2014年12月31日水曜日

ICHIYA’s POP Eye – Manga

 Pop star, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s “Moshi Moshi Nippon” is an NHK international TV show, which is available with the internet, has my corner “ICHIYA’s POP EYE”. It introduces Japanese cool things every time. Let me introduce some of them. 
  Today’s topic is Manga!
  Have you ever read Japanese manga? Japanese cartoon “manga” is now also popular overseas .
  In Japan, 64% of the published books are manga. 20% of the sales of all publications are manga. I think, at most, only 1% of respective sales in other countries are manga.

  There are all kinds of genre in manga. Sports , SF, Hero, gag, love romance, school life, economy, history, politics, food, science .
  Many people use manga to study. Actually I learned science almost exclusively through manga when I was a child.
  There are also manga magazine genre. For children, for young boys, for young girls, for adults, for adult ladies, etc.
  You can see many adults eagerly reading manga on the train in Japan . This can not be seen in other countries..It is a characteristic of Japan that both adults and children enjoy manga so much. The line between adults’ culture and children’s culture is ambiguous in Japan. Japanese adults might be childish.
  Many people draw manga. A manga festival, the so called "Comic Market" is held twice a year, and many amateur cartoonists exhibit and sell their works.Every time, 500,000 people participate in the event. Through this event of just a few days , total sales reach up to 500 million dollars. This is a scale of 1/ 3 of the revenue of the Japanese film industry .Manga culture is basically supported by the existence of many creators and fans.
  Japanese people read books from right to left. We open books with our right hand.It is the same with Manga, they are opened with the right hand. In most countries, books are opened with the left hand. Then, until several years ago, mangas outside Japan were opened with the left hand just like usual western books you read. So publishers had to re-print them the opposite way, in order to prepare them for export.
  This sounds more trivial than it actually is. It also influenced the content of the actual manga, for example, the original heroes shoot guns with their right hand, but the exported heroes were left handers.
  However, recently, manga fans in the western world tend to want to read manga in the Japanese way, so the western mangas are being printed so that you can read with your right hand. This may be the first phenomenon in the history of western civilization that oppositely printed materials appear on the shelves of book stores except for books for Arabic people.
  Let’s enjoy manga!

2014年12月23日火曜日

Multi x Social of the future

 This is a continuation of the talk show on “social media and multi-screen”. 

“Is social service still changing now?”
 That kind of social service refers to twitter, Facebook, Line etc… All these platforms changes each year, and it does not seem like they will stop anytime soon. How the media environment will continue to develop will depend on the ability of the users. 

 Users in Japan have high abilities in this regard. As Mr. Kawakawi, chairman of NikoNiko Douga puts it, Japanese people are good with Internet and free people who are connected to the Internet for 24 hours have high creativity. Users of more than one million people are building a network society in Japan. I agree with him. That is the reason why Japan currently holds the world record for tweets, why Hatsune Miku can be grown, and how Japan can stir up enough trouble to be referred as the superpower in the internet troubles. 

“How will multi-screen x social change from now on?”
   I do not know the answer to this. This is because just 10 years ago, social media did not even yet exist. What is clear is that Japan is different from the West, as the younger generation will be the ones creating new fields. Whereas the Western world will be led by business in the expansion of new services and products, in Japan teens will be creating new things out of their leisure. 

“How will devices change?”
  The next innovation might not be a screen. The other day, there was a celebration of the TV’s 60th anniversary and 20th anniversary of PC and mobile phone. After that there was smartphone and tablets, following which digital signage became a hit and became what we call ‘multi-screen’ today. However, Smart TV appeared and we went back to the television. I think the next innovation would be coming from elsewhere. 
  For example, wearable computer or robots. Robots or toys subjected to radio waves can show dance and become content. Alternatively, clothes, home appliances, cars can connect to the Internet and communicate. This is not difficult technically. In fab-labs, you can create your own hardware and downsize it. 

“Will it become non-verbal communication?”
  Well, there will not only be communication between people, but also between objects and between machines, so information in itself will increase explosively. That kind of big data world will be contiguous to the multi-screen world which we are discussing right now.  

2014年12月17日水曜日

What is multi-screen living?

 A talk show on “social media and multi-screen”. I was asked what exactly is multi-screen by moderator Dr. Nakamura. That is when I began to realize that different people have different notions of multi-screen. 

 As I am a basic nomad, I move around my house and three offices when working. There are televisions and PC in each location. They exist as multi-screens. However, I only use one screen each time. I am empty-handed during movement. 

 On the other hand, when my son is connecting the Internet to the television, he opens his PC notebook in front of the TV screen, while also tinkering around with his smartphone. In other words, he is using three screens at the same time. My colleague carries around his PC, smartphone, tablet and traditional cell phone while walking around. There are even people using multi-screen in the train. 

 The moderator introduced the business of various devices. For example, continuing the drama you watched on TV at home in the train using a smartphone. Television CM can also be played on the PC in the office or on the digital signage at the corner of the street. It is a single content with multi-screen. This type of multi-screen refers to the case when there are multi devices, but only one screen is used at each time. 

 But I am finding a different kind of multi-screen, as in the case where my son is utilizing three different screens simultaneously. It is a composition encircling a single user with TV content, PC information and smartphone social service merged together. It is a service to deliver multi-content through multi-screen and multi-channel telecommunications and broadcasting.

 Although till now television stations have been delivering programs by broadcasting waves, Internet companies have been delivering websites using broadband network, and communication companies have been delivering mobile content using mobile net, it is not possible for a single user to take hold of everything. The multi-device + channel + content must all be designed in total. 

 Too much is being relied on the user. I bought salad, fried dumplings and pasta from the convenience store and am eating all three at the same time. But this is because it is possible for me to pinpoint exactly my desires as to “what I really want to eat”, the power to edit my thoughts and having the convenience store to make all these possible. 
But what I really want in a cafeteria is for the items which I want to eat at the same time to be packed into a fixed set. I do not feel that editing three disparate screens by myself would be enjoyable and hope that someone would configure them into a single package. 

2014年12月9日火曜日

Participatory Pop Culture Policy

  For policies supporting pop culture, while manga, anime and games are fighting against government, there have been strong opinions that only the private sector has grown and that help should not be provided for the lousy ones. It is correct that only the private sector has grown. 
  Although Japan has built a variety of genres in pop culture in the Internet or mobile phones, they are all quite similar. From now on, I hope that each time a new media technology appears, Japan can make use of its comprehensive strength and create a new pop culture. 
Therein lays an issue where measures should be taken. 
Firstly, Japan is not taking advantage of its present situation. Rather than being a growing industry economically, content is actually shrinking and the production sites of anime are actually facing a dire situation. It is also not possible to be utilized politically. For the young generation situated overseas, Japan is equivalent to Pikachu and Doraemon rather than Sony or Toyota. This soft power is also not being taken advantage of. 
  Also, it is uncertain as to whether the present position can be kept. By definition, pop-culture is an ever-changing culture and it is only natural that it changes regularly. There is no guarantee that pop culture today will be the pop culture tomorrow, and we must always be prepared that it may get replaced by other pop culture from within or from overseas. So does Japan possess any mechanism to permanently create a culture and allow it to continue growing in perpetuity? I do not think that we can say so. I think that the government should consider this as a priority and have this mechanism to enrich the soil. 
   Criticism against the content policy is often directed towards the ‘budget’. For example, there have been calls “to not use taxpayer’s money at all cost!” As subsidies are given to the industry, each time the money flows to where something is wrong, there will be criticisms or calls to put aside the person-in-charge. I am personally also opposed to industry protection and am often hesitant towards such industry measure budgets. However, money is necessary for infrastructure development (digital environment) and human resource development (education). 

