korean-American students around me, and allowed me to believe that my peers weren’t just viewing me as ‘the Asian girl,’” Jung says. “They saw me as that kid Amanda, who enjoys art and doing creative stuff.” She soon realized that mindset was in and of itself a privilege when she moved to St. Louis for college, where she soon learned many of her peers who had grown up in other parts of the country experienced discrimination.

It wasn’t until she sat down to watch a summer blockbuster that the issue of representation — and what she wanted to do about it — started to foment in Jung’s consciousness. The film in question was Black Panther, the superhero movie that eclipsed box office records on its way to making more than $1.3 billion worldwide and just happened to sport African American actors and actresses in every leading role. The movie was seen as a watershed moment in American pop culture, proving that audiences would flock to movies with diverse casts. Jung was struck by how a superhero movie could so deftly incorporate complicated topics. “I thought it was going to be just another movie,” she says. “But I was blown away by so many different aspects.”

Jung started devouring interviews and looking into how the movie was produced and conceived. She found the movie was awash in concepts like Afrofuturism and Pan-Africanism, and that everything from the costumes to the set design was influenced by actual cultural traditions. Diving into the movie’s background yielded an epiphany for Jung, which led her to think about how she could use technology to address representation. “It hit me like a truck,” she says.

That moment led to Jung’s idea to create a community-driven, cloud-based database where interested parties could access the stories of people who look like them. Users would tell their story, file it under a set of parameters, and upload it to the database where other users are able to search for it. And Jung doesn’t want to limit the database to pop culture, either; she wants it to provide a community-driven platform for those looking for inspiration and role models across industries and disciplines. “This isn’t just for cultural icons or celebrities,” says Jung. “If a professor has done great work in their respective field, I want him or her to tell their story too.”

Jung sees the database as an interface to inspire young students of color or LGBTQ+ students to be able to identify role models across professions, and she sees technology as a tool to make finding those stories more straightforward. “I want to make it easy for people to quickly navigate this repository,” she says. “And find whatever they’re looking for, whether it’s someone who looks like them or studies what they study.”

That Jung grew up in the digital generation also helps her cause. She understands the powers and pitfalls of technology and social media and wants to make sure her community project is leveraging all the benefits of a hyperconnected society. Her generation grew up online, which is why she believes a project that is created with connection in mind will be successful in engaging young people. “These online community platforms where you can meet and learn about people are so normalized now,” Jung says. “I remember spending a lot of time just growing up online, engaging with people and befriending them. I understand what digital communities can do.”

Winning an ASUS VivoBook S powered with an Intel Core i7 processor will be key to getting her idea off the ground, she says. “The new Intel PC is really important [to me] because faster computers allow the iterative process of getting to a finalized product much smoother,” she says. “I’ll need a laptop that’s powerful enough to work as efficiently as possible.”

She hopes that her platform can harness the collective power of community to help young people understand that there are people that look and feel like them out there doing amazing things, whether they’re pop stars or astrophysicists. It’s a project that feels in tune with where the world is headed: more connected, more diverse, more boundless. Jung hopes that her tech-driven database will get smarter and more impactful as more people tell their stories. She wants it to be a place that makes life a little easier for young people every day. “For someone to be able to find that sense of community and belonging — I think that makes the world a little less scary one story at a time.”

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