Blog Post

Parting Shots: Digital Youth East Asia

As a final report on the fantastic Digital Youth East Asia workshop, I provide the following snapshots. These are condensed and unexplicated, simply some tidbits. My notes from the conference fill up seventeen typed pages. It was, as film people like to say, a ?content rich? three days in Tokyo. And, above, some snapshots of Tokyo.

**Joo-Young Jung (Temple U, Japan Campus) presented findings from the collaborative research being done on digital youth in five Asian cities that suggest there is an inverse relationship between the belief that one?s government will ?listen to you? and democratic practice: 39% of Singapore youth and only 9% of Tokyo youth believe they have a voice that?s being heard.

**While, in other countries, interviewees did not mind giving personal information to the interviewers on the condition that it be anonymous and private, that was so invasive for Japanese respondents that the demographic questions were removed entirely.

**Damien Spry of the Uni of Technology, Sydney, noted that because stupid kid behavior gets filmed, uploaded to YouTube, and then appears on the local news, there is far more policing of youth activity than intervention. Old and new media combine, adults panic, and schools are held accountable. Thus more lock-down of schools. [NB: also true, big time, in the US]

Yeran Kim of Kwangwoon U, Korea, wrote powerfully about the role of digitality in the Candle Protest watched by 10 million people largely due to youth personal broadcasting and citizen journalism.

Yoshitaka Mouri (Tokyo U of the Arts) reminded us of the adjacencies of digitality, the range of other cultural transformations, including how a decade ago most people on the trains would be reading newspapers, books, or manga and now it?s all iPods and keitai, the beloved Japanese mobile phone. As an American I am impressed that keitai are rarely heard in Japan. They rarely ring outloud and one rarely hears anyone talking?the conversations are quiet and mostly through texting. Young Japanese are known as ?the thumb generation.?

David Slater (Sophia U) proposed a theory of Labor 2.0 for social networking where capitalism organizes youth creativity into its own products without compensation. ?We?re amusing ourselves to death.?

Kyle Cleveland (Temple U, Japan) discussed the freeta networks, for those without other social meeting spaces, and the political potential of internet representation of marginalized groups such as the burakumin.

Jack Qui (Chinese University, Hong Kong) focused on Have-Less Youth, and ?Gray Collar Workers??cyberlabor, technology workers, gold farmers (who play MMOG?s for middle-class players too busy to keep their games going). He spoke about the Uniden Strike, the Japanese-owned cordless phone company, which was the first work strike in China to be facilitated by a blog.

Todd Holden (Tohoku U) gave us a great new term for digital teens, who, though young, may have more technical expertise than older folks: adolechnics. He also reminded us that Japan had an effective mobile internet in 1999 whereas the US didn?t really until 2002.

Tomoyuki Okada (Kansai U) focused on net bullying via mobile internet by Japanese teenagers and referenced some of Mimi Ito?s demographic work on the less-than-utopic social world online that mirrors (surprise) the less-than-utopic world offline.

Roland Nozumo Kelts (Sophia U) made a fantastic point, referencing DeLillo, about the answering machine as the original dislocative self, capable not only of answering in one absence, but causing the anxiety: what if no one leaves a message when I?m gone? What if I?m leaving a message to someone who isn?t picking up? He also asked the very important cultural question: is the gap between f2f internet discourse different in the US and in Japan? China? Korea?

Anne Allison (Duke U) analyzed Sato Mori?s novel of the hikikomori, the youth who pull away into acute social withdrawal, and whose only interface with the world is online. Mori?s novel became a popular NHK television series, and raises Agamben?s questions of ?social exceptionalism? in the space of digitality. Hikikomori is now not only a social phenom but an industry. My own quick tour of electronics-heaven Akihabara suggests as many tourists go there now to gape at the kids dressed as maids and at the otaku and hikikimori as go to buy discounted or state-of-the-art electronics.

I am sure I missed reporting over this last week on some great papers---there were times when I wasn't taking notes and so much was happening at this beautifully orchestrated event (shout out to the Temple staff:  you did a great job!) that I'm sure I'm forgetting some very important high notes.  Jet lag, there and here, is my excuse for anyone I'm leaving out.

One final snapshot: There was also a pecha kucha?a very interesting form where twenty slides are presented, with only twenty seconds given to each slide?a remarkably condensed, active, and exciting way to glimpse the full arc of someone?s research in a very short time. Unfortunately, my battery wore down by this time and so I don?t have very good notes on the pecha kucha but they were terrific in general and brief whether they were terrific or not. My friend leaned over and said to me as this exciting round of presentations was coming to a close, ?Too bad we don?t use pecha kucha for job talks!?

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