  However, one can say that the ongoing criticisms against the government has arisen due to the fact that they are not able to gain the people’s trust in their ‘discerning ability’ to allocate how much resources and to which policy. It is reasonable to say that politicians and bureaucrats are not able to tell the good and bad for the content. Organizations with authority, such as the councils, also tend to have a prejudiced view. 
  It will be ideal if we are able to think about ‘everyone’ in the pop culture which is built by built by ‘everyone’. Although I am not sure how effective if selection is done by having elections through the Internet, I feel that a policy that is of participatory nature is being demanded today. 

2014年12月2日火曜日

The Rationale for Pop Culture Policy

 It has almost been 20 years since content has become one particular policy genre. The government has turned up the gear and launched Cool Japan and pop culture with top priority.
 However, should one talk about pop culture policy, without hearing the content, there will often be arguments like “I don’t think this country does this!” Although manga, anime and games can be said to be popular overseas, it has reached at most to the level of “sub” culture yet and hence one will be replied with a cold gaze if it is used as a subject for discussion. 
 The Cool Japan concept was conceived when Mr. Douglas Maggurei first wrote it in his book, ‘Japan’s Gross National Cool’. Havard University Professor Joseph Nye, advocator of soft power, then suggested that Japan should make use of its strength in pop culture. Hence, rather than being a concept conceived out of Japan’s self-evaluation, Cool Japan is actually a discovery made from outside the country. Domestic sentiments were indecisive.  

 But why is a pop culture policy necessary in the first place? We need to organize the circumstances behind this. 
First, it is adopted as an economic policy. Whether it is anime or music, popular content can be made into a business. We can leave it alone if that is the case. It should have completed its targeting policy. However, the ripple effects that are felt by Japan due to this, such as favorability and a sense of longing, which economics would term as ‘external effects’ cannot be counted in business. The socio-economic benefits that should be obtained from content production are too miniscule. I will enhance this policy. 
 As a consequence, rather than being an economic policy that aims to boost sales of the content industry itself, content is seen as the catalyst that aim to improve industries as a whole, such as appliances, food products, tourism etc. 

 Secondly, it is adopted as cultural diplomacy. The soft power which Professor Nye is suggests, is the ability to attract other countries with culture in an international relations context. I recently held a lecture to dozens of PhD students in Peking University on media policies in the midst of a shaky Japan-China relation. 
 At that time, I received a number of questions regarding pop culture trend from the audience. I am sure everyone will like pop culture. Pop culture subjects like Naruto and One Piece is an effective subject to stop quarrels. 

 However, it still remains a challenge as an evaluation index is still not available. Stanford University was once planning a project in Japan Centre to develop a GDPP (Pop Power Index) but as there were insufficient sponsors, the project was not completed successfully. This is something I would like to try to do again. 

2014年11月25日火曜日

TV turning SMART

 Much attention is currently on high-definition television standards, with 4K (full high-definition) and 8K (Super Hi-Vision). High-definition models are also on display at CREATEC and InterBEE, standing matchless together with SMART TV.

 I have been focusing on Smart TV. While the 4K and 8K technology is a technology to make things look beautiful, the Smart TV is a technology for convenience. Beauty or convenience? While it is ideal to achieve both, there are restrictions on available resources. 

 Terrestrial Digital Broadcasting has achieved a beautiful and convenient television. It is high-definition and it can be used like a computer. The next question however is, “4K or Smart?”. There are people who are convinced that 4K will be a trump card for struggling Japanese manufacturers in the industry. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is also probably holding high expectation for this. On the contrary, I personally believe that SMART TV is the destination we should go for. 

 In any case, television has become much prettier with Terrestrial Digital Broadcasting. Many families have bought new television receivers to replace their old ones. Do they need more beautiful images on the TV screen now?
 Hearing from some cable distributor companies, it seems that high-definition HD transmission has not yet exceeded 25%, and that there is still a lot of room for improvements for past SD images. But do we really need more high-definition pictures? 
 On the other hand, Terrestrial Digital Broadcasting has not been able to achieve the point on convenience. Interesting services only available in digital has not yet been developed. Instead, this part has been surmised well by smartphones and tablets.  The fusion of TV and smartphone can create new rich services, and created new businesses beside traditional TV advertisements. We are able to see new needs and market from here. 

 At the same time however, there are still much more that can be expected from 4K and 8K as they play a driving force for open data and digital signage. I think this is promising considering that businesses might consider the commercial use. 4K business might appear faster than Smart TV broadcast. 
  A more compelling need however, might be the big data utilization of videos. If we are able to obtain fine images by extracting, processing and analyzing data taken from surveillance cameras as a mechanical system instead of the traditional visual approach, the potential usages would widen.  Hence, I feel that the applicability of ultra-high-definition quality of 8K would align more for machines rather than humans.  

2014年11月18日火曜日

TV stations turning into offensive

 There was an article saying that YouTube is turning into a television. It is said that YouTube is adopting the following three measures: channel organization, video increase, and strengthening of advertisements. It has been nine years since YouTube started its services in 2005, and YouTube has been earnest in its efforts to become a PC-based media television. While this will increase competition in the television industry, cooperation is also likely to increase. 

 This is inevitable. First starting as PC-based, tablets and smartphones have gotten popular in the last 5 years, and Smart TV has also appeared in the last 2-3 years. This corresponds to the changes we see in the media industry. Also, television-based advertising forms the biggest component in advertising, at 2 trillion yen which consequently has become the focal point of businesses. 
 The competition will increase even more. Apple, video delivery service Hulu and movie service Netflix, both created by American television stations, have started to put more emphasis. Japanese TV stations are also beginning to be put more focus on such services. The seat for this platform of bundled services is being contested, with each competitor seeking to establish its dominance as soon as possible. 

 TBS, Asahi TV and Fuji TV have started their video streaming on YouTube. TV stations are beginning to dwell into the fusion with communication. The TV stations have a reason for doing this. Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting is now complete and TV replacement purchases have been done. But honestly, how is it? Images are now more beautiful but are they really much better? We are demanding convenient and interesting service which can only be gotten from digital broadcasting. It is a direction towards the usage of smartphone and Internet. 
  Competition has also become much more intense. As it was once a golden business in the past, getting into Internet advertising was out of many businesses’ strategy. However, as the advertising market started to shrink, many businesses decide to go ahead with social media and Internet. We have reached a stage where defensive has turned into offensive. 

  I am sure we will continue to have TV screens. However, TV programs in real-time will likely decrease, and the use of multi-screen will increase at the same time. How much position will TV station content occupy as the diversification of recorded programs, online content, social services and others continues? 
  A television does not only have programs, but also radio waves. Even with digitization, it will not work well if the same programs are being broadcasted still. Newspapers, magazines and other social content have other uses when they are digitized, with business opportunities expanded. I hope the TV industry can also put more emphasis in this regard. 

