A Japanese flame war: An analysis of user-generated media as discourse

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Since the rise of the Web 2.0 concept and its applications, the creation and consumption of ever-increasing amounts of user-generated content has become second nature to many people. Rosen (2006) named the users of audience-centred social networking tools as the “people formerly known as the audience” – people do not just search, read or watch; they can now control media creation and distribution by producing, commenting on, sharing, and quoting the digital contents, just as much as they consume. As a result of gaining power of creation, cyberbullying has been staidly increasing in Japan, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police received record-high 8871 cyberharassment consultations in 2007.

This study examines an interactive communication space from Japan’s most used online bulletin board