The machine without the ghost: Early interactive television in Japan



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Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies


This article is part of an ongoing ethnography of the Japanese television industry focusing on its attempts to experiment with live, interactive content that was manipulable via smart devices, laptops, and remote controls. Based on 18 months of fieldwork in the Japanese television industry in four major TV network offices and two production companies, it also incorporates interviews with more than 30 broadcast company employees. I use two case studies of early interactive television programming to discuss the strategies producers have used to create community and promote identification among audiences of these shows: ‘Arashi Feat. You’ was a live music event that courted a large audience through the involvement of a massively popular boy band and promoted the idea of ‘turning viewers into users’ by allowing them to play musical instruments along with the band. ‘The Last Award’ allowed participants to submit and evaluate each other’s videos live through a dedicated user interface. Through these examples, I argue that participation alters the nature of television spectacle and results in changes to the way producers address and inscribe audiences as cocreators of content. The rhetoric used by interactive television accordingly defaults to ‘we’ and ‘us’ and features accessible and relatable celebrities as surrogates for the audience.



Television, Japan, Mass media, Interactivity, Smartphones


Copyright 2021 The Author. This is a post-print version of a published paper that is available at: Recommended citation: Rodwell, Elizabeth A. “The Machine without the Ghost: Early interactive television in Japan.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 27, no. 5 (2021): 1376-1392. DOI: 10.1177/1354856520983754. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.