2014年11月11日火曜日

My beloved light from Kolkata


 Kolkata, known as Calcutta in the past. Until 1911 when the capital was moved to Delhi, Kolkata functioned as the capital of India for a very long time. Being the most chaotic city in India, it exudes a mysterious energy. 


  I wandered into the dim market. The stench of meat, internal organs and skin of beasts. Fresh blood is flowing under my feet like a river. Herds of black and white goats are tied together. Many chickens in the net are making noises. A group of men are fielding them silently. Killing them at this place, cleaning up at this place, and selling them at this place as items. Slaughter, dissection, selling them as meat and also a small side business.  “Fresh, fresh”. I was pressed against the meat. Certainly, it was very fresh indeed. 


Heads fell as “Ha!” creped out from his throat. Every morning 20 goats are offered as sacrifices. This proceeding is witnessed by Hindu devotees watching gratefully. Besides that, five young black goats that were slashed were lying around. They seemed to eat the bodies. In this Kali temple, there is a pond for bathing and a statue of Lord Shiva is nestled on the edge. The person in charge of the temple beckoned to me. I wonder what it is. “How many of you in the family?”. “Four of us.”, I replied. “In that case please pay 4000 rupees, thank you”.  Why?


Cars laden with loudspeakers and terrifying-looking women, with onlookers surrounding them. They occupied the road and the horns became more and more intense. Protests seemed to be occupying the city in response to the group rape in Delhi. Mother Theresa began her activities in this street, where passion seems to suit this place very well. However, leaving the hustle and bustle one step back led to a morass where a man is crouching on the edge. He was not taking a break, but trying to avoid the wear of his movement. Quietness, sitting still, is being thought in the majority of the days. Well no, as there were also several people moving around. They fished with poor fishing tools, staring into the quietness around. 

  The roads that I know of in Japan are always clean and peaceful, where begging and plagues are gone, brawls and angry voices are reduced, odors are removed, and horns cannot be heard that often. Will Kolkata become like that in the future? That might happen. Nonetheless, I feel that the chaos in the city cannot be compared to anywhere else in the world. With a population of 5 million people in this ancient civilization plagued with tremendous poverty, hope for growth is swirling around. This glitter, clean and peaceful, changing into a smile must be a lovely thing for Kolkata, for India, and for Japan who hopes that it can be a source of energy for India. 
  But to me, this glare, this alien world, is reflected in an irreplaceable beloved light. 

2014年11月4日火曜日

I learnt about MIT Lab again

I was once a member of MIT Media Lab, known as the mecca of digital technology since the 1980s. Former director of Media Lab, Frank Moss has authored a book titled, “MIT Media Lab”. It is a book deciphering the relationship between universities and the digital world today. 

However, viewing from the conventional image of Media Lab, we can see considerable change in its form. Rather than focusing on media, Media Lab has been focused on robotic prosthetic leg, discovery of incurable diseases, city cars. Rather than media development, the organization is more inclined to the beneficial public application of digital technology. Have we come to the limit of media development? 

In retrospect, the book (used in Kindle) also introduces examples where Media Lab has penetrated the real world, such as e-Ink, Lego Mindstorms, and $100 personal computers. It was 2001 when my group proposed $100 PC. We do not hear much of the results of the lab since then. 

However, the digital realm has developed explosively in the past 10 years, such as multi-display, cloud network and social services. This has changed the PC, mobile and Internet environment 10 years ago. 
Within this media upheaval, Google (Stanford), Facebook (Harvard) has shown output but what has Media Lab produced? To be honest, isn’t it in deep distress as you would expect from a famous lab?

Ten years ago, I published a sketch of Media Lab titled, “Toy Box of the digital world”. At that time, there was a lot of excitement in the research field. By the way, as there is a preface of my humble book here, please take a look to get a reference of the atmosphere at that point of time. 

http://www.ichiya.org/dtb/1e.htm
On the other hand, we are in a situation where large companies are abolishing their research departments. Dr. Negroponte, the founder of Media Lab, mentioned that “it is more effective to invest in MIT than creating a research department”. Will there be any chance for you to come to the university again? Or changing the scene, will you go towards a different direction if you are not able to go back to university with the company’s money? 

2014年10月28日火曜日

Brilliant students from Peking University viewing Japan

 I visited Peking University at a time when the political issue concerning Senkaku Islands was smoldering. I was asked to conduct three series lectures about media policies in Japan. The target audience was made up of 20 PhD students. Here are their questions and my quick answers. 

・What are methods to make the government release information to the public? 
  Institutions regulating the government, such as the Freedom of Information Act are basic methods that give the right to claim to the public. However, due to the movement of open data in recent years, there are also methods to urge for the government and local bodies to work with the private sector. It is a sunshine policy that can encourage the government and bureaucracy, while also giving due credit to departments that have shown good results. I think this is more effective in the case for Japan. 

・Will the privatization and restructuring of NTT spread to other industries?
  The privatization of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation and Japan National Railways has been carried due to other cases such as in the case of the postal industry, where privatization has encouraged and spurred greater competition. However, it is important to note that the applicability varies depending on the competitive environment and technological progress. Although improvement of the competitive environment for the power industry has become an issue today, triggered by the nuclear issue, it does not mean that the same analogy can be applied here as well. 

・Will automatic translation technology improve the presence of China? 
  According to a research conducted by Technorati in 2007, blogs around the world are in the following languages: 37% Japanese, 36% English, 8% Chinese. The reason why Japan was number one in the world is due to information being readily shared by youngsters using mobile phones. This time, as I was walking in Beijing, I realized that many people are using smartphones. By estimates today, more people are going to use the Chinese language in the future, right? Also, information in Chinese can be automatically translated into different languages and be circulated around. Hence, presence of China will definitely be raised. 


・What role do universities play in fostering new industries?
  Japan has not been able to achieve results like the United States, where universities like Stanford, Harvard and MIT have created platforms from numerous IT companies and services. We require not only traditional education and research, but also social and economic platforms which can function as a breeder reactor for industries of the next generation. I hope Peking University can also work with us to create something new. 

・What about the strengthening of copyright protection that is robbing Japanese of learning opportunities? 
  I know that some of you are learning using free content like anime. In Japan, however, we have more constraints. But from our perspective, the protection laws in China are too weak. There are also many problems if you look at the perspective from right holders in Japan. As the amount of content flowing across national boundaries is increasing at an exponential pace, international coordination is now an important issue. We hope all of you can think as a leader too. 

  I am sure there will be more political issues that will shake our countries’ relations in the future. What can we, as academicians achieve in such circumstances?  I would like to discuss this with everyone again in the future. 

2014年10月21日火曜日

At an Elementary School in Nepal


Situated at an elevation of 1330m, a city with 5 million people. The capital of Nepal,Kathmandu.

It is a town where there are more gods than people. Overwhelming Islam, 80% of the people belong to Hinduism, a religion which flowed from India. Across the Himalayas, Buddhism from Tibet constitutes a 10%. Indigenous faiths are also mixed together, forming a very unique Newar culture. 36 different communities reside together. 

