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Scan Line: How Cyborgs Feel

Thomas Lamarre, McGill University

(draft not for circulation)
So often cyborg perception in cinema and animation appears in the form
of a mechanized or technologized eye moving through the world, as if looking
through the viewfinder of massively enhanced monocular apparatus, which also
offers a broad range of sensory measurement of the environment, from infrared
night vision and zooms to facial recognition and pattern matches (Fig. 1).1 Such a
presentation gives the impression that there is a seer behind the seeing. You are
invited to see with cyborg eyes (rather, eye), as if perception were primarily a
matter of a seer sitting inside someones head. Thus it is possible for you to look
through their eyes and to hear through their ears. In fact, cyborg hearing
typically gravitates toward voices in the head, that is, hearing messages from
other cyberized entities without their actually speaking, without emitting sound
into their surroundings. Rather, speech is (one supposes) formulated and
transmitted electronically or digitally (without any initial production of sound
waves), yet is received through an activation of the human sensory apparatus for
hearing, and then heard as if in the head.
Cyberized transmission and reception of speech is commonly
distinguished perceptually from non-cyberized modalities (people talking to one
another without prostheses) by adding reverberation to cyber-transmitted voices,
as if they were being heard within something. With both cyborg seeing and
hearing, the effect is that of a perceiver behind the perceiving, a disembodied
subject that may readily move from body to body, while bodies begin to figure as
nothing more than apparatuses for the transmission and reception of images and
sounds, as disposable and exchangeable as cameras or mobile phones.
These examples of cyborg perception are drawn primarily from
animations in the Kkaku kidtai: The Ghost in the Shell series, which includes
Oshii Mamorus two animated films, The Ghost in the Shell (1995) and The Ghost
in the Shell: Innocence (2004), and Kamiyama Kenjis two animated television
series, The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 1st Gig (2002-3) and 2nd Gig
(2004-5), which was followed by his television movie The Ghost in the Shell:

Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society (2006), and more recently the first in a
series of animated prequel films, The Ghost in the Shell: Arise (2013), directed by
Kise Kazuchika. But cyborg perception is so consistently staged in this manner
across a range of films and animations produced in various locations around the
world, that it is surely a generally familiar trope for viewers of other cyborg films
and animations.
What is striking about such a staging of cyborg perception is that it seems
to confirm the dualism of mind and body, a divide between perceiver-subject
and perceptual machine-organ. As such, it runs counter to claims made for how
cyborgs signal a rupture with Cartesian dualism, for what is staged in such
instances is the very possibility of a disembodied subject, of subjective
disembodiment. Of course, this sort of perception is not all that happens in films
and animations dealing with cyborgs. Moving images do not and probably
cannot remain fixated on one sort of perceptual experience. There is, for instance,
a relation between seeing and hearing, which adds a twist. Still, this twist may be
construed in terms of a disjunction of voice and image and thus an instance of
the disembodied existence of a networked self, as Christopher Bolton does in his
account of Oshiis The Ghost in the Shell.2 In contrast, Hyewon Shin, dealing
with the same animated film, finds that the correlation of voice and body (image)
results neither in synchronization nor voice-off, which paves the way for a new
understanding our connection with non-human entities in general, one not based
in Cartesian optics and thus subjective mastery.3
In other words, even when persuasive arguments are made for how
cyborgs go beyond the Cartesian ego, it seems that the paradigm of the
disembodied subject reappears, surely because cyborg perception seeing
through the massively mechanized eye and hearing voices in the head
remains a major source of attraction, not only because it offers a futuristic or
high-tech feel but also because it offers a media problematic, a site of
perceptual focus where technologies seem at once to be holding things together
and to be pulling them apart. This is lure of cyborg perception, so to speak.
Nonetheless, if cyborgs today arouse less theoretical enthusiasm and
controversy than they did in the 1990s, it is because the cyborg problematic came
to an impasse in its reliance on a certain way of contesting the disembodied

subject or Cartesian ego. Katherine Hayles explains, for instance, the importance
of Donna Haraways seminal essay, A Manifesto for Cyborgs, published in
1985: Deeply connected to the military, bound to high technology for its very
existence and a virtual icon for capitalism, the cyborg was contaminated to the
core, making it exquisitely appropriate as a provocation.4 Yet she also adds,
the cyborg no longer offers the same heady brew of resistance and co-option.
Quite simply, it is not networked enough. the individual person or for that
matter, the individual cyborg is no longer the appropriate unit of analysis, if
indeed it ever was.5 Hayles offers instead the paradigm of the cognisphere, or
computationally distributed cognition, to overcome what she sees as the impasse
of cyborg theory: taking the individual as the unit of analysis. Still, she finds a
solution in Haraways work, in its general commitment to thinking relation.
It is true that thinking relation presents a powerful alternative, and yet the
impasse of the cyborg problematic lies not so much in its emphasis on the
individual per se as in its recourse to a disembodied subject. Feminist critics
exploring new materialisms called attention to this problem. Vicki Kirby, for
instance, questioned the assumption that net avatars, for instance, had no
materiality, reminding us that their immateriality meant neither an absence of
materiality nor pure subjectivity.6 Ian Hacking approached the cyborg
impasse from a different direction, and cited this passage from Haraway to
signal a troublesome proximity with Descartes in her take on the relation
between humans and machines: Late twentieth century machines have made
thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial and many
other distinctions that apply to organisms and machines. 7 In other words, as
both Kirby and Hacking suggest, the impasse of cyborg theory comes of a
methodology that posits distinctions and then blurs them. The alternative
(thinking relation) is not, however, merely a matter of turning away from
individual terms to the relationship between them, thereby shifting attention
from the individual to collections of individuals or interactions between
individuals. The result is a displacement of the disembodied subject into a
networked or distributed subjectivity or cognition. The problem is not simply
one of ignoring materiality (with cognitive or logical structures) but of ignoring
the relation between materiality and immateriality, that is, the media

problematic, or mediality.
The challenge of thinking relation lies in attending to relation prior to the
emergence of the two terms (human and machine in Haraway, or consciousness
and computation in Hayle) that at once grounds their distinction and is
produced and changed by their interaction. As such, it is not a question of
looking at how computation distributes consciousness but of considering what
relation distributes experience into computation and consciousness (or into
human and machine), and how their interaction potentially transforms that
relation. This is what William James refers to as a pure experience, which
operates as a little absolute insofar it is a primary stuff from which both
subjective and objective are differentiated in this specific universe, our cyborg
universe.8 This is precisely the media problematic, the mediality between
materiality and immateriality.
Films and animations are good to think with because they work with and
through experience. Returning to our initial problematic of cyborg perception,
we see that an impasse arises when we accept the distinction between perceiver
and perceived, only to argue that the distinction then becomes blurred or
ambiguous. For we then accept the idea of a disembodied transcendent subject
that undergoes a crisis of identity. We thus need to work to some extent against
the grain of some aspects of received stories about cyborgs, which often stage
such a crisis of identity on the part of cyborg, reinforcing the idea of a preexisting
subject that is thrown into crisis by technology. In Oshii Mamorus first The
Ghost in the Shell animation, for instance, there is a general crisis of identity
because anyone with a cyberized brain can have their brain hacked, and thus
their actions controlled, and their memories altered or wiped.
Thinking the relation requires, then, that we move against the grain of this
paradigm of a preexisting identity that is threatened by technical alteration.
Fortunately, The Ghost in the Shell also offers a genuinely alternative
problematic: the ghost, sometimes also glossed as soul. The ghost is matter of
embodied experience and intuition of the world rather than disembodied
subjectivity. It entails, in effect, feeling rather than perceiving. Where the
perceiver seems to reside in the shell (or in the head) and to stand outside the
world, the ghost feels the world and the self at the same time, prior to the

perceiver being conscious of either. Sharalyn Orbaugh builds on Teresa

Brennans work to highlight this aspect of Oshiis film: affect does not arise
solely or even primarily from within a self-contained, autonomous body ()
affect moves between (and into and out of) bodies in a literal, physical sense.9
Such a ghost offers a speculative counterpart to the techno-scientific
pragmatics of The Ghost in the Shell world: the pragmatics, for instance, of
producing a cyborg body, cyberizing a brain, transferring a consciousness into a
new prosthetic body, dubbing a ghost. It also hints at a definition of science
fiction as a mode of reading: reading the speculative not in opposition to the
pragmatic but in terms of the contingencies of the speculative-pragmatic relation.
After all, the speculative may well prove pragmatic if it affords a productive
reading of science.10
The Ghost in the Shell animations offer an experiential analog to the ghost,
the scan line, as the relation between materiality and immateriality, in the
register of infrastructure and self. Beginning with Oshiis The Ghost in the Shell
animated film, cyborgs do not only stand apart from the world as disembodied
subjects perceiving the objective world through technologically enhanced organs.
They also feel the world in scan lines, which are, in effect, material residues or
artifacts of communication and transmission, which usually tend to escape
notice. Yet with the scan line, the world and other entities in it are in turn feeling
the (individual) cyborg: the relation between individual and collective is at once
being produced and becoming productive in a mode of affective communication.
Communication might thus be thought of in the sense of building with.11
To situate to the specific affective and speculative functions of the scan
line in Oshiis The Ghost in the Shell, I propose first to consider it more generally.
Disjunctive Synthesis
When a television screen makes an appearance within a movie, rows of
fine lines often appear on the screen, dark narrow bands traversing the bright
image. These scan lines commonly result from a disjuncture between two media
platforms. For instance, the movie camera is capturing images at a frame
different from the frame rate or refresh rate of the image on the television screen.
The movie camera thus picks up what the human eye does not perceive on the

television screen: cathode rays fire half the image at a time in alternating rows at
a rate faster than the human eye can detect. The movie camera, however,
shooting at a faster rate, catches the interlacing of the two images, and the result
is a striping effect of darker and lighter bands across the image. In effect, we are
seeing an encounter of two different media rates or media temporalities: if we see
the underlying temporality of the television screens refresh rate, it is only
because we perceive the television screen via the temporality of the movie
The scan line is thus an almost paradigmatic example of what Gilles
Deleuze called disjunctive synthesis, a notion that Deleuze and Guattari, in
their retooling of Marx and Lacan in Anti-Oepidus, used to characterize the
production of distribution.13 Indeed, scan lines make perceptible the
underlying experience of how distribution across media is produced: the
interface between two media platforms movie camera and television screen,
for instance does not entail a blurring of distinctions but rather a mode of
holding together and holding apart of differences between media, which arise in
this case in the register of frequencies or temporalities.
Scan lines also can appear when something recorded at one rate is
replayed at a different rate, which we generally associate with video playback
when the frequency of the screen does not match that of the video. Footage shot
with surveillance cameras commonly is presented with scan lines to indicate a
discrepancy in resolution between two platforms. Moreover, the first game
systems used a non-interlaced signal and introduced frames with 240 lines for
compatibility with television screens, yet the resulting difference in frequency
produced scan lines on the image, which today are associated with classic
video games.
In sum, scan lines appear for different reasons in different contexts (and
there is the related roll bar effect), but the basic operation is one of disjuncture
between media platforms at the level of temporality, as rate or frequency.
Because scan lines appeared historically in media practices associated with
television screens that used cathode ray tubes and interlaced images, such as
adapting video games, playing back camcorder footage, and filming television
screens, scan lines have gradually become associated with the experience of

television screens in general. As such, even in recent films, when television

screens make an appearance on screen, it is common to present them with scan
For instance, in recent high-profile American movies such as Bourne
Legacy, Total Recall, Warm Bodies, The Call, and World War Z, scan lines are
prominent on television screens. Such a use of scan lines is rather surprising,
particularly in light of their emphasis on high-tech media or futuristic
technologies. After all, the use of cathode ray tubes or CRT screens is a thing of
the past: production of cathode ray tubes ceased in 2012, and current television
screen technologies (liquid crystal and plasma displays) do not interlace images.
When filmed, liquid crystal displays tend to generate a moir effect rather than
scan lines. Indeed, in Kamiyamas The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
television series, produced in the 2000s, the effect of filming screens gradually
becomes rendered as geometric crosshatching on the image rather than scan
lines. In the recent reboot of the Space Battleship Yamato series, ch senkan
Yamato 2199 (2013), the media technology of technologically advanced aliens, the
Garmillas, is characterized by forms of crosshatching on screens, in contrast to
the scan lines appearing on screens used by humans, who are presented as less
advanced technologically. In other words, there are some signs of a conscious
shift away from the scan line in some Japanese animations, with deliberate
characterizations of it belonging to a prior, lower tech moment. Nonetheless,
scan lines remain the most common way to stage effects of transmission in films
and animations. When crosshatching appears as an alternative, it is usually in
oscillation with scan lines, which suggests a lack of certainty about whether
transition is indeed underway, and whether it is or can be complete.
Because scan lines today usually are added to the image as special effect,
rather than appearing spontaneously as a artifact of filming, their continued
usage is all the more striking. In cinema, it is possible today to eliminate scan
lines when filming television screens. In Argo, for instance, in keeping with the
general mission of the film to create the sense of a direct seamless relation to the
past, television screens do not show scan lines and do not produce an experience
of disjuncture.

