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Aaaand there goes the summer. Wow. Now that I'm home again, I can't even begin to summarize everything that happened in Japan, everything that's happened in my life. So instead I'll look back by looking forward, and just do my acafannish thing.

One of the major reasons I went to Japan this summer was the chance to lecture at Wako University, in Ueno Toshiya's class on Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus. I had free run of the massive tome, but it wasn't hard to pick a topic: I am fascinated by their theory of the Body without Organs, which is in short a surface or circulation of desire that is not yet fixed to a single object. I can't explain why, but this idea touches me deeply, like something I have always known and never been able to express. I felt a similar mysterious attraction to the virtual idol Hatsune Miku: the feeling of encountering a series of strangely impersonal yet deeply affecting images of an almost too-literal BwO. So, I decided to read one in the other, both through each, for the lecture. Based on the class' reaction, I think the example really worked to illustrate a difficult concept! To get all I can out of a topic I'm passionate about, I also proposed to expand the lecture through fan studies for presentation at the School Girls and Mobile Suits/Mechademia conference in September.

I'll be reworking the lecture for presentation in the next few weeks. So, I thought I'd post the presentation abstract here to get my brain -and this blog- started again. This, so far, is the idea:

"What Can a Vocaloid Do?: The Kyara as Body without Organs"

This paper explores the intersections between "kyara," desire, and fan production by reading the Vocaloid idol Hatsune Miku through Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattariā€™s theory of the "Body without Organs" (BwO).

The first section explains the elusive BwO through three keywords: desire, intensity, and (de)stratification. It shows how Deleuze and Guattari understand desire not as a lack but as an immanent creative force, generating freely-circulating intensities. In contrast to criticisms of the BwO as apolitical abstraction, however, I bring out the vital social implications that arise when the BwO is organized or stratified in embodied practice.

To illustrate a BwO in practice, I turn next to the example of the kyara or character in anime, manga, light novels and related media. Here I discuss the difference between the kyara of the media-mix industry and the traditional "I" of the Japanese "I-novel," comparing their modes of subjectivity and desire, their media temporalities, and the ways they build up or break down strata of identity and social hierarchy.

Finally, as a concrete case study, I consider the virtual idol singer Hatsune Miku and the uses she is put to by major corporations and fan collectives. In asking "What Can a Vocaloid Do?", my paper reformulates Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the BwO in light of today's media environment, and provides a more complex perspective on the Vocaloid phenomenon, beyond the easy celebrations of user empowerment touted by the media giants themselves.

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April 2014

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