The GDP per capita, at $650, is smaller than Tottori Prefecture and the country is considered to be one of the Least Developed Countries. Power outages happen often. The country functions like an old Switzerland, specializing in a mercenary industry which sends troops to overseas regularly. It is surrounded by great powers and hold mountain ranges which seem to serve as the roof of the world.
  However, a hot air is surging. The vulgar hustle and bustle of this city which I love so much is similar to Hanoi, Istanbul, Xian and Casablanca. As the population is bigger even when compared to Osaka, I can always feel a rush of energy gushing from this city. 

  I visited a public school called Shree Rudrayanee Secondary School. Spectacular rice terraces appeared in front of my eyes, where mothers can be seen picking the harvests. At the other side, the white continuous summits of the Himalaya Mountain can be seen. Walking through the village and the gates where 260 kids aged 4 to 16 are greeting me enthusiastically, I began to realize that the building looked like it was going to collapse and it had poor facilities. 

However, the children were all dressed in fine English-style uniforms, with striped neckties and black leather shoes. They all spoke in English. It seems that public schools in Nepal are like this. 
They looked straight into my eyes without worries. They looked at me using the computer as if they had never seen anything like that before. Thank you everyone for playing together with me. Thank you for the 2 year-old Sanjey who ate my business cards. Let us meet again somewhere, sometime.

2014年10月14日火曜日

The re-union of Internet and TV

 The Internet & TV, broadcasting & communications. The linkage process has begun in full. The IT and electronics exhibition, ‘CREATEC’, was in a single ‘Smart’ color. Various types of smart televisions can be seen there. Digital broadcasting has not only become more beautiful but also smarter. The combination of television and internet, together with television and smartphone has led to a more interesting and convenient lifestyle. This is no longer at a proposal stage, but a realistic service that is being offered today. 
 Not only smart televisions, there are also smart appliances, smart houses, smart city and others. Information-related industries like communication and makers are apparently exploring new strategies under the name of ‘smart’. 
 Manufacturers of consumer electronics are exhibiting TV with Internet support. Unlike Samsung’s Smart TV or Google TV where you can enjoy content from the Internet on the TV screen, new multi-screen linkage models like TV & smartphone or TV & tablet were exhibited. In addition, smart houses which include home appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines were proposed, and a smart city concept which is linked to electric power supply was also advocated. 

Similar to CEATEC, in the broadcast exhibition ‘InterBEE’ which is held in Makuhari every year, IPDC forum that I serve as the representative manned a booth there. As the main leader in the broadcast station, a concrete image of the multi-screen control technology was shown. In particular, the result of “Multiscreen Broadcasting Committee” which was established and centred on broadcast stations in Osaka was show cased. 

IPDC is a mechanism in which double screens like televisions, smartphones and tablets can be covered with a single radio broadcast wave. This is a method whereby broadcasting stations are able to control everything. That is why broadcasting stations are paying more interest in this compared to the Internet world. 

The challenge that we will be facing from now on is mass production of the corresponding receiver. In order to achieve this, it is important that the Japanese digital broadcasting system work together with countries that have adopted ISDB-T, such as Brazil and South America. International interactions have suddenly become an important issue. I am currently promoting international cooperation strategies with the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. 

  The convergence of communications and broadcasting have been discussed for 20 years. I feel that a concrete image has come into view at last, with digital broadcasting done and smartphones and tablets appearing.  

2014年10月7日火曜日

I will do my best for open data.

 I want to expand the possibilities for big data. I want to make big data safe and convenient for the society. I want to stimulate the economy with big data. 
  This can be achieved through open data, a movement where governments and local governments, for a start, can start publishing public data for private sector use to give rise to a new information service. 
  I am currently participating as a Director in the “Open Data Distribution Promotion Consortium”. Different ministers who are not in good relationships such as the Cabinet, General Affairs, Education & Science, Labor & Welfare, Agriculture & Fisheries, Economics & Industry, Foreign Affairs and Finance are coming together around a single table to discuss about future public policies. 

  In this Consortium attended by the different ministries, leaders of local governments, corporations and research institutes, I will act as the chairperson for utilization and dissemination, promoting development examples and information dissemination. The committee is open and is replayed through the Internet. 
  Although open data has started to get more attention, it still remains to be too technical. Considerable dissemination efforts are hence still necessary for the entire nation to regard it as an important issue to be tackled. It is important to gather successful cases and share them with everyone. 

As such, there are three points which the Consortium should seek to accomplish. 
  The first is to create a business model. The only incentive for information provision and sharing right now is to reply on good faith. I want to create a ways for companies to be profitable. 
  Next, I want to reduce the negative points. This can be done by fostering a sense of security. As data becomes more and more open, there will be increasing anxieties and sense of resistance. I would like to disseminate information with privacy protection properly done. 
 Thirdly, I want to continue the collaboration between the industry, academia and government. I hope the government will not only release data but also funds. I hope it can play a role in the rise of private sector by offering capital funds. This does not mean industry support policies, but rather industry development policies and infrastructure development measures.  

2014年9月30日火曜日

The Possibilities of Big Data 2

 This is a continuation of big data. ‘Individual’ can be placed along with ‘infrastructure’. Not only limited to the business field, it is also possible for individuals to take advantage of collective wisdom. 
Services that leverage on integrated content by collective knowledge, such as Cookpad, Kakaku.com, Weather News and others are getting more and more prevalent. Big data might expand Web 2.0 into unprecedented levels, into Web 3.0. 

Based on my calculations, within the 10 years from 1995 to 2005 when digitization first started, the amount of information available has grown by 21 times, and while it is still accelerating, part of it can be attributed to big data. Content = a viewpoint which incorporates people-to-people (P2P) and machine-to-machine (M2M).  

  By the way, “Big Data is Changing the Business” advocates the fact that the use of big data in the public sector, such as in education, medical and public administration spheres. Within education for example, big data can allow education to become more sophisticated. Different people can create different teaching materials, integrate them, and provide the most appropriate teaching material to each student. This is an example of collective wisdom. Field trials in the utilization of big data are required. I would like put a new theme for big data with digital textbooks and movement of teaching materials. 
  Big data is also important in the medical and health care business. However, as the data type of medical records between each hospital differs, there is a fundamental problem of not being able to consolidate inspection data. Although millions of medical information has been integrated in Europe and United States, it has been pointed out that the process is still insufficient in the case for Japan. 
  The obstacles present in this field might pose a bigger challenge when compared to the education field. Although national ID is required for the utilization of big data in government, Japan is still the only country that has not introduced this within developed countries. ‘My Number’ is also not implemented yet, right? 

In the book, three shocking data is published. Based on data provided by Professor Fukao from Hitotsubashi University, investment in information and communication per GDP is at 5% and has increased from 2003. Japan, on the other hand, is at 3% level and has been decreasing since 2001. Although usage by the general user is high, usage by companies remain low.  

According to the white paper on telecommunications published in 2009 on deviation values in information and communications utilization among the seven major industrialized countries, Japan is ranked first in the transportation and logistics business. However, it is also the last in the business management area. This is very shocking. It is a serious issue that IT literacy in the management level is low in Japan. 

  There is also a shocking data from McKinsey which reveals the fact that North America has 5000 petabytes, Europe has 2000 petabytes and Japan with only 400 petabytes in the amount of information accumulated in 2010. In terms of accumulated amount, Japan is only 11% of North America. Both the industry and government in Japan has not realized the importance of information.
The biggest problem is within ourselves, which is for us to recognize the importance of information and data. This is indeed a big challenge.

