Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World
In recent years, otaku culture has emerged as one of Japan’s major cultural exports and as a genuinely transnational phenomenon. In this talk, Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at UC Irvine, discusses how this once marginalized popular culture has come to play a major role in Japan’s identity at home and abroad. In the American context, the word otaku is best translated as “geek”—an ardent fan with highly specialized knowledge and interests. But it is associated especially with fans of specific Japan-based cultural genres, including anime, manga, and video games. Most important of all is the way otaku culture represents a newly participatory fan culture in which fans not only organize around niche interests but produce and distribute their own media content. How did this once stigmatized Japanese youth culture create its own alternative markets and cultural products such as fan fiction, comics, costumes, and remixes, becoming a major international force that can challenge the dominance of commercial media? By exploring the rich variety of otaku culture from multiple perspectives, Prof. Ito will provide fascinating insights into the present and future of cultural production and distribution in the digital age.