Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

Dispatches from Cultural Typhoon

Been away from the academic conference circuit for a bit, so it was nice to go back and hear conversations that included words like “alterity” and “intersemiotic.” Did that thing where I saw some people that I knew from way back when but didn’t remember their names, so we just kind of made half-eye contact and then went about our business.

All in all, a good time–friendly people, a student-run falafel kiosk, and a really gorgeous location (International Christian University, near Musashi-Sakai in the western part of Tokyo, a campus that seriously has more stunning greenery than Shinjuku-gyoen). Some interesting points from a few panels:

Beverly Curran, ICU. “Convivial Comics! Intersemiotic Translation and Multi-Dimensional Reading”

An examination of three comics: the Japanese manga “Death Note,” Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis,” and Art Spiegelman’s “Maus.” Specifically, the ways in which language and translation play out in those comics. “Death Note,” for example, features a notebook dropped from the sky that’s ostensibly written in English, but even the name scrawled in English on the cover, “Death Note” is a Japanese-English word (the proper English would be “Death Notebook”). “Maus” features an older character who speaks a kind of broken English that uses strange words here and there–for the Japanese translation, they rendered his speech simply as “oyaji” (old man) Japanese. And in “Persepolis,” various countries made slightly different choices about how to handle the multiple languages featured in the comic. Ultimately, an interesting look at how the comic format deals with both the translation of words and the arrangement of images.

Larissa Hjorth, RMIT University. “Co-Present and Ambient Play: A Case Study of Mobile Gaming”

While this wasn’t the primary focus of the talk, what really fascinated me was the way in which mobile phones have essentially become an extension of human bodies, particularly for young people. And the ways in which the constant recording and “capturing” of images and video is an attempt to turn the temporary into something permanent, or to “own” and control other people (particularly when it comes to social media, where a lot of young people place so much value on the number of “likes” an image or video receives). And the fact that, of course, people are recording HUGE amounts of random stuff that HARDLY ANYONE is looking at.

Fascinating fact: in South Korea, when two young people form a couple, it’s apparently common for the girl to commandeer the guy’s phone and cover it in little stickers and reminders of her. Hjorth met one young woman who’d taken a close-up photo of her own eye and saved it as her boyfriend’s phone screensaver. Just so he knew that SHE WAS ALWAYS WATCHING HIM.

Tomoko Tamari, Goldsmiths, University of London. “After Fukushima: The Question of Co-Existence in Contemporary Architectural Tendencies in Japan”

A really interesting look at the history of Metabolism, the architectural movement that saw cities as organic entities and envisioned a world of “cities in buildings,” and how catastrophes like the Greater East Japan Earthquake have changed the way people think about living spaces. With the exception of the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Shimbashi, few Metabolist visions were realized (it’s always been more of a philosophy than a practical architectural style),but the images of their utopian visions for cities are pretty incredible.

nakagin int

Nakagin Capsule Tower, interior



Nakagin Capsule Tower, exterior


Helix City


City in the Air

For a full list of presenters and events, visit the Cultural Typhoon 2014 home page.


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Anne McKnight

writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)

A Modern Girl / モダンガール

tales of travel, research, and life is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

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