Mechanical Humanity in Japanese Media

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Mechanical Humanity in Japanese Media

Unread postby Kai » Mon Dec 12, 2005 12:59 am

As you know if you were listening to me ramble in chat every time some hapless forumer happened to mention robots, I've been working on an essay for my anthropology class on the very topic. Specifically, I'm addressing the portrayal of humanoid robots in Japanese anime and manga.

The final essay itself.

I figured you'd all been patient enough with me that you deserved an opportunity to finally read the end result of my ranting and general robot activism.

Edit: Included updated version of the essay, hence the title "Final Anth Final I Swear.pdf" <p>-------------------------
"It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit and the emperor remains an emperor." -- Sandman "The Kindly Ones" </p>Edited by: Kai&nbsp; Image at: 12/12/05 12:56


Re: Mechanical Humanity in Japanese Media

Unread postby Wolfbelly » Wed Dec 14, 2005 2:48 am

I'm struggling ... STRUGGLING to read through it. Maybe it's the late hour or the sudden presentation of a thorough essay, but I'm finding it to be ... well ... boring. It seems clunky, ideas have difficulty flowing from one sentence to the next.

I dunno. This critique is honestly just coming out of my ass as I haven't yet read through the entire thing. I'll read through it tomorrow and then critique your essay the way an intelligent man ought to.

Until then ... yay, robots! <p>Image</p>


Re: Mechanical Humanity in Japanese Media

Unread postby Wolfbelly » Thu Dec 15, 2005 2:49 am

Okay. The paper was torture to read through the first portion until you got to about page 4 or 5. Then, you got into the Ghost in the Shell and Chobits section and really started cooking. The language flowed, the meanings you were going for just popped in delightful ways. I was really looking forward to what you were building up to ... and then it kinda stopped.

I like the concept; where does that fine line that seperates mind from machine lie? Is it in the machine's ability to self-perceive and act on non-linear programming that decides a mind, or is it in the relationships between that machine and those around it that determines its humanity? It kind of harkens back to existential debates on what makes a person, but that's a tangent I'll ignore for now.

I like the concept, but the delivery was ... well ... it's like this. Think of a freshly poured glass of soda/pop/cola and how during the first stages it fizzes and sputters bubbles like crazy. Your essay (at least the first portion of it) was very much like a small coaster laid atop the glass in which the liquid was poured. It's evident that you have tons, TONS of ideas and concepts about your subject. I don't doubt that you could be considered something of an authority on cyborg nature, but your ideas are very much like that initial frenzy of fizzing. They hit your essay in a very disjointed, disconnected, clunky, "each one point standing on its own but not seemingly connected to another" sort of way. Only until you actually got into your element, providing a summary with philosophical notation of anime movies, did the paper actually feel like I was reading something written by a human being.

I dunno, maybe I'm off. What's your feeling of your essay? You've read it, re-read it, edited it and read it again more than I have. <p>Image</p>

RedEye Dragon89

Re: Mechanical Humanity in Japanese Media

Unread postby RedEye Dragon89 » Thu Dec 15, 2005 2:52 am

The style's kinda stuffy and beuraucratic-like; doesn't really make for a pleasant read. 'Course, anthropology being all scientific and whatnot, that's probably the audience you're writing for. But, I guess I could offer some ways to color it up.

Now, for a bunch of critiques from some naive punk taking a composition class.

-You've got a few contractions here and there, kind of betraying the overall style of the piece. It's stuffy, yes, but to keep consistency, write out the entire set.
-Sentences beginning with "There is/are," "It is." Subject-less clauses. But, considering the audience, I guess a few here and there would be fine. Just irks me, that's all.
-Repetition of some words. Especially proper nouns. I know there aren't many synonyms for "cyborg" or "cyberpunk," but, in either case, repetition just leaves a funny taste in the mouth.
-Lotsa 'This's starting sentences. Gotta vary up those sentences.
-Page 4, paragraph 2, 1st sentence. Is 'contruct' a word? Just curious.
-Pg.4 Para2 2nd sentence. I think you can possibly merge this with the previous sentence.
-Pg.4 Para2, s 4, 5, 6 . You could combine these guys with a colon after sentence 4 and a bit of compression on the subsequent ones.
-Pg. 6, para3 & Pg. 7 para1: Lotsa 'He's starting the sentences. Again, sentence variation.

