My lost [Japanese] childhood: Using Doraemon to improve my Japanese fluency

Digital Asia

“So, are you fluent in Japanese yet?” A small part of myself withers and dies inside whenever I am asked that question. Yes, I have continuously studied Japanese for five years. Yes, I like to think that I am relatively good at the Japanese I know. However, we’re talking about a whole language here. Learning a language is an immense and ongoing pursuit. Sure, I can hold a good conversation in Japanese, I can even read and write hiragana, katakana and a couple of hundred kanji. But it pains me to admit that I am definitely not yet fluent.

perapera Practice, practice, practice….(Francisco 2013)

This session, I’ve decided to get a bit creative with my Japanese language learning and ditch the textbooks (sorry Genki, you’ve been a great friend to me). I’m aiming to improve my fluency in Japanese through watching the Japanese children’s television program, Doraemon, without subtitles…

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Wait, you want MY opinion? The research methodology of autoethnography — Digital Asia

During my time at university I have been meticulous in keeping my personal views, opinions and experiences separate from my research. The second my rear end was planted in my seat in DIGC330, everything changed. Now before you ask, no, the Fire Nation didn’t attack. Rather, I was introduced to the practice of […]

via Wait, you want MY opinion? The research methodology of autoethnography — Digital Asia

Godzilla – I Choose You!

Digital Asia

Like many children of the 1990’s I started my mornings with a healthy diet of Pokémon, Sailor Moon and Hamtaro. Never did it occur to my five-year-old self that this simple morning ritual was the beginning of my life-long love for not only anime and manga, but the Japanese language and its culture.

dmggg Me, a real-life anime

My adoration of Japanese popular culture made watching Godzilla an interesting experience. Viewing this cult-classic made me reflect on how I, a white, Australian female view and understand Japan.

First and foremost, I initially found Godzilla (the actual monster) to be a bit of a joke. Now I’m pretty accepting when it comes to mythical creatures. I’d give my right arm for Pokémon to be real. But honestly, how the heck was I meant to take that lumpy cross-eyed lizard seriously? I knew Godzilla was a pop-culture phenomenon – I’ve even stayed in…

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Chapter 4: Reigniting Relevance

The idea of relevance in relation to virtual and physical space is multifaceted. For example, when passing through familiar physical surroundings, we rely on our personal cognitive maps to guide us, yet we fail to truly ‘see’ the world around us (Stark 2016). Furthermore, certain public locations may pose zero interest to us meaning that we never make a conscious effort to travel there. After all, who really wants to hang out by that weird local mural?

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The Niche Nursery Mural – A Pokestop in Thirroul

Turn that public artwork into a Pokestop, and it instantly acquires a whole new meaning and purpose. Pokémon Go’s virtual landscape has truly reformed our perception and understanding of our urban geography. Through digitising the physical ‘mundane’ and adding augmented reality technology that is attractive to people, Pokémon Go has afforded everyday public spaces a new and exciting significance for users. No longer is the Stanwell Park Surf Club just a building I pass by and disregard when I’m walking my dog. It is now my go-to Pokestop that I choose to visit daily to collect vital virtual resources for capturing Pokémon.

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Stanwell Park Surf Life Saving Club – My local Pokestop

Public spaces have also regained relevance through Pokémon Go’s extension of the notion of property ownership (Abboud 2016). Although users might not actually ‘own’ a landmark or building, they can claim a virtual Pokémon Gym associated with the physical landmark, which is marked by their personal avatar.

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A gym battle in Pokemon Go (Caldwell 2016)

‘Virtual ownership’ of a Pokémon Gym is not only a personal status symbol in the virtual Pokémon Go world, but also constitutes an important part of ‘team supremacy’ for Pokémon Go players. Players can choose to join either team Valor (red), Mystic (blue) or Instinct (yellow) and actively seek out, challenge and take over gyms of the opposite colour to establish their team’s dominance. The following video clip demonstrates how Pokemon Go players show allegiance to their team through defending a gym.

According to Abboud (2016) Pokémon Go is forcing us to reconsider how we view public space through its addition of a new and exciting virtual layer. Pokémon Go has the power to reinvigorate public spaces and drive human traffic towards them, which has been noted to have a significant impact on not only local landmarks and cultural artefacts, but also local businesses.

