Mechademia In Seoul Day 1

I kick started the Mechademia conference with a tour of the Korean Film Archive. We got to see the first Korean black and white film. Its industrial focus reminded me of the Lumiere Bros’ “Factory” clip. We were then treated to a screening of the first feature-length Korean animation Hong Gil Dong (1967). Unfortunately there were no English subtitles, but it was an interesting film nonetheless. With a Shonen protagonist and his axe wielding sidekick, the film reminded me a lot of Disney’s style of early animation – particularly the film’s depiction of movement in certain scenes. I was also struck by its relative complexity.










Conference Venue at the Korean Film Archive

The first panel I attended was titled Archaeologies of the Future in Japanese Popular Culture. Takeshi Kadobayashi talked about posthuman ontology in Ghost In The Shell. He outlined the several levels of the definition of “Ghost” in GITS; ghost as a designation for the soul, ghost as a technical term, and reading the Tachikomas as ghosts. An interesting point raised at the end of his talk was a possible consideration of a prosthetic utopia as a heterotopia, via Foucault.

Yosaku Matsutani addresses the impact of post-war Japan on world-visions, through a reading of Japan’s 1970 Expo, and everyone’s favourite robot cat, Doraemon. He outlined the concept of “Metabolisme” as a form of integrating biology in architecture. Kind of reminds me if this concept could be applied to Gothic criticism of spaces. The first thing that leaps into my mind is the Cathedral of Flesh in White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade. He also raised a point about “nomadic utopia” and referenced Guattari and Rene Scherer – something worth a look at.

Nobuhiro Masuda’s presentation looked at the animetic representation of the prosthetic body, with a reading of Tetsuo from Akira, and Patalabor. The concept of “plasmaticness” was raised – a term used to describe depictions of “elasticity” in animation. His quote by Eisenstein in “On Disney” got my attention – something that needs to be looked at as Eisenstein talks about the concept of “protoplasm”.

Finally, the most interesting paper in this panel, Akihisa Iwaki talked about Necomimi and Neuroculture. In simple terms, Necomimi is a device that you strap to your head. It is primed to read certain brainwave patterns, much like an EEG. Based on this readings, it then alters the appearance of the device. So for example, the device might be shaped like a cat’s ears (hence the word “neko”). If it reads a set of brainwave patterns that suggest a person is sad, the ears will fold downward. If it reads a set of positive, happy emotions, the ears might flutter repeatedly. In a simple sense, it reads emotions and translates them into physical reactions that are visible. The implications of utilising the technology this device is predicated on are manifold. Emotions, once thought to be “private”, (of course, Paul Ekman would argue otherwise…) is now a dimension that is visible and tangible. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Who can say? All I had in my head was Bentham’s Panopticon…….

The next panel I attended had Karl Chua (with an impressive Prezi presentation that makes mine look archaic) addressing the topic of speculative post-war manga. He talked about notions of censorship and the speculative Other in post WWII Japanese animation. Gan Sheuo Hui then brought up Tetsuwan Atomu as an icon; as an icon enmeshed in particular discourses. She addressed the contemporary use of Atomu as distancing between initial leanings of the character.

The last speaker of the day, Kam Thiam Huat, talked about the relationship between active consumption of manga/anime and contemporary capitalism. His paper looked at fan cultures in SEA, in countries such as Singapore and Hanoi. I raised a point in discussion about my observations with scanlations and the latching of memes onto them as a means of “transformative” active consumption.

I had some interesting observations about certain papers, particularly with the academics from Japan and Singapore. All in all, it was an excellent round(s) of papers. I am surprised at how much I do not know, and it is turning out to be a very stimulating session, despite the fact that I know just about next to nothing about Japanese cultural studies. More tomorrow!

The academic stuff stops here.

Bumped into Frenchy Lunning the night before in the lobby of the hotel and I was introduced to a small group of academics from the States/Canada. Frenchy edits Mechademia, and is one of the people responsible for making it the resounding success it is today.  Frenchy is also an absolute riot.

We met up with a friend of hers and hit up some Korean BBQ:










This stuff is GOOD. BBQ’s always great when you have lots of people. Oh and apparently Koreans are really picky about carbon residue from burnt food, so they change the metal BBQ plates on a regular basis.

More later!


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