2014年9月23日火曜日

The Possibilities of Big Data 1

 Big data. By analyzing huge amount of information rapidly coming out every second with smartphone or sensor, one can create new values in various social and economic aspects such as in business, health care, crime prevention or urban design. Besides data such as weather, geography or road traffic, other information shared by people through social media, footages from security cameras and other data are increasingly being regarded as a mountain of treasure due to its explosive increase. 
 This is a buzz word, and also has increasing potential as a keyword. However, a clear definition does not exist yet. At present moment, it is best to give a loose definition such as “accumulation of huge amount of information” without narrowing the possibilities. 
  Besides enriching the society, big data is also expected to expand business opportunities. Leaving that to promotional publications, I will focus on the following two possibilities, “infrastructure” and “individual”. 

  Firstly, big data as a form of infrastructure. 
  As it is possible to estimate demographics by time or region by using data gathered from mobile phones, this will be very useful in disaster prevention and urban planning. Big data itself is being used as a form of social infrastructure. 
“Just like how the United States invented the Internet in preparation of a nuclear war, Japan which has experienced large earthquakes and brought trouble to the world with nuclear issues, has a responsibility to create an infrastructure for the next generation to withstand future disasters.”
“Although the Internet was uninterrupted in the previous earthquake, Japan must continue to lead in the development research in face of threats of future earthquakes to come.”
  These thoughts might be vague, but rather than designing a new communication network, what is required is to shape urban designs by taking advantage of big data. 
Smart City shares information from different kind of sensors through M2M (machine-to-machine), and is a concept which utilizes big data in the entire city. Japan might be a little late in this kind of approach but it is precisely what must be addressed first in the country. 
According to Shuichi Inada, professor in University of Tokyo, previously from Ministry of Affairs & Communication and author of ‘Big Data is Changing the Business’, Japan is a ‘sensor superpower’ that is using ¼ of the world’s sensors. That is something to be expected from an ubiquitous society with eight million gods. Despite sensors lurking everywhere, they have been not used strategically. However, this still presents itself an opportunity waiting to be explored. 

2014年9月16日火曜日

Nation-wide use of ‘My Number’

 The introduction of tax and social security number, ‘My Number’, by the law “on the use of ID in identifying specifying specific individuals in administrating proceedings” have finally been established, with preparations currently underway. 

However, there are many people who are afraid of this. Accordingly to governmental surveys, 46.9% chose “Depending on countries, citizens will be monitored with the national ID system”, 36.7% chose “By impersonating or forgery, personal information may be peeped or used illegally”, and 27% chose “Personal information is likely to be leaked”. However, speaking of nation-wide monitoring, monitoring can also be done today as passport and licenses are managed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Police respectively. On the contrary, one will not be able to leave the country if passport is not managed by the relevant authorities. Even for information of name and adress leakages, will we really be in desperate trouble? For someone like me who has realized how convenient life has become after the conception of the Internet, I cannot justify how its merits can be crushed by criticisms founded on vague insecurities.
  Of course, it is important to build a system that people can feel at ease with. How much costs will be incurred is the issue. For example, the negative effects of personal information protection can be seen in cases where an emergency contact network cannot be created, hospitals cannot reveal the list of victims in an accident to the police, or when local governments cannot pass information to the Ministry of Civil Affairs Committee to follow up cases on home abuse. These are all ironic cases where more insecurity is caused due to actions which call for more assurance or security.

The balance between convenience and an ease of mind is equivalent to the balance between public and protection. As ‘My Number’ is a computer/IT system, the fear issue and convenience is similar to the Internet. Similar to how I am always looking to extend the convenience of the Internet, I am interested in spreading the benefits of ‘My Number’, rather than focusing on how it can be give people a peace of mind. 
  Hospitals, schools, banks, relocations, post offices, net, mails. There are many fields to consider even when focusing on public areas. Asset management advice to collectively manage financial and fixed assets. Exchange of medical data between hospitals. In addition, registering an ID once and using the same ID on other sites, and utilizing a variety of private services on the net with an open ID. 

Research done by Nomura Research Institute has estimated that an e-government with ID system will lead to benefits of 3.8 trillion Yen, and if this ID system is employed by the private sector, the economic benefits are expected to be at 10.5 trillion Yen. Given that there is considerable anxiety even just within tax and social security, there might be resistance to a widespread implementation. However, in that case, it will be difficult to justify the benefits associated with tax and social security only with the high costs needed to build the system. I think the huge costs would be unbalanced with the low benefits. 

2014年9月9日火曜日

Intellectual Property Strategy: Infrastructure Development and Overseas Expansion

 Content Policy of the Intellectual Property Division. Digitization and networking (infrastructure) and Cool Japan (overseas expansion) as the two pillars of advancement. 

1 Digitization and Networking 
  Digitization and networking is in full swing for the 20th year, expanding business opportunities.
   Over the past decade in particular, more attention has been placed into content, and with the amendment of the Copyright Act, various policies have been adopted in response to digitization. However, despite the explosive increase in content use and information production, expansion of the content industry appears to be shrinking. In addition, with new media innovations in recent years such as multi-screen, cloud networks, social services, digitization and networking has entered a new stage.  
  Within this context, the Japanese content industry is also not winning in the global competition in platforms. The country has been late in the production and use of content in fields such as schools and government. 
  In order to continue the development of new industry and culture in response to worldwide digitization and networking, it has become necessary to go beyond structural conflicts between users and right-holders, hard and soft, and create comprehensive institutional designs and new fields. 
  This means executing strategies by promoting content as the driving force of the Japanese economy and culture. It is hence important to prioritize such policies. 

2 Cool Japan
  It has been 10 years that the phrase ‘Cool Japan’ is used. 
Contemporary Japanese culture has won the hearts from people around the world under the ‘Cool Japan’ concept. This is not only limited to manga, anime, games, but is also expanding to fashion, food, traditional crafts, and tourism. In addition, attention has generally been focused on industrial design, service level, family-run businesses, lifestyle and other economic or cultural fields. 
 It is part of the government’s mission to connect this soft power with economic growth. As a method, outbound approaches such as strengthening of information dissemination in media and events are important. In addition, putting in people and technology into the breeding reactor of industry culture in Japan is also another method.   
  Although efforts have been placed by both government and the private sector to come up with policies which cross competitive industrial fields such as content and fashion, the results are in full-swing only from now. It will be important to show these results. 

2014年9月2日火曜日

Content to be converted

 Intellectual Property Division Content Specialist Committee. The committee bundles government policies on content and forms action plan, known as the “Intellectual Property Plan”. The division was formed 10 years ago, and I have been working as the chairman for five years, being involved in intellectual property planning. 

 Looking at the flow right now, while the world content market is expanding by 6% every year, the Japanese market is expected to shrink. On the other hand, based on my calculations, information dissemination in Japan has increased by 30 times in the past 10 years. With the increase in activity in M2M (machine –to-machine) and big data, this increase can be expected to move at faster pace. 