In sum, as these examples indicate, the appearance of scan lines entails

something more than a simple and direct artifact of filming. Conventions have
developed around the presentation of television screens, and in recent films such
as Total Recall, Bourne Identity, Warm Bodies, The Call, and many others, scan
lines apparently were added to television screens in post-production, as special
effects, rather than arising in the process of filming with a movie camera
operating at a different frame rate than the television screen. In this respect,
cinema is hand in glove with animation.
When scan lines are added as effects to certain images, it marks them as
scanned-transmitted images, that is, images operating across a disjuncture
between what is shown-recorded and what is transmitted-received. In the films
mentioned previously, a contrast between television and cinema arises, in the
form of a contrast between scanned-transmitted images (television) and filmedprojected images (cinema). Cinema does not pretend to provide an invisible or
transparent mediation of television: when scan lines appear, we know were
watching cinema and television at the same time. Nonetheless, there are a variety
of ways of negotiating this effect.
In Total Recall, for instance, marking screens with scan lines plays into the
movies central concern how to distinguish genuine memory from implanted
memory by establishing a firm distinction between the media world and the
real world. Such a distinction may actually serve to stabilize at the level of media
the very distinctions that the film proposes to destabilize at the level of plot and
action. Marking television screens with scan lines reassures viewer that at some
level there is the possibility of keeping things straight or, to evoke Thomas
Elsaessers notion, of solving the puzzle upon repeated viewing.14 Similarly, in
Bourne Legacy, scan lines remind us of the constant presence of information
surveillance by indicating that what is seen is being seen by someone, and
potentially recorded and transmitted. In sum, in such instances, the moment of
disjunctive synthesis underscores an oscillation between two realities that takes
on the form of a puzzle, which holds out the possibility of an answer or
resolution, that is, a determination of which reality is genuine. How you respond
to the film depends a great deal on whether you feel that the film needs to
provide a conclusive answer, or whether puzzlement itself is sufficient

entertainment. As already mentioned, Argo goes in the opposite direction:

television screens do not show scan lines nor an experience of disjuncture, which
is in keeping with the films concern for capturing the year 1980 accurately: there
is no disjuncture between the movie camera and television media. In sum, scan
lines may evoked in a variety of ways. They may also be construed nostalgically,
for instance, as signs of the good old days of television or the classic era of video
As their prevalence in Total Recall and Bourne Legacy indicate, scan lines
are frequently used today to impart an aura of high-tech telecommunication and
information networks. In fact, scan lines have become a sign of the digital. To
impart an aura of high-tech digital media events, trailers for films frequently
increase the number of images showing screens with scan lines. The Call is a
good example for it not only shows television footage with scan lines but also
imbues its graphics and its look with scan lines, in order to give the sense of
proliferating humming networks of information, weaving together cell phones,
cameras, and screens. Similarly, books on digital media in Japan from the late
1990s and early 2000s feature images with scan lines.15
It may seem odd that the scan line, associated with now out-dated CRT
technology and low-resolution video, has forged such a dominant association
with cutting-edge digital and multimedia effects, rather than functioning
primarily as cause for nostalgia. Yet if we look at what is happening in scan lines,
this association makes perfect sense. At work in the scan line is disjunctive
synthesis, which builds together different modes of media existence, of
capturing, sending, and receiving. The disjunctive synthesis might even be said
to entail a communicating communication, recalling Niklas Luhmanns dictum,
Only communication communicates.16 Or, put otherwise, only building with
builds with.
At the same time, insofar as the experience of the scan line derives from
the media world of CRT television screens with consoles or plug-ins (VCR, game
consoles, and camcorders), it reminds us that contemporary media
infrastructures have a deeper history, a history that is not a simple succession of
forms but the transformative prolongation of a diagram or dispositif. Recall that
the refresh rate for computer screens for many years was modeled on that of the

television screen, building an analogy between computer and television screens

that was not in any way technologically necessary. Although today neither
television nor computer screens employ interlaced images, the ease with which
computer screens are used for viewing television is surely due at least in part to
this initial analogy constructed between them.
The critical question with scan lines then is not that of whether they
appear or not. It is one of how and how much the effect of disjunctive synthesis
is deactivated (enclosed or contained within a stable semiotic system) or
activated (amplified and prolonged in experience). Reproducing scan lines for
nostalgic effect, mobilizing them as general indicators of media interfaces, or
using them to stabilize an underlying distinction between real world and media
world these practices tend to deactivate the scan line. Films with media puzzle
effects such as Total Recall, Bourne Legacy and Inception, are difficult to gauge,
because such films studiously, even laboriously hover at the tipping point,
vacillating between activation and deactivation. If films with puzzle effects based
on staging disjunctive synthesis via scan lines are becoming more common, it is
surely because there is an increased awareness of scan lines as an actual effect, as
an active force, rather than an artifact to be tolerated or ignored. Significantly, it
is for the same reason because it does not generate scan lines as an artifact
of the production process that animation actually shows a greater awareness
of them, and a tendency to use them actively, forcefully. In addition, because so
much animation is produced for television or for release on video, DVD, or
Internet, it frequently shows increased awareness of these effects that were
initially associated with the experience of small screens, that is, televisions and
computer monitors. The use of scan line effects in animation, then, should not be
considered to be secondary to or merely derivative of cinematic effects. In this
instance, the idea that animation is operating at a remove from the indexical
capture associated with live-action filming does not imply a diminishment of an
original but rather a sustained engagement with and prolongation of an effect.
This is precisely what happens in Oshiis The Ghost in the Shell: the scan
line is activated to address the media problematic associated with cyborg
perception: the moments of cyborg perception in which there seems to be a
perceiver behind the perceiving, a disembodied subject, presents an experience

in which new technologies (information and telecommunication networks) seem

at once to be holding together mind and body, human and machine, and to be
tearing them apart. In response, Oshiis animation highlights and expands the
effect of the scan line. It thus invites us to consider how a disjunctive synthesis
between media platforms is the site of a pure experience or little absolute
that at once generates and grounds distinctions between human and machine,
and between mind and body, while being prolonged and transformed by their
interaction. In this respect, Oshiis animation feels more in touch with the
implications of building with media platforms than do many of the recent films
cited above.
Expanded Television
Serialized in Kdanshas weekly manga magazine, Young Magazine,
between April 1989 and November 1990, and released in book format in Japanese
in 1991, and in English in 1995, Shirows Kkaku kidtai: The Ghost in the Shell
presents a series of eleven story-chapters set between 2029 and 2030. Stories
center on Section 9, a highly secret special ops unit led by Aramaki Daisuke,
initially set up as a anti-terrorism squad under the Ministry of Internal Affairs,
but reconfigured by the end of the second chapter, Super Spartan, into an
international hostage rescue unit reporting directly to the Prime Minister.17
Section 9 is characterized as an offensive assault unit deploying high-tech power
suits or tactical armors, hence the Japanese title Kkaku kidtai or armored
mobile troops. The central characters, members of Section 9, range from humans
with very minimal prosthetics and cyberization such as Togusa, to humans with
entirely prosthetic bodies and highly cyberized brains such as Major Kusanagi
Mokoto and Bat; gynoid robot operatives referred to as speakers, and spiderlike intelligent mobile tanks called Fuchikoma.
Chapters consist largely of stand-alone stories, but in the first volume, a
larger storyline emerges across chapters 3, 9, 10, and 11, in which the Major, the
female cyborg Kusanagi Motoko who is ace squad leader of Section 9, encounters
a criminal called the Puppet Master who is hacking into human cyberbrain
ghosts to control their actions like a puppeteer. He (the manga presents this AI as
male) turns out to be a new form of intelligence, accidentally generated through

governmental experiments with AI, which now seeking a way to prolong its life.
Realizing that self-replication will not result in genuine reproduction (temporal
stability across fluctuations), the Puppet Master develops a plan to fuse with the
Major to produce new entities that will inhabit the Net. This mode of fusion is
presented in terms reminiscent of disjunctive synthesis: fusion does not result in
a blurring of distinctions insofar as both entities are said to retain their distinctive
identities within their fusion or unification.
Oshiis 1995 animated film follows this storyline fairly closely, but
transforms it into a media problematic by working with different kinds of images
that present distinct media types. Especially salient is the contrast between
computer images and images of the everyday urban world, that is, between
cyberscapes and cityscapes. Cyberscapes are images resembling what would
appear on a computer screen, which are transmitted directly from computers to
cyberized brains. For instance, computer graphics track the location of a car upon
a grid, allowing section 9 cyberpolice to pursue their quarry (Fig. 2). Such images
are accompanied by voice-overs that do not function in the manner of voice-over
as voice-across indicating transmission across network channels. Such imagery
may appear crude in design by contemporary standards, consisting of a black
screen with simple geometric layouts in glowing green, but the idea is
contemporary enough: there is a digital transmission of GPS tracking
information directly into the cyberized brain. Such cyberscapes, with their
simplicity of design, color, and illumination, contrast sharply with the cityscapes.
Oshiis animation was renowned for its use of techniques of rotoscoping
in creating the urban world of The Ghost in the Shell. Particularly famous is the
sequence in which The Major travels through the city by boat on canal, which,
like many other sequences in the film, was based on camcorder footage shot by
Oshii in Hong Kong. Animators did not digitally paint the footage in the manner
of films like Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006), but rather the
footage provided a point of reference for the creation of what might called
video realism. If Oshiis animation is said to entail greater realism, it is
because, on the one hand, its future world feels lived in, that is, grimy and seamy
rather than clean and glossy, for which the noir-like aesthetics of Blade Runner
were a source of inspiration. On the other hand, realism entails a sense of

accuracy in depicting pocked and pitted surfaces as well as detailed painting to

impart depth to the image. The result is a world of muted tones, full of depth and
detail yet without sharp corners and boundaries, as if in lower resolution than
high-speed cinematography. Even when brilliantly colored, fully illuminated
advertisements and street signs appear, their hues are somewhat less saturated
than expected due to their brilliant hues and full illumination, which imparts a
tinge of warmth and intimacy (Fig. 3), in keeping with the feel of camcorder
footage. This video realism, with its combination of high detail with somewhat
low-res depth and lesser saturation, contrasts sharply with the geometric
simplicity and bold black-green illumination of cyberscapes.
What is the relation between these two distinct perceptual experiences,
which makes cyberscapes and cityscapes feel like different worlds?
The story sets up a potentially antagonistic relation between them. Indeed,
following the manga, the film opens with a statement about the tension between
computerization (corporate networks and flows of information without physical
boundaries) and the persistence of boundaries in the form of nations and ethnic
groups. Put another way, there are two sorts of infrastructure implying different
kinds of experience: the almost oceanic experience of unbounded flows of
information in corporate computer networks, and the experience of persistent or
residual boundedness related to geopolitical frameworks and legal institutions.
The Ghost in the Shell thus seems to flirt with the notion, dubious yet popular in
the 1990s, that globalization tended to eliminate national boundaries and ethnic
affiliations.18 Significantly, while Shirows manga situates the action within
Japan, Oshiis animation does not name its location, thus implying a generalized,
hybridized global city in East Asia. As such, the scale already seems to be tipping
in Oshiis version toward a vision of the global city as a site that is neither
globalization nor nation, neither infinite network nor finite enclave, but some
amalgamation of them.
At the same time, in keeping with Shirows manga, Oshiis animated film
displaces the geopolitical question (crisis of national sovereignty) onto questions
of identity and selfhood (crisis in personal sovereignty). It displaces them
especially onto the Japanese female cyborg, the Major, who seems especially
prone to doubt her identity. In this register, the antagonism returns, in the form

of the Cartesian ego or disembodied subject, which is mobilized and called into
question at the same time: if ones self is infinitely transferable from one
prosthetic body to another, how does it remain the same self? Such doubts assail
the Major, especially in the wake of two incidents in which the Puppet Master
has hacked into a human cyberbrain, implanted fake memories, and taken
control of conscious person. The sovereignty of consciousness, of a self-identical
conscious self, appears at once highly desirable and unsustainable. How to know
if you are a puppet or not?
It is possible to tease a conceptual answer to this cyborg conundrum out of
philosophical discourses running through the film, and Oshiis films are famous
for their protracted discussions of conceptual and geopolitical issues, often
accompanied by direct quotation of an array of major thinkers.19 Yet the genius of
Oshii lies in the transformation of such questions, crises, and paradoxes, into
media problematics. Indeed, protracted discussions and extended citation always
occur in conjunction with sequences that highlight media and technology.
Clearly, conceptual questions and discourses are not autonomous of media
through which they appear. Moreover, even in conceptual terms, the direction
taken by the Major in Oshiis The Ghost in the Shell hinges on a media
problematic related to perceiving and feeling: she soon realizes that, if the
continuity of the conscious self cannot be guaranteed, then continuity must be
sought at another, non-conscious and even non-sensuous or non-appearing
level, namely, that of the ghost, which entails an experience of something on the
fringes of consciousness, never quite appearing as such but decidedly present
The challenge of shifting attention to the media problematic is that it is no
longer possible to look at the identity crisis in terms of a problem with an
answer, or a contest with a victor. Taking a discursive side, for instance, siding
with the nation or ethnicity against corporate information globalization, or vice
versa, resolves nothing. Oshii instead situates us within a media experience of
the problematic, which is salient in the contrast between cyberscapes and
Cyberscapes offers a tentative experience of disembodiment: you see what
the cyborg sees (computerized imagery) and hear what the cyborg hears (voices

in the head reverberating) as if you could occupy that body, as if a body were but
a center of perception. A pattern of shot and reverse shot may step in to
remind you that this is what Bat or the Major are experiencing. Yet, even with
shots that connect perceptual experience to a particular body, you dont know
what to feel because cyborg faces are entirely impassive, without the slightest
display of emotion. Cyborg faces are thus like the cityscapes: fleshed out in
detail, modeled in depth, implying possibilities for warmth and intimacy, but
somehow floating and dreamlike in their low-res clarity. The low rhythmic pulse
of the music over the longer sequences increases the detached quality of the
scenery. In one sequence in which the Major ponders the reality of her self, as the
viewing position gradually comes closer to her face, the layers of background
cityscape appear to separate, as if the city had become unmoored, and voice that
does not seem to be hers speaks, laden with reverberation to signal that its source
is cyber.21 In other words, as you shift back and forth between experiences of the
disembodied subject and images of the actual world, the video-realism of the
actual world does not provide as strong sense of embodiment as you might
expect or desire. The crisis of the Cartesian subject, then, is not merely in
cyberscapes or cityscapes but in their relation. Within and across cyberscapes
and cityscapes, there is constant desynchronization and resynchronization of
seeing and hearing, reminiscent of Michel Chions notion of cinema as
audiovision, which Massumi describes as a singular kind of relational effect that
takes off from both vision and audio but is irreducible to either.22 Like the
Major, you may well wonder, what is it that allows these two aspects to stand
apart and to hold together? What is their relation?
If you only pay attention to the action of the film, there is an accelerating
pattern of alternation between the two audiovisual types, which does afford a
certain degree of blurring, as if the two terms were gradually merging, as the
spokes of the wheel appear to blur when the wheel turns rapidly. Things will
somehow cohere, you feel, provided everything continues to accelerate until the
end. In addition, there are moments in which the cyber-images are layered into
the images of the actual world, usually in the form of computer displays that
appear in luminous translucent green, projected from who knows where. Yet, at
the same time, the languid pacing of some sequences in The Ghost in the Shell

