2011-2012 Events

theme: Cultural Action and Social Media

From January 2011 through summer 2012, the theme of the Cool Japan research project will be to explore “cultural action and social media.” By social media, we are not referring primarily to particular technologies (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Nico Nico Dôga, 2 Chan, Mixi, etc.) but rather to a way of looking at media in terms of the character of its social interactivity. What kinds of sociality emerge through contemporary transmedia phenomena? How do social connections transform the meaning and uses of media? In what ways does media hinder or facilitate social movements?

Our emphasis on cultural action draws attention to the ways media is no longer something we simply listen to, watch or consume, but rather media is now something we do. Given the the importance of blogs, Tweets, postings, news updates, etc., we can see that the analysis of the “cultural meaning” of media objects must take new forms. Meaning is not contained inside an apparatus of affordances, but rather emerges through social practices, whether participatory or hierarchical, that must be grasped through an understanding of the nuances of the value of social connection. In other words, we are interested in the ways media can be a vehicle for cultural action through collective practice.

Both “action” and “the social,” therefore, become ways of rethinking what scholarly analysis can tell us about the media transformations affecting society today. By considering Japan as an alternative media world, we also hope to problematize some ethnocentric assumptions of media analysis.

event highlights

CULTURAL ACTION: Frontier or Archipelagos?

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Toshiya Ueno (Wako University)
"Avant-Garde Ethnography: Hanada Kiyoteru and the Circle Movement in Japan"

Wayne Marshall (MIT)
"Clowning Around with SoundCloud"

Ian Condry (MIT)
"Virtual Idols, Social Media, and Digital Japan"

Date: Tuesday February 22, 2011
Time: 12:00 - 1:30 PM
Location: 14E-304 (MIT)

with our friends at Beat Research

DJ Toshiya the Tribal (global/tribal/techno stylings)
DJ Ian Condry (Japanese hip-hop mega mix)
Wayne & Wax and DJ Flack (http://beatresearch.com)

Date: Monday February 21, 2011
Time: 9:00 PM - 1:00 AM
The Enormous Room
569 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

"Miku, Beyond the Character: The Cutting Edge of Miku Miku Dance Software"

Discussion and concert film screening featuring:

Ryotaro Mihara (Deputy Director, Creative Industries Division, Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry [Japan])
Masataka-P (producer of Miku songs and videos)
Ian Condry (MIT, moderator)

The presentation includes a demonstration of a prototype projection of Miku live, and a screening of an abridged version of Mikunopolis, Miku's live concert in Los Angeles, July 2011.

Light dinner will be served.

Afterwards, join us from 9:30-10:30pm for a Party at the Enormous Room (567 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, MA [NOTE: Ages 18+ only] in conjunction with Beat Research (http://beatresearch.com).

Meet the Miku guests: president of Crypton, a Miku-P (producer), Japanese government rep, magazine editor and dance with Miku live . . .

Date: Monday October 17, 2011
Time: 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Location: 4-136 (MIT)

"Miku, Virtual Idol, as Media Platform: Transforming Media Creativity"

Keynote lecture: Hiroyuki Itoh (president and CEO of Crypton Future Entertainment)

with additional comments by:
Toshihiro Fukuoka (Editor, Tokyo Kawaii Magazine and ASCII Weekly)
Ryotaro Mihara (Deputy Director, Creative Industries, METI)
Ian Condry (Associate Professor, Comparative Media Studies, MIT)

Date: Tuesday October 18, 2011
Time: 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: E51-345 (MIT)

Brainstorming session to discuss future collaborations with Crypton Future Entertainment

Come join in a discussion of possible collaborations between Crypton Future Entertainment and area students and faculty.

RSVP required to attend brainstorming session. Please contact Prof. Ian Condry at condry@mit.edu

Date: Wednesday October 19, 2011
Time: 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Location: TBD (MIT)

Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World

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A lecture with Professor Mimi Ito (UC Irvine) with disscuant Ian Condry (MIT)

In recent years, otaku culture has emerged as one of Japan’s major cultural exports and as a genuinely transnational phenomenon. In this talk, Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at UC Irvine, discusses how this once marginalized popular culture has come to play a major role in Japan’s identity at home and abroad. “Otaku” refers to obsessive fans, often of anime, manga, video games, figurines, and other character-based media.

