Friday, February 27, 2009

Defining and thinking about anime

I recently met a student online named Alex Leavitt. Alex is one of the new generation of scholars in the US studying otaku culture, and I couldn't be more pleased, as we desperately need more serious investigations of otakudom (from all angles).

On his blog, Alex posted some interesting thoughts on the meaning of 'anime', especially in light of works like Kunio Kato's La Maison en Petit Cubes, which recently won the Academy award for 'Short Film (Animated)': Reflections on Anime: Animation and the Academy.

Here's my comment on his post:

Hi Alex,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I generally define anime as the following:

Animation created (primarily) in Japan by Japanese creators for (primarily) Japanese audiences.

I use that definition because it's useful to me as both a fan and scholar, allowing me to delineate the aspects of 'anime' (re: context, production, and reception) which I am most interested in. In the end, the word 'anime' is just a container for whatever concepts we want it to hold.

That said, I certainly enjoy (and find important) many things that fall outside of 'anime' as strictly defined above.

In another sense, my definition might be considered less strict than most since it places less emphasis on specific anime styles and genres, allowing us to recognize as anime historically important but stylistically distinct titles (such as Tezuka works, as you mentioned), along with modern Japanese works such as La Maison en Petit Cubes.

Below is a video filmed by Cameron Williamson of AniLogTV, asking attendees of Anime Punch 2008 "What is Anime?" (I'm at the end of the video)

Blogging, Twitter, and Comments

Here's a comment I posted on the blog of my colleague, Henny Swan, in response to her post entitled Did Twitter kill commenting?:

Some additional thoughts (expanding on the excellent points above):

When you comment on a blog, nobody but the blog author, random visitors to the blog, and yourself knows that you commented. I guess I could comment here and Tweet that I did so, but that's two steps instead of one (for both me and my Twitter followers).

It's also hard for me to keep track of all the different blogs where I've commented online. On Twitter, at least, I can look through my own update history to see the things I've been interested in and writing about. Similarly, most web forums retain a full posting history of each user.

We want our impressions to matter; for many of us, that means we it to be part of our recorded history. Others go farther, and want that recorded history to be public. Unfortunately for them, blog comments are easily forgotten and difficult to recover once memory fades.

Blog commenting doesn't usually allow one to keep track of responses. After I respond here, I won't know if you or anyone else responded to this comment unless I make an effort to check back here (forever)? Some blogs allow you to subscribe to comment feeds (via RSS), but that's potentially a lot of feeds to keep track of, and a lot of irrelevant comments to wade through. Mail notification when new comments are posted also results in a lot of unwanted messages, especially if the topic generates a lot of comments.

Finally, I noticed that Twitter produces an interesting curiosity effect. People link to content (often obscured by tinyURL and other such services), and people get curious about it (because of the mystery). The effect is even more pronounced when people publically reply to each other on Twitter, and they're saying things that only make sense in the context of their own conversation, so third party observers find themselves following the Reply trail to see what they're talking about.

By removing context clues, it's like Twitter added/maintained a level of inconvenience/opacity to encourage users to be curious about other people's conversations and have to dig a few levels before getting a payoff (generating a gambling-type of thrill, perhaps).

Following Miquel's lead: twit back on @lawmune

This topic is also related to the alleged death of blogging.