reminds you that at any moment, the distinct terms may precipitate out of the
mix as soon as the stirring slows: the terms are in colloidal suspense, instead of
dissolving into a solution. The experience of the film is as much one of incipient
precipitation as one of action accelerating to an end. The pockmarks ripped into
the wall by bullets recall the ripples caused in a puddle as raindrops start to fall.
Events are precipitating.
This is precisely at this point that you might notice something unusual
about the staging of cyborg perception: scan lines. Horizontal bright and dark
bands stripe the screen when you move into the cyborgs field of perception. The
first instance almost escapes notice: in the opening sequence, the Major sits on
the rooftop of a skyscraper, gathering information about an illegal meeting,
establishing the coordinates and timing for her intervention (she dives from
the building in thermo-optic camouflage, crashes the meeting from the outside
window to kill her target, momentarily becomes visible, and then fades into her
camouflage again as she falls toward the city streets). As she sits and gathers
data, the sequence alternates between green screen computer images and videoreal cityscapes, but for a moment, when she looks down into the streets, the
screen is striped with scan lines (Fig. 4). It is easy to miss this fleeting instance of
perception that is neither cyberscape nor cityscape. Later, however, the film
suddenly brings this mode of perception to the fore. Section 9 learns the
whereabouts of the Puppet Master (he is in the body of a cyborized man who is
in turn taking control of a cyborized man, a garage collector), and the garage
man rushes to warn him. As the cyberized man looks at the approaching garbage
truck, he perceives the world in scan lines (Fig. 5). And in the subsequent
sequence in which Bat and The Major chase him through backstreets and a
marketplace, Bats perception is also characterized by scan lines (Fig. 6). Finally,
in the penultimate scene in which the Puppet Master and the Major fuse,
perception is consistently, even insistently, rendered with scan lines (Fig. 7). The
scan line is impossible to ignore. In other words, Oshiis The Ghost in the Shell
does not so much build toward a resolution of conflicts as stage a disjunctive
synthesis: two entities merge without losing their distinctiveness. Because such a
synthesis was always already present in the scan line, the merging or fusing of
the two entities is less a break with the existing order of thing than its definitive

moment. But how does such a disjunctive synthesis work, concretely and
specifically, in The Ghost in the Shell?
First, because the scan lines characterizing cyborg perception are identical
to the scan lines that arise when shooting video footage, the cyborg is situated as
a sort of media platform. The analogy to the camcorder is especially strong, and
in addition, the constant use of cables to connect cyborgs to the central computer
or to other cyborgs (the plug features prominently when a cyborg dives into
the brain of another) recalls the act of plugging consoles or peripheral devices
into the television or into computer monitors. As such, the cyborg appears as one
media platform in network of platforms, but this is a specific network
infrastructure. This network is a sort of expanded television, not only because
it highlights the emergence of a new, largely televisual world, but also because
the operative paradigm is that of hooking peripherals into a television screen,
and even the computer monitor functions like the television screen. In one key
sequence in the film, Aramaki covertly sets up video surveillance around a
house: he uses what looks like a laptop computer, into which cables are plugged,
connecting his computer to other and the network, reminding us that this is not
the era of wireless connection but of wires, cables, and diverse modalities of
hooking up and jacking in.
Second, the surveillance footage appearing Aramakis computer screen
shows scan lines, recalling another dimension of disjunctive synthesis: when you
see the world in scan lines, whatever you see is being transmitted to someone
somewhere, and thus potentially to anyone anywhere. What you see may be
intercepted, overheard, whether deliberately or accidentally. As such, when you
perceive in scan lines, your perceptual world is open or exposed to other media
platforms. The response to this situation of disjunctive synthesis can go in one of
two directions. On the one hand, it can lead to paranoid defensive formation in
which you are caught up in a unending game of building new forms of
protection, to assure that your shell is not breached, your brain not hacked, your
memories not stolen or damaged. This is where personal and national
sovereignty are forced into collusion in a paranoid escalation of preemptive and
hence offensive defense in a world where security is simply more insecurity. On
the other hand, a world in which everything and everyone becomes a

disembodied ego sealed within layer upon layer of protective barriers is

ultimately unsustainable, and it effectively eliminates the self that it is allegedly
designed to preserve. In response, at some point, like the Major and Puppet
Master, you will have to run the risk of exposure to the network and of losing
yourself to survive. Here a distinction arises between the conscious subject and
the experiential self, and the experience of the scan line turns in a different
direction. Rather than being construed as an invasion of your consciousness by
another consciousness, it implies feeling the world, and the world feeling toward
This experience of the scan lines brings us to the third point: the scan line
is not contained with any media platform. It is the material residue of platforms
building with each other. In this respect, the scan line is important precisely
because it does not lead toward the blur or stain, which tends to sustain an
idealist or psychologistic relationship of the self to media, which claims that
media touches the subject there where its perception becomes blurred and
troubled.23 On the contrary, the scan line is visible, even tangible, and it has a
sonic analog (reverberation, not distortion). The scan line is not in the brain or in
the object, but in the world. As mentioned previously, a recurring feature of
Oshiis style is the staging of sequences in which characters engage in a lengthy
discussion of one of the key issues in the film, but they do so while driving along
a highway at night. Bands of light wash over the cars interior and their faces as
they pass under the evenly spaced rows of lights illuminating the highway (Fig.
8). The sensation of forward motion is lost, and it seems that the car stands still
as the citys lights sweep over them. The city itself is now scanning them, the city
feels them. The scan line is not confined to the screen, to cyborg perception, or
cyberscapes. In effect, the city has become cyberized and cyberizing.
This is what the coupling of the Puppet Master and the Major stages as
well. Cables are plugged into the remnants of their cyborg bodies, and connected
to Bat as well, making him the witness and guardian of this marriage. While
mismatches or new matches between body and voice (the Puppet Master speaks
from the Majors body, for instance) may impart the sense of disembodiment, the
insistent use of scan lines highlights that this coupling entails different media
platforms that perceive, record, and transmit at different frequencies. As such,

the experience is one of building a specific infrastructure and a specific self

simultaneously. The human now appears as one media platform among others,
as a mode of temporality that is only experienced when interlaced with another.
This coupling also tries to produce an interlacing of gender identities: after
coupling, the Major in Oshiis animation regains consciousness in a girls body.
(In Shirows manga, she winds up in the body of a youth so beautiful that Bat
mistakes it for a girls body.) Commentators on The Ghost in the Shell have
questioned its vision of gender, calling attention to how womans bodies stand in
for matter, and as such, dont really seem to matter, existing only to be
dismembered and discarded.24 It is true that The Ghost in the Shell is so intent on
reconfiguring ethics and politics in terms of media others (robots, AI, AL,
cyborgs) that it tends not to treat received forms of alterity (gender, class,
ethnicity) as residual formations. As such, gender trouble, for instance, feels at
once displaced onto and displaced by cyborg trouble. Yet there may be a
challenge here: drawing on the logic of the scan line indicates, we might also
look at the implications of a disjunctive synthesis holding received forms of
alterity together with electronic or digital information entities. As such, the
female cyborg is not about the blurring of distinctions between woman and
machine but about the specific rate or frequency of an interlacing. In the Majors
instance, this interlacing also takes the form of meeting with her self: as she
slowly cruises through the city, she encounters other cyborgs with the same
prosthetic body. The interlacing of perception and cityscape takes on temporal
rhythm of encounter, which is, in fact, her.
The final image of the animation is of the Major overlooking the wired
city, into which she will release the progeny of her coupling. It is a city of
towering buildings laced with cable-like connections that promise to hold it
together two kinds of infrastructure city structures and wired networks
(Figure 9). This is a highly specific vision of infrastructures in which city and net
appear literally plugged into one another. It is worth recalling that Oshiis The
Ghost in the Shell appeared in 1995, the year associated with the emergence of
DVDs, the ascendency of the Internet, and the rise of digital television. Its cyborg
world is that of a prior infrastructure, of cables and camcorders, of consoles
plugged into televisions and computers. Indeed, Oshiis animation might be seen

as the culmination of the video revolution of the 1980s that generated both
expanded television and a new aesthetic, that of the Original Video Animation or
From the early 1980s, production of animation in Japan at once boomed
and become more differentiated in terms of its markets, formats and genres. With
the advent of VHS, a range of new animations appeared for home video,
ushering in the OVA. At the same time, discourses on information society,
prevalent from the late 1960s, spurred interest in emerging technologies of
television reception, transmission, and of display and interaction (such as
satellite and cable, and VHR and console games), which inspired teletopia
initiatives and made new media the buzzword in discussions of television in
the 1980s in Japan.25 Not surprisingly, as a consequence, Japanese television
animation, often loosely dubbed anime, often focused attention on the impact of
new computer and television technologies, exploring their effects in different
registers, at the levels of story and art, and distribution and reception. In fact,
anime might well be considered the new media form par excellence of 1980s,
anticipating its surge to global popularity in the 1990s. OVAs in particular
played an important role in expanding the media purvey of animation. They not
only created a relay between animated films for theatrical release and animated
television series but also generated new circuits of distribution and new modes
of watching.
Significantly, Oshii is credited with creating the first OVA series, Dallos
(1983). More importantly, it was in the context of such animation that the scan
line came to the fore. As animators found new markets and new budgets for
release directly to video, they began using video or camcorder footage to
enhance both the realism of effects and the media quality of animation, to
produce darker, more conceptual, and more sexually explicit fare. Thus the scan
lines that appear on television or computer screens when filming with camcorder
found their way into animation: the flickering scan-lined screen in a dark room
became something of a signature feature of OVAs.
Oshiis The Ghost in the Shell is the apotheosis of this world of expanded
television infrastructures and OVA aesthetics. Bringing that infrastructure to the
surface in the form of the scan line, Oshiis animation shows how media

networks are not simply about the reproduction of the disembodied subject,
networked selves, or the distribution of cognition. It explores the co-emergence
of self and infrastructure, the distribution that is producing the distinction of self
and network, and is prolonged by it. In the form of a media problematic, it tries
to formulate an experience of a self-in-disjunction that might be capable of
responding to the capacity of media platforms to work together.

In The Scene of the Screen: Cinematic and Electronic Presence, in
Materialities of Communication, eds. Hans Ulrich Gumbrechts and K. Ludwig
Pfeiffer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), Vivian Sobchak looks closely
at such effects in terms of technologically mediated experience, exploring how
such effects prove alienating. My argument is not entirely different from hers in
that I initially emphasize how such effects seem to generate a disembodied
subject, and yet, because I am not treating natural perception as a baseline, I tend
to think in terms of historical configurations of media infrastructure and their
potentiality. As such, rather than stress alienation of natural or human-scaled
perception, I tend to see in the production of disembodied subjectivity a form of
perceptual disabling that is not at odds with her analysis.

Christopher Bolton, From Wooden Cyborgs to Celluloid Souls: Mechanical

Bodies in Anime and Japanese Puppet Theater, positions 10:3 (2002): 748-49.

Hyewon Shin, Voice and Vision in Oshii Mamorus Ghost in the Shell: Beyond

Cartesian Optics, Animation 6:7 (2011), 13, 21.


Katherine Hayles, Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere, Theory,

Culture, Society (2006): 159.


Hayles, Unfinished Work, 159-60. Haraway, too, resituated the cyborg, albeit

in very different terms: I have come to see cyborgs as junior siblings in the
much bigger, queer family of companion species. See Donna Haraway,
Cyborgs to Companion Species: Reconfiguring Kinship in Technoscience in
Chasing Technoscience: Matrix for Materiality, ed. Don Ihde and Evan Selinger
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003),

See chapter 5, Reality Bytes, in Vicki Kirby, Telling Flesh: The Substance of the
Corporeal (London: Routledge, 1997).

Ian Hacking, Canguilhem amid the Cyborgs, Economy and Society 27: 2

(1998): 202-216; Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and

Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century, in Simians, Cyborgs and
Women (New York: Routledge, 1991), 152.

James writes, the pure experiences of our philosophy are, in themselves

considered, so many little absolutes See William James, Essays in Radical

Empiricism, 134.

Sharalyn Orbaugh, Emotional Infectivity: Cyborg Affect and the Limits of the

Human, Mechademia 3 (2008), 165, drawing on Teresa Brennan, The Transmission

of Affect (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004), 1-2. My argument differs
primarily in that I see affect less as a blurring or obscuring of the boundary
between subject and object or inside and outside. Rather I see affect as related to
a disjunctive synthesis that at once distinguishes inside and outside and holds
them together, and because affect is related to a material continuum, it tends to
act with and through a holding together of self and infrastructure, making for a
specific kind of self and a specific infrastructure.

I am drawing on Brian Massumis discussion of the spectulative and pragmatic

in Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurent Arts (Cambridge: MIT
Press, 2011).

There is resonance here with Orbaughs notion of infectivity, but I wish to

emphasize something more like a form of communicability that is specific to a

network infrastructure of expanded television.

The filmed television screen may also appear brighter. Due to space

limitations, I do not here address this aspect of disjunctive synthesis, although it

is important in Oshiis film. Suffice it to say, this brightening of the screen signals
the intensity of disjunctive synthesis, serving to activate the scan line.

Gilles Deleuze first addresses what he later calls disjunctive synthesis in the

context of the second synthesis or determination (neither passive nor active) in

Difference and Repetition (NY: Columbia University Press, 1994), 82-83; Gilles

Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oepidus (Minnesota: University of Minnesota
Press, 1983), 4.

Thomas Elsaesser, The Mind-Game Film, in Puzzle Films: Complex

Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema, ed. Warren Buckland (Oxford: Blackwell,

2010), 13-41.

A good example is the cover for Funamoto Susumus Anime no mirai o shiru:

posuto-japanimshon; kwdo wa sekaikan + dejitaru (Tky: Ten bukkusu,


Niklas Luhmann, How can the mind participate in communication, in

Materialities of Communication, ed. Hans Ulrich et al. (Stanford: Stanford

University Press, ), 371

The Japanese edition is: Shir Masamune, Kkaku kidtai: The Ghost in the

Shell (Tokyo: Kdansha, 1991), and the English edition: Shirow Masamune, The
Ghost in the Shell, trans. Frederic L. Schodt and Toren Smith (Milwaukie, OR:
Darkhorse Comics, 1995).

Eric Cazdyn, The Flash of Capital: Film and Geopolitics in Japan (Durham:

Duke University Press, 2002), 252-54.


Livia Monnet provides an extensive interpretation of the impact of Oshiis

combination of staging philosophical debates while remediating a variety of

media forms in her three-part essay on his film Innocence. See especially
Anatomy of Permutational Desire, Part II: Bellmers Dolls and Oshiis Gynoids,
Mechademia 6 (2011), 153-69.

I am drawing here on Brian Massumis discussion of semblance as non-

sensuous similarity in Semblance and Event.


For an account of the use of mobile background, see Stefan Riekeles and

Thomas Lamarre, Mobile Worldviews, Mechademia 7 (2012): 174-188.


Massumi, Semblance and Event, 81-82.


Lucas Hilderbrand, in Inherent Vice: Bootleg Histories of Videotape and Copyright

(Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), shows how artifacts of copying

videotapes became associated with transgression and illicit pleasure, in a manner
reminiscent of the Lacanian stain. The logic of the scan line, however, is very

different from the blur or stain. Its prevalence in OVA speaks to a very different
relationship with videotape and piracy.

