at an opening event of Public Netbase t0 March 28. 1995

Cybermedia-expert, Professor at Kyoto University on:


Nowadays there's a real Internet boom in Japan going on. Two years ago there was almost no access to an international network but starting from the end of the last year there is a real boom and people who haven't shown any interest in international networking are now very eager to get access to this international network. The Japanese culture, as you probably know, is very influenced by the American culture and especially in the field of networking and information society there is a strong influence from the American side. But in the last few months the Japanese are trying to make an active contribution to the international networking and the ministry for telecommunication is thinking of plans how to take actively an initiative for a further development of the information society.

Today I will talk about, and make some critical remarks on the relation of the globalization in contrast to the local community and I will try to pick up Japan as an example to show what relation there is between the global and the local. The world information is now a very important keyword in Japan and information originally meant the total sensory and the feedback between an outer extension and oneself and I have the feeling that today it is going more towards an exformation which means a communication between outer surfaces without including the human in the information concept.

In Japanese there is a word "nasake", which means information to let somebody know ones feeling. But recently there is a shift from presenting a feeling that is a more abstract concept of information. There is now a discussion going on in Japan how this new concept should be and how it is related to the former concepts.
The development of a new media and the increased speed of transferring information brings up a problem of flaring and nowadays with E-mail informations are sent immediately and when you compare this with a former situation for example writing a letter you had to take a pencil and write your ideas down on a paper and during this process of writing it down, there is a distance and a possibility for a feedback. And after finishing, you probably read it again and you may find some points which are too emotional in the first place or not exact enough. So you have the possibility to rewrite it and to have a feedback in the process of preparing some notice or information for other people. But nowadays with E-mail this process is cut short. There is no way or space or time for this feedback and the information is going into the Internet immediately without any feedback. So it's like flaring the information towards the net. I have the feeling that there is only a communication from outer surface and I think it is very important to rethink the concept of body and men behind this surface. So it is important not to see only the communication between two outer surfaces but also to see the person and the men behind it.

Japan is now on the way of a big transformation. Economy, industry, politics and also Japanese culture is making a shift and changing rapidly. It was a country of production and until quiet recently Japan used to be a society which mainly produced things like electronics and cars but that changed within the last few years. In this context it's important to have a look and to consider the role of a telecommunication society.
A man as an unity used all his senses to get information and it's important to have a critical side of Internet and networking because the question arises whether Internet makes use of all the senses and uses all these channels to communicate.

One of the most obvious difference between the Japanese and the Americans is their language and their way to communicate and to use their language. The Internet's global language is English and there is now a discussion going on in Japan, how they, as non English speakers, can participate on this global network and at the same time to reflect on their own culture and the meaning of, for instance, their own language in this global network.

To pick up an example - Godzilla, which is a very representative film for the Japanese people and next year there will be a new American version of Godzilla by Tristar.
It's an coincidence but Godzilla is as old as I am. Godzilla was born in the same year as I was.
You probably don't even know Godzilla but for the Japanese it has a very deep meaning. Starting from 1954 almost every year a new Godzilla film was released and they all reflect the progress of the Japanese society. There is another film series which is called Torasan. It's one of the most famous and successful series in Japan and there is nobody who doesn't know either Godzilla or Torasan. The first Godzilla film was produced in 1954 and one year later there was a Hollywood version of this film coming on to the international market. In the American version there is an American journalist, Perry Mason, who comes to Japan to report about the new monster. That means the film is basically the same, it was only refined and modified for the American market.
It's important to notice however that Perry Mason didn't go to Japan to make any scene for the movie . All scenes with Perry Mason were taken in Hollywood, and then there was a recutting of the film which was released in the States.
I have the feeling that this recutting of special scenes can be seen as the beginning, where this new technology came up, which is now very important in the digital world. We now can make any change with the computer and modify or re-edit a visual picture or scene.
I think that you can say now that the word impossible is without meaning for the producers in Hollywood, with this new technology "everything" can be realized.

