The New Real

Media and Mimesis in Japan from Stereographs to Emoji

2022
Author:

Jonathan E. Abel

Unlocking a vital understanding of how literary studies and media studies overlap and are bound together

A synthetic history of new media reception in modern and contemporary Japan, The New Real positions mimesis at the heart of the media concept. Considering both mimicry and representation as the core functions of mediation and remediation, it offers a new model for media studies while explaining the deep and ongoing imbrication of Japan in the history of new media.

In The New Real, Jonathan E. Abel brilliantly mobilizes the concept of mimesis to understand Japan’s media cultures as mimetic episodes and practices that not only shape specific instances of Japanese media culture but largely define it. At once erudite, rigorous, and inventive, The New Real reimagines Japanese media genealogies as a series of diverse historic interventions that vastly expand our sense of Japan and its media cultures.

Akira Mizuta Lippit, author of Cinema without Reflection: Jacques Derrida’s Echopoiesis and Narcissism Adrift

A synthetic history of new media reception in modern and contemporary Japan, The New Real positions mimesis at the heart of the media concept. Considering both mimicry and representation as the core functions of mediation and remediation, Jonathan E. Abel offers a new model for media studies while explaining the deep and ongoing imbrication of Japan in the history of new media.

From stereoscopy in the late nineteenth century to emoji at the dawn of the twenty-first, Abel presents a pioneering history of new media reception in Japan across the analog and digital divide. He argues that there are two realities created by new media: one marketed to us through advertising that proclaims better, faster, and higher-resolution connections to the real; and the other experienced by users whose daily lives and behaviors are subtly transformed by the presence and penetration of the content carried through new media. Intervening in contemporary conversations about virtuality, copyright, copycat violence, and social media, each chapter unfolds with a focus on a single medium or technology, including 3D photographs, the phonograph, television, videogames, and emoji.

By highlighting the tendency of the mediated to copy the world and the world to copy the mediated, The New Real provides a new path for analysis of media, culture, and their function in the world.

Cover alt text: Black cover with holographic columns of Japanese pictographs depicting rabbit, rope, faces, etc. that look like emoji.

Jonathan E. Abel is associate professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He is author of Redacted: The Archives of Censorship in Transwar Japan and cotranslator of Azuma Hiroki’s Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals (Minnesota, 2009) and Karatani Kōjin’s Nation and Aesthetics: On Kant and Freud.

In The New Real, Jonathan E. Abel brilliantly mobilizes the concept of mimesis to understand Japan’s media cultures as mimetic episodes and practices that not only shape specific instances of Japanese media culture but largely define it. At once erudite, rigorous, and inventive, The New Real reimagines Japanese media genealogies as a series of diverse historic interventions that vastly expand our sense of Japan and its media cultures.

Akira Mizuta Lippit, author of Cinema without Reflection: Jacques Derrida’s Echopoiesis and Narcissism Adrift

Jonathan E. Abel’s proposal that we leverage the dual nature of mimesis—as both representation and mimicry—to understand twentieth-century Japanese media culture helps explain Japan’s rapid transition from poster child of imitative modernization into the global vanguard of creativity. With the media–culture relation understood structurally, Abel cleverly pressures both the constant rediscovery of media’s newness as well as illusory efforts to reground our over-mediated lives in a puritanically analog body.

Steven Ridgely, author of Japanese Counterculture: The Antiestablishment Art of Terayama Shūji

Contents

Introduction

1. Welcome to the New Real! What Media? Which Mimesis? Why Japan?

2. Stereomimesis: Stereograph, Panoramic Parallax, and the 3D Printing of Nostalgia

3. Schizoasthenic Media: Record, Reappropriation, and Copyright

4. Copycat Rivalries: Teleplay, Mask, and Violence

5. Interpassive Ecomimesis: Gaming the Real

6. Mediated Expressions: Emoji’s E-mimesis

Conclusion. The Real Renewed: Rendering Techno-orientalism

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index