See, for instance, Livia Monnet, Toward the Feminine Sublime, or the Story of

a Twinkling Monad, Shape-Shifting across Dimension: Intermediality, Fantasy

and Special Effects in Cyberpunk Film and Animation, Japan Forum 14:2 (2002):
225-268; and Kumiko Sato, How Technology Has (Not) Changed Feminism and
Japanism: Cyberpunk in the Japanese Context, Comparative Literature Studies
41:3 (2004): 335-55.

teletopia; use of term new media; television as new media

Figures and (brief) Captions

Figure 1: Bat looks at cyberdogs and assesses their parameters by drawing on
computer data, from episode 14, Stand Alone Complex Gig 1.

Figure 2: Image of cyberscape from Oshiis The Ghost in the Shell

Figure 3: Image of cityscape

Figure 4: the Majors scan line perception in opening sequence

Figure 5: trash collector sees with scan lines

Figure 6: Bat chases, seeing with scan lines.

Figure 7: scan lines in final scene

Figure 8: rows of lights along highway

Figure 9: wired city

Companion Screens: Living between Infrastructures

Thomas Lamarre, McGill University
[Note: this is a draft, and so the notes are still rudimentary; the extended discussion of broadcast
towers has also been omitted to cut the length down]

On the evening of August 2, 2013, between nine and eleven-thirty, NTV

(Nippon terebi hsm kabushikigaisha) broadcast Miyazaki Hayaos beloved
animated film, Tenk no shiro Rapyuta (1986), known as Castle in the Sky in its
English release. At about eleven-twenty, the film reached the climatic scene in
which the heroes, Sheeta and Pazu, together intone Barusu (transliterated as
Balse or Balsus in English), an incantation triggering the destruction of Rapyuta,
the castle in the sky, to prevent the villain Mooska from seizing it and utilizing it
for military domination. At that moment unprecedented surge of tweets
occurred, 143,199 within a single second, or twenty-five times the usual volume
(Figure 1). As The Economist noted, because Twitter successfully dealt with the
spike, the event not only served to confirm its technological robustness but also
helped Dick Costolo, its chief executive, to further his promotion of tweeting
while watching TV, styling Twitter as a second screen.1
Costolo had already given a talk in Tokyo on the Twitter usage in Japan,
on April 16, 2012 (or 2013) in which he called attention to a previous Japanese
record for tweets per second (11,349), also during a television broadcast of
Rapyuta in 2011.2 Generally speaking, tweets hit new peaks during big TV
events such as the Super Bowl or in response to mass media events (the
announcement of Beyonces pregnancy).3 But the surges associated with
Miyazakis animated film are more pronounced and concentrated due to this fan
practice of responding to a specific moment in the film. As such, they imply a
specific kind of connection between television audiences and social media,
between the small screen and a smaller mobile phone screen, which is
increasingly pitched as a second screen, a companion screen, to the television
Mizuiro Ahirus Journal describes the connection between the two screens
in this way: Rapyuta is a wonderful film but surely weve all seen it enough.

And yet this year, the audience ratings went way up. The motivation behind
tweeting Barusu is less a one of watching TV and shouting Barusu and more
one of watching Rapyuta to participate in the festive event (matsuri) of shouting
Barusu with everybody. Even if people are watching it alone in their houses,
Barusu lets them be with everybody.4
Such a festive event, as this blogger and others were quick to note in the
wake of a report by Twitter Japan, entailed a very close, even intimate relation
(missetsu) between broadcast ratings and tweeting.5 Above all, it would seem
that tweeting had dramatically improved television ratings for Rapyuta: the
audience ratings had dropped to 15.9% at the time of Rapyuta tweet surge in
2011, while the 2013 broadcast culled an impressive 18.5%. It is not surprising
that the term matsuri (festival or celebration) appears to describe fan-created
connections between the small screen and the smaller screen, for it often arises in
the context of fan interactions with media beyond one-time consumption of a
product (for instance, the manga market Comiket and anime-related tourism).
What demands further consideration, however, is the aura of success and happy
synergy that surround the responses to the recent Rapyuta tweet surge. It seems
that everybody was delighted. Technicians responded beautifully, assuring that
the surge did not affect Twitter service negatively. Television broadcasters
garnered higher ratings, which translates into advertisement revenues. Twitters
CEO saw his promotional strategy perfectly realized: the smaller second screen
acted synergistically with the television screen, compounding the success of
both. Fans found new recognition of their collective force. Media remediation
here appears as a mode of reciprocal intensification, of synergy, convergence,
and resonance rather than rivalry, divergence, or interference. Whats not to
Interesting enough, Rapyuta tells a very different story about networks,
calling for the destruction of the castle in the sky, and not only because it
operates as a weapon of mass destruction, a militarized satellite, but also because
it functions as part of a highly advanced telecommunications system that works
at a distance from the earth, thus distancing human experience from the earth.
The threat of the castle in the sky is at once technological (capable of destroying
cities from the air) and perceptual or aesthetic (capable of producing an image of

the world and thus reducing the world to its picture).6 Ironically, however, at the
moment when Sheeta and Pazu in the animated film intone the word that
destroys this militarized telecommunications satellite, fans are bouncing
electronic signals off of satellites and communications towers in celebration. Are
they celebrating the destruction of big media or its ascendency?
Probably fans, and indeed people in general, do not think of mobile
phones as big media or mass media, despite the increased construction of largescale infrastructures to support service. The notion of the horizontal, leveling
force of telecommunications and televisual media, first associated with television
(as with McLuhans global village) and then with Internet and wireless networks,
so dominates the contemporary imagination that television and social media are
commonly assumed to present a force that acts in opposition to the threats
embodied in Miyazakis castle in the sky, namely the techno-aesthetic
massification implicit in mass media and mass destruction. Television and
social media are felt to have already blown the castle from the sky, and to have
brought mass media down to earth. (Maybe small-screen people are already
living in the utopian, post-massified world of Rapyuta, in little pastoral media
villages.) Consequently, vertical or hierarchical integration does not come under
much scrutiny in the context of the Rapyuta tweet surge. Yet there are already
signs of one kind of hierarchical integration at work in the reporting of the event:
somehow the collective force of fans (their little village, as it were) has been
equated with Japan, with the masses of people living in the nation. In this
instance, the synergy of the smaller companion screen with the bigger television
screen seems to encourage a conflation of subculture with national culture,
erasing any tension between them.
This synergy is precisely what I wish to contest, not because it is not real
but because it is not all that is really happening between television and smaller
screen media. While the discussions of the Rapyuta tweet surge tend to assume
that people were at home watching television and tweeting (thus introducing a
bias toward paradigms connecting house and state), I propose to take the
companion screen out of the house and put it in motion. In fact, the horizontality
of social media is commonly associated with the mobility and personalization of
smaller screens. The use of mobile phones in the context of commuting time thus

provides a good site of inquiry. My goal is not, however, to provide a full

sociological account of the use of mobile phones, or rather, as they are called in
Japanese, keitai, a term that Mizuko Ito glosses as something you carry with, a
connotation to which I have been alluding with the term companion screen.
My goal is here to consider the relation between broadcast television and its
mobile companion, a relation that is more and more frequently staged or enacted
in Japanese animation or anime made for expanded television (broadcast, DVD,
BR, streaming).
The Production of Distribution
Mobile phones appear everywhere in Tokyo, but their presence seems
especially palpable on commuter trains, with commuters thumbing out
messages, scrolling through web pages, lingering on images, reading, watching,
sending flows of signs, or dashing through wickets (Figures 2 and 3). The
dominant company in Japans keitai market is Docomo, formed in 1991 as a
subsidiary of the telecommunications company NTT, which launched its mobile
Internet service in 1999, and whose rapid and widespread adoption inaugurated
a mobile revolution. The rubric Docomo, derived from the phrase do
communications over the mobile network, also means everywhere, which
aptly captures something of the ubiquity of keitai. In addition, as Mizuko Ito
notes, [i]n contrast to the cellular phone of the United States (defined by
technical infrastructure), and the mobile of the United Kingdom (defined by the
untethering from fixed location), the Japanese term keitai is not so much about
a new technical capability or freedom of motion but about a snug and intimate
technosocial tethering, a personal device supporting communications that are a
constant, lightweight, and mundane presence in everyday life.7 Still, the
distinction between keitai, mobile phone, and cell phone is not categorical. It is a
matter of contextual emphasis. Indeed, as the example of Rapyuta attests, when
anime stages a relation between television and keitai, it shifts easily from
everydayness to technological infrastructures and to a sense of mobility and
Although keitai are largely used for retrieving information and sending
messages (initially email and now text messaging), they are integral to a

dramatic transformation not only in telecommunications (how, when, where

people communicate) but also in media consumption (how, when, where people
receive, consume, and interact with media forms ranging from newspapers and
magazines to video games, music, manga, animation, cinema, literature, to name
only some obvious forms). The distinction between communication and media
consumption is not strict insofar as messages include images, links, speech,
written text, and other media types. It is because keitai are personal, portable,
pedestrian, or as Fujimoto Kenichi puts it, like shikhin, recreational
consumer products, or objects of recontextualization, relocation, and actual
media objects,8 that the distinction is not clear. This is also why keitai invite us
to think in terms of active, personalized, and even productive consumption: such
media objects truly call for user agency, activity, and productivity. The Rapyuta
tweet surge is an obvious case in point. As a consequence, such media objects
can encourage the overall impression of a decentralized and dehierarchized
participatory media world, in which flows are entirely horizontal, and the
agency and productivity of media users or consumers is on par with that of
media owners and producers.
It is true that market forces and technological innovations have
contributed to decreasing the gap between production and consumption,
commonly articulated in terms of supply and demand, in a number of domains.
The hallmark of Toyotaism, for instance, was the idea of having a car roll out of
the factory personalized to the buyers taste as soon as the buyer could express
her preferences. A similar logic informs the keen interest of the big manga
publishers in djinshi, in the worlds of amateur or coterie production
they follow coterie production because they wish to react as swiftly as possible to
changing tastes, which means close attention to what people are doing, what
they are making, in their daily lives as it were. Still, despite the increase in
measures that speed up the rapidity of the response of production to
consumption and vice versa, to the point of blurring the distinction, there
remains an asymmetry or unevenness. It is worth noting, as Kohiyama Kenji
does in the context of keitai, for instance, that one of the secrets to the success of
NTT Docomos i-mode service was that it already had a national network for

packet communications.9 As such, the personalized and the nationalized are

linked as if so naturally and inevitably that any asymmetry seems to disappear.
When I state the problem in this manner, I may give the impression that
my concern is for separating the personal and the national, for creating a divide
between self and society, or the individual and the state. Yet, given that a strict
separation would be impossible, something else is at stake: who is asked to
sustain this link, and at what price (physically and psychically as well as
economically)? And what kind of life is it? This is why I begin with a rather
stark contrast between television broadcasting on the one hand, and horizontal
networks, personalization, participatory culture, and repurposing on the other. I
wish to explore the ways in which everyday practices and experiences not only
inhabit such polarized infrastructural tendencies but also do the work that makes
syncretism possible, to produce a forced assemblage in daily life.
In many areas of Tokyo, when you exit the maze of the metro, you will see
looming on the horizon the very embodiment of another dimension of media
happening alongside the increased flattening and decentralizing associated with
mobile phones and social media (Figure 4): Tokyo Sky Tree, at six hundred and
thirty-four meters the worlds tallest broadcast tower, completed in 2012, with a
complex of services woven into it, observation decks, restaurants, train lines, and
stores (Figures 5 and 6). Built as part of a major initiative to phase out analog
broadcasting by providing complete digital terrestrial television (DTT), Tokyo
Sky Tree is the very symbol and enactment of vertical media integration,
initiated and founded by the most powerful television broadcasters, with
Nippon Hs Kykai (NHK) in the lead, working with corporate interests (Tobu
Railway Company, Ltd). As such, it is an integral of the bid to assure the
continued ascendency of NHK and other major media producers, owners, and
distributors, while appealing to national values, unity and identity.
The contrast between Tokyo Sky Tree and use of mobile media on
commuter trains and in the streets implies a distinction between tendencies
toward what might be called vertical or hierarchical media integration (a
tendency more pronounced in broadcast TV) and horizontal or heterarchical
media differentiation (a tendency more pronounced in mobile social media).
Looking at the relation between television and the keitai companion screen in

terms of such tendencies allows for two shifts in emphasis. First, it highlights the
importance of distribution alongside consumption and production. Accounts of
consumption have tended to stress the productivity and activity of consumers,
calling attention to sites where the distinction between production and
consumption appears to collapse, while distribution and circulation are
downplayed or completely ignored. Such an approach, however unwittingly,
risks adopting the standpoint of the liberal or neoliberal political economy so
roundly critiqued by Marx, because it acts as if increased circulation or
distribution produces greater economic evenness insofar as it flattens hierarchies.
The hallmark of Marx was to show that, on the contrary, unfettered circulation
increases unevenness. Second, insofar as these polarized tendencies (vertical
hierarchical integration and horizontal heterarchical differentiation) are
associated with infrastructures, they also invite us to reconsider the intensive
life of infrastructures, and thus the politics of experience.
In one of his rare comments on the impact of communications in Capital,
Marx remarks, A relatively thinly populated country, with well-developed
means of communication, has a denser population than a more numerously
populated country, with badly-developed means of communication.10 His
remark calls attention to a population effect that is not reducible to population
figures, to a headcount. The measurable magnitude of the population does not
determine its effect. Similarly, measuring the scale of communication networks
will not capture their effect, for the effect is a function of two variables,
distribution of people (populations) and distribution of signs (communications).
The effect then is intensive, not extensive. There is a relation between population
and communications that makes for an intensity of distribution (denseness or
thinness). In other words, Marx is drawing attention to something that is
(logically speaking) both prior to population and communication (because
common to both) and after them (as an effect). This is in keeping with Marxs
focus on, and critique of, production, but he is here addressing the production of
distribution. The extensive (population, communication networks) may be
clearly delineated and readily measured, but as soon as it is, productivity and
efficaciousness must then be increased through intensification. Thus when the
workday is fixed, production must be intensified through cooperation and

