Haiku It Up

The following article was written as an assignment for the Cyberspace and Society class.

My fifth and final digital storytelling assignment is making a haiku in the writing category. Before I present my own piece, let me just explain what the haiku is briefly.

Haiku, known as the shortest form of the poetry in the world, originally started in the 17th century in Japan. It became international in the late 20th century and now people all over the world make haiku of their own. There are several rules in Japanese traditional haiku and many of them are also adopted into the international haiku. The common rules are:

・Use three lines of up to 17syllables.
・Use a season word (kigo).
・Use a cut or kire (sometimes indicated by a punctuation mark) to compare two images implicitly.
(From Wikipedia)

People often think that to express one's feeling in the 17 syllables is enough for making haiku, but it's not. The most basic concept of this poetic form is to resonate totally different imagery (often presented as nouns) and generate a new perspective/context/atmosphere/situation of the moment based on these imagery in the reader's mind. In a sense, it is like appreciating a scenery picture. To appreciate the piece, one has to know the connotations of the general/proper nouns used in the piece, which makes it difficult when it becomes international since the cultural backgrounds of the creator and the readers might be different and the readers cannot pick up the implicit meanings or nuances of the words. Since there are four distinct seasons in Japan, almost all the nouns were categorized into one of the four seasons a hundred years ago, but we cannot do that any more in these days. Still we can use some words that relate to seasonal events (e.g., snow as winter or cicada as summer). I think this rule to include a season word in the poem was made probably because it was the most efficient way to indicate the time and location of the setting depicted in the poem.

Since this assignment is set for haiku beginners, you don't have to be so strict. All you have to do is just keep the first rule: three lines with 17 syllables (ideally 5-7-5). The attached photo helps a lot to understand the scenery that the poem depicts. Here is my work about the killifish ("medaka" in Japanese) that I have at home.

Killifish swimming
In a glass aquarium
Under Tokyo sky

You can probably imagine the scenery without the help of the photo. Here is the photo.

Killifish under Tokyo sky
Click here to enlarge

In this haiku, I attempted to resonate the words "killifish" and "Tokyo" and parallel the situations of the killifish confined in the aquarium and me living in Tokyo surrounded by high buildings and watching the killifish (without referring to myself in the haiku). Japanese killifish (medaka) is categorized in the summer words in traditional haiku, but it's difficult for many Japanese to understand that connotation today.

I stuck to the Japanese traditional haiku rules this time because I like Japanese literature. (My major at the graduate school was modern Japanese literature.) Of course other students who would like to do this assignment don't have to follow these traditional rules at all. Just following the 5-7-5 rules is good enough to make a creative piece of art for this ds106 course. I just wanted to let the reader to understand the basic concept of haiku and show its literary depth as Japanese literature. Below are some links to understand the essence of Japanese and international haiku and some literary works in English made by native English speakers. I hope they may help you to do this assignment more creatively.

More detail of this assignment: Haiku It Up

Photo edited by Picasa


One Shot

The following article was written as an assignment for the Cyberspace and Society class.

Click photo to enlarge

This is my fourth digital storytelling assignment. This time I picked up one from the visual category. All I had to do was just choosing a photo, chopping it up, and rearranging it in a comic book style. I chose the photo that I took in the Sahara Desert in Morocco few years ago so that the viewer can also feel the peaceful atmosphere with the camels having a rest in the middle of the desert in the daytime.

One of the most difficult part in this assignment is to decide which photo to use. I had to choose a landscape shot with several interesting objects in it in order to break them into pieces later. (I couldn't use most of my photos since they have the main big object in the center of the photo.) After deciding which photo to use, I cut it into pieces using one of the simplest application software called Paint which is preinstalled in Windows. (It's still quite useful!) And again I used Picasa to make the collage of the pieces. You can rearrange the order of the photos again and again until you get satisfied. You can also retouch and adjust the brightness and tone of the photo as you like.

For reference, I'd like to show you the original photo of the collage.

Click photo to enlarge

Edited and retouched by Paint (preinstalled in Windows) and Picasa

For more detail of this assignment: One Shot


Greetings From DS106 (Digital Storytelling Assignment)

The following article was written as an assignment for the Cyberspace and Society class.

Click photo to enlarge

This is my third Digital Storytelling Assignment. This time I picked up the assignment from the design category. What I had to do was just making a postcard of my home town. Yoyogi is the place where I live now, which is located in the central Tokyo. I love this town for several reasons: It's next to Shinjuku, the largest station in Tokyo and really convenient to go everywhere in Tokyo (Many train lines come in). There are a huge number of restaurants around the station which keep me exploring one after another (and it doesn't seem to end.) On the other hand, the town is also surrounded by the natural environment. You can walk to Meijijingu, the largest shrine in Japan, and Yoyogi Park, which is also the largest in the central Tokyo. I put all these factors into the postcard so that the viewer would recognize the diversity of the town.

