Endless Questions: How to think while playing
This dissertation is an experiment. It undertakes a study of three different groups of young people in Tokyo, Japan, over the course of two years. Though all three groups lived in Tokyo, their stories overlap unevenly and it is difficult to say they occupy the same site at any given moment as they are engaged differently with the floating, borderless world of media coming through the internet, their cell phones, their Nintendo DS consoles, the hazy layer of screens sparkling across the city, and they are differently engaged with the city itself. Their energy is focused on family, crappy jobs, educational demands, social obligations, persistent desires, and subtle anxieties. They are preoccupied by texting friends, finishing homework, finding the perfect spot to go film a trick on their skateboards, figuring out a way to get back to L.A.
The speeds, intensities, and locations of their lives shift while still holding them all within a broad social space of youth and in a vibrant assemblage of mundane activities intimately flowing into vast outerworlds of desires: a frisson of bodily movement and emotional arousal, physical stress and intellectual weariness. This confluence and unspooling of event and world is a beautiful chaos, one in which there is never a point of pure convergence or a horizon of perfect social and individual consonance. To tell these stories depends on deep passages of description to convey the richness of environments, interactions, tones, attitudes, and bodily sensations. Telling the stories sometimes requires ethnographic video to show events edited into brief moments or constructed into experiments with sound, archival footage, and self-conscious performances before and for the camera. In other moments it needs assessments of histories and encounters with theories and their own desires, locations, and energies.
So to tell a story of people living lives within the local specifics of Tokyo and along the remembered, anticipated and imagined trajectories of global possibility is to traverse many latitudes simultaneously, impossibly balanced between their drift and cohesion, their ruptures and failures. The stories come up short and the lives they describe outlive their attempted representations. The stories are always incomplete and are always open to new lines of intersection, new orbits, new amalgams of feeling, sensation, desire, impulse, improvisation, constriction, and containment.
I have used Scalar as the form to enliven the content and in turn, waken the techno-circuits of information to the play of reading across, down, into, and backwards. Using Scalar as the form for this project is an invitation to create the conditions for a vision and then to reassemble the components and fragments into new configurations. It offers a polyvalent tool for making new connections and relations bright before they fade in another series of encounters with the different pages, paths, tags, and annotations where the stories await to unfold in multiple directions.
There is no right way forward and never a wrong move sideways. The form, while still unwieldy in my unskilled hands, is a beginning attempt to play with the space of anthropological knowledge making. It is static in increments, but mobile in its contacts. Each page contains a fixed body of text or a video but they allow you, the reader, to move off the trajectory frequently. Indeed, there is no single trajectory and as such, no single argument building to climax. Instead there is a rhizomic multiplicity, where one aspect can be brought into contact with another unexpectedly, but productively. Relations between subjects, stories, theories, histories, and spaces are intended to proliferate. Reading the project then should be fun and permit polymorphous lectico-perversity. Though I only remind the reader again that this is an experiment and imperfect. But it is becoming and as such, I hope it echoes, amplifies, and even distorts the signals and stories it conveys to bend new understandings and possibility.