technological improvement, for instance. Intensification also happens between

these well-delineated measurable extensions, which might also be called
The intensification that happens between infrastructures may be
conceptualized as a society effect (Althusser), or socius (Deleuze and Guattari),
or the social (Foucault).11 These commentators remind us that Marx tends to
situate production as what happens between and before different
infrastructures, rather than speaking of the infrastructure. The society effect or
socius may thus be thought of as an overall mode production entailing a forced
assemblage of these specific modes of production. Deleuze and Guattari, for
instance, speak of Marxs interest in three modes of production: production of
production, production of distribution, and production of consumption, whose
forced assemblage generates the socius. The socius, or the social, is not a
bounded expanse that corresponds point by point with a region, nation, city, or
some other territory. It is a matter of intensity between and before extensities.
We may think of such an intensive social effect in terms of subjectivity. But
care is needed with the term subjectivity. If the analysis of subjectivity has
become less common in recent years, it is because the term subjectivity has come
to imply an idealist form of psychoanalysis in which the mechanisms of subject
formation appear to be indifferent to material conditions, as if ideology always
preceded materiality. In the context of considering the lived experience of
infrastructures, then, the challenge lies in considering subjectivity (or the
intensive social effect) not only in terms of molar formations (codes and
ideologies) but also in terms of molecular practices (lived rhythms and daily
In sum, Deleuze and Guattaris variations on Marx call attention to what
happens between infrastructures at two levels, molar formations and molecular
practices. But it is not simply a matter of a neutral mixture of, say, vertical
integration and horizontal differentiation. Instead there is a forced assemblage
that may or may not prove workable or desirable. The initial example of the
Rapyuta tweet surge presented an apparently happy, workable, highly
productive assemblage between television infrastructures and keitai
infrastructures, both at the molar subjective level (subcultures in agreement with

national culture) and molecular affective level (everyday rhythms of television

viewing and tweeting or messaging). In this instance, tweeting accompanies
broadcast television: people sitting in their living rooms watching TV and
sending tweets. Keitai is indeed like a companion screen here. In fact, everything
seems to pulled toward broadcast television in this instance: Miyazakis
animation Rapyuta, originally a theatrical release, has been reformatted for
expanded television viewing many times, for VHS and DVD releases and for
broadcast, to the point that it has almost become inseparable from television
anime. The tweet surge thus underscores and mimics the continued power of
broadcast television to integrate diverse media and audiences.
Yet there is also the mobilism of keitai, which feels quite different from
broadcast TV. Keitai seems to lend itself as readily to either tendency: its
infrastructures for wireless reception (towers, satellites, etc) echo those of
broadcast television yet enable forms of mobilism with very different
implications. Thus I propose to turn to commuting networks to develop further
the contrast between two media infrastructural tendencies. Although I will
initially stress the differences between each infrastructure, my interest ultimately
lies in what is produced between them, and the subjective effects that then
appear to be producing them, through affective feedback. In sum, the basic task
is twofold: to consider the experience or intensive life of these two
infrastructural tendencies (mobilism and broadcast) and to consider the intensive
life that arises between them.
Commuting Time
The contrast between the Tokyo commuter train network and the newest
symbol of the dominance of broadcast television, Tokyo Sky Tree, calls to mind a
now familiar distinction made by Michel de Certeau, between the tower and
labyrinth. The Sky Tree fairly exemplifies de Certeaus characterization of the
towers tendency toward panorama and spectacle: not only does it offer the
ultimate panoramic views of the city but it also includes a variety of high-end
shops and restaurants, providing a combination of tourist destination, shopping
mall, and consumer spectacle. In contrast, even a glance at the map of the Tokyo
commuter network attests to its labyrinthine qualities (Figure 7). As Michael

Fisch writes, To live in Tokyo is to live on and by the commuter train network.
Its web of interconnecting commuter and subway lines dominates the urban
topography, providing the primary means of transportation for upward of 20
million commuters a day.13
Fischs account of the commuter network calls attention to another facet
that has traditionally been associated with the labyrinthine: crowds. As he
explains, What makes Tokyos train daiya [short for traffic diagram]
exceptional is the incredible attention that network operators devote to it as a
means of transporting daily a number of commuters far beyond the
infrastructural capacity. In tangible terms, the latter condition means that a train
car designed for a maximum capacity of 160 people will typically be crammed
with between three and four hundred commuters. What is more, to
accommodate the citys commuters, especially on main lines, train companies
need to stream one train after another with an absolute minimal gap between
them, sometimes as little as one minute and fifty-eight seconds between trains.14
Precisely because train lines must run overcapacity, with cars overcrowded and
timetables tightly compressed, the operation of the commuter network builds in
a margin of indeterminacy that builds in quick responses to fluctuations and
disturbances, including suicides, euphemistically glossed as human accidents.
Fischs account thus traces a shift from thinking the commuter train network as
an active or determinate apparatus to perceiving it as a responsive, interactive
The labyrinthine quality of the commuter network thus differs
significantly from the illegible compositions of everyday life that de Certeau
wished to valorize in contrast to the tower when he wrote: The ordinary
practitioners of the city live down below, below the threshold at which visibility
begins. They walk an elementary form of this experience of the city; they are
walkers, Wandersmanner, whose bodies follow the ups and downs of an urban
text they write without being able to read it. The networks of these moving,
intersecting writings compose a manifold history that has neither author nor
spectator.16 The train suicide is, in effect, a text that is written by commuters,
but, if they cannot read it; the commuter network can, only to erase it as a
fluctuation. Fisch nicely sums up the situation as one in which a logic of the

vanishing gives way to one of emergence. Put otherwise, this labyrinth becomes
a source of fluctuations and modulating responses. Such fluctuations are not
illegible, nor are they exactly legible as de Certeau imagines legibility: they
register as signatures of nervous energy that fuels an infrastructural system of
Thomas Looser, Superflat and the Layers of Image and History in 1990s Japan,
in Mechademia 1: Emerging Worlds of Anime and Manga (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 2006), 92-101
The Tokyo commuter network thus puts a quintessentially modern
distinction in crisis, for the tower and the labyrinth cannot be held apart.17 But
that distinction is everywhere in crisis: every labyrinth becomes somehow
legible, and conversely every spectacle seems to afford a labyrinthine structure
with wandering, intersecting, manifold iterations, which nonetheless lead back to
a commodity world as in the case of convergence culture. Nevertheless, even
if the tower and labyrinth no longer appear to stand apart as they once did, they
do not hold together naturally or spontaneously through some pre-established
urban or postmodern harmony. They still afford distinctive experiences, which
happen within and through different infrastructures, and which must be forcibly
assembled. Rather than a rupture between a modern condition and a
postmodern condition, the example of the commuter network implies
intensification in the forced assemblage of different infrastructural dimensions of
daily life.
Like Fisch, I wish to track the signatures of nervous energy associated
with the commuter network, but from the flipside, from the side of everyday
experience. To Fischs analysis of suicides, which are posed as obstacles of
external limits to the commuting network that become folded into it, becoming
internal limitations and thus sources of potentialization, I propose to add another
kind of experience: that of the human body in its routine adjustments to
commuting time. Thus I will first focus on the corporeal sensations associated
with commuting, with the goal of understanding a different kind of different
limit-experience, frequently associated with commuting in anime and manga:
apocalypse. Apocalypse is imagined, however, not as utter annihilation of the
world, but as destruction of daily life that is equally revelation of it. As we will

see, apocalypse tends to happen where the tower is forcibly assembled with the
labyrinth where mobile phones do not merely bring anonymous horizontal
linkages but ordering and programming.
National train lines and the city commuter network are inextricably
intertwined, which allows the Tokyo to mobilize national rail almost as an
extension of its commuter network, with workers even commuting to work by
Shinkansen. Nonetheless the two infrastructures are different in function and in
effect. The commuter network serves primarily to get workers from home to
their place of work, and by extension, to get students from home to their schools,
and consumers to sites of consumption. As such, while commuter networks
entail a physical link between home and work, they afford an experience of
something that is neither work nor home, and at the same, feels like both.
Commuting time is not recompensed, and yet if youre commuting long hours in
crowded trains, it certainly feels like work, and in fact, however long or short
your commute, you need to calculate it into your workday or school day. At the
same time, commuting time is less structured and disciplined than work or
school, and even if it is not exactly leisure, there is a sense of proximity to leisure,
echoed in the advertisements colorfully announcing events, products, and
opportunities at every platform, train, and station, and in the ubiquitous kiosks
selling magazines, candy, snacks, tea, coffee, and other sundries. Its time to
relax, and it also is not. One of the best-selling kiosk drinks gives you a shot of
caffeine, and a major dose of dietary fiber. Commuters bound for work or school
are already appointed carefully in the appropriate attire, for instance, suits and
uniforms. Students may adopt accessories forbidden at school, or deliberately
skew or shifts aspects of their uniform. Those bound for home may allow
themselves to look more rumpled and creased, sometimes loosening clothing.
Yet everything conspires to assure that, even if they are not at work, they are not
at home either.
As Fisch stresses, commuter trains generally operate over capacity, and as
such they are usually not merely crowded, but jam packed, which adds another
degree of intensity to this suspension between work and home, or between work
and leisure, making for bodies suspended between tension and relaxation, like
soldiers at ease, in a state of relaxed tension or tensed relaxation. At the same

time, commuting schedules tend to be highly routine, with commuters using the
same train at the same time each day, usually encountering many of the same
people. The dictates of courtesy are such that you do not address those whom
you see on your train day after day: you acknowledge their presence by not
acknowledging it. Similarly, while overcrowding means you may be pressed
tightly, uncomfortably, against other commuters, the general comportment
assures a sense of contact without contact. Commuting demands above all tact,
that is, ways of touching without contacting, seeing without recognizing,
communicating without speaking. While it may be tempting to construe such
tact in terms of characteristically Japanese sense of restraint or politesse, such
practices address a more urgent problem in this context, that of preventing
commuting time from becoming a social hell, that is, an infinite play of social
recognition, response, and obligation. In effect, work and home etiquette are
both evoked and suspended in tactfulness, a combination of physical tension and
relaxation, which allows for commuting time to remain suspended between labor
and leisure.
Such tactfulness explains the difficulty in responding to chikan or
gropers, men who exploit the physical proximity afford by crowded situations
to grope young women (Figure 8). It is already awkward for women to call
attention to gropers because in doing so they call attention to themselves, and the
packed situation of the commuter train heightens this sense of awkwardness: it is
as if the social effect would be rapidly propagated through the surrounding
bodies, destroying tactfulness itself, which would paradoxically amplify the
experience of contact. Thus women often ignore the violation, taking refuge in
the ambiance of tactfulness, in which contact seems not to be actual contact. Such
a response is a cruel amplification of the general disposition adopted by
commuters that might be described an experience of distance in proximity. It is
not exactly that you ignore your body or retreat into it. There is a sense of
mineness or self (not selfhood) that derives from your sense of balance and
proprioception, of holding yourself together under conditions of tilting, jostling,
swaying and moving, while becoming impervious to external tactile cues. What
is in fact very close to you is thus placed at a distance, for touch has been
transformed: it comes to operate not as sensation or affection that places you in

direct material contact with your surrounding, but as perception that constructs
an experience of distance between you and what lies at hand. The tiny
insignificant distances between bodies become experienced as larger significant
distances by turning sensation into perception, contact into tact, skin into eyes
and ears. What arises then at the level of sensation and affect is a more internal
proprioceptive sense of selfness, attuned to its world at the level of fine corporeal
adjustments. Such a molecular experience of the body also responds to the
molar level of experience: to repeat, this is not exactly leisure, not exactly
work, which results in a mixture of physical tension and relaxation. You may
relax only insofar as you sustain a certain degree of tension, of self-vigilance. In
effect, the molecular experience holds the molar experience of the subject in
Dozing on trains introduces an interval into this mixture of physical
tension and relaxation. Passengers nod off, only to jerk awake. Some commuters
master the trick of sleeping between stations, waking just enough with each stop
of the train to assure that they do not pass their station. There is of course the
clich scenario, common in films and animations, in which a drooling sleeper
rolls his head on the shoulder of the prim woman next to him, or slumping onto
her. Generally, however, dozers sustain an appropriate degree of physical
tension, remaining within their space, head intermittently bobbing forward and
snapping back. And they tend to bolt awake when their stop appears. This
manner of nodding off and snapping awake on trains is like the phenomenon
called hypnic jerk: an involuntary twitch that sometimes occurs just as youre
beginning to fall asleep. You snap awake as if startled by something. Often the
twitch occurs because as you fall asleep you feel that you are literally falling.
Dozing on the train generates a similar sensation: if you actually start to drift into
sleep, you begin to lose the physical tension holding your body in place, which
makes you prone to move to the swaying and jolting of the train, and you feel as
if youre falling. As such, sustaining the physical tension in your body is not a
matter of stability versus instability. Rather you hold together, hold your place or
stance, by riding with the mixture of tension and relaxation, allowing for
oscillation and feedback, resonance and amplification, internally. This sensation
of falling and catching yourself also serves to increase the sense of perceptual

distance between yourself and others.

The overall effect of these regimes of tact, then, is not a generalized
politeness to others (courtesy is but one practical register), but a transformed
sense of self, in which the commuting body reads or feels the train, its
passengers, its stops and starts, its pressures and gaps: they are at once out there
in the world and in here, in the body. This is analogous to how the network
reads fluctuations in Fischs account: an external pressure is transformed into an
internal potential. This molecular sense of self brings into play a sense of
distance-in-proximity, which might be bluntly described as being in a protective
bubble, formed through affective feedback. This is why commuting, at a
subjective level, often becomes construed in such varied terms as loneliness and
alienation, as well as autonomy and freedom, but precisely under conditions of
exposure to crowds, to urban masses, in which what is at hand also feels to be at
a great distance. Nonetheless, the molecular commuter self does not necessarily
lead directly to such subjective investments. While its bubble effect implies
certain tendencies, it can lead in any number of directions.
Tactful Coupling
In the phenomenally popular Densha otoko or Train Man, which began as
a novel in 2004 and quickly extended into a multimedia series comprising four
manga, a television drama, and a film, a shy young man defends a young woman
from a drunken man who harasses her in a commuter train (and is accused of
chikan). An unlikely romance ensues, between social worlds that are presumed
to be mutually exclusive (Figure 9). Socially adept, well-mannered, bourgeoise,
the young woman becomes known simply as Herms when she sends an
expensive set of Herms china as a token of her thanks, while he is otaku,
shabbily dressed, poorly socialized, organizing his life around girl characters in
anime series. The male otaku would seem to already to be a prime example of
someone living within a fantasy world, retreating from the actual world into one
of commodities. If the train can play such an important role in pulling the otaku
into the actual world (or more precisely, stretching one commodity world into
another), it is for two reasons.
On the one hand, because the commuter train affords encounters between

people from very different walks of life, it implies an opening of existing social
enclaves associated with the home, school, and workplace, bringing into play
chance encounters between them. As such, the commuter network seems to have
the potential to transform crowds into a public sphere. Needless to say, this can
at best be considered a phantom public sphere, for it does not afford any ongoing
procedures for social or political negotiation. Moreover, because the commuter
networks and the shopping areas continuous with it are host to a broader
spectrum of the urban population than other sites, advertisement swarms into
the commuter network. Indeed, where television and Internet are deemed to
have fragmented into diverse niche markets, the commuter network may be the
last site that brings these micro-masses together, even if only physically.
Consequently, it is still possible to produce a sense of mass media event with
advertisements throughout the commuter network and shopping corridors, in
the form of posters, banners, and fliers, as well as themed goods in kiosks, which
are designed of course to echo television and online advertisement. Such
investments in mass culture tend to rule out the commuter network as a public
sphere in the usual sense, and yet the diversity and numbers of people, in
conjunction with the density of messaging, sustain a promise, a sense of potential
for a public sphere, without which the romance in Train Man would not have
had the social impact that it had.
On the other hand, this particular meeting of boy and girl begins with his
imposing rules of tact: he tells the drunken would-be chikan not to bother her. As
such, from the outset, the entire romance proceeds in accordance with regimes of
tact, which are stretched from commuting regimes into digital media, and vice
versa. The original 2004 novel is presented as a compilation of Internet posts
tracking the romance, and the romance unfolds primarily through email
exchanges, with the young man posting updates and seeking online advice about
dating. In other words, online communication and digital social media echo and
extend the chance enforcement of courtesy on a commuter train: everything
conspires to sustain a sense of distance-in-proximity, of tact rather than contact.
The widespread popularity of Train Man was surely due in part to its success in
staging digital social media as a double of the regimes of tact associated with
commuting time, which regimes allow it to resolve social contradictions arising

between social classes defined in terms of consumer worlds.

