Tech in translation | MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT News

The Sony Walkman and virtual reality headsets are not just prominent examples of personal technology. In the hands of Paul Roquet, they’re also vehicles for learning more about Japan, the U. S., global technology trends — and ourselves.

Roquet is an associate professor in MIT’s program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing, and his forte is analyzing how new consumer technologies change the way people interact with their environments. His focus in this effort has been The japanese, an early adopter associated with many postwar trends within personal tech.

For instance, in his 2016 book “Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self” (University of Minnesota Press), Roquet examines exactly how music, film, and other media have been deployed in Japan to create soothing, relaxing individual atmospheres for people. That gives people a feeling of control, even though their moods are now mediated by the products they consume.

In their 2022 book, “The Immersive Enclosure: Virtual Reality in Japan” (Columbia University Press), Roquet explored the impact of VR technologies on users, understanding these devices as tools with regard to both closing off the outside world plus interacting with others in networked settings. Roquet also detailed the cross-cultural trajectories associated with VR, which in the U. S. emerged out of military and aviation applications, but in Japan has been centered around forms of escapist entertainment.

As Roquet puts it, his work is steadily focused on “the relationship between media technologies and environmental perception, and how this relationship plays out differently in different cultural contexts. ”

He adds: “There’s a lot to be gained by trying to think through the same questions in different parts of the world. ”

Those different cultures are connected, to be sure: In Japan, for example, the English musician Brian Eno was a significant influence in the understanding of ambient media. The translation of VR systems from the particular U. S. to Japan happened, inside part, via technologists plus innovators with MIT links. Meanwhile, Japan gave the world the Sony Walkman, the sonic enclosure of its own.  

As such, Roquet’s work is innovative, pulling together cultural trends across different media and tracing them around the globe, through the history, present, in addition to future of technology. For his research and even teaching, Roquet was granted tenure at MIT earlier this year.

Exchange program pays off

Roquet grew up in California, where their family moved around to a few different towns while he was a kid. As a high school student learning Japanese in Davis, he enrolled in an exchange program along with Japan, typically the California-Japan Scholars program, enabling him to see the country up close. It was the first time Roquet had been outside of this U. H., and the trip had a lasting impact.

Roquet kept studying Japanese language and culture while an undergraduate in Pomona College; he earned his BA in 2003, in Asian studies together with media studies. Roquet also indulged his / her growing fascination with atmospheric media simply by hosting a new college radio show featuring often-experimental forms of background music. Soon Roquet discovered, to the bemusement, that his show was being played — with unknown effects on customers — at a local car dealership.

Japanese film has been still another source associated with Roquet’s emergent intellectual interests, due to the differences he perceived with mainstream U. T. cinema.

“The storytelling would often function very in a different way, ” Roquet says. “I found myself drawn to films where there was less of an emphasis on plot, and more emphasis on atmosphere and space. ”

After college, Roquet won some sort of Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and immediately spent a year on an ambitious research project, investigating what often the local soundscape meant to residents across the Asia-Pacific region — including Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, your Cook Islands — as well while Canada.

“It made me aware of how different people’s relationship to the soundscape can be from one place to another, and how history, politics, and culture shape the exact sensory environment, ” Roquet says.

He then earned his or her MA in 2007 from the University regarding California from Berkeley, and additionally ultimately his particular PhD from Berkeley in 2012, with a focus on Japan Studies and a good Designated Emphasis in Film Studies. His dissertation formed the basis involving his “Ambient Media” book.

Following three years like an  Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities, with Stanford University, and one seeing that a postdoc in global media on Brown College, Roquet joined the MIT faculty in 2016. He has remained at the Institute since, producing his second book, as well as a range of essays upon VR along with other forms connected with environmental press.

Willingness to explore

MIT offers been an excellent fit, Roquet says, given his varied interests within the relationship among technology not to mention culture.

“One thing I love about MIT is there’s a real willingness to explore newly emerging ideas and practices, even if they may not be situated in an established disciplinary context yet, ” Roquet says. “MIT allows that interdisciplinary conversation to take place because you have this location that ties everything together. ”

Roquet has also taught a wide range of undergraduate classes, including introductions in order to media studies and to Japan culture; your course about Japanese and also Korean cinema; another in Japanese literature and movie theater; and some course with digital mass media in Asia and Korea. This semester he is teaching a new course on critical approaches to immersive media research.  

Of MIT’s undergraduates, Roquet notes, “They have a remarkable range with interests, as well as this means class discussions shift through year to be able to year within really interesting ways.

Whatever sparks their curiosity, they are always ready for you to dig deep. ”

When it comes to their ongoing study, Roquet will be exploring how the increasing use of impressive media works to transform a society’s relationship with the existing physical landscape.

“These kinds for questions are not asked nearly enough, ” Roquet says. “There’s a lot of emphasis on what virtual spaces offer to the particular consumer, but there are always   environmental and social impacts created by inserting new layers of mediation between a fabulous person and their surrounding globe. Not to help mention by simply manufacturing headsets that often become obsolete within a couple years. ”

Wherever his / her work takes him, Roquet will still be engaging in an important career-long project of exploring the cultural plus historical variations among countries in order to expand our understanding of media in addition to technology.

“I don’t want to make the argument that Japan is radically different coming from the U. S. These histories are very intertwined, and there is a great deal of back and forth [between the countries], ” Roquet says. “But also, when you pay close attention to local situations you can uncover critical distinctions in exactly how media technologies are understood and put to use. These types of can teach us a lot, and challenge our assumptions. ”