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Exploring the many moods of Japanese media

When is relaxation a political act? My work examines the spread of media oriented toward a calming, restorative aesthetics in contemporary Japan. I aim to uncover how media objects can provide a vital space of sensory refuge, without at the same time simply enabling a retreat from increasing levels of social insecurity and strife. Through the close analysis of how restorative media enable forms of sensory and emotional refuge, in parallel with an examination of social discourses surrounding care, healing, and new techniques of the self, I seek to disentagle the restorative power of media objects from a neoliberal agenda reducing them to tools of utilitarian mood regulation, population control, and self-help.
 
I began exploring these questions in Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self (Minnesota, 2016), a study of how media aesthetics and modes of engagement transformed in tandem with a post-1970s culture of atmospheric mood regulation. Theorizing the deployment of calming moods in electronic music, video art, film, and literature, the book explores how the new ambient style departs from earlier trends in background music and video, throwing a diffuse and sometimes critical light over an emerging Japanese therapy culture.
 
My more recent work continues to explore the role of restorative media in contemporary Japan, as the discourse shifts from a focus on healing to question what it means to feel secure despite the continuous presence of social, technological, and ecological threats. In recent essays in Animation and Representations I focus specifically on works of animation seeking to composite existing social environments with imaginary alternate worlds -- new media horizons harboring both theraputic and threatening potentials.
 
Before coming to MIT I was Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Media and Film Studies at Brown University's department of Modern Culture and Media, and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford. My courses so far at MIT include Digital Media in Japan and KoreaCinema in Japan and Korea, and Introduction to Japanese Culture.
 

Ambient Media cover  Ambient Media (2016)