Interesting article in the BBC about how Japan has instituted a freeze on all web-campaigning before their July 29 national elections. Reportedly, Japanese politicians are not allowed to create new websites or update their existing ones prior to the election. Diet member Kan Suzuki has even had to close his Second Life headquarters because of the elections laws (teleport SLURL).
It’s unclear to me why Suzuki had to shutdown the HQ as opposed to simply not updating it with new content, or holding any public forums there. I teleported over there and found nothing but some banners and an empty, fairly ugly building. Clicking on stuff takes you to Suzuki’s website. That’s it.
This raises interesting questions about Japanese attitudes toward e-democracy — the use of ICTs for political engagement, debate and campaigning. The BBC quotes one student as saying, "I believe that internet resources are not very official…YouTube is more casual; you watch music videos or funny
videos on it, but if the government or any politicians are on the web
it doesn’t feel right."
Now I’m not Japanese and certainly no
sinophile nippophile [?]. But I’ve been there a few times, have a number of Japanese friends, and am a blogger — so that makes me an expert. 😉 It seems to me that the emphasis in Japanese culture on communitarian values and social propriety might mean that using less mediated, less formal spaces for political debate might challenge or break various norms about how authorities communicate to their lessers, and the reverse.
Instead, Japan — one of the most wired place on the planet — still relies on paper pamphleteering, cars outfitted with loudspeakers trolling around the streets, billboards, and stentorian debates on Japan’s television news shows. Now I’m all for people taking to the streets and engaging with citizens in public spaces. I wish America had more of that. But to reject these powerful tools for educating citizens, stimulating public debate on issues of grave concern, and fostering new forms of broad-based political expression just seems backward, disempowering, and anti-democratic.
So, sorry John Edwards. No Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or MySpace campaigning in the land of the rising sun.
[See Also: "Obama reclaims his myspace page: the limits of viral grassroots organizing ," "A quick peek at Presidential hopefuls HQs in Second Life," and "Yahoo announces "first" online-only presidential debates"]
[Photo credit: "japan political campaign posters" by alexis, re-posted under CC-license.]