Tim* a Wollongong local and Pokémon Go tragic recalls Pokémon Go players flocking to LeVendi, a Wollongong café situated between multiple Pokestops, and purchasing ice-cream in the middle of winter when the app was first released. “Other people at the café were a bit weirded out by the hordes of 20-somethings all playing Pokémon together,” he explains “but I think the café owners would have been pretty stoked with how much money they were making from all the [Pokémon Go] players buying food there. If it wasn’t for Pokémon Go, they [LeVendi staff] probably would have missed out on thousands of dollars.”

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LeVendi Cafe Wollongong – Fuelling your Pokemon catching journey since 2016 (2016)

Tim and I dropped our conversation pretty quickly when our phones buzzed telling us that a Dragonite was nearby, and ran off in different directions to locate the elusive beast. Thankfully, the lighthouse was relatively quiet that day, so there were no Pokémon Go stampedes, the likes of which we saw in Taiwan.

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Pokemon Go players block roads in Taiwan to catch the elusive Pokemon, Snorlax (Editorial Staff 2016)

Although the numbers of Pokémon Go players have declined since the app’s release, hardcore fans like myself, aren’t phased. It’s easy to get caught up in the wonder of augmented reality, and many Pokémon Go players simply wished to revisit their childhood out of nostalgia for the past. Like any new technology, interest peaks and declines, our short attention spans quick to jump to the next big technological development.

However, I believe true fans of Pokémon will stick by the app and will continue to explore their physical surroundings guided by the enticing allure of catching ‘em all. I’ll keep visiting the Stanwell Park Surf Club Pokestop, chatting to my Pokémon-obsessed friends over coffee near the Niche Nursery Mural at Thirroul and occasionally peeping over someone’s shoulder at uni to see what Pokémon they’ve caught.

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Poorly drawn explanatory drawing #6: Checking out which Pokemon people caught on campus at uni (creepiness enhanced 20% for extra impact)

Places that we’ve never cared about before suddenly hold new meanings, memories and virtual narratives that will stay forever in the hearts of Pokémon Go players. The virtual world of Pokémon Go may be invisible to non-fans, but when I look out of my bedroom window and down the road, I know there’s a whole new world out there to explore.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Reference List

Abboud, R 2016, Public space verses Pokémon Go, image, ArchitectureAU, viewed 28 October 2016, <http://architectureau.com/articles/public-space-versus-pokemon-go/&gt>

Caldwell, S 2016, A gym battle in Pokémon Go, image, iMore, viewed 28 Obtober 2016, <http://www.imore.com/how-to-win-gym-battles-pokemon-go&gt;

Editorial Staff 2016, Pokémon Go players block roads in Taiwan to catch the elusive Pokémon, Snorlax, image, Nextshark, viewed 28 October 2016, <http://nextshark.com/taipei-taiwan-pokemon-go-stampede/&gt;

LeVendi Café Wollongong – Fuelling your Pokémon catching journey since 2016, Panoramio, viewed 28 October 2016, <http://www.panoramio.com/photo/33670020&gt;

Chapter 3: Augmented Reality, Real Connections

In one of my previous blogs, I recounted the strong sense of community that I experienced going on the Wollongong Pokémon Go Walk earlier this year. Part of this walk involved visiting different landmarks around the Wollongong area, snapping a photo of a Pokémon in that area and uploading it to the event’s Facebook page in order to win a prize.

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Pokemon Go Ng. Wollongong Day Walk Facebook banner (Silicon Vagabond 2016)

Funnily enough, I actually struggled to find some of the landmarks because I’d never actually gone to visit them before out of my own accord. Being the highly motivated (and competitive) Pokémon trainer that I am, I was keen to explore more of Wollongong and obtain vital information from fellow players about how to get to the specified landmarks and where I could catch particular kinds of Pokémon.

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Poorly drawn explanatory cartoon #5: Exploring Wollongong and chatting with fellow Pokemon Go players

Often, these requests for information actually turned into friendly conversations about what Pokémon people had caught, what Pokémon Go team they were on and what their favourite Pokémon was. The atmosphere of the Pokémon Go Walk was amazing. It was a beautiful sight to see Pokémon fans out and about, chatting excitedly together in groups about moving to the next location and using the GPS map in Pokémon Go to get there.

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A Shellder I caught at Wollongong Beach

I’ve often felt as though sometimes the Wollongong Mall felt dreary and melancholic, but being surrounded by groups of enthusiastic like-minded people who shared my passion for Pokémon was really quite an invigorating feeling, and changed the whole atmosphere of the Mall.