 However, according to McKinsey, information that has been ‘accumulated’ in Japan within the past 10 years does not exceed 11% of the volume in the United States. Although there is indeed new information, these are not stored as intellectual properties. Big data is also not being leveraged. Although traditionally, countries are set in their pursuit of industrial scale expansion, it has become important to also look at information amount and behavior. 

 The content policy has changed within these three years. 

1 More than the copyright system, policy moved from a defensive to an offensive stance with developing projects.

2 Infrastructure rather than entertainment: more focus is put in infrastructure and human resource development. 


3 Overseas expansion beside just domestic. 
 I believe this direction is correct. 

 There will emphasis on the following three in the future:

1. Strengthening of overseas expansion
Drastic measures such as buying media frame overseas and abolishing import restrictions are needed. 

2. Development of domestic infrastructure

 This is a long-term, bottom-up plan. Full implementation of digital textbooks, open data: A big-boned policy such as making government-owned data open and free for usage is necessary. 


3. Government integration
  Due to government integration in the past few years, all eight ministries such as the arts, general affairs, economics and others have been coming together around a single table to discuss about future initiatives. This might be the greatest achievement that has been attained in the past 10 years. I would like to continue advancing this. In particular, the combination of content policy and IT policy is a point which we should consider. Political power is also required for this.

2014年8月26日火曜日

The founding of the Japan Social Game Association

 In November of 2011, the Japan Social Game Association(JASGA) was established.
 The market for social games is expanding at a very rapid pace. However, this has brought on a situation in which problems stemming from the usage of such games among the youth, as well as various anxieties and social problems are making themselves known. Due to this, we have started efforts to improve the situation through self-regulation. I am serving as the General Manager.
 The three points we would like to emphasize in our efforts going forward are as follows, 1. Self-regulation of social games,  2. Educational outreach for youth,  and  3. Efforts to improve the quality of customer service.

 In the past, I didn’t have as strong of a connection to private industry as I do now, but I had the same misgivings about industry’s efforts at developing a youth policy as I did for the governments’. As per usual, the consumer bureau moved according to regulation. Though on the other hand it did move to answer the legislature’s questions for it.  
 I also had the chance to speak with someone in the government. Both the sides said that they wanted to encourage self-regulation and keep government intervention to a minimum. 

 A debate was started about whether or not an industry group should be created and I joined in as well. Various rules were passed and the organization was incorporated as an industry group, eventually culminating in the creation of an independent council of directors. This allows us to act as an industry representative, taking responsibility and dealing with problems out front in plain view, while at the same time providing a neutral platform for developing strategies to counter them.
 There’s a lot to do. And no guarantee it will go smoothly. But taking action is what’s important. In addition, I want to embark on an exercise that will help industry achieve large growth. In the 1980s and 90s, both Nintendo and Sega, seeking a mutually beneficial relationship between commerce and society, engaged in efforts toward this end, including donating large grants to MIT towards international research on games which could improve children’s futures. The social gaming industry is already taking on such responsibility as well.
 Social games improve communication ability. They bring forth rich communities. This organization has been established in the hope that even more such new cultures and new industries will be brought into being.     

2014年8月19日火曜日

Moving towards loosening regulation

 Bureaucracy is a single word, but it is colored by a variety of different government offices. The Ministry of Finance (MOF) is the final authority in weighing the pros and cons and determining the budget for every other government office. It smilingly bends its ears to petitioners and ruthlessly collects head. METI is a band of hunters, opening new divisions lacking in any authority. They are a prosperous people with eternal venture spirit. 
 I originally hail from the MIC, myself. The MIC managed the postal system, as well. Salesmen bowing their heads as they hawk ten yen stamps. Legwork is more important than brainwork. Wandering to and fro across the land with a lumbering walk. It did wonders for my complexion.  
 I worked exclusively managing communication policy. Making data transmission freer, negotiations concerning the US, internet policy. I was doing nothing but deregulation. You would think that Japan’s bureaucracy would be aware of the fact that it needed to let go of some regulation, but this was not the case.
 Japan’s policy on telecommunication underwent a progression of deregulation in the 90s, until ours was the least regulated system in the world. This had less to do with the national interest than it did with bringing publicity and recognition to the system itself. 
 By letting go of authority, they were able to stimulate the private sector and were supported by both media and industry. This in turn ensured high evaluations for the people in charge and offered benefits in terms of human resources as well. In the end, such motivations became the driving force behind deregulation. 
 I was one of the people in charge of implementing deregulation, but certain divisions within the office were pursuing the policy with such abandon that one wanted to tell them, “Enough already!” and that they have to stop. 

 This is a point often misunderstood, but, because deregulation if fundamentally the elimination of rights already held, from a logistical standpoint it tends, in many cases, to result in a large workload than strengthening regulations does.
 After taking the decisive step towards deregulation, things would go forward as long as the people in charge were poised to gain a boost to their reputations. Conversely, even if the office fell under criticism, the only result would be pulling away from the public eye. We need a reliable mechanism to evaluate the offices responsible for the work.

2014年8月12日火曜日

Anti-flaming strategy from the New Media Risk Association

  With the rapid spread of social media and the evolution of devices such as smartphones, the risk of using the net has leapt upward precipitously. The frequency of flaming incidents is said to triple yearly. In addition to the fact that a message only needs an instant to spread across social networks, smartphones give anyone the power to easily contribute photos. These trends are poised to accelerate in the future. 
 And employee snaps a pic of a celebrity visiting their store, and the business’ site is flamed. A company president makes a reckless comment on twitter and the corporate site is flamed. Criticism of a television station spills over until even the sponsors are drawing fire. A staff member’s astroturfing email is discovered on social media, and becomes a problem. The various incidents of flaming and information leakage follow many different patterns. It isn’t only that a company might draw criticism for something that happened there, but that it may find itself negatively impacted by the offhand remarks of an employee, and even individuals who’ve done nothing wrong may find themselves taking a lot of heat. 
 Baseless rumor can spread across the internet in an instant, developing into a large problem. For businesses, this is a life-or-death problem that can threaten their very existence. Universities, too have seen their brand fall due to comments by students. In a technological or organizational sense, it is possible to conceive of responses to the issue, but this alone cannot be relied upon. We must cultivate within individuals and organizations the strength to respond to such problems on their own.

 Just as high school girls a decade ago were already tapping out text with only their thumb, Japan is the world leader in the number of internet users, with young and old alike sending and receiving information. A study revealed that among the worlds’ blogs, Japanese was the most often used language. 
 Thus the tendency of problems to arise. Japan is the world leader in flaming, its network users also leading the world in the more problematic aspects of the internet.
 It goes without saying that social media sites can bring large socio-economic benefits. In order to ensure that we reap the greatest reward possible it is important that individuals share information and work towards polishing a strategy against risks such as flame attacks. 
 To that end, the New Media Risk Association (NRA) was established in 2012. I am acting president. The NRA’s roster includes everything from businesses and local government bodies to universities, and in addition to sharing plans for prevention and damage control, we offer certifications in response techniques.
 Going forward, we’d like to build an active and safe information society. 

