Asian Studies Conference Japan

Saturday, June 19 - Sunday 20, 2004
Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University

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 Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Session 6: Room 201

Japan through the Internet: Online Communities, Online Diaries, and Privacy Statements

Organizer: Hendrik Meyer-Ohle, National University of Singapore

In Japan, as in other countries, the advent of the Internet has become an integral part of both social and economic dynamics, and public and private lives. It is especially the linkages between those different spheres that make it a fascinating phenomenon to study. The deluge of new textual material online due to the advent of the Internet has enhanced this aspect by raising interesting new avenues of research. The presenters will offer three studies that utilize content analysis as a methodology to look at the Internet in Japan from different perspectives. Preliminary results show that the Internet has provided an avenue for new ways of presenting social and economic interaction. However, it is supplementing or even replacing existing patterns in other areas. Analyses of such changes are of great importance in adding to the current discourse on the Internet as a causal agent of convergence in an increasingly globalized setting.

1) Leslie Tkach-Kawasaki, University of Tsukuba.
Hi-Tech or Low Impact? Trends in Candidate Web-sites in Recent Japanese Elections

Since the mid-1990s, political parties, politicians, and candidates in various democratic nations throughout the world are increasingly using the Internet as a means of informing and communicating with the electorate, particularly during election campaign periods. Japanese political parties and candidates have embraced this new medium as well, but under circumstances that are rather different from those in other nations. This paper examines how political parties and candidates are utilizing their web-sites during political campaign periods from 2000 to 2003 within Japan's electoral campaign environment which is regulated by the Public Offices Election Law. Trends of growing sophistication on web-sites, multimedia utilization, and other enhancements that are increasingly being used to attract voters show how this new medium is being applied to political campaigning in Japan.

2) Bang Chong Tan, National University of Singapore
"We will install an appropriate person to manage the private information of registered users": Studied nonobservance and privacy legislation in Japan

The rapid growth of the Japanese e-commerce industry has not been paralleled with an increase in privacy legislation to safeguard online personal information. The Japanese bureaucracy has attempted to fill this vacuum by releasing self-regulatory guidelines that were originally promulgated in the United States. However, the results of a content analysis show that Japanese Web sites are still lagging far behind their U.S. counterparts in developing comprehensive privacy policies. The author posits that the unsuccessful emulation of U.S. guidelines is due to studied nonobservance, which has acted as an impediment towards the development of effective privacy legislation in Japan. However, Japanese people have expressed a desire for more laws to protect their privacy online. This suggests that industry leaders in Japan need to rethink their strategy of presenting fair information practices based on Japanese norms. The paper will conclude with a model that attempts to explain why Japanese attitudes towards privacy appear to converge with the U.S. in an online context.

3) Lai Yee Soong, National University of Singapore
"I Love my AIBO, and I Want to Believe that He Loves Me Too": Exploring the Human-Robotic Relationship in an AIBO Online Community

Information and communication technologies have created powerful new expressions of community and brought about new kinds of social groups. This paper examines the function of the Internet as a social space for collective networking and information sharing amongst members of the AIBO online community. Computer-mediated communication often extends to offline interaction, as members of the online AIBO community actively communicate via cyberspace and in real life in a complementary manner. The online discourse generated among members of the AIBO online community reveals important aspects of the human-robotic relationship in Japan as it enters an uncharted dimension, whereby a new breed of robots increasingly assumes animate features and evokes human emotions. The presence of personal robots is augmented by their potential for alleviating demographic pressures prevalent amongst industrialized nations. Contrary to the notion that technology advances social atomization, this paper demonstrates the possibilities technology holds in fulfilling innate social needs.

Discussant: Isa Ducke, German Institute for Japanese Studies (Tokyo)


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