About B.WU

Brian is a second year masters student in the Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Currently he works as a Graduate Assistant at the International and Area Studies Library, as well as a Research Assistant at the Community Informatics Research Lab at his department. His primary research interest lies in socio-cultural aspects of copyright and digital infrastructure and how it transforms across international boundaries. On his off time he likes to watch anime, read manga, or play video and/or boardgames.

The Doujin Culture and the Pheromone of User Generated Content

Doujin (sometimes spelled dojin), is a phrase of Japanese invention, referring to groups of people with a specific interest. Although it began as literary societies in the Meiji era (1868-1912), modern doujin groups (often translated as Circle in English) refer to those that produce self-published works, which doujin has become an abbreviation for the created works. Such creations can include doujinshi (magazines, comics, or books), doujin soft (software, often games), or even doujin music.

The line into Comiket 77, December 2009.

What’s interesting about the doujin market is that it exists on the grounds of unauthorized exceptions – large majority of doujin works infringes on copyrights. As demand for doujin creations continues to grow exponentially (see What is Comic Market from the official page of Comiket), there is virtually no one pursuing damages for misappropriation or unauthorized usage in Japan.

So, why is that?

As outlined in Lawrence Lessig’s book, Free Culture, it is not an unbelievable situation. The idea of content borrowing, creating a transformed derivative work feels acceptable. And, well, there’s the problem of the lack of resources to prosecute all these infringing creators.

Although many of us may not interact with creations associated with doujin groups, we can relate on another front: User-Generated Contents.

How often have you reached a Youtube video without music (or even completely removed) because of DMCA take downs? Now, the follow-up question is: how often are those new creations through remix, only found on the web? I’m guessing you have at least one or two

Screen shot of the popular Japanese video streaming site Nico Nico Douga playing a video.

in mind. For me, this mashup comes to mind; keep in mind that this creation both came from and still exists on Nico Nico Douga, the leading video streaming site in Japan.

But, there are a variety of reasons why people aren’t flocking to Nico Nico to watch videos that were taken down. There’s the idea of platform familiarity or having an extra account means more privacy concerns. The greatest influence, arguably, is that it’s not hard to imagine an infringing video being put up, time after time, attempting to fly under the radar (a practice many of us are familiar with).

Delving deeper into the remix, user generated, doujin phenomenon just gives more headaches, however. Inherently, this is a multivariate problem intersecting law, culture, internationalization, and digitization. But this copy-remix culture will continue to grow, on a widespread scale, and it will bash against legislation and litigation; it is a part of globalization, a part of connectivity.

Of course, that is not to say that we will always keep policies that doujin or user-generated creations, but it will be a long time before we’re legally used to them.

Note: I highly discourage searching for reference information regarding doujins on popular search engines as the majority of the information yielded will be pornographic. The English word doujin is colloquially used to describe drawn pornography by doujin groups. The best way to finding information regarding the culture is by searching scholarly articles or tracking relevant citations.

Related Resources:

The Anime and Manga Research Circle is a good resource to other scholars about the doujin culture.

There exist some best practices regarding fair use for user-generated content worth reading up on for these services (supported by major corporations) and video creation . There are also many resources within our library on User-Generated Content.

The Doujinshi & Manga Lexicon is a fan maintained database of modern doujinshi produced (entries includes both pornographic and non-pornographic doujinshi).

It may also be useful to read about remix and its culture. For example Remix Theory is a good place to find some focused research on remixes. Searching for remix on the University Library catelogue also yields many resources, such as examples of remix, how to create remixes, as well as analysis of remix theories and culture.

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Memes: What are They and Why They Are Important

Today, we talk about memes.

“Meme” (pronounced /’miːm/, me-mm) describes a basic unit of cultural idea or symbol that can be transmitted from one mind to another and, inherently, everyone knows what memes are. In our everyday lives we live with memes; for example, catchphrases and clichés often serve the purpose translating non-literal, cultural ideas, while similes and metaphors hint at what words portray. Those are all memes.

So why devote an entirely new word, and even a study, to something that has existed for eons?

LOLCATs, a popular Internet meme, cat pictures with grammatical inconsistencies. Photo courtesy of icanhazcheezburger.com

The reason is: we live in a different time, where culture and international exchange is pervasive, especially with technology closing that gap. And, precisely because of this, as well as the emergence of the Internet society, multifaceted, non-standardized memes emerge to take the role for cultural and sub-cultural descriptors.

What’s fascinating about the present meme culture is its dependency on virality. If it lacks the audience and their appreciation (either on the positive or negative spectrum), then it will simply fade into obscurity. Presently, although an Internet meme is often correlated with pictures with offensive or funny taglines, it has proliferated for a much longer time. The intricacies of a meme lies in what the masses find appropriate to express an idea, regardless how simple or pointless it may be.