2014年8月5日火曜日

The shock of seeing Korean Education go Digital

  Digital textbooks. The government has put forth the goal of creating a “one person, one device” learning environment by the year 2020, and MIC and MEXT are cooperating on administering a pilot program in 20 elementary schools. Even so, Korea has done much better. Plans surrounding the implementation of digital textbooks are five years ahead of Japanese efforts, and the learning environment is built around the assumption that its students are digital natives. 
 The background to all of this goes back to 1997, when Korea, treading close to a dangerous run in with the IMF, developed the will, in both public and private sectors, to find their way forward through education and technology. They have certainly made good on concentrating resources in these two areas. Korea is ranked first among OECD countries in technological literacy (Japan is ranked fourth). Utilization of technology dominates teacher evaluations, and they are passionate about developing educational materials. 

 If you walk the grounds of a Korean school, you will be met by the sight of teachers and students using tablets and smartphones to the full range of their capabilities, integrating them in the classroom without instruction or training, and all of it a common, everyday occurrence. Currently they are migrating from a system based on use of PCs, to a mobile system that is based on tablets. Rather than just noting their progress, we need to pay some attention to the ways in which the Korean approach differs from the Japanese approach.
 The Korean approach privileges content. Digital textbooks, which is to say, apps and content are arranged in the cloud such that they can be accessed without regard to which device is being used. It is a very different image than the “one person, one device,” hardware-focused plan being embraced by Japan. 
 They plan to make all apps and content accessible by any device by the year 2015. As cloud-based content races ahead, a plan which is designed to work with any device is far outpacing Japan, still weighing the pros and cons of introducing PCs into the classroom.

 Even more surprising is the fact that Social Networking Services (SNS) are being introduced in to the school environment. At the public school I visited, students used Korea’s official school SNS, “CLASSTING,” to post pictures, and share summaries and their thoughts on classes using Evernote and Google Docs. Teachers communicate with students and their households over not only CLASSTING, but using Facebook and twitter as well. In addition to students being able to access practice and review at home using the computer, their parents are able to check the contents of lessons in real time. 
 The example of Korea, with its two features, a system built around the axis of social media services, and open connection with student’s households, parents, and guardians, it’s probably safe to say, is the newest release. The future is here. 

2014年7月29日火曜日

A mantra for a Culture Ministry

 There is currently a debate about creating a Committee on Broadcasts and Transmissions, or “Japanese FCC.” The idea arose in the latter part of the 90s, and I resigned from the government in opposition. Afterwards, I have continued to voice my opposition as the debate continues to recur. This is because organizations like America’s FCC, France’s CSA, and the United Kingdom’s OFCOM, when viewed with a mind for the realities of Japan’s politics and political administration, pose the danger of encouraging an out of control bureaucracy. Establishing such an organization in Japan would likely move us toward strengthening regulation. 
 In addition, even as we are in surrounded by the detrimental practice of vertically divided administration of entities such as computers and intellectual property, the establishment of a Japanese FCC would give rise to even more vertically divided organizational structures. Rather, what we need to do now is create unity, and eliminate vertical division.
 Because of these reasons I am opposed to the creation of a Japanese FCC and instead propose the establishment of a new organization, a Culture Ministry. 
 That is to say, create a new Ministry which would bind together MIC’s Broadcast and Telecommunication departments, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI)’s Devices, Software, and Content Administration, the Agency for Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Inheritance Administration, and the Cabinet Secretariat(CAS)’s Headquarters for Information Technology and Headquarters for Intellectual Property into one organization. In addition to this we must strengthen information-sharing and cooperation between other major government bodies and policies such as the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism(MLIT)’s Film Commission Administration, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ “soft power” policy.
 The common thread that runs through all of these organizations is “culture.” Japan will make its way in the 21st century on intellectual property and cultural capital. The new organization would shoulder the burden of raising the creative power and expressive abilities of the people, raising up new cultural industries, and laying in place the network that will form the foundation for all of it. “Culture Ministry” is a fitting moniker. 
 The Culture minister will be selected from among the public. The private citizen appointed as minister will be people who will consider the voices of those who have sought to maintain neutrality when it comes to the political issues surrounding broadcasting. It would be preferable if their names were known to the world, individuals such as Yoko Ono, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Haruki Murakami.
 It does not seem very likely that this organization will actually be created, but the results of promoting the idea can already be seen. MIC, Ministry of Education (MEXT), and Agency for Cultural Affairs have been coordinating with each other to create policy on the matter of electronic publications. Concerning the informationalization of Education, MIC and MEXT have been cooperating admirably to move forward research efforts. CAS, MIC, METI, and MLIT have been working together on the issue of Open Data. On the Intellectual Property Headquarters’ special investigative committee on content, representatives from nine government offices are competing to put forth policy proposals which have the same objectives in mind.
 The goals I wished to accomplish by advocating for a Culture Ministry are already on their way to being completed. Even so, talk of creating a Japanese FCC has risen, zombie-like, time and time again, working against these accomplishments. For that reason I find myself still a target of criticism today, find myself still repeating over and over to myself the mantra, “Let’s establish a Culture Ministry.” 

2014年7月22日火曜日

Does IT have a role to play in revival?

  March 11, 2011. A day which called for a change in IT policy. Very shortly after the earthquake, I saw that, rather than “recovery,” what was needed was a more long term “revival,” and that rather than reviving IT, it was important to direct our effort towards using IT as a tool in the larger revival. In line with this, I published three suggestions. 
1. Plan to re-establish networks.
The net played an active role post-disaster. The power and influence of packet transmission was definitively demonstrated for the first time. Going forward we will need a new media environment. Just as US has advanced their research and development in the IT field as they pursue preparedness for nuclear war, Japan should conduct research and development into methods of successfully facing natural disasters, and in doing so build a stronger nation. 
2. Transmit information abroad.
Immediately after the earthquake, reports in the international media praising Japan for its calm and resolution were in the forefront. However, the response to the incident at the nuclear reactor that followed caused Japan’s image to suffer. Let’s make sure we send accurate information. 
3. Promote increased use of information technology.
Although it is said that people were able to make use of the net in the disaster area, usage among the elderly is very low. We must address the disparity in information distribution, and promote information literacy through a comprehensive educational program. This policy is necessary not only for the areas affected by the disaster, but nationwide. 

 This is just one example. At the time, many different individuals were entertaining a wide variety of suggestions. I wanted to create a place for such people. With this in mind, immediately after the earthquake, I held the “IT revival roundtable” conference at Keio University. Approximately 50 people participated in the roundtable, with backgrounds including politics, government, industry, the press, and academia. A proposal entitled “Provision and utilization of information technology is necessary for Japan’s revival. Let’s use all our efforts to make this possible,” was crafted, and entrusted to the political parties and to the current government. 
 However, this was criticized. The critics claimed that the discussion had not been at all adequate to the task. Because of this, I sponsored a 7-part web series covering 1) administration, 2) media, 3) transmission, 4) the social aspect, 5) volunteer, 6) politics, and 7) synthesis - putting it all together. I was the chair. 
 Each time the deep debate could be seen by all. “The decentralization of authority and transfer of power are necessary for revival. On the other hand, future disaster response efforts will require centralization of power. Government authorities which have been vertically divided must be consolidated. We ought to learn the lessons the earthquake has taught.” This opinion has left an impression on my memory.
 The IT Revival Conference has concluded for the time being. The party in power has changed once again. However, the road toward revival is but halfway traveled. We will continue to consider this problem as we move onwards.  

2014年7月15日火曜日

Good going, Asia.


