Alter/native Imagi/nations

new media space - the technical side of workshop 1

Recognizing the search for the conditions of an alternative not only as a theoretical perspective, but also as a profoundly practical agenda, one goal of this first meeting was to actively explore the possibilities contemporary media open for global academic engagements and their dissemination to an equally global, participating audience.

In concrete terms the three participating groups (Tokyo, Leiden, Duke) were connected via videoconferencing, a private ustream feed, as well as a Skype connection. Choosing Leiden and Tokyo as nodal points allowed us to bring together in one discursive space two geographically separated research environments, concerned with similar questions about Japanese media environments and their larger implications for society. Beyond the exploration of themes and questions common to our diverse topics, we aimed to negotiate spaces apart with the help of a broad range of media technologies.
The setup had several limitations. Whereas visible to the “native” group, presenters were generally not visually represented during their presentations to the other group, which was confronted with the audio feed and transmission of the the visual presentation materials.
Nevertheless, this mediated space provided a stable conference atmosphere between the two groups with live and clear video/audio feed, to the extent that our Duke participant Patrick W. Galbraith could be assimilated into this setup with ease, although the connection was slightly delayed and limited his abilities to interact with the other participant to chatting during most of the workshop. Vice versa, this chat channel provided a platform for Japanese-English interpretation of discussions and presentations, a feature that could potentially be employed more centrally in real-time, public feeds. This additional layer of mediated interaction encouraged participants and spectators to anticipate or question arguments and assumptions, and intervening in the workshop format on multiple levels, at times resembling the increasingly popular “tweetcasting” of academic presentations and other occasions of scholarly knowledge reproduction. Apart from the spontaneously evolving, multi-medial discourse the setup facilitated, it may be noteworthy that silence was generally not experienced as awkward moment, but was rather taken for granted due to the setup. The experiment has shown that connecting two parties and even an additional individual participant is possible in a productive way, as the exciting discussions that dominated the workshop suggested.
In a more general sense, this “semi-virtual” character aims to empower representatives of a transnational network of scholars who understand their engagements with media and Japan as a continuing contribution to the global field of critical media studies, oriented towards political implications of an ever more complex, diversifying but also converging, media landscape. The value and importance of face-to-face encounters is beyond doubt, and we do not intend to reduce one to the other, nor insist on their equal aptitude or commensurability. Yet, in a disciplinary field plagued by time zone differences, and simultaneously rooted in a stubborn conception of interiority versus exteriority (of the field, object of study, etc) the search for technologies and techniques that do not merely supersede but transcend conventional academic interaction is all the more important.

The persistency of online forms of presentation also enables and encourages continued interaction with the material; thus this publication, with the kind support of Asiascape, is also an interactive documentary and as such not a conclusion, but rather an intermediary step to invite broader participation. In this sense, we aim to experiment with the potentials and challenge the limitations the common separation between the “speakers” and “audience” holds.

workshop 1 - Japanese Media Spaces and ‘Japan’ in Crisis

Bringing together diverse perspectives, “Alter/native Imagi/nations: Japanese Media Spaces and ‘Japan’ in Crisis” provided a dynamic space for producing and mediating a broad range of questions, or “gaps,” which made apparent not only the difficulty of bringing together so diverse an array of perspectives, but also the potential for a collaborative inquiry out of which new scenarios might emerge.

workshop 1 - contributors

Sten Saluveer
Miho Aida
Mari Nakamura
Carl Li
Love Kindstrand
Martin Roth
Patrick W. Galbraith