Keitai Shousetsu: A Study of Japan's Mobile Phone Fiction

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Introduction

Context

Keitai Shousetsu: Who, What, How?

Keitai Shousetsu and Participatory Culture

Bestsellers and Crossovers

Praise and Criticism

Cell Phone Novels Outside of Japan

Reflection

Works Cited

Reflection

Although the bulk of the scholarly output and research produced during my tenure at the School of Library and Information Studies focused on issues concerning the social responsibilities of librarians, equitable access to library services, and multicultural librarianship, I also developed a deep-seated interest in the diverse and evolving ways in which texts are consumed and actively produced by a reading public becoming more and more accustomed to a wildly proliferating and collaborative digital media space. These interests were largely fostered through my participation in LIS 585, Multimedia Literacies, and LIS 580, Contemporary Theories and Practices of Reading. In particular, I became intrigued by how profoundly libraries will inevitably be affected by the shift from centralized modes of textual production to a more participatory and democratized model as represented by user generated content, social networking, self-publishing, and other forms of information dissemination that flourish on the web far under the radar of consumer/commodity capitalism. While the digital divide remains a tangible impediment to the full participation of all levels of society in these emergent forms of digital production and consumption, I came to realize that my scholarly interests in underserved populations and democratized media were complementary rather than mutually exclusive. Participatory media culture gives a voice to the previously silenced, decenters authorship away from the "experts" and into the margins, and shifts hegemonic modes of production into a new paradigm helmed by the individual or collective.

I channeled my interests in silenced voices, participatory culture, and democratized digital media spaces into the subject of a paper I completed in December 2009 for LIS 585, Multimedia Literacies. "Keitai Shousetsu: A Study of Japan's Mobile Phone Fiction" examines the unprecedented explosion of semi-autobiographical narratives composed entirely on cell phones by a largely anonymous body of young Japanese women. In this paper, I provide a comprehensive overview of the phenomenon with a focus on the contextual grounds from which the genre emerged, including an analysis of gender, power, language, literacy, literary elitism, and even public transportation in Japan in order to eventually speculate on the potential of a similar phenomenon in North America. After completing the paper, a set of complicated yet pressing questions arose: should we, as librarians, start preparations to select, acquire, catalogue, and provide access to similar forms of user-created fiction; who decides what is ephemeral and what is of lasting merit; in terms of sheer workload, where do we draw the line? By the same token, should librarians then start collecting similar and extant forms of user-generated narratives such as fan fiction, blog entries, and Twitter novels? Perhaps these questions will strike future generations as quaint; however, at present library and information professionals must seriously consider the implications of the slow but steady shift away from dominant models of production to increasingly popular forms of web-based narrative production and consumption.

According to the Canadian Library Association's (CLA) Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom, "libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials." In this context, it is the explicit responsibility of libraries to provide access to newly emerging forms of cultural production, not only to meet the evolving needs of library users but also, as articulated in the CLA's Statement on Diversity and Inclusion, to "contribute to a culture that recognizes diversity and fosters social inclusion" by recognizing the plurality of voices that comprise the rapidly growing digital media spaces facilitated by today's information and communication technologies. In the near future, I aspire to apply these firmly held beliefs in a progressive library and/or information environment that recognizes and privileges the diverse information needs of the community it serves.


This paper was originally written in December 2009 by Brianna Erban for LIS 585: Multimedia Literacies. This revised version was submitted to fulfill the requirements for LIS 600: Capping Exercise at the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Last updated May 6, 2010.