Ultimately, the fantasy is less one of online communication producing a
new public sphere, than one in which regimes of tactfulness associated with
commuting time can produce, or rather renew, something the overcomes the gap
between the crowd and the public sphere: mass culture, national mass
consumption. In this respect, it is like the Rapyuta tweet surge, albeit in a
different register: social media becomes a companion screen for the commuter
experience. The companion screen not only appears to resolve contradictions
between social classes, commodity worlds, and crowds versus public. But it also
does so by making one infrastructure (computer and Internet) seem to work
naturally and mutually with another (commuter network). In subjective terms,
romances in which the man appears socially and physically disadvantaged in
comparison with the woman, often prove effective in dispelling or repressing a
sense of forced assemblage, through a show of expelling violence and violation
from the social. But if this assemblage doesnt feel forced, it is also due to the
speed with which new media versions of Train Man appeared, which reinforced
the sense of spontaneous assemblage at a molecular level.
By June 2005, a feature-length live-action film of the novel had been
released, and four manga versions had appeared in print to address different
market demographics: two were being serialized in seinen manga weeklies, with
a third being serialized in a shnen weekly, and the fourth published as a shjo
volume. The live-action television drama began airing in July. The rapid
multimedia coverage of Train Man works through the integrative media force
that I have called expanded television. Although the resounding box office
success of the movie seems to speak to the continued power of cinema as a mass
medium, the film itself, partly because it was produced so quickly, is not
especially cinematic. Not only does it feel like a television movie, but also the
television series went to great lengths to incorporate the movie version (movie
characters in cameos, for instance) and to include otaku references (especially in
the animated opening sequence), which enabled it to garner ratings as high as
25%, outstripping the box office success. In sum, the source and focus of the
novel the computer screen served as a bridge between commuter networks
and the expanded television screen ecology (integrating computers, consoles,

televisions, and even movies). Train Man thus provides an example of happy
synergy, of spontaneous coupling, of the Tower and the Labyrinth. Through the
agency of digital social media, the labyrinthine qualities of the commuter
network, crowds and fluctuations, have given way to legible spectacle on the one
hand, while on the other hand broadcast television, which has already taken on
something of labyrinth in the form of expanded television, makes media mix
appears as a mode of spontaneous convergence, not to mention tactful coupling
of commodity worlds (otaku and Herms).
In keeping with my suspicions of, and resistance to, this aura of felicitous
synergy, however, I would like to track the molecular experience of the
commuter self and its assemblage with mobile phones in another direction.
Doppler Affect
Signs asking commuters to switch their keitai to manner mode
(sometimes also called public mode) often appear in commuter trains (Figure
10). Manner mode is the silent mode, and commuters are enjoined not to make or
receive calls inside the train, to avoid disturbing other commuters. Such manners
reinforce the experience of contact without contact. Now even speech is
construed as a breach in the regime of tact, as if the voice would collapse the
sense of distance between passengers, physically contacting them. In the late
1990s concern also arose that electromagnetic waves from keitai could affect
pacemakers.18 In sum, the regime of tact even extends to the molecular level.
With use of mobile phones to make calls thus doubly conflated with
adverse physical contact (vocal and electromagnetic), texting becomes all the
more desirable, and it folds readily into a regime designed to generate distance
under conditions in which physical contact and pressure are common, even if
only intermittently. Not only is texting a sort of communicating without
speaking and thus communicating without direct contact, but also, as Jared
Spools discussion of user interfaces reminds us, the touch screens of mobile
phones are not at all about touch in the strong sense of actually grasping things,
feeling a contact, or using the finely tuned abilities of the hand.19 It is digital not
in the sense of the manual, but in the sense of the finger that counts. [] The
hand is reduced to a finger that presses on an internal optical keyboard, as

Deleuze puts it.20 While the drumming of thumbs on keitai to text messages may
appear somewhat less austerely digital than a single finger on a keyboard, there
is also the delicate swipe of a finger as it scrolls pages, and hovers expectantly.
Keitai also provides a sense of disconnecting from your surroundings and
operating in a personal space at the level of attention: you attend to the screen,
glance up at signs, and read the situation. Such attention is sustained or
underwritten by the molecular commuter experience that finds selfness through
proprioceptive, internal self-touching under conditions of oscillating tension
and relaxation coursing through the body, jostling, jolting, adjusting, falling,
catching oneself. This nervously energized, jittery, even irritable corporeality
appears as the dark precursor for an attention economy, like a stream of bodily
thought underlying the stream of consciousness. Yet the tactful impulse to shrink
from contact also finds an outlet: tactility is condensed and abstracted into a
point, the tip of the restless digit that scrolls, points, taps, and clinks.
As such, the molecular commuter self can be intensified or amplified,
raised to another level, via keitai. Such amplification leads in a very different
direction from Train Man in which enforcement of regimes of tact serves to
cleanse the otaku and sanctify the consumer sphere, by rearticulating the
commuter self-bubble as one part of greater whole, enacting a harmony of
consumer worlds that feels pre-established in the apparent naturalness of
bourgeois coupling. Another possibility appears: rather than subsume the part
within the whole, keitai amplification of commuting experience can also make
the part into a whole. Such an effect is invited by animation: when the experience
of commuting appears in animation, a sense of the movement of the train is
generated through an audio-visual stream. Lights, and sometimes images, flash
by the windows, their frequency shortening as the train gathers speed,
lengthening as it slows. Similarly, frequencies of sound short and lengthen,
producing a Doppler effect.
The zipping lights and images, together with the surging and passing
sounds, impart a sense of the world pressing in yet not touching. The Doppler
effect thus inscribes effects of tactfulness in another register, because it assures
that whatever is approaching will soon be receding. It is strange in that it places
you in a ballistic, seemingly perilous environment of things rushing at you, and

yet you do not feel at risk, precisely because, as soon as you detect the
lengthening of frequency, you know that what is approaching will zip past you.
In other words, if you hear the Doppler effect, you are already safe.
Train scenes in animation play with audiovisual Doppler effects to assure
a sensation of safety amid the rush and roar of moving at speed through the
world. From the side of experience then, it might be called Doppler affect, for
such effects carve out an experiential perspective (not a subject position) in a
world of movement, via an experience of the body folded back on itself, as if in a
sensory bubble. Indeed the substance of the bubble is nothing but sensations.
Doppler affect can thus amplify the experience of the body tensed on the train to
hold itself at a distance from what touches it, generating an experience of the
world deflecting and inflecting around an audiovisual perspective.
Such effects so often occur in commuting sequences in animation that they
may escape notice. Yet animation generally tends to enhance them. Cinema
sequences of commuting cannot help but to register or generate the Doppler
effect of things whishing and racing past train windows, and may opt to enhance
such effects. Animation, however, typically works with a separate image layer
for the visual stream that courses past the window, as well as adding Doppler
sound effects. In addition, because commuter trains usually run underground
through tunnels, the visual stream consists of lights or luminous bands, rather
than landscapes, which dance across the darkened windows. Or, entering the
well-lit stations, signs and walls appear. As a consequence, the visual stream
outside the window take on an intensity of light and color, which heightens the
sense of its proximity, even as it moves past the train. The result is an
amplification of distance-in-proximity, a sense that what presses close does not
strike or otherwise make contact. The first episode of Rahxephon (dir. Izubuchi
Yutaka, 2002) offers a prime example.
The episode follows a young man, Kamina Ayato, as he begins his day,
setting out to meet a friend, taking the train to Ikebukuro to met two friends, and
the three of them continuing on together. The tone of the sequence is sunny and
open, but there are already signs of something unusual afoot behind the scenes:
people in dark suits and dark glasses are trailing him. But the real twist occurs
when commuter train jumps the rails in a tunnel, screeching and grinding to a

metallic halt (Figure 11). Passengers are of course tossed about, and as the three
friends in a daze pull themselves to their feet, it seems that the other commuters
are all dead, the car littered with limp bodies (Figure 12). Kamina forces open the
door of the car, and leaps out in search of assistance and information. He heads
for the light and the end of the tunnel (Figure 13), and as he steps into the world,
he discovers that it is a world destroyed: Tokyo lies in ruins, and war is being
waged (Figure 14). Nothing about such a scenario is particularly surprising. In
fact, the basic elements are so familiar as to be clich: an outing with friends, a
shadowy organization trailing the hero, and the abrupt transition to a highly
militarized post-apocalyptic world in which aliens with comprehensible powers
and motivations appear. Precisely because this set-up is a common one in anime,
it provides insight into how, in a general way, anime tends to amplify and
extend the sensory effects of commuting time.
Initially, the luck of the protagonist Kamina seems to imply an
implausibly invulnerable position: those in pursuit do not catch him, he and his
friends emerge unharmed from a major train accident killing hundreds, and then
the Kamina steps into a battlefield, yet none of the bombs or missiles or
explosions touch him. His astonishing invulnerability seems to set up a familiar
yet entirely impossible (and even ethically dubious) situation in which you can
experience war and apocalypse at close range and remain safe, miraculously
unharmed. While there are good reasons to question the ethics of such
audiovisual situations that place viewers amid war without consequences, it is
nonetheless clear that showing the realities of war is not the central concern of
this anime series. In fact, as the set-up of RahXephon indicates, the ballistic
sensory experience of the battlefield, with missiles screaming past the
protagonist and explosions rocking the ground beneath his feet, is an
amplification and extension of everyday commuter experience. As such, what
might appear initially to be exceptional (total war) is in fact the rule of daily
routine, and battlefield experience is not about a transition from peace to war,
but about the police in Rancires sense, a distribution of the sensible that
regulates bodies without any need for police forces to intervene with
enforcement.21 If the ordinariness of war is a common trope in anime, it is not
designed to naturalize or glorify war (even if such a reading is not ruled out), but

to expose and explore the sensory police of urban life. When Kamina exits the
commuter train network, he enters the world as it is, now revealed. In sum, the
apocalyptic scenario follows from and heightens sensory experience of
commuting time, at a couple of levels.
Obviously, in a metropolis like Tokyo with a large underground city
prone to earthquakes, fears of being crushed or trapped underground are not
surprising. A large number of anime and manga imagine such scenarios, but two
come immediately to mind: the Kant jigokugai-hen (Kant Hell City) arc of
Nagai Gos Biorensu Jakku (Violence Jack), adapted into an anime OVA in 1988,
in which survivors of a major earthquake, trapped in the underground city, form
groups that fight over diminishing resources; and the manga Metoro sabaibu or
Metro Survive (Fujisawa Yki, 2006) in which an overworked repairman in a
recently built high-rise tower becomes trapped in the commuter network when
an earthquake levels the tower along with much of Tokyo, and has to work with
a diverse group of people in order to survive. The reality of earthquakes in
combination with Tokyos extensive underground has made the experience of
undergoing (and surviving) a citywide disaster (from earthquake to alien
invasion) within the commuter network a powerful scenario.
At another level, the sensory experience of commuting, if sustained,
introduces a sense of continuity, which allows the apocalypse to function as
revelation amid destruction. Again, the example of RahXephon is instructive: as
the three friends chatter happily in the train, a series of lights zip past the
windows, as part of the audiovisual Doppler effect associated with commuting,
at once imparting a sense of movement and enhancing the aura of the safety and
security of everyday life (Figure 15). As such, the points of light streaming by feel
like guardian spirits. They are not merely indicators of movement; they are
protectors of movement. They feel like entities in their own right, counteracting
the insinuation of threat embodied in the shadowy trackers. These streaming
lights do not actually become character of course. Instead they serve to indicate
an energized field around the protagonists, revealed under conditions of
movement. Similarly, after the war between humans and the aliens (called M)
escalates to nuclear warfare, the aliens place the entire city and suburbs of Tokyo
under a dome, called Jupiter because its diaphanous swirling surface resembles

the planet Jupiter. Thus the polis becomes conterminous with its police, as it
were. Moreover, in keeping with the experience of the temporality of commuting
as different from both leisure and work or school, time inside Tokyo Jupiter is
dilated, moving more slowly, which adds to the temporal anomalies informing
the central romance between Kamina and a childhood friend named Haruka,
whom he does not recognize because she has grown up outside the dome and
has aged more rapidly.
The Doppler affect that intensifies the affective bubble around the
pressured commuter is thus amplified and extended to other, grander levels of
experience. Yet the affective feedback turns out to be not so much a protective
bubble, as a strange new kind of interface that situates the self and urban life
within the cosmic, transforming the urban into the planetary.22 Oddly enough,
then, the intensification of commuting experience functions to disconnect the self
from the urban and to connect it to the planetary, to cosmic dimensions of
experience. It is above all music that conveys this transformation: the M attack
with mecha called Dolem. Pilots control Dolems by vocalizing with musical
inflections, and the Dolems in turn attack with songs that generate force waves
capable of leveling large areas of the city. This is sensory war, with cosmological
overtones. In sum, commuting time, if intensified as it is in RahXephon, turns out
to entail exposure to the planetary, to cosmological dimensions that already
surge through daily life, in the form of energies, both electromagnetic and
nervous, that sustain the network yet entails risk reminiscent of the waves
from mobile phones that reputedly risk affecting pacemakers on trains.
Significantly, in RahXephon, the experience of commuting time is
amplified through recourse to another infrastructure: while this other
infrastructure remains unidentified, the references to music and force waves
evoke broadcast, both radio and television. Where the canny alignment of social
media with the commuter network in Train Man conjured forth a kind of
phantom public sphere, which allowed in turn for an alignment with broadcast
in the form of expanded television, RahXephon does not evoke broadcast as
public sphere but as energetic attacks, wave-like mobilization, and sensory
enclosure. In other words, the commuter experience in RahXephon serves a
springboard for articulating an experience of the intensive life happening

