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Report: 1st Period of Stay in Tokyo

post: 2013/02/21

During my previous stay in Japan, the Lower House Election took place on December 16th, which became one of the central topics of discussion among the r:ead participants. The result, as predicted by the experts, was that the Liberal Democratic Party won 294 seats, more than half of the seats in Parliament and assumed the reins of government; Shinzo Abe became Prime Minister of Japan.

When r:ead was over and I went back to Korea, one day after my return, a presidential election was also held in Korea. As result, with a turnout of 75.8 % – higher than ever before – and an approval rate of more than 50%, Geun-hye Park was elected. Two days later, the day on which the Mayas had been predicting the end of the world passed by quietly. The prediction had evoked a peculiar sense of expectation all over the world, although people had not really believed in it. The world I know remained as unclear to me as before.

In his 2011 book “General Will 2.0” Japanese thinker Hiroki Azuma, borrowing the words of Rousseau, introduces a model of direct democracy that exhibits variety itself as “democracy without communication” as an alternative to representative democracy in which communication leads to a decrease of variety. By this Azuma is seeking a possibility to update the principles of democracy. “General Will 2.0” adds the 2.0 of the Internet to Rousseau’s “general will”, stating that when the use of search engines on the internet or the distribution of messages via Twitter by individuals is recorded and transformed into a database, this database becomes a collective unconscious and can be utilized as general will by the government.

“As communication has to reduce countless opinions to a certain number of axes of oppositional positions, it rather has a tendency to oppress variety. When it was possible to build consensus without communication, it would be possible to maintain the original variety and comprehend the general will of people. And, when you refer to the principle of general wisdom, in comparison to a simplified decision that has gone through communication, it might be able to lead us to a more precise judgement.” (Interview from “General Will 2.0”, Korean edition. English translation: r:ead editorial team)

But when we take a look at Naver, the largest Korean portal site, we see that through the compilation of search rankings and abusive intervention, the media consumption of the masses wields a large influence on mass opinion, which becomes a strong power in itself. Internet platforms that work out the statistical value of the collective unconscious are composed due to the logic of the market and exhibit a pre-defined political tendency. Even if we state that the statistical values are mirrored only indirectly by politics, they still remain dangerous beyond a doubt. Yet Hiroki Azuma emphasizes communication not aiming for agreement in order to seek a channel that enables the individual expression of wills to build up a database and its values to be mirrored by politics. I find his idea of seeking a re-definition of democracy very interesting in many aspects.

During r:ead’s second period of stay, I want to try to engage actively with the methodology of Hiroki Azuma in relation to the topic of East Asia. Based on a new setting of relations through re-defining the forms of tangency, the expression of volition and tools, I wish to seek a new platform referring to this “mass unconscious = the general will of expression” that Hiroki Azuma has defined.

Additionally, during the first encounters of the r:ead participants in the short one-week period we were concentrating on the factual situation in the East Asian region. I now feel that we might have been dealing with the problems in a way that was slightly inflexible. What would have happened if we had transformed the paradigms of dialogue and sharing itself?