For making this postcard, I used Picasa for the first time. It's very useful especially for this assignment since it has the feature to make a photo collage automatically from several photos. You can also retouch and adjust the photo image without knowing how to use it in detail. (It's very simple!)

I hope you can also feel the atmosphere of my home town a bit from this postcard.

Edited by Picasa

All the photos used above are taken from Flickr via CC licensing.

Yoyogi Park by Vic Paredes
yoyogi st by TitoRo
Yoyogi-Park ''a Brushed Gold Saxophone Player''_061206_003 by haribote
Yoyogi Park in Spring by micah.e
Yamanote night train by sinkdd 
6-13-07 Yoyogi-1.jpg by abuckingham 
At the North End of Yoyogi Station by ykanazawa1999
@yoyogi by saotin

For more detail of the assignment: Greetings From DS106


Make Your Own Ringtone

The following article was written as an assignment for the Cyberspace and Society class.

Here is my second digital storytelling assignment for ds106. This time I picked up the one in the audio category and made an annoying ringtone that forces you to answer the phone. It took me for a while to make it, but it was fun editing the sounds. I hope the listener also enjoy listening to it.

Annoying ringtone by Shinichiro

All the sounds used in the file are from freesound.org:

Bell System Ringer Model 687A (8-70).wav       
Old Telephone Ring.wav       
old telephone bell.wav        
Female Hello.wav       
You Have a Phone Call.mp3        
Wassa Matter Homey.mp3       
Anybody here.mp3

Edited by Audacity

Uploaded to Sound Cloud

For more details and other students' works: Make Your Own Ringtone(s)


Digital Story Compilation

The following article was written as an assignment for the Cyberspace and Society class.

Here is my video for one of the digital storytelling assignments. I gathered all the photos that I took for the daily shoot assignment and edited them into a video. Although each photo is a crap taken by my poor mobile-phone camera, with a great help of good background music, a series of photos generates a certain kind of atmosphere of where I live and what I do everyday. It was good that I could "reuse" what I've done earlier for the class and attach another meaning to them. I hope you can also feel a bit of my not-so-exciting school life in Tokyo.

Music: "Pacific II" by William Ackerman

Video edited by Windows Live Movie Maker

For more details: Digital Storytelling Compilation


Users' different participating styles on YouTube and Nico Nico Douga

The following article was written as an assignment for the Introduction to Media Theory class.

I had a chance to research on the pop-culture contents on the social media and present it in a group in another class recently. Since I could not fully express my idea there, I'd like to expand it and present it here.

Compared to YouTube users, Japan's Nico Nico Douga users are more likely to be involved in social media activities without revealing themselves, which leads them to generate unique and interesting pieces of work of their own by focusing more on imaginary characters or characterizing themselves. Here I'd like to illustrate it by examining how the users play with a song and create their own videos.

[Example videos on YouTube]

[Example 1] Symphony Orchestra 2011

The website above asked the viewers to join a temporary orchestra by posting videos on YouTube. The contest had clear procedure and rules for the participants to follow on their website. After the members were selected, they converged in Sydney for a week-long festival of musical collaboration and participation (101 members from 33 countries got together).

[Example 2] We Are The World 25 For Haiti (YouTube Edition)

[Example 3] We Are The World (Ukulele style - 33 ukulele players from all over the world)

[Features and tendencies of the participants in the YouTube videos]
As you know, many people sing a song and perform music, and upload the videos to YouTube everyday. So many people have posted their own "We are the world" videos since YouTube started. What I'd like to focus on here is the way they play with the original song or music online. In both examples, all the performers show their faces in the videos and their names are listed on the description pages. As for the quality of the performances, most of them are quite good (that's why they are chosen by the editor of the videos). Although each singer/performer has his or her own style and characteristic, the whole performances are quite close to the original song. The videos are edited quite simple and clear. More highly-skilled and professional-like users tend to participate (especially in the case of Symphony Orchestra). This is probably because there were clear rules and instruction addressed and it had fewer barriers (such as a language barrier) so that a wide variety of people could participate in the event from all over the world. As the whole population of YouTube users in the world is so huge, the quality of the top-level works tends to be very high (They are often performed by professionals).

[About Nico Nico Douga]
On the contrary, Nico Nico Douga is not open to all the Internet users like YouTube. One has to become the member of the website to watch the videos. It targets only for Japanese and those who understand Japanese (There are Nico Nico Douga websites also in English, French, German, and Chinese, but they are totally different). As a result, not so many people can enjoy it compared to YouTube. The whole population and the numbers of uploaded videos are very different between them. However, in Japan, Nico Nico Douga has gained a large membership. It now has more than 25,500,000 members (As of July 2011). It is very popular especially with the young generation. About two third of the members are in their teens and twenties. More than two out of three people in their twenties have a Nico Nico Douga account in Japan.