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Wollongong Mall looking quite deserted (Wollongong City Council 2013)

Looking back on my Pokémon filled adventure, I started thinking about my interactions with landmarks around Wollongong that were previously unbeknownst to me. I suddenly wanted to visit these locations that I’d never even thought about before, all because they were either Pokestops or Pokémon Gyms. I realised that giving these landmarks a new and interesting digital dimension in Pokémon Go had suddenly made them more relevant to not just me, but to hundreds of other people.

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Gotta catch ’em all, right? (Sizzle 2016)

Eager to discover more about the socio-spatial impact of Pokémon Go in Wollongong, I visited the Wollongong Lighthouse, a local Pokémon-catching hotspot due to the plentiful amount of nearby Pokestops and Gyms.

I decided to visit the lighthouse after 3:30pm on a weekday, as in my personal experience this has been the busiest time for Pokémon Go players as most young people have finished school by this time and are eager to embark on their Pokémon catching journey. Although the hoards of people playing Pokémon Go at the lighthouse have reduced in number since the initial hype following the app’s release, my visit to the lighthouse saw me approach Alexis, an avid fan of Pokémon and self described “defender of the Team Valor Gym.”

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Alexis catching a Pokemon at Wollongong Lighthouse

Alexis explained that although the Wollongong Lighthouse was a well-known coastal landmark, she had very little interest in visiting it prior to Pokémon Go’s release. “It was just something that never really crossed my mind,” Alexis explained “It just wasn’t that relevant to my interests before I could play Pokémon Go here.” ‘Relevance’ seemed to be a key word popping up in both my own and others’ discourse about Pokémon Go.

So, what is the link between Pokémon Go and the relevance of public space? Read on in my next blog, Chapter 4: Reigniting Relevance

 

Reference List

Silicon Vagabond 2016, Pokémon Go Ng. Day Walk Facebook banner, image, Facebook, viewed 28 October 2016, <https://www.facebook.com/events/946422502133647/&gt;

Sizzle 2016, When you’re trying to sleep but there’s a rare Pokémon outside your house, image, Sizzle, viewed 29 October 2016 <https://onsizzle.com/i/when-youre-trying-to-sleep-but-theres-a-rare-pokemon-1367975&gt;

Stark, E 2016, ‘11: Playful places: uncovering hidden heritage with Ingress’, in M Willson & T Leaver (eds.), Social, Casual and Mobile Games: The Changing Gaming Landscape, Bloomsbury Academic, New York, pp. 149-165.

Wollongong City Council 2013, Wollongong Mall looking quite deserted, image, Wollongong City Council, viewed 28 October 2016, <http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/services/majorprojects/PublishingImages/Forms/AllItems.aspx?RootFolder=%2Fservices%2Fmajorprojects%2FPublishingImages%2FMall%20refurbishment%20progress%20images&FolderCTID=0x012000C01F3E445A30E544B2985BAA480A85C8&View=%7B41B04F11-5A35-42B2-849B-4EAEA88CE58D%7D&gt;

Chapter 2: The Unravelling of the Me Media Cocoon and Augmented Reality

Tightly swaddled and safe within your almost impenetrable media cocoon, the last thought on your mind is interacting with your environment, or (even worse if you’re introverted) interacting with the other people who are using the public space – the horror! However, what if I told you that in fact, emerging from your cocoon can actually help you reconnect with your environment and meet like-minded people? Hear me out:

people-what-a-bunch-of-bastards-meme

(We Know Memes 2013)

Augmented Reality (AR) technology is currently undergoing a period of rapid development, and in recent years has become readily available to media users in the form of smartphone and tablet applications. Augmented Reality can be defined as “an enhanced version of reality created through the use of technology,” and works by “overlay[ing] digital information on an image,” of something in our physical environment, which we view through, for example, a smartphone camera (Merriam-Webster 2016).

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Augmented Reality: A combination of the physical and the virtual (Gstoll 2016)

The most interesting aspect of AR technology is that it is causing media users to actually ‘emerge’ from their highly personal media cocoons. Through offering virtual incentives for media users to interact with their physical surroundings, players are encouraged to reengage with and reappropriate [the] public spaces (Liao & Humphreys 2015) in which they engage with AR technology.

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Poorly drawn explanatory cartoon #3: A media user finally emerges from their cocoon. What a beautiful moment.

