Monday, October 12, 2009

Americanization of Japanization

Iwabuchi begins his article about Japanization and cultural globalization with a discussion about ''mobile privatization,” that is, technology that gives people greater choice and mobility. Sony's Walkman, for example, is a Japanese product that became quite popular in many countries. He says that the Walkman and other Japanese consumer products like Japanese animation do not evoke images or ideas of a Japanese lifestyle, “even if consumers know it is made in Japan and appreciate its Japaneseness in terms of its sophisticated technology.” American kids wanted Pokemon or think that Japanese animation is 'cool,' but there is no real appreciation of the culture nor do they really understand the product as a cultural symbol of Japan because as the author later states, “Japanese consumer products don't seek to sell on the back of a Japanese way of life and they lack an influential 'idea of Japan,' unlike the U.S.” The lack of 'selling the idea of Japan' is due to animation directors and cartoonists choosing not to draw realistic Japanese characters. They tend to be modeled on Caucasian types. Is this a Westernization of Japanization? Do animators and producers of technologies think about the ways they can make the products more attractive to a transnational (Western) audience? If so, there is no doubt that these consumer products lose the Japaneseness, and therefore explains further why those young consumers in the U.S. watching and playing Pokemon are not aware of the products' origin, much less of the cultural symbols of the country of origin.

Iwabuchi admits that Japan has been successful, but not in the same way as America. He mentions that the US power has been successful at getting others to want what the U.S. has and what the U.S. wants. Why has the US been successful in attracted others to the U.S. way of life? Can we thank the media conglomerates, including the advertisers, for the ways in which they have been able to spread consumer products, American shows, movies, and broadcasts to people worldwide? Interestingly, Iwobuchi writes that the Japanese media industries and cultural products cannot successfully become transnational players without partners. Later, he mentions that Pokemon was successful with the help of U.S. distribution and marketing. “Japanese animation industry is becoming a global player only by relying on the power of the Western media.” He quotes two authors who point out the strategic patterns of activities for global media corporations, which, are dominated by American industries (2 out of 3). Is there any way to get out of the Western web? The partners Japanese media needs, are they necessarily Western? (Sony did team up with Hollywood). It would seem that there is a trend to try to emulate or use formats and models that work in the West (or join them). The author sums it up by saying that the “global is still associated with the West.”

In Deuze's article about convergence culture, he brings up several interesting phenomenons that are currently taking hold. More specifically, the use of mobile internet devices, social media and a global participatory media culture. The convergence of technologies has made it easier to share information, images, and videos. Deuze writes about 'a new humanism' that is a shift towards a more engaged emancipatory and participatory relationship between media professionals and the public. This kind of participatory culture could possibly ameliorate some of the discrepancies between North/South, not only by sharing information freely, but also in terms of marketing consumer products internationally. I'm thinking about Iwabuchi's article. The Japanese could try to engage with the audience and public to understand what they like and want to consume. If a company wants their products to be popular transnationally, they can chat or interact with Western or South American people, depending on where they want their products to sell. Japan and other countries could become more global, without relying on the West.

In terms of news and information, the convergence of technologies and media-making has made it easier for people with access to these technologies to produce content. Citizen journalism, bloggers, etc. are all prosumers. 'Prosumerism' is a trend that will likely not subside any time soon, but as is mentioned in the article, there is a need for some kind of regulation. Deuze rightly mentions that new media is uncertain and unpredictable. We are overrun by information on the internet from numerous sources. Individuals, companies, and corporations all have content, advertising and disseminate information far and wide. (The other day I got a text from some kind of loan company! I hope this is not a new trend.) There is one word in the article that we must think about, that is trust. With so many content producers and participants, how do we know who to trust?

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