CfP: Techniques of the "Shichōsha" <視聴者>の系譜 (17-18 June, Kyoto University)

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CfP: Techniques of the "Shichōsha": On the Technoscientific Formation of Cultural Subjects <視聴者>の系譜:ある文化的主体の科学技術的形成
17-18 June 2023

Keynote Speakers: Alexander Zahlten (Harvard); Kita Chigusa (Kyoto)
Organizers: Yasuhiro Okazawa (Kyoto) and Hansun Hsiung (Durham)

This workshop reexamines the history of Japanese television through the formation of the shichōsha (視聴者). Unlike words such as viewer, spectateur(ice), and Zuschauer*in, the Japanese term shichōsha denotes a multi- and intersensorial subject who both watches and hears. Building on this difference, our workshop explores how attempts to understand television’s shichōsha served as a site for the emergence of a hybrid human science across disciplines such as physiology, engineering, and sociology. This hybrid human science in turn became the source for new theories, practices, and technologies that shaped contemporary experiences contemporary attention and perception. 

More specifically, by tracing the formation of the shichōsha, we seek to form a closer dialogue between media studies and histories of science and technology. Represented by works the like of Ōkubo Ryō’s Eizō no arukeorojī (2015), Ōsawa Satoshi’s Hihyō media-ron (2015), Iida Yutaka’s Media-ron no chisō (2020), and the essays in Zahlten and Steinberg’s Media Theory in Japan (2017), both Anglophone and Japanese scholarship have of late shifted genealogies of “media theory in Japan” away from simple narratives of academic importation from the West. As a result, we now have a growing appreciation of the critical tumult—commercial, governmental, as well as academic—surrounding new media. Nevertheless, the bulk of these studies have primarily situated “media theory” within discourses and practices of the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Left aside have been concomitant attempts by neuroscientists, programmers, psychologists to understand the televisual shichōsha, and the interaction between these technoscientific attempts and cultural theories of media broadly writ. Postwar interdisciplinary fields such as “Auditory and Visual Information Processing” (視聴科学), for instance, powered by cybernetic visions, employed television to research the perceptual systems of humans and animals—including cats, octopuses, and abalones. NHK’s own Auditory and Visual Information Processing Research Group, established in 1985, used this research to pioneer such technologies as cameras capable of predicting eye movements, surround-sound recording equipment, and AI pattern recognition software, the latter which still serves as the basis for current artificial neural networks. In this sense, our workshop aims at a collective conversation that will integrate the legacy of Japanese technical and scientific research on perception into the history of cultural theories of media in Japan.

Applications are now being accepted for 20-minute presentations that address any aspect of the interaction between media theory and scientific and technological R&D in postwar Japan. Our workshop is open to scholars at all career stages and disciplines interested in exploring confluences of the history of science, STS, intellectual history, sociology, and media studies, with the sole requirement that participants possess working Japanese in order to take part in discussions (talks themselves can be delivered in English). We would stress the sense of “workshop” as an exploratory space, and emphasize that work-in-progress, rather than finished research, is very much welcome. Furthermore, we especially welcome applications from underrepresented groups in academia. Modest travel bursaries are available (at least 10,000-yen per person, with the exact amount to be confirmed at a later date), with priority first given to scholars from underrepresented backgrounds and early career scholars.

The workshop is supported by the Suntory Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Kyoto University, and Durham University. 

Dates: 17-18 June 20223
Location: Kyoto University (Yoshida Campus), Japan 
Talk format: 20-minute presentations + printed-out slides or outline in English for circulation for audience to follow
Application procedure: 
1) presentation abstract in either English or Japanese (if English 250 words; if Japanese, 600 characters); 
2) CV or ResearchMap link; 
3) Indication of whether or not you wish to be considered for a travel bursary. 

Applications should be sent to the following e-mail address: 
The deadline for submission is 28 February 2023 in the applicant’s respective time zone.
Successful applicants will be contacted in early March 2023.