between infrastructures, between commuter network and broadcast system. The

political and ethical implications are consequently very different: where it is
relatively easy to contest the social normativity inherent in Train Man and to
refer to already existing marginalized social modes of existence, RahXephon
shifts attention to technological others and media entities, and to forms of mass
mobilization that entail at once a politics of counter-mobilization (destroy the
trains, destroy the broadcast) and of fascination. As such, its ethical trajectory
neither addresses nor suppresses normativity and marginalization, but lingers
instead on the forces of destruction and creation that arise in the gaps between
infrastructures, between everyday modes of sensory mobilization. On the one
hand, the gaps between infrastructural existences take a toll on the human body,
for humans are forced, sensorially mobilized, to create new life in those
inhabitable, unbearable intervals. On the other hand, the affective powers of
human body, forced in existence through mobilization, promise to provide a
source for creative counter-mobilization, which RahXephon strives to locate
through a somewhat tortuous and torturous story about the biotechnological
construction of human saviors.
Because RahXephon does not highlight the use of actual cell phones (the
inclusion of phone in its title indicates nonetheless their sensorial logic), I
would like briefly to turn, by way of conclusion, to an animated film by Shinkai
Makoto, Hoshi no koe or Voices of a Distant Star, released as an OVA in 2002.
Generally speaking, Shinkais animations explore the possibilities for sustaining
romances across vast distances that come to separate the boy and girl, or young
man and young woman. The distances separating the would-be lovers are not
primarily social in nature, for instance, disapproval of parents, differences in
social class, education, or background. Nor are they psychological in the sense of
an attraction edged with conflicting emotions of repulsion or uncertainty. The
attraction is exceedingly pure, but events beyond anyones control introduce
distance between them, for instance, the girls family moves to a far-off location
(Act One of Bysoku go senshimtoru or Five centimeters per second, 2007).
Such physical distance is enacted and experienced, however, as a prodigious,

measureless distance.
In this respect, Hoshi no koe, Shinkais first extended work, sets the tone
for his work in general: the young woman, a middle-school girl named Mikako,
is separated from her school friend, a young man named Noboru, when she is
recruited to pilot a mecha in far reaches of outer space in a war against a
mysterious group of aliens (Figures 16 and 17). Thus the boy and girl come to
communicate with one another via mobile phone messaging across increasing
large distances, as the girl travels from interplanetary into interstellar space, to
the point where they are messaging across time as well: she is aging more slowly
in outer space than he is on Earth. In Hoshi no koe, Shinkai thus provides a
narrative explanation for the sense of an impossibly vast distance between boy
and girl, yet his animations always make the distance between the couple feel as
unlimited and boundless, as immeasurable as the distance between stars. By
placing an astronomical interval between lovers, Shinkai constructs an analogy
between outer space and inner space, between cosmos and psyche. If his
animations are celebrated for background art, and above all his light-spun
clouds, more than characters or stories, it is because the sense of a boundless inbetween is achieved mainly through his luminous backgrounds, which usually
give precedence to the skies at dawn or dusk, when the heavens glow with
shifting illumination. These skies do not function as a monumental background
for the trivial actions of tiny humans. They provide an experience of the distance
between lovers, at once heartbreaking in their numinous splendor and in the
separation they describe between the couple.
Such illimitable expanses are not merely out there, between planets, stars,
and galaxies. They equally inhabit technologies of communication. In Hoshi no
koe, for instance, mobile phone messaging implies, from the outset, an interval
too vast for human negotiation. The mobile phone entails a cosmological
interface. At the same time, Shinkais animations lavish attention on
communication and transportation infrastructures: railroad crossings, hightension telephone lines, commuter networks, communication towers. They show
an earthly landscape crisscrossed with lines of technological connectivity, yet it
always turns out that these different possibilities for making contact by
communication or transportation (sending messages or visiting) do not mesh.

As Shinkai shows in Five Centimeters Per Second, you can have your kiss but not
the letter: the boy traveling across the country to visit his girl loses the letter he
wrote her, but once she kisses him, it seems that the letter no longer matters. But
then, it turns out that material contact (kiss) is not inherently better than
immaterial contact (letter): after the kiss she is seen holding a letter that will no
longer be sent to him, which implies a different experience of painful distance.
The contact provided by transportation networks and that provided by
communication networks are such different experiences that the gaps between
can only grow as they expand. Shinkais animations thus enact a paradoxical
inverse relation: as infrastructures expand ever outward, the distances they seem
to conquer come to inhabit us, to inform our relationships. The space within us
and between us grows vaster because we simultaneously dwell in different
space-time experiences different configurations of tiny fluctuations and
cosmological expanses, as different as broadcast and commuting networks. In
this respect, Shinkais animations offer a compelling yet emotionally painful
experience of the gaps between infrastructures that paradoxically invites us to
believe in those very gaps: if, on the one hand, our daily life already makes us
creatures of the stars through the electromagnetism fueling our modes of
existence, then, on the other hand, we must pass through the cosmos to meet
again in the flesh.

How did a Japanese anime film set a Twitter record (August 20, 2013), Accessed November 26, 2013

See the report by Kubo Yasusuke, Nihon no besuto purakutisu kara manabu

Twitter no kore kara, Accessed

November 26, 2013

The Economist offers these comparisons in How did a Japanese anime film set

a Twitter record.

See mizuiro_ahiru no nikki: 2013-09-28, at Accessed November 26,

See for instance TV-shichritsu shisou chizu to tsuto missetsu na kenkei at Accessed November 26, 2013


Miyazakis approach recalls that of Martin Heidegger in this respect, as I have

argued at length in The Anime Machine. See too Martin Heidegger, The Age of
the World Picture, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays
(New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1977), 115-153.

Mizuko Ito, Introduction: Personal, Portable, Pedestrian, in Personal,

Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, ed. Mizuko Ito, Daisuke
Okabe, and Misa Matsuda (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005), 1.

Fujimoto Kenichi, The Third-Stage Paradigm: Territory Machines from the

Girls Pager Revolution to Mobile Aesthetics, in Personal, Portable, Pedestrian:

Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, 90-91.

Kohiyama Kenji, Japanese Youth and the Imagining of Keitai, in Personal,

Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, 68


Karl Marx, Capital, 241/333.


I am indebted here to Jason Reads account in The Micropolitics of Capital: Marx

and the Prehistory of the Present (Albany: State University of New York Press,

Throughout their work, Deleuze and Guattari evoke a distinction between

molar and molecular, and it becomes especially important in two books on

capitalism and schizophrenia, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaux.

Michael Fisch, Tokyos Commuter Train Suicides and the Society of

Emergence, Cultural Anthropology 28:2 (2013), 321.


Fisch, Tokyos Commuter Train Suicides, 327.


Fisch, Tokyos Commuter Train Suicides, 326.


Michel de Certeau, Practices of Everyday Life, 93/141.


Looser makes the same point in Superflat and the Layers of Image

and History in 1990s Japan, in Mechademia 1: Emerging Worlds of Anime and

Manga (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 92-101

Misa Matsuda, Discourses of Keitai in Japan, in Personal, Portable,
Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, 25-26.

See Nora Sparks CBC interview with usability expert, Jared M. Spool, Hands-

on Interaction,
Accessed January 3, 2014

Deleuze, Francis Bacon, 84-85.


Jacques Ranciere develops this notion of the police across his works, but a good

introduction can be found in Jacques Rancire, The Politics of Aesthetics: The

Distribution of the Sensible (Continuum, 2004).

I am indebted here to Christophe Thounys discussion of Henri Lefebvres

notion of the planetary in his dissertation, Dwelling in Passing A Genealogy of

Kon Wajirs 1929 New Guidebook to Greater Tky, East Asian Studies, New
York University, August 2011.


















Screen Ecology: Television and Animation

Thomas Lamarre
[Draft: an overview written only for reading in the context of the Eisenberg Seminar]
I have given you two essays from separate sections of a larger book project on the
history of television and animation. The Scan Lines essay comes from the third part of the
book, which deals with VHS, expanded television, and cyberspace. The Companion
Screens essay is from the fourth part of the book, which focuses on cell phones to explore the
relation between broadcast television infrastructures and commuter networks in
contemporary Tokyo. As such, it seems to me that readers of those essays might really benefit
from an overview, however brief, of the general project on screen ecology.
The book basically looks at the history of television experience from the perspective
of Japanese animation, or anime. The bulk of Japanese animation is produced for television.
Indeed, although the term anime is commonly used outside Japan to refer generally to
Japanese animation, it is often used in Japan specifically to refer to television animation (telebi
anime), which underscores the importance of the relationship between television and
animation. Of course, the term television tends to evoke broadcast television, and a great
number of animation titles are serialized each season on a range of broadcast networks. In
the context of animation, however, it makes more sense to think in terms of expanded
television. Over the past fifty years, broadcast television has significantly expanded along
two axes. On the one hand, broadcast infrastructures have at once enlarged and diversified
due to cable, satellite, and DTTV, as well as wireless networks for mobile phones and
computers that seem to have fused radio and television infrastructures. On the other hand,
the television set has been expanded due to the development of various media platforms,
plug-ins such game consoles, VCR, cable boxes, modems and computers. The emergence of
VHS in particular transformed Japanese animation, not only making it possible for fans to
record shows (which transformed how and how much people watched animation), but also
introducing a new format, the Original Video Animation or OVA, released directly to video,
which allowed for new forms of production and expression. The term OVA is often still used
for animations released directly on DVD or BR (also sometimes called ODA), and Original
Net Animation or ONA is a new offshoot of expanded television. Responding to such
transformations in venues and markets for animation, Japan became the worlds largest

producer of animation in the 1970s, and while its production is today growing at a decreasing
rate, it remains the largest producer, and production continues to grow.
Looked at from the perspective of expanded television, the relationship between
animation and television seems to be simply one in which television infrastructures and
platforms expand, and animation builds on and follows from the growth of new
information and communications technologies. In this respect, the relationship seems
somewhat arbitrary, and Japanese animation seems no different than, say, television drama or
television news. In other words, animation appears primarily as contents that are expanded
to fill an expanding technological form. To some extent, this is true: when broadcast networks
are established and developed, the capacity to carry programs tends to outstrip available
contents, which allows for phenomena like reruns and content dumping. Nonetheless, the
relationship between television and animation is not only or even primarily one of
technological form and content-material. An account of their relationship does not begin or
end there.
Accounts of digital media in 1990s imply another level of relatedness between
animation and expanded television. Discussions of new media and digital media continually
called attention to animation, speaking of its ubiquity and pervasiveness, with scholars and
artists proclaiming that cinema was becoming a subset of animation (Manovich; Oshii 2004;
Buchan). Animation appeared to be the very paradigm for understanding these new media
and the impact of the digital. Such accounts may in retrospect appear exaggerated, and
needless to say, the term animation meant something very different to different
commentators. Nonetheless, in the insistent association of animation with digital networks,
lies a hint or an intuition of a relationship between animation and expanded television that is
not merely one of technological determinism and opportunism. There are hints of a deeper
relatedness or entanglement, a genuine relation between them in the sense of a continuity or
unity that at once holding them together and grounding a distinction between them. The
only way to explore this deeper relatedness, however, is to consider television and animation
separately while searching for sites of intersection where such entanglement comes to into
play, starts to matter.
Form-content and form-matter distinctions do not hold at this level. Instead it is a
question of materials and functions. Television is a matter of flow and segmentation (see
Raymond Williams and company), and so is animation. But they entail different
determinations or syntheses of flow and segmentation. They entail what Deleuze calls

connective synthesis or passive determination. As such, the relation between television and
animation is not primarily one of form and content. The impact of animation on television is
as important as the impact of television on animation. The relation between television and
animation is a relation between two (connective) syntheses, or a disjunctive synthesis.
Such sites of relatedness or entanglement might be thought of as screen ecologies, in
which the interactions of a set of actors, or if we wish to avoid implying personification,
active elements or actants, generates an ecology, a unity running through the ensemble that
does not belong to any one of the actants but to all of them. A screen ecology might include,
for instance, a television set whose flow of electrons links it to a broader infrastructure, a
particular flow of animation with its experiential conventions and limitations, a place such as
a living room that may imply a broader set of domestic relationships, and the viewers or
audience who are situated socially, physically, and discursively. Put another way, because the
sociohistorical and technological contexts for listening to a particular animation are
potentially infinite, attending to the screen ecology is a way to avoid infinite regression in all
directions. The unity of a screen ecology implies an internal limit, which might described as a
vector of infinite complication allowing the ecology to transform, that is, to change yet to
remain continuous. In the ecology of television and animation, the screen is such a site of
infinite complication.
Often the paradigm of media ecology refers to an analysis of how a technical object is
used in different places, for instance, how is a television used in rural Mexico? The impulse
behind such an approach to media ecology is to contest media determinism and to stress the
agency of users and the significance of context. While I sympathize the impulse, it is precisely
because my field of analysis is defined at least in part by area studies, that is, Japanese
Studies, that I feel compelled to complicate this received model of media ecology. Models of
media ecology that stress user agency and cultural context tend to call on received cultural
boundaries, usually national territories, and tend not to question the provenance of such
boundaries and thus to naturalize and reify them. Naturally, one way to complicate the
monolithic cultural tendency of such a model of media ecology is to consider differences
within Japan. In the context of television in Japan, there are many levels for introducing
internal difference, such as regional variation, historical periods or generations,
subcultures, social classes, genders, ethnic minorities, to mention some salient options.
Because of its focus on media history, this book tends to consider difference within Japan at
the level of technological transformation, which is closely linked to generational differences