[Vocaloid songs and the variation of Happy Synthesizer videos]
There are many amateur composers uploading their original songs to Nico Nico Douga in Japan. Many of them use a singing synthesizer application software called Vocaloid so that they can put the synthesized voice on the vocal part without asking some one to sing the song. It is estimated that more than 20,000 Vocaloid songs are uploaded so far. Among them, a song called “Happy Synthesizer” was originally posted on the website last year on November 22 by an amateur composer then named easypop (His real name is unknown. He now becomes professional and released his first CD a few months ago).

[Example 4] Happy Synthesizer (uploaded on YouTube)

The song became very popular (more than 1,300,000 times viewed so far on Nico Nico Douga and about 1,200,000 times on YouTube) and many users started to consume or play with the song in their own ways by uploading their own videos related to the song. Here is the chronological order of how they have enjoyed and reproduced it.

1. The composer posted the original song on November 22, 2010.
2. Many users started to post their own videos singing the song. (1,500 videos were posted so far.)
3. Its English version was also made and sung by the users.
4. Some users performed the song with different kinds of instruments such as piano or guitar.
5. Several dance remixes were made.
6. A dancer choreographed the song on December 3, which is two weeks after the original song was posted.
7. Many users started to dance on the choreography and post the videos. (More than 1,800 videos were posted so far.)
8. Some user groups had off-line meetings all over Japan, danced together and posted the videos.
9. Several users traced the dance and made 3D CG videos using a free 3D modeling software called MikuMikuDance (MMD) at the end of March next year.
10. Many MMD users started to create their own CG videos with their favorite characters. (About 300 videos were posted so far)

Here is a variety of the videos posted based on the original song. (I edited them into one video so that you can visually see and understand how the original song has been consumed and developed by many users.)

[Example 5] Variation of Happy Synthesizer Videos

[Features and tendencies of the participants on Nico Nico Douga]
These variety of videos based on the original song have been generated by many users within almost four months (and they are still making new ones everyday). The users created their videos in these ways partly because there are such categories set on the website, which encourages them to create in these ways. Since not so many users are expected to participate in the activity in each category, the quality of the works on average is not so good as that on YouTube. Most of the singers and dancers do not seem to have any vocal or dance trainings. They are far from professionals, but they posted their videos because they love the song. One of the most explicit features of the users is that most of them do not reveal their faces or real names in the videos or on the description pages on the website. They usually use their user names with no real face photo. Not only the music composers and 3D CG creators do not reveal themselves, but also the singers and music performers do not do that either (which is totally opposite to those in the YouTube videos). Even more than half of the dancers wear masks while they are dancing in order not to be identified themselves. As often said, it may come out from the Japanese sense of "Shame” or “Haji” in Japanese, but it may have an effect on the users' creativity in somehow.

[Comparison and conclusion]
Japanese tendency not to reveal oneself online is often pointed out for the reason why facebook is not so much popular in Japan. It can be also said to the tendency of Japanese twitter users that many of them do not put their real names or face photos on their profiles. Here I'd like to put focus on how this tendency effects on the creativity of modern Japanese sub culture. It is difficult to draw any patterns or principles just from these few examples from YouTube and Nico Nico Douga, but I'd like to draw a hypothesis on this phenomenon anyway. For the performers in the YouTube videos, the original song or music they sang or performed is just a medium or tool to prove their performing techniques, and the viewers appreciate the performances and evaluate the performers or performers' skills rather than the work pieces themselves. In other words, for them the video is just a result or proof of their performances and the applause is given more to the participants themselves rather than their works. On the other hand, Nico Nico Douga users seem to be more interested in the videos as a work piece or the ways the song is expressed. The viewers do not seem to care much about who the creators of the videos are. More specifically, they are more interested in playing with the song or the fictional characters involved in the song (In this case, they are the vocaloid characters such as Hatsune Miku). The dancers in the videos seem to show and characterize themselves as cute and lovely as possible with their fictional user names (Some of them actually did cosplay and became one of the vocaloid characters). The viewers are more likely to appreciate the dancers’ characters (which is called “kyara” in Japanese) and enjoy them without any questions who the dancers really are. Same thing can also be said to the creation of the 3D CG videos. When the variation of the video expanded to the 3D CG phase, more high-quality videos were made intensively. It seems that all the performers, creators, and viewers tend to focus more on the characterized figures in the videos rather than on the creators. In a sense, they express themselves through their favorite characters or characterized self-images. They tend to erase their bodily images as the subject of the action and leave only the deed (in this case a piece of work) in order to enjoy or consume the topic with the following members in the same but small interest group who have the same taste. It is hard to prove this, but I think this Japanese tendency not to reveal oneself online seem to have a close link to the reason why Japanese people love so-called “characters” so much.