Thursday, 10 November 2011

In Praise of all things Otaku: Morinosuke Kawaguchi

I met this gentleman, Morinosuke Kawaguchi, a few days ago when he gave a talk in London on Technology and Culture.  Kawaguchi-san has written a book, already a bestseller in Japan, Korea and Taiwan called Geeky-Girly Innovation: A Japanese Subculturalist's Guide to Technology and Design, the English edition of which will be out in March 2012.  I can't wait.

Kawaguchi's way of reimagining our understanding of technology is fascinating.  For example, he will take a term such as 'otaku' for  which there is no real English translation - 'geek' is close but probably doesn't convey the obsessive nature, an 'otaku' is someone who follows something such as anime or videos games obsessively, a fan - as in fanatic.  Rather than seeing this in a negative light, Kawaguchi-san suggests Japanese and Western companies should embrace these cultural archetypes  when designing and selling technology.

The intellectual impulse behind his work reminds me a little of the philosopher Watsuji Tetsuro, who argued that any understanding of ourselves and the world should be grounded in that which is all around us.  In Watsuji's case he argued for example, that  being from a country  prone to extreme conditions, typhoons, earthquakes and so the lie, Japanese culture is, in part shaped by this fact, and it affers the way we interact with the world.  One should not try overcome this nature, but embrace it and use it.  The idea of embracing that which all around us in this way could be very useful in marketing.

I could go on, but  Kawaguchi-san can speak so well for himself:

Book: Geeky-Girly Innovation: A Japanese Subculturalist's Guide to Technology and Design

Asahi article on M.Kawaguchi by Sophie Knight

Wired article by Katie Scott

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