Media, audience activity and everyday life : the case of Japanese engagement with media and ICT
This thesis investigates the role of media and information communication technology (ICT) in Japanese society, exploring how, in their various ways of engaging with the media in everyday life, Japanese audiences reflexively 'create' and 'recreate' their sense of self and the social groups to which they belong. Changes in everyday life, linked to the proliferation of media forms and coupled with the communications revolution, underscore the complex relationships between people's lives and the media. The primary aim of this thesis is to analyse the complex and diverse ways in which audiences engage with media in the context of domestic social change and globalisation. I provide an integrated framework for understanding the complexity and dynamism of individuals, social groups, and cultures, replacing the concept of 'audience activity' with 'audience engagement', and the paradigm of the active audience with the paradigms of everyday life and complexity. Further, this analysis of the Japanese audience can serve as a modest step towards the de-Westernisation of media studies. In the process, key Japanese emic concepts are employed, adapting them in ways that reject as myth the homogeneity of the Japanese, in order to highlight culturally specific ways of constructing self and other. Methodologically, the qualitative approach employed is intended to complement the characteristic quantitative emphasis in audience research within Japanese academia. Specifically, the present study is an ethnography of so-called 'modern' Japanese families having in the media-rich Tokyo Metropolitan Area. The research demonstrates how (l) multiple dimensions of audience engagement, (2) the transformation of the notion of uchi (social groups) in a media-rich environment, and (3) the role of media and ICT in the process of self-creation are related to complex processes of globalisation and social change in Japan. From an analysis of this relationship I indicate future possibilities for Japanese society and the future of globalisation addressing the cultural, social, and political question of universalism set against cultural specificity.