Date: Wednesday November 16, 2011
Time: 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Location: E14-633 (MIT)

J-Horror Theater Performance: Hoichi the Earless

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The Japan Foundation is organizing a tour of the remarkable production of Hoichi the Earless, which will feature a Biwa player, a Butoh dancer, and a Saz (Baglama) player. The group will perform the ghost story of the same name, which first appeared in the book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek born Irish writer who later became a Japanese citizen.

Both Biwa and Saz have been used for storytelling for centuries. Biwa player Akiko Sakurai and saz player Kiyoshi Ohira weave the checkered life of Hoichi and the Tale of the Heike. Butoh dancer Kumotarou Mukai adds vivid accent to the stage with his ethereal body movements portraying Hoichi and ghosts. Biwa, saz and butoh – this multidisciplinary collaboration will explore dynamic interactions between East and West, traversing from the mundane to the spiritual.

A character of Japanese mythology, Hoichi the Earless was a blind minstrel with amazing gifts of Biwa (Japanese lute) that later lead him to be bewitched by ghosts of Taira clan. The priest painted Hoichi’s body with the Heart Sutra to protect him from the evil spirit, but forgot to paint Hoichi’s ears, which left them unprotected. When the ghost came to get Hoichi to take him to the other side, he could only see the two ears still vulnerable to evil. The ghost tore off Hoichi’s ears and returned to the spirit world.

At a time when vulnerability, loss, and transformation are reshaping ideas of Japan in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, the Japan Foundation is proud to present the artists of Hoichi the Earless to illustrate the talent and diversity of Japanese performing arts.

Don't miss this opportunity to witness this rare and unique performance. The artists are also performing in New York City, but this will be their only performance in the Boston area.

This event is also part of the Japan-US Cherry Blossom Centennial, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Japan's gift of sakura trees to the U.S. The MIT/Harvard Cool Japan research project is co-sponsoring the events in Cambridge, and would like to acknowledge the support of MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures, Harvard's Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies, the MIT-Japan Program, and MIT Comparative Media Studies.

The presentation is free and open to public.

Date: Tuesday February 28, 2012
Time: 6:00 PM
Location: Simmons Hall (MIT Building W79)

Mobile Gaming in Japan: The First 10 Years and What Comes Next

The history of Japanese mobile games began in 1999, with the iPhone making its debut a mere 8 years ago. In that time, mobile games have achieved astonishing growth and become one of Japan’s key industries. The income of mobile game platforms like GREE and DeNA exceeds even that of Facebook. Why are Japanese so fascinated by mobile games? Presenter Ryo Shimizu developed Japan’s first full-fledged mobile game and has been involved in the industry for over 10 years since. We will peruse examples from Japanese mobile gaming’s history and peer into its future, with a look at the latest social games and smartphone-enhanced developments like 9leap and enchant.js.

Ryo Shimizu (CEO, Tokyo’s Ubiquitous Entertainment Inc. & Director, Akihabara Research Center)

Eric McEver (Technical Evangelist, Akihabara Research Center)

Free and open to the public.

Date: Thursday March 1, 2012
Time: 1:30-2:30 PM
Location: 14N-217 (MIT)

The Illuminator Project: Developing Best Practices for Public Projection Interventions

Mark Read (NYU)

The Illuminator is a white cargo van equipped with video and audio projection, as well as a fully stocked infoshop and mini-library. It is a tactical media tool available to the Occupy Movement, both useful and beautiful. It is a shapeshifter, a transformer of public space which disrupts the patterns of everyday life, and embodies the social and political transformations for which the Occupy Movement continues to fight.

Mark Read is an artist, activist, and educator based in Brooklyn, New York. He is an adjunct professor of Media Studies at New York University. He is perhaps best known as the creator of the "99% Bat Signal" that was projected onto the Verizon Building in New York City on November 17th, 2012.

Date: Thursday May 3, 2012
Time: 5:00-6:00 PM
Location: 14E-310 (MIT)

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