-I'll add more later.

If I were you, I would've gone bat-shit insane and have some fun with a topic like that. 'Course, I've yet to see a college class, nor do I know much about your professor.

If this were an essay, I would've liked to have seen more editorial when you were outlining Ghost and Chobits. Essays are all about opinion, after all. Now, if it's a research paper, which I expect it to be with all the citing, the style you've got going is pretty appropriate. But, you can still color up your writing without sacrificing objectivity.

I just don't like reading research papers that much; doubt anyone does. <p>

<div style="text-align:center">Image</div></p>Edited by: [url=>RedEye]&nbsp; Image at: 12/15/05 3:08


Account theft! This is Kai!

Unread postby Archmage144 » Thu Dec 15, 2005 8:40 pm

This essay was for my anthropology class, and my teacher likes/uses a strange mix of the informal and formal in papers,lectures, etc. A lot of the essay content was pretty strongly colored by things we discussed in class. She talked a lot about the ways gender roles are both challenged and reinforced by some media, particularly things like Takarazuka theater.

That's why most of the paper shied away from things like redefining the nature of humanity. I considered it, but not only is that a paper in itself, the course is one on Japanese popular culture. It's more important to know why those questions interest consumers than it is to answer them in nine pages of anime analysis.

I realize that for someone without much interest in anthropology it wouldn't become interesting until I started talking about anime and robots exclusively. However, for me the important part of the paper is not proving to others that I watch and appreciate anime. That's kind of a given. The reason I wrote the paper was, in part, because I wanted to know why I enjoy consuming these types of portrayals. I can learn this by evaluating what consumers in general find these cyborgs appealing.

That's why the paper isn't an editorial of Chobits or GitS. The purpose of the paper is to explore why these things are popular. What is it that consumers want to see when they seek out this anime/manga? The purpose of the paper is not to wank the collective egos of Clamp or of Mamoru Oshii.

I posted it first of all (and most importantly) because a lot of people sat by very patiently in chat while I ranted about the portrayal of robots in the media. Second, I posted it because we've all seen anime. We've all heard of manga, and may even have read some! Not everyone has thought to apply anthropology to it. I thought it was an interesting application of the discipline.

If I were you, I would've gone bat-shit insane and have some fun with a topic like that. 'Course, I've yet to see a college class, nor do I know much about your professor.

I just wanted to quote that. It's an interesting way to take a topic seriously, to go batshit insane and "have some fun." To me, thinking of things in some kind of academic mindset is fun. Some day I hope to be doing this for a living. That means that professionalism is usually a safer bet than batshit insanity.

At any rate, I do appreciate that people noticed I posted it. It's good to have someone besides my teacher and myself aware of the depth of my obsession with this kind of thing. <p>
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Re: Account theft! This is Kai!

Unread postby Seethe347 » Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:12 am

I'd say that, overall, it's done the way a "fact-finding" research paper should be done. My only "real" complaint is that the first paragraph needs some work. Basically, "It would seem" and "Further" aren't necessary, you need to make it clear that you are referring to the blending of humanity and technology in fiction and not in reality, and it would help if you stated your purpose because, by just reading the paper, I couldn't tell exactly what it was.

