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Textual Cacophony: Online Video and Anonymity in Japan

Book cover. In the background lines of Japanese text overlap with each other in a chaotic fashion. The title bar across the cover reads "Textual Cacophony: Online Video and Anonymity in Japan" and "Daniel Johnson."

Author: Daniel Johnson

Textual Cacophony explores the behaviors and routines of communication within anonymous internet culture in Japan. Focusing on the video sharing website Niconico, social media aggregation sites, and the notorious 2channel message board, Daniel Johnson uncovers these sites' complex cultures of writing that obscure meaning through playful and opaque forms of deviant script and overwhelming waves of text. Those practices conflate language with images, meaning with play, and confound individual representation with aggregate forms of social identity.

Johnson argues that online media cultures in and around Japan are entwined with a cultural logic and visual syntax of cacophony that expresses ambivalence toward representation, media form, and distinct experiences of time. This aesthetic of cacophony provides an alternative way of expressing social identity and belonging, with an unmarked sense of anonymity providing a counter-form to the dissolving institutions and relationships of neoliberal Japan. Textual Cacophony investigates what it means and feels like to participate in this influential online culture.

Textual Cacophony weaves a thoroughly interesting path through barrage-style media in Japan, illuminating how much this approach has spread beyond the country and how it cuts across different media formats. The implications extend far past the book's own fascinating context.

—Paul Roquet, MIT, author of The Immersive Enclosure

Drawing on an impressive array of English-language film and media theory and Japanese critics, Daniel Johnson offers a careful and highly informative account of a range of practices associated with social media in Japan. Textual Cacophony is well positioned to make a major contribution to media studies in general and Japanese media studies specifically.

—Thomas Lamarre, University of Chicago, author of The Anime Ecology



Additional Information



  • Book

  • Cornell East Asia Series

Publication Details

Publication Year: 2023

Publication Number: 215

ISBN: 9781501772269