by Latoya Peterson
These are the notes for “Do Web Interfaces Have Politics? A Japanese Social Network Site mixi and the Imagined Boundary of “Japan.”” The notes are from a paper by Ryuta Komaki, presented at the Texas A & M University Race and Ethnic Studies Institute’s Symposium exploring Race, Ethnicity and (New) Media.
- Japan based/Japanese language SNS (social network sites)
- Similar to MySpace, Cyworld (Korea), Facebook
- First SNS to target the Japanese market
- 16.3 million registered users
- Invitation only
- Zainichi Koreans and other Japanese-born foreign nationals
- People of Okinawan origin and Okinawan descent
- Some argue that Okinawa was Japan’s first colonial project
- Immigrant workers
- Kikoku-shijo (Returnee children)
- (The Ainu People) – Hokkaido
- “[The] interface feature [of the major portal sites, that forces the user to choose ‘what’ they are, and allows only one choice at a time], enforces a menu-driven sense of personal identity that works by progressively narrowing the choices of subject positions available to the user.” –Lisa Nakamura, 2002
- Asks for the birthplace
- Drop down, no free text entries
- Lists prefectures, then city and township
- poses problems for those born outside of Japan
- Only option for those not born in Japan is (Overseas) then (Countries)
Komaki’s conclusion is that mixi, through use of drop downs and choices, reinforces the ideas and boundaries of Japan, and shows a preference to those born within Japan proper. Many people who live in Japan and have done so for their entire lives have their “otherness” reinforced by mixi. In his paper (currently unpublished) Komaki explains how through the choices provided to users, mixi encourages assimilation and rewards users that “fit in” with the established idea of what Japan should be. Users who do not “fit in” like children born overseas, immigrant workers, or Zanichi Koreans find their networks severely limited and their ability to connect with others compromised.
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