Now, to make the whole thing better structurally, I would have suggested that you place your analysis of the cyberpunk genre before your evaluation of the reasons for its popularity. As it stands, you begin by stating that you intend to explain the reasons for the proliferation of cyborgs in Japanese media, then you explain those reasons, and then you give several pages of information about the genre itself. Doing it this way is pretty much the same as writing a critique of a paper by giving your opinions on the paper first and then summarizing the paper. There is a reason that it is standard practice in the writing of a critique to provide the summary first: it lets the reader know what you are talking about while you are actually talking about it. If you had described the genre first, your description could have served the purposes of both familiarizing the reader with the subject and eliciting an interest in understanding the subject's origins and inner workings. But by being placed last, the description is basically reduced to little more than an information dump. By the time you get to it, you have already accomplished the goal of explaining why the genre in question is so popular, so the contribution it can make to the actual purpose is fairly limited.

However, like I said, it is all still done the way an informative essay should be done. Giving opinions would have turned it into a persuasive essay, and anthropology isn't really supposed to deal in persuasion. It seems well researched, I don't imagine it's really any more disjointed than most college essays, and I don't think I saw too much fluff or filler. The structural flaw is just a nitpick of mine, which the instructor will probably see past or possibly not even notice. And besides, I'm really no professional writer. It is still definitely college-level.

Edited by: [url=>Seethe347</A] at: 12/16/05 0:12


Brian finally posts with his own account, OMG

Unread postby Archmage144 » Sun Dec 18, 2005 3:46 pm

It should be noted, as an interesting aside, that sometimes, when writing college essays (just as with high school essays), especially as an undergraduate, that it is advisable to write what is "safe" as opposed to what is "interesting." I have written and submitted a lot of very boring essays and hated 90% of them, even in college. On the off chance that I liked an essay or felt that it was an interesting read, I usually did so just because I'd put a lot of work into it and developed feelings of attachment.

Even if you like the essay you're writing, you're writing from the position of someone that "has no authority" on the subject as far as the academic world goes; in general, until you've got some sort of degree, very little you write is going to be worth anything to anyone, academically speaking. Once you have a degree, even shitty things you write can get published just because you have "credentials." Whether that's right or not is not the issue here. It simply is.

So even if you have some brilliant insight or fresh new way of looking at a topic, nothing you do will be taken seriously outside the context of the course you're taking. So why take a risk? Write the paper that's guaranteed an A because it fulfills whatever requirements your prof has to the letter and delivers the expectations of the course. I can't even count how many papers I've turned in and hated the actual work. On the other hand, I've generally gotten A's and B's on all of them, all written the night-before and hacked together in two or three hours with a cup of coffee and a bag of chips as my companions. I've gotten A's on papers about books I haven't read consistently for years, even at the college level. As far as I'm concerned, that doesn't make me brilliant--by contrast, it makes the whole process of essay writing incredibly stupid.

This whole thing seems somewhat off-topic, but consider this; when you read an undergraduate essay (something that will never be published, edited, or scrutinized), you are not reading someone's writing. You are reading someone's homework. I often found myself inadvertently suppressing my more radical opinions of the things I thought about the books I've read and the things I've studied mostly because I wasn't guaranteed an A. On the other hand, if I regurgitated what the prof said about the material, threw a little bit of my own spin on it, and quoted the various "credible academic sources" at my disposal, I was almost guaranteed an A for more or less no work.

As a result, my opinion (having proofread the work and suggested some changes along the way) on the essay is this. It's good for a college undergraduate essay, and I'll be damned surprise if you don't get an A on it. But you're restrained from saying anything really revolutionary because you can't fully articulate your own ideas, not because you are unable to do so, but because you're not allowed to do so the way you should. Since the paper assignment was presumably titled "research paper," the point is more "what did other people say about this" versus "what do you think about this?" which is very sad, especially considering your interest in the subject. I know you have very strong feelings about the whole thing, and they're damned interesting. I personally think that a "less-organized" post to this thread regarding your feelings about robots/cyborgs/AI would be a more interesting read and a more valuable contribution to creative, cultural, and academic discussion than a thousand research papers.

But maybe I'm biased. <p>
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