Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Media Communication comprising "Major," "Shared" and "Care" Communication
KODAMA Miiko Professor / Musashi University

July 19, 2012
In 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck Japan as major changes were sweeping through its media. On the one hand, mass media was showing signs of decline as newspaper subscriptions fell and the younger generation moved away from television, while on the other hand, the development of social media was changing the way readers/viewers related to the media. Then came the accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Station, exposing in a blow all the negative aspects of mass media coverage in Japan.

Most mass media simply broadcast the press conferences as they occurred, thus publicizing the views of the Tokyo Electric Power Company and the government. Announcements by the parties involved were intended to minimize the impact of the accident and the scope of the affected regions, and resulted in delaying the evacuation of residents and misleading them on the location of evacuation sites. Moreover, the role played by the mass media over the years in spreading the "safety myth of nuclear power" was revealed afresh to the general public.

Most of the individuals involved in news coverage in Japan have the following attributes: graduate of a major university; male; 20 to 60 years old; able-bodied; Japanese; city dweller. Incidentally, they share these attributes with individuals who constitute Japan’s nuclear power lobby – namely, employees of electric power companies, bureaucrats at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture, Science and Technology, politicians and academics. Though they may not be aware of it themselves, their common sense passes as society's common sense, and they had indeed been the "people in the mainstream" who shaped social consensus in Japan. They perch above the fray, relaying government decisions "so as not to confuse the masses below" and refrained from disclosing information on the truth. Reporters in the media were part of the same lobby.

However, a closer look reveals that some media do publish articles critical to government announcements and broadcast TV documentaries featuring their own contamination maps. Not all mass media has become a PR institution for the government. In light of this fact, I designated the term "Major Communication" to signify "the process of information generation at the hands of 'people in the mainstream' and information characterized by this process containing public and dominating content” to differentiate it from other forms of communication.

The earthquake disaster triggered new developments in the Internet. In the face of power failures and interruptions in phone lines, the Internet replaced television to provide information on the Great Earthquake and replaced the telephone to provide information on the local situation and safety information on individuals. It was at this time that social media, which had been used for exchanges between friends, gained renewed recognition for its new role. Furthermore, some individuals began communicating the dangers of nuclear power and details of the accident through the Internet, enabling people dissatisfied with Major Communication to share some real information. Those proficient in foreign languages were also able to learn about the responses taken by the U.S., French, or German and other governments towards its own nationals.

Yet, in its negative aspect, the Internet also remained a venue for spreading unreliable rumors and misinformation. It was not to be trusted completely, regardless of the good or bad intentions of the information. The Internet is also a flexible media that can carry “Major” information. Therefore, I designated the term "Shared Communication" to this second form of communication, in which "minority views can be distributed and shared among various people."

Throughout the course of this disaster, we also gained renewed awareness of the importance of information aimed at consoling and encouraging those affected. Until now, most media communication consisted of monitoring society and providing a stark illustration of reality as a warning to the general public. However, at times of a disaster of such magnitude, such information only served to wear people out. There was a need to lift people’s spirits.

Conventional means for touching the sentiments of a small number of people had always existed in the form of books and magazines such as essays, collected poems and songbooks, or as music and video in the form of CDs and DVDs. In the aftermath of the disaster, the entire spectrum of media - including the mass media - actually participated in an attempt to heal people’s hearts and raise their spirits. This was the third form of communication required by contemporary people, and I designated the term “Care Communication,” in which “individuals who share and understand the same experience expressed empathy.”

Today, many people exist not only as the recipient of media communication, but also as the originator. In particular, communication between ordinary individuals has become an integral part of "Shared" and "Care" communication. Until now, communication theory had focused on the originator of information with the mass media at the core. It is now time to consider media literacy from the standpoint of the media user, centered on individuals, and take a holistic view of media communication as comprising the three kinds of communication. This is what I have been thinking since “3.11” 2011.

The writer is Professor at Musashi University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小玉 美意子 /  武蔵大学教授

2012年 7月 19日







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Media Communication comprising "Major," "Shared" and "Care" Communication