Blog Post

Web 2.0 and Global Flows

I keep asking the question: do you need the Web for Web 2.0? I likethinking about interconnection and networking that is jumpstarted byinternet relationships and then go off line---and vice versa. At the"Global Youth and Imaginative Labor" conference in Tokyo organized byDavid Slater (Sophia University), Anne Allison (Duke, visiting atSophia), and Kyle Cleveland (Temple University, Japan Campus) therewere dozens of great presentations, including "Leaving" by doctoralstudent Alberto Fonseca and photographer Ricardo Yamamoto on Japaneseimmigrants from Brazil returning to Japan. It turns out that there was a major migration of Japanese to Brazil in the 1920s-1940s. Many first-generation immigrants worked hard, became middle-class engineers (mostly), doctors, lawyers, and professors--but still felt like immigrants. Lots then went back to Japan in the 1990s, with hopes of making a lot of money and returning to Brazil. But there were also feelings of identity, a sense that they really were "returning." Surprise! Not only did the bursting of the Japanese economic bubble dash hopes of getting-rich-quick, but, once in Japan, the Brazilians realized that they were Brazilian and not Japanese. Language and cultural barriers were enormous as were the fact that many Brazilians were no longer "pure" Japanese (whatever the heck that means---but, in Japan, it means even more than in the US). So now there are large immigrant Brazilian communities in Japan that live in places like Shizuoka where there are Brazilian restaurants, shops, and a whole infrastructure that is Brazilian and where Portugese, not Spanish, is spoken. I may have the figure wrong (I'm checking) but I was told there are 300,000 Brazilians living in that area alone. (I'm checking to make sure there wasn't a translation error there; that seems like a very high number.) The internet comes in, of course, in that almost every aspect of life between Japan and Brazil is facilitated by global networked communication, capital flows, communication flows, Skype and texting and beyond. And yet, physically, there is a huge separation and, no doubt, yet a new culture of immigrants that is neither Japanese nor Brazilian in Shizuoka. In fact, Ricardo Yamamoto is a BRILLIANT young photographer who is documenting his community in Shizuoka. He and Alberto argue that many of these Brazilians were middle class in Brazil and are now working in working class, manual labor jobs in Japan, with little hope of either moving into Japanese society at large or having the finances to move back to Japan. The are, as Ricardo entitles his documentary photographs of this phenomenon, always and ever "Leaving," never really arriving. I encourage you to go check out his website: If you click on "Leaving" you will see more of the gorgeous photographs below. There is also a video, "Brasileiros no Japao," and other photos under "Editorial." What was so great about this conference were not only the departures from standard academic format (this powerful presentation was also in the Pecha Kucha, 20 slides, 20 seconds per slides, and unforgettable), but the constant reminder that technology is about humans , not about code, and the constant flows between new media and lived lives, on and off line and in the space in between the desktop and the streets. Check out:

 The photograph below is entitled "Juliano and Ricardo."


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