The Japanese Internet: Visionaries and Virtual Democracy

Peter Rimmer, Tessa Morris-Suzuki

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    An examination is made of how the development of the Internet in Japan is likely to affect civic rights and the relationship between citizens and their government. This was undertaken to determine if the trajectory of Internet development in Japan, with its distinct locational and corporate biases, has followed the predictions of two prominent Japanese commentators: the visionary Kumon Shumpei who espoused an expansive international perspective that citizens will be transformed into 'netizens' in a virtual community; and the media analyst Kogawa Tetsuo, whose pessimistic views were targeted primarily at a national audience and concerned the adaptability of the Japanese to the 'permanent autonomous zones' created by information technology. The observations of these commentators on the relationship between the Internet and civil society are tested in an examination of the degree to which the social and political uses of the Internet have followed their conjectures by means of two case studies: the protest movements over United States bases in Okinawa, and the Nibutani Dam in southern Hokkaido-an area with a predominantly indigenous Ainu population. Although the authors report evidence that the Internet has extended the sphere of grass-roots political activity, they believe its effect is likely to be limited until there is a restructuring of Japanese political organisations and attitudes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1189-1206
    JournalEnvironment and Planning A
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


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