 Verdant paddies dotted with ponds, stretching out across the land, slowly crossed by oxen as they valiantly labor. Amidst the humidity which hangs over it all, rice is being cultivated.
 Upon entering the city of Hanoi, one sees... A playhouse built in imitation of Opera Garnier. A church which looks a bit like Notre Dame. Loud and incongruent houses in the western style. Vestiges of French rule can be seen all over.
 Youth gathered on the sidewalk, the seats so low they seem to be squatting, eating box lunches they’ve set beside them on the bench. A family sitting on the bare ground, gathered around a rice cooker. People eating rice. Dogs. Cats. They have all staged an occupation of the sidewalk, and it is impossible to pass. A glance upwards is met with the sight of countless telephone wires. Some of them are snapped and have fallen to the ground.
 Good going, Asia.

 Countless bicycles approach from the other side of the street. A pointless klaxon blares. Were the 3 people on that bike that just cut across the street children? Old women balancing baskets on a pole front-to-back, shouldering an umbrella, as you often see in those Vietnam War movies. The baskets are full of large melons and papaya.
 Under a low ceiling of dark grey clouds, a marathon being held on the shores of Lake Hoan Kiem. Scores of police officers in green uniforms stand at attention along the route. To the side of them, some elderly stand as well, lighting up thick bamboo pipes and puffing the smoke. Runners, as they pass through it all. Runners, clad in uniforms of red, yellow, blue. Half of them barefoot. Run, keep running.
 Good going, Asia.

 Fruits in a riot of colors. Dragon fruit, litchi, durian. Perch, mullet, eel, catfish, snapping turtles, in buckets filled to the brim with water. Quail, frogs, pig’s feet. Fruit and vegetables and fish and animals alike, a brilliant sight spread out before one’s eyes. It goes on and on, they sell just like that, skinned and cut into chunks. In the midst of the heat and humidity, under the shade of the thick tropical canopy which forms the ceiling overhead, all of it is fresh, lively, clean, and vibrant.
 Good going Asia.

 Hanoi resident Ain says, “Japan? Yeah, I know Japan. Doraemon, Dragon Ball, Conan, Naruto, Pokémon. Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest.”
 Pretty quick with those answers, aren’t you? Can you name any famous Japanese People?
 “Hidetoshi Nakata. Everyone knows him.”
 That so? 10 years ago, as well, when I visited Morocco, local kids would come up to me going “Nakata, Nakata.” And here we are, and Japan still equals “Nakata”? Does that mean that we haven’t created any new heroes in a decade?

2014年7月8日火曜日

The ubiquity of Machine to Machine

   Recently, the term “M2M” has begun to be heard with fair frequency among the more digitally inclined. P2P, Peer to Peer that also actually means person to person, represents communication between individual people; conversely M2M stands for Machine to Machine, indicating a connection between two objects. In other words, glasses and clothing, desks and chairs, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners, cars and traffic lights, will all one day come equipped with computing ability and a network connection that allows them to send and receive data. 
 Consider “Bits meet Atoms” spoken about by Dr. Negroponte, founder of MIT Media Lab. The concept of combining atoms (objects) and bits (information) was first implemented in the 90s with atom→bit. This was the internet. It was when the basic stuff of reality: work, life, play, became something one could do on the internet. 
 And in the 2000s, we can look forward to the reverse of that trend, bit→atom. Information is crossing back into the Real World.  No matter where we are, the information of the internet can reach us. It has become ubiquitous. 
 It’s 25 years since Dr. Mark Weiser, former scientist at XEROX, provided a notion “Ubiquitous Computing.”  15 years ago, as part of that model, that brought attention to wearable computers, and suggested a number of goggle-type displays, though they never caught on, even though it would have been hands-free computing. It was most likely a matter of fashion rather than a matter of the technology. Sufficiently cool wearables never materialized. 
 But, more than that, ubiquity is about the possibilities that we see emerging from a category of infrastructure which is not dominated by fashion and design on all fronts. It is the insertion of the digital into objects such as signage, equipped as part of an outward facade, as well as municipal power supplies, made up of smart grids managed by information technology. 
 When it comes to bringing the digital alive in objects, Japan’s qualifications as legendary are high. 8,000,000 gods are quietly inhabiting every little corner, after all. Because life dwells within all things. That is why we can accept digital pets, vending machines on street corners which greet you with “Welcome!” and turnstiles which silently open and close in response to tickets generated by “digital wallets” no matter what cellphone they originate from. 
 If we go by data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the amount of data being transmitted in Japan has increased 30 fold in the last 10 years. Estimates for the next 10 year predict a further 300-fold increase in the amount of data worldwide. The growth rate is explosive. But this is all person to person communication. If we consider the connections in machine to machine communications, assuming 100 machines for each person, that would be 100 x 100. A far greater increase in information. Things will certainly be lively from now on.

2014年7月1日火曜日

Japanese Creativity

  “The world’s most creative country, Japan. The creative market, Tokyo.”
The results of a survey conducted in April 2012 by Adobe. It was a shocking report.
http://adobe.ly/IH8hPE (pdf)
 The investigation comprises the results of surveying 5000 people in the US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan. Outside of Japan, Japan was rated the most creative, taking the top spot with 36% (the US was in second place with 26%). Pop culture, fashion, dining, in each of these categories, Japan pulled out ahead. In terms of things like finance, IT, and Hollywood, America has been out ahead of the world, displaying its creative power in the world of business, but I believe if we see expressive culture as not a matter of a small segment of creators, but in terms of the ability of every citizen to create, that Japan clearly surpasses the US in this matter.
 Among the cities rated, 30% picked Tokyo for the top spot (New York 12%, Paris 15%).  Tokyo is made up of many communities such as Ginza, Shibuya, and Akihabara, each illuminated with their own vibrant color. No matter where you go in the city, public toilets meeting the highest standards in the world have been prepared for use, in the spirit of hospitality. You can dine on top quality cuisine from around the world. And I doubt there there’s another city with quite so many Italian and French flags flying. And your wallet will be safe, even if you lie down for a nap on a train platform bench. It’s no wonder that people are paying attention to the creativity that is radiating from an environment like this. 

 There were, however, two worrying points in the report. 
 The first is that Japan’s self-assessment was low. Compared to the ratings of other countries, Japan alone did not think that Japan was a creative country. In fact, the rate of self-evaluations as creative was in the lowest bracket. Although 52% of Americans thought their own country was creative, only 19% of Japanese did. 
 It is difficult to evaluate yourself, and difficult to become your own driving energy. The self-generated spark needed to utilize the power of pop culture is pretty hard to draw forth. Even in this most recent survey, we see the tendency towards an inability to make fair evaluations of the things which are your own. 
 The other bit of bad news is the result that states “Japan ranked last among those who believed that creative power would be the key to economic growth.” Really? Then what do they propose we use? Japan doesn’t exactly possess natural resources or cheap labor. The resources are in Arabia and Russia and China, the labor is in China and India, so what should Japan do? It doesn’t look like we’ve got anything to trade on but our knowledge. Nothing but our creativity. 
 In the 80s, America was losing to Japan in terms creativity when it came to cars and home electronics, but in the 90s they made a comeback with IT creativity. What kind of creativity will Japan utilize going forward?