The first Godzilla film was made when the rapid economical development of Japan began. The Japanese, as you know, are very influenced in their way of thinking by the experience of the first atomic bomb and the release was exactly at that time when atomic tests were resumed in at the Bikini Atoll. It was a time when the fear of atomic bombs on the one, and economical success on the other side grew.
Godzilla is a kind of metaphor for this unconscious fear of the atomic bomb because it was due to some atomic experiments that this monster was born and its role is to destroy Tokyo as a symbol for the modern live. It wants to say that the process of the economical development is too quick and the Japanese better reflect on their own situation. Godzilla's destroying Tokyo is a positive approach to think about themselves, think about their culture and not to go ahead so fast. Instead of an atomic experiment the setting of the American version was that in former times some aliens came from outer space and the genetic key to revive Godzilla was then found by some scientists and so on.... There was a totally different outset when the story starts.

To pick up another example of the film world - last year the film Lion's King by Disney was very successful in Japan. The original story of this film was written by a Japanese comic writer and the American producers picked up the story without any copyright permission and made this very successful film. The fact, that it was taken over from an original Japanese story didn't stir much interest in the States. Almost nobody knows that and it also didn't have a very strong response within Japan.

These two examples - Godzilla and Lion's King - are examples how quick local based stories can be transferred into a global story and Disney and Hollywood always had a very strong influence from Europe. Disney took many fairy-tales from Europe and then remade the story and modified it to make a global story which supplies to a bigger audience and is not so much based on that local flavor. On the one hand this is a quite fascinating process with this tremendous speed - a local story, or something that is important only for a very limited locality is transferred into a global importance. On the other hand there is also a danger that this local flavor and the importance of local information is getting lost in the global network.

Coming back to the example of writing a letter there is a mechanism in mind to delay things and not to let them out immediately. It seems to me that it is especially important for the Japanese now to refine the technology of delay. The technology of speeding up things is quite developed now and it's important to come back again and to refine the mechanisms of delaying things and to create delayed technology. It's a special feature of the Japanese that they believe if something becomes all the same or all one, that there is a point that everything starts to be destroyed or to break down. For example the incident now, the gas attack in the Tokyo subway from a strange religious group, and the earthquake which was in Kobe in January trigger again these ideas of everything now is becoming one and starts to get out of order.

For many Japanese the idea of Cyberspace is very close to their concept of unconsciousness and to a kind of spiritual place and this is very important for the ideas of delayed technology. It's an important topic now to make a link between these two worlds, the real and the Cyberworld, the conscious and the unconscious world, and to have a technology that enables a feedback and an interaction between those two different worlds.

In Japan this year there are a lot of commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war. It's again one year where they have the feeling that it's an important starting year when some new era will begin and where the topic of Cyberspace and networking is a very broadly discussed subject. The Japanese society is now in a position where they are on the borderline. On the one side they have the feeling that the old order is collapsing, for instance the idea of Asia and its countries. Living in a borderless world, the whole concept of Japan has to be reviewed again. They have the feeling that something is crumbling and breaking down and on the other side their feeling is very strong that something new is coming up and new ideas and new concepts are in the process of formation.
They want to actively destroy the old order. They also want to destroy everything that represents the concept of modernity like nation and industry or the state and regulations. For the Japanese the idea of Cyberspace is important to redefine the role which Japan should play in the common society. The role in the world and the role in Asia. These questions are very influenced by the ideas of Cyberspace.

The question is the relation between the local and the global content in the big concept of global society or community and this leads to the question of the personal identity cause there are two identities - the real identity and the digital identity and it is very important to find a link between them and to see which relation they have. We also need new and more sophisticated technologies because now the tools to go into Cyberspace are very big and heavy and are just a construction and uses material of the real material world to get access to Cyberspace. In the future we have to destroy these material tools to have a direct access to Cyberspace.

For the Japanese it's not practical to have these helmets on. We have a lot of hot springs called Onsen and it is one of the leisure activities of the Japanese people to go to these hot baths to relax and I still prefer to go to Onsen than using these helmets to go into Cyberspace. The outlays for the development of Cyberspace are laid already but it's important to take the human which uses Cyberspace and the sensuality of the body into consideration. Both sides - human desire or desire of the body and digital desire must be taken into consideration and it is a major task for the future to combine both sides and make one unit of desire in Cyberspace. One keyword in the future will be the electric sensual perception and it is a task for the future to have more sensual attractiveness, a stronger bodily and sensual stimulation for the users of Cyberspace.