Rick Astley, English singer-song writer, at Macy’s 2008 Thanksgiving Parade. Photo courtesy of Ben W.

But, precisely because of this Internet culture, we find a convergence in meanings and creative output, even away from the Internet. For example, in 2007 an Internet phenomenon known as Rickrolling became a meme, where users are tricked, via bait and switch, into watching the music video for Rick Astley’s 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.”  Within a year, this practice has merged into mainstream media, and Rick Astley made an appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008, effectively pushing him back into the spotlight as a popular cultural icon since his retirement in 1993. It can be very much argued that such memes (like Rickrolling) brought together a cultural concept, across the digital and international boundaries, to further tell us the story the advent of viral ideas on social media, as well as global change and connectivity.

For more resources regarding the study of memetics and memes visit the meme tag in the library’s catalogue.

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The Spring Since 2010: Conflicts, Demonstrations, and Civil Wars in Arab World

Often taking as an allegory to the “Springtime of the People” or the Prague Spring in 1968, the term “Arab Spring” was “unintentionally coined in a January 6, 2011 article” by Marc Lynch. From the end of 2010 to the present, the calls for revolution from the Arab world only grew stronger. Demonstrations, protests, and even wars have broken out in countries such as Tunsia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and lately, Iraq. More seem to be following in many parts of the world.

Often attributed to the dissatisfaction of local governmental rule, the Arab Spring has been a point of interest to both academics and the populous – a movement that is both reaffirming and changing history. Although the waves of protests are not a new phenomenon, through the movement, this revolution has been turned towards the problems within the Arab society, rather than ending the liberation from colonial rule.

Continuing demonstration on Monday, January 28th captured via a camera phone. (Mostafa El Shemy/AP)

Internationally, various countries and people have reacted differently to Arab Spring. Overall, the protests have attracted support from the international community while the governmental responses were met with condemnation. Moreover, the Arab Spring has, over the past few years, been an inspiration to social movements in other countries, including the Occupy Movement across the world. Marking the continuation of Arab Spring, the escalation of protests continues even today.

Curious about the progression of Arab Spring for these past two years? From February 4th to the 28th, the International and Areas Study Library and the Middle East and North African area specialist will be showcasing the major players and events that brought forth the movement, as well as related library resources in the Marshall Gallery on the 1st floor of the Main Library. And, for more information and readings regarding Arab Spring, there is a guide maintained by the UIUC library as well as multitudes of resources maintained by collaborating scholars across the field.

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Arabic Manuscripts There and Here


Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons under the Public Domain License

Quran in Maghrabi Script

Released during the Algiers Book Fair on September 20th, the Association for the Protection of Heritage of the city of Bou-Saada has joined E-Corpus to disseminate their Arabic manuscripts digitally. By the time that the book fair had started, the stand for the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region (which co-financed the operation with the European Union) were already offering 4,600 pages from across 50 manuscripts. (Retrieved from Project Menumed)

Within the University of Illinois Archives, there are actually quite a few Arabic manuscripts, hidden away, ready to be found.

For example, the Papers of Charles C. Stewart contain copies of the text and commentary on the Koran, correspondence on obtaining the text, as well as research materials contained on 104 microfilm reels, including 2054 works from various libraries. These manuscripts and printed documents are primarily from the 19th century and delve into subjects such as literature, law, Islamic religious text and commentaries, Arabic language, and history.

Naturally, the Papers of Charles C. Stewart are not the only collection of manuscripts within the archives.

Poking around the archives with simple search terms like “Arabic” will actually yield some pretty interesting results. From there, it’s fun to surf the archives to see why certain items (like the Alaxandar L Ringer Papers in the Sousa Archives) pops up.

Moreover, it’s also interesting to look under the subjects to see where they might take you. Using the C. Ernest Dawn Papers as an example this time, under the subject line in the left sidebar, you can take control of the vocabulary used to build the archive to your advantage. Although only Middle East and Ottoman empire show up they both lead to other archived items with more descriptors, such as the William Yale Research Collection, which brings in materials from the Near East.

Run with your search. See where it takes you!

University Archives Entrance

The University Archives can be found within the University Main Library, at 1408 W. Gregory Drive in room 19, at the start of the tunnel that links the Main Library with the Undergraduate Library (UGL). The best way to reach the archives is either via the tunnel from the UGL side (door will be to your left) or down to the basement from Marshall Hall and walk towards the UGL (door will be on your right).

To gain access to the materials, it is best to contact the staff confirm the material’s availability a few days ahead of your visit. Click here to view their contact information.

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