research fields


The term ‘cybercultures’ includes a wide variety of cultural, artistic and technological products, many of which find their origins in the East Asia region. Ranging from the massive scale of the Japanese video games industry (both in terms of hardware and software) to the innovative and exciting developments in virtual-worlds in Korea, East Asia is the international hothouse of cyber-production. However, it is not only the case that East Asia is the origin of culturally-odourless technological products; it is also the case that these products (and the ways in which the various East Asian societies interact with them) are culturally embedded.

Hence, it becomes interesting to ask political, sociological, anthropological and philosophical questions about cyberculture from the perspective of East Asian Studies. Does the explosive, worldwide popularity of the Nintendo DS mean that Japan has become a new centre of cultural globalisation? Or, is it the case that differing aesthetic, normative and thematic preferences will always be a barrier to the ‘Japanization’ of the West (or the Westernization of Asia)? Given the incredible penetration of the internet in East Asia (2005: 86 million internet users in Japan (67% penetration); 34 million in South Korea (67% penetration); 14.5 million in Taiwan (65% penetration); (representing about 34 million people), 5 million in Hong Kong (68% penetration); and 162 million in China (which is only 12% penetration), what kind of cybercultures and subcultures have developed around internet use in that region, and how might they compare with similar movements in Europe or the USA?


The importance and scope of East Asian animanga is beyond question. To take the most famous example only (Japanese animation and character goods): global sales amount to nine trillion yen (about $80 billion). This figure represents a ten-fold growth since the mid-1990s. At the turn of the millennium, the Japanese government officially endorsed anime as one of modern Japan’s principal contributions to world culture. Anime (and its sister art-forms, manga and narrative video games (both online and stand-alone)) are now major cultural forces, not only in East Asia, but also in Asia, Europe and the USA. Not only are these various media increasingly recognised as ‘art,’ but they are also seen as representative vehicles for East Asian cultures more widely, as well as being important media for political, historical, sociological and philosophical expression in parts of East Asia. And yet, serious and properly academic research into these phenomena, and their associated fan-communities, is only just beginning in the humanities and social sciences.

virtual ninja project

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(image from the ‘Virtual Ninja Manifesto’
by Chris Goto-JOnes)

The Virtual Ninja Project seeks to explore the question of whether training for violence in videogames is analogous with training for violence in the 'real' martial arts. That is, when (if ever) can playing 'Ninja Gaiden' or even 'Halo' be understood as an exercise in spiritual cultivation?

Manga competition

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In 2010 Asiascape started with the first in a series of manga competitions: Manga in/as Essay.
Asiascape announced its 3rd manga competition in 2014 asking for (science fictiony) interpretations of 'Kurama Tengu'

alter/native imagi/nations

The “Alter/native Imagi/nations” initiative intends to interrogate “Japan” in an age of global media flow. Japan here serves as a theme that gathers multifarious perspectives and thus offers a productive use of the term “nation”, aimed at the potentials of diversity rather than serving as a unifier or marker of sameness.