Perhaps the most well-known and widely played AR game is Pokémon Go, a smartphone and tablet application that uses real-time GPS tracking technology to guide players’ interaction with their physical location. The main aim of Pokémon Go is to track down and capture different kinds of Pokémon, with the goal being filling up one’s Pokedex with entries about each species of Pokémon encountered. The app works by receiving information about the player’s current geographical location, and requires that users walk around their physical environments to encounter different types of Pokémon in the digital environment.

Furthermore, it is essential for Pokémon Go players to visit and interact with virtual Pokestops in order to collect items necessary to enhance one’s gaming experience. Pokestops are located at a variety of local landmarks, such as public artworks, buildings, shops, monuments and parks. Amongst Pokestops, players can also find Pokémon Gyms and challenge these in order to become the ‘gym leader,’ a feat that many lifelong Pokémon fans (myself included) have dreamed of since childhood.

pokemon-gym

Pokemon battles: The only kind of fighting allowed at train stations

Apart from giving me an incentive to wake up early and explore my neighbourhood for Pokémon, what I find interesting about Pokémon Go is the way in which it has reinvigorated public spaces by encouraging people to visit them in order to capture Pokémon, collect items at Pokestops or challenge Pokémon gyms.

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Poorly drawn explanatory cartoon #4: Artist’s impression of me leaving the house to catch Pokemon in the early hours of the morning

So, just how is Pokemon Go affecting public space? See Chapter 3: Augmented Reality, Real Connections 

Reference List:

Gstoll, A 2016, Augmented Reality: A combination of the physical and the virtual , image, The Next Web, viewed 28 October 2016, <http://thenextweb.com/insider/2016/08/19/augmented-reality-love-letter-pokemon-go/&gt;

Merriam-Webster 2016, Augmented reality definition, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, viewed 27 October 2016, <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/augmented%20reality&gt;

We Know Memes 2013, People – What a bunch of bastards, image, We Know Memes, viewed 28 October 2016, <http://weknowmemes.com/2013/06/people-what-a-bunch-of-bastards/&gt;

Chapter 1: Pokemon and ‘Me Media Cocoons’

In 2005 I received my first Pokémon video game, Pokémon Sapphire on GameBoy Advanced and began my journey as a Pokémon trainer though the fictional Hoenn Region. Glued to the screen for countless hours, I explored this pixelated environment, levelled up my Pokémon and battled at Pokémon Gyms.

pikachu

My Pokemon Sapphire game cartridge

I’d often receive rude remarks from my parents telling me that my eyes would turn into Pokeballs if I didn’t “Turn that game off right now and actually go outside to do some exercise.” Reluctantly switching off my GameBoy, I’d head outside, nod to the sun and question what in the world my parents thought was so great about hanging around in nature. After being so thoroughly immersed within my fictional world for hours on end, going outside with nothing to do often led me to feel disconnected from my physical surroundings, and (dare I say), lost.

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Poorly drawn explanatory cartoon #1: Just let me play Pokemon in peace and nobody gets hurt

Fast-forward about 16 years, and it is clear that digital and physical spaces are becoming increasingly intertwined. The ubiquity of our portable media devices, namely smartphones and tablets, has caused a massive shift in the ways in which we both conceptualise and interact with public spaces. Although digital media is often praised for allowing users to ‘connect’ with one another, personal media use in public  has actually led users to disregard their physical surroundings (Drucker & Gumpert 2012).

smartphone

Connected to media but disconnected to the environment (Law 2015)

This phenomenon of disconnectedness with one’s environment is commonly referred to as the “me media cocoon,” a process by which media users are more present in a digital space than in their physical location (Drucker & Grumpert ibid). Being part of a generation often criticised for being glued to our smart devices, an all-too-familiar example of being within a ‘me media cocoon’ is scrolling through your Facebook feed in a local park, where your focus is not on the natural beauty of your physical surroundings, but the digital media space which you are interacting with.

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Poorly drawn explanatory cartoon #2: The anatomy of a ‘me media cocoon’

However, when a digital space requires one to interact with their physical surroundings in order to achieve a certain objective, the ‘me media cocoon’ begins to slowly unravel.

To find out what happens next, view Chapter 2: The Unravelling of the Me Media Cocoon and Augmented Reality

Reference List:
Drucker, J & Gumpert, G 2012, ‘The impact of digitization on social interaction and public space’, Open House International, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 92-99.

Law, P 2015, Connected to media but disconnected to the environment, image, Pearl Illustrates, viewed 28 October 2016, <http://pearlillustrates.com/post/126587593300/pearlillustrates-collision-course-smartphone&gt;