and subcultures, and it explores the everyday use of media such as mobile phones in the
urban context of Tokyo. This focus is also tactical: one of the dominant tendencies of the
anime discussed in this book is to emphasize media differences and technical others
above and beyond differences in class, gender, ethnicity, and region. I do not wish to repeat
and thus endorse such an emphasis, nor do I wish to suppress a discussion of class, gender,
and ethnicity (for such differences also appear in animated series), and yet I do not think it is
possible to understand the increasingly prevalence of media others in anime by reducing
them to other forms of social discrimination: namely, the humanoid robot or sentient avatar
is, in fact, an instance of, or metaphor for, racism, or sexism, or class warfare. It is a
characteristic of the media other that it remediates received modes of discrimination. I wish
to leave open the question of whether such remediation presents a genuine transformation,
an ethical reconsideration.
To summarize my response very briefly, I found it necessary in this context to work
through feminist literature on the politics of affect. Such discussions suggest that it is not
enough to embrace affect as a kind of openness to the world (contamination, contagion, nondistinction). Nor is it useful to prefer different kinds of affect, such as disgust, fear, wonder,
happiness, to mention a few. It is not particularly useful to assume that affect always turns
into emotional perspective that becomes a subject or subjectivity. What is needed is a
consideration of how a sense of something individual emerges amid, a sort of corporeal
affective self (not selfhood or personhood, nor subject), which is the site of what Foucault
called techniques (or practices) of self, and very different from identity politics or politics of
But to return to the question of media ecology, the tendency to stress contextual uses
runs the risk of cultural determinism, for determinations are placed on the side of users and
their enculturation, and the general tendency has been to begin and end with national
culture. What is more, if differences are then introduced within national culture, those
differences tend to be received differences: the actors and their positions are fixed in advance,
and transformations are constrained to national histories. Yet, in the case of television, it is
obvious that television inscribes the nation within the international. The construction of
national broadcast infrastructures is part of a modernization that situates the nation within
international rivalry and brings with it cosmopolitical aspirations that are compatible with
national culturalism, and which have a much deeper history. It is not be so surprising then
that Japanese television animation proves quite popular in other countries from the outset,

from the early 1960s, roughly a decade after the development of television in Japan. In sum,
even though it may feel natural to place national boundaries on the field of cultural
difference, it is imperative to recall that this TV-Japan is a field or topos not a territory.
Indeed, as the anime discussed in this book suggest, TV-Japan is a specific kind of
cosmopolitical machine, with an urban-planetary interface.
Another impasse of the received models of media ecology lies in their tendency to leap
over the gap between production and consumption. As with fan studies, the emphasis on
user and cultural context is intended to get out of models in which production or the
produced object (text or artifact) deterministically and unilaterally (author-like) creates
meaning. Yet, while the emphasis on use successfully highlights reception and consumption,
it tends to bracket distribution when it brackets production. This is a problem that became
especially significant for me in my work. When I began research on anime, I gravitated
toward two questions. In The Anime Machine, I dealt with the production or creation of
anime. Rather than a studio, however, I focused my attention on what Deleuze calls
connective synthesis, that is, on the production of production, which in animation is largely a
matter of producing and managing movement.
Although it is generally acknowledged that cinema and animation consist of moving
images, it is surprising how often movement is treated as secondary, as a supplement, to the
image as if the image comes first, and then movement is added to it. Yet as I watched
animation, read accounts of it, and talked with animators, it became clear to me that
animation is indeed an art of movement. Animators do not think in images and then add
movement, they think in moving images. Sticking to the facts of movement then is the key to
understanding the production of production. This does not mean that we can isolate
movement prior to and separate from images, or that the images are inconsequential. Rather
movement and image emerge together, and they emerge already coupled in specific ways
(connective synthesis). Guattaris notion of the machine proved useful for talking about
specific technical couplings of image and movement, partly because existing terms such as
apparatus have taken on negative connotations in film studies. Because the anime machine
entails passive determination, it does not and indeed cannot dictate every aspect of the
product. Its coupling of movement and image entails loose organizing, an open-ended
process of structuring, not a deterministic structuring. It may thus generate divergent series
or lineages. Focusing on the anime machine, then, implies a distinctive approach to reading
animated films and television series.

The production of production also happens in studios. I considered how the

parameters for production in Ghibli, in Gainax, and in anime adaptations of manga are
entangled with studio organization, which become visible in author-effects that are grounded
in labor division, creative hierarchies, and multimedia image management. In other words,
the production of production also implies a set of social relations, which in animation studios
tend toward strategies of management articulated around the creative energies of specific
groups: for Miyazakis Ghibli, it is the energy of youth; for Gainax, it is the energy of fans,
and for many anime adaptations of manga, it is the creative energy of female producers.
At the same time, I wrote a series of essays on otaku or fan cultures related to media
franchises associated with Japanese animation. A number of other studies appeared, similarly
focused on consumption or on relations between consumption and production, such Allison
(2006), Steinberg (2012), Condry (2013). In the course of considering these different contexts of
consumption, I became keenly aware that my own emphasis on production and consumption
in our studies had gradually forced an account of distribution, of both media networks and
screen ecologies, to the margins (an exception is Deguchi et al, 2009). Studies of the relation
between production and consumption tend to highlight either the productivity of consumers
or the impact of marketing. New technologies and modes of distributions are mentioned,
usually under a general rubric of digital technologies. While these digital technologies are
said to enable the new modes of production and consumption, their mediation is presumed
not studied. This tendency seems to come of a general bias within the humanities toward the
study of cultures or cultural studies rather than media and technologies. Jenkins (2006) is a
prime example: he attributes the emergence of fan activity in multimedia franchises to a
resurgence of suppressed popular culture, ruling out economic and technological
explanations. While I do not think that technological and economic transformations should be
approached in a deterministic fashion, it has become clear to me in my own research that we
cannot understand digital economies without more careful consideration of media
infrastructures and media ecologies. In the case of Japanese animation, television
infrastructures and ecologies (that is, expanded television) have played such an important
role in transforming production, consumption, and their interrelationship, that we cannot
afford not to pay closer attention to them.
Thus I turned some newer paradigms within media studies: media ecology (Fuller
2005; Stratt 2006; Lpez 2008; Evans 2011), screen archaeology (Huhtamo 2004; Zielinski
1999), exhibition studies (McCarthy 2001; Hansen 2007) distribution studies with new

approaches to infrastructure analysis (Larkin 2008; Fisch 2013). There is something important
at stake in studying modes of distribution. Because modes of distribution have not been
granted careful attention, the tendency has been to treat distribution as simple diffusion. As
such, studies of production and consumption portray new technologies of distribution (and
communication and information) in terms of flattening and de-hierarchizing tendencies and
even equalizing and democratizing tendencies (Azuma 2001). Distribution, however, is not
diffusion. Distribution entails both integration and differentiation, both flattening and
hierarchizing tendencies.
I draw inspiration again from the Marxist reconfiguration of infrastructures that Flix
Guattari (2013) brought to Gilles Deleuzes philosophy. In Anti-Oedipus (1983), Guattari and
Deleuze follow Gilbert Simondon and draw out the ontogenetic implications of the received
categories of production, distribution, and consumption, suggesting that we think instead in
terms of the production of production, the production of distribution, and the production of
consumption. These three registers of analysis roughly correspond to connective synthesis,
disjunctive synthesis, and conjunctive synthesis in Deleuzes philosophy (1994). Their neoMarxist approach helped me to focus my efforts. In The Anime Machine, I thus focused my
attention on the connective synthesis, that is, on the production of production, which in
animation is largely a matter of producing and managing movement. In this study of
television and animation, I address the production of distribution of animation in terms of its
intensive effect at the level of media ecologies and daily practices where television affect is
at once produced and managed.
As I shifted through studies of television and animation, watched countless hours of
animation, and mulled over my approach, I was surprised to find that, although the
American and Japanese television industries are the two largest in the world, little work has
been in English (and French) done on Japanese television, and almost none on animation and
television. In the early years of Japanese television, NHK (Nippon Hs Kykai or Japanese
Broadcasting Corporation) funded research, publishing introductory histories and overviews
of broadcasting in Japan as well as a journal, Studies in Broadcasting. With the exception of
intermittent essays on specific programs and TV-related phenomena, however, surprisingly
few books have been written in English on Japanese television till fairly recently. Chun (2007)
has recently published a social history of Japanese television providing an account of the
social debates about the impact of television over the twenty-year period between 1957 and
1973. Lukcs (2010) has published a book on the emergence of a television genre called

trendy drama in the late 1980s, calling attention to how the television industry had to turn
from story-based programs to lifestyle programs in order to survive under changing
conditions of production and consumption. Yoshimoto, Tsai, and Choi (2010) have edited a
collection of essays focusing specific genres and their reception in Korea and China. These
accounts of Japanese television have tended to focus on live action television and to ignore
animation, except to acknowledge its role in the globalization of Japanese television
(Iwabuchi 2011). Japanese TV studies, like those in the humanities generally, have stressed
content analysis, reception, and spectatorship, while television studies within
communications studies have focused on broadcasting and policy (see Miller 2003). Both
kinds of study typically deal with live-action television (news, educational TV, dramas,
sitcoms), and if they deal with animation at all, it is treated as a genre, thus overlooking its
media effects and ecology. While more studies have been written in Japanese, too many to
overview here, the overall emphasis has been on contents analysis and governmental policy.
In effect, so little had been written directly on television and animation that I had to ask why
this was. The answer lies in the lack of actuality effect in animation.
Initial theorizations of the experience of television came primarily from the world of
cinema, from film critics and creators. The distinctiveness of television was commonly posed
in contrast to cinema and addressed in terms of what avant-garde possibilities it might offer
for filmmaking. Andr Bazin, for instance, developed a comparison between photography,
television, and cinema: he saw photography as a document of the past that addressed the
present, and associated television with presentness. In contrast, cinema preserved the
ongoingness of phenomena but at a remove (Andrew 2013, xiii). Furuhata has written
extensively on the ways in which Japans cinematic avant-garde became fascinated in the
1950s and 1960s with actuality, that is, with an ongoing presentness without remove from
the present (Furuhata 2013; see too Hagimoto, Muraki and Konno 1969). This approach to the
experience of television has stuck, and even today, fine-tuned analyses of the differences
between cinema and television repeat this paradigm: television is presentness, while cinema
is ongoingness at a remove. Belton (2012), for instance, speaks eloquently to the difference
between the experience of watching a movie projected on a screen and watching the same
film on the television. He argues that it is not the same film, not the same experience. In
contrast, Sternes account of mp3 (2012) implies that cinema screen, television screen, and
computer screen have been constructed as changes in format rather than changes in media. It
is the same film, different format.

In fact, both positions are correct. There are factors allowing us to experience an
animation as the same animation in the theatre, on television, and on computer, and at the
same time, audiences are really interested in differences in media platforms, and both
marketing strategies and forms of expression have encouraged such an interest. As a
consequence, the meticulous phenomenology of cinema versus television explains why
animation has rarely been central to discussions of the impact of television: animation, unlike
live action, is a better candidate for presenting a remove from the actuality effect of
television on which film studies has insisted. As such, in Bazins terms, it comes closer to an
experience of the intensive effect of television, one that is not like the ongoingness of
cinema, nor does it confirm the presentness of television.
The Pokmon Incident of 1997 makes this challenge clear: hundreds of children
experience the same sort of symptoms watching the same program across Japan, and yet,
despite all the scientific studies, we cannot show that the effect is purely physiological. There
is a physiological explanation (Takahashi 1999, 2002): because animation has no motion blur,
and because television screens use cathode ray tubes to alternate half the image at a time, the
viewers eyes no longer show saccadic movement; rather their eyes jump with the flickers of
the screen. In effect, the screen starts to jump the viewers eyes and brain. It is clear, however,
that such an experience of television is not only in the viewer, in the animation, or in
television: it is in all of these and in television infrastructures. The attention economy beloved
of marketers has a dark precursor, as it were (not unlike the irritation of media evoked in
Niebish 2012), which is one of the essential experiences of television, always operative but
never fully consciousness or manageable. The Pokmon incident thus serves as the point of
departure for this study because it provides a working hypothesis for an overall account of
television and animation, namely, this effect of television is always operative but is managed
in various ways historically and culturally. And it is the basis for the expansion of television
from the individual television set to the television set with plug-ins (game consoles, VCR,
DVD, cable box, modem) that pave the way for, and continue alongside, mobile and social
media. At the same time, the management of this intensive effect of television transforms a
distributed experience of affect into a mode of existence, that is, a technology of self
(Macmillan 2011). Indeed, the pronounced concern for producing the self and self-identity, so
often associated with social media and computers (following Thurkle 1995), would seem to
derive from screen affects related to cathode ray tubes, scan lines, and infrastructure effects
that are prolonged and managed.

In terms of watching or reading anime, I am thus interested general trends and shifts
in properties that affect the experience of television: (a) transformations in techniques of
illumination or luminosity with an emphasis on flicker effects (see too Miyao 2013); (b) the
emergence of prominent use of scan lines and roll bars to signal the presence of digital media,
and to afford an experience of it, which is analogous to the role of blurring due to copying
Hilderbrandts study of pirate video cassettes (2009); (c) journeys into and out of television
and computer screens, and (d) the emergence of media others, that is, a collapse of the
distinction between screen and body that allows cyborg, robots, and screen interfaces to
appear as modes of existence demanding ethical and political consideration. Recent research
bringing together cognitive science, neurobiology, and film analysis (Pisters 2003; Elsaesser
and Hagener 2010; Pisters 2012) is useful in this context, for the experiential impact of
television animation also demands careful consideration of the use of line, color, and sound in
conjunction with movement and light.
At the same time, I focus on key events in the history of television and animation such
as: (a) the emergence of multimedia franchises or media mix around animated television
series in the 1960s, which established three important franchise patterns and established
television as the site of integration within distribution; (b) discourses on information society
in the 1970s proposing a shift from industrial production to information production (MorrisSuzuki 1988), which appeared in conjunction with Japan becoming the worlds largest
producer of animation and a massive exporter of content to Taiwan, Indonesia, Canada, and
the U.S. (Shiraishi 1997); (c) how VCR and OVA (Original Video Animation) in the 1980s
presented alternative modes of production and consumption of animation that transformed
television into expanded television, allowing for greater feedback between console video
games and animation than in other markets; (d) discourses on new media in the 1980s and
1990s, which posited cable and satellite TV as the forerunners of teletopia or television
utopia (Chiiki Jh Tsshin Kenkykai 1984; Miraigata Komyunikshon Moderu Toshi Ks
Kondankai 1985), anticipating the hype over digital new media in late 1990s; (e) how the
impact of computers was largely downplayed through stubborn adherence to the received
vision of cabled and thus centralized teletopia, with an strong investment in DVDs, which is
also the moment when Japanese animation reached new peaks of global popularity; and
finally (f) in the context of the construction of Tokyo Sky tree for Digital Terrestrial TV

(Segawa 2008), how social media and mobile phones have been folded into expanded
television (Kohiyama 2005; Nihon Kig Gakkai 2005; Ikeda, Nishi and Hayashi 2006;
Ichikawa 2007), rather than the contrary (as is often argued), making wifi and broadcast into
analogous systems and showing television to be the inventor of the digital (Murphy 2011).