This presentation analyses the “barrage subtitling” (danmaku) practice in the Japanese popular video sharing site Nico Nico Douga. Barrage subtitles are subtitling system in which viewers’ comments appear directly on-screen instead of at the margins. They differ from ordinary subtitling, which is usually well-prepared in advance for the purpose of precisely translating the contents of videos—whether a film, TV program, or a music video. Because barrage subtitles are often comments and reactions to what is being played, they allow more spontaneous interactions—sociability (Georg Simmel)—among the viewers. In the communicative practice of barrage subtitling, the purpose of interaction is not solely the conveyance of substantive meanings, but the continuation and proliferation of communication. By selectively discussing empirical examples beyond Nico Nico Douga, I argue that the communicative practice of barrage subtitling may represent one of important communication strategies of the Japanese Millenials not only in cyberspace, but more generally in contemporary Japanese society.
Seio Nakajima is Associate Professor of Sociology and Asian Studies and Associate Dean at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. He has conducted organizational analyses of the Chinese film industry, as well as ethnographies of Chinese film audiences and consumption. He is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively entitled Dream Factory, Chinese Style: Institutional Change in the Film Industry, 1978-2017. He is embarking on a new project on the socio-technical analysis of safe driving and autonomous driving technologies, serving as the Director of the Research Institute of Automobile and Parts Industries (RIAPI), Waseda University. He has recently expanded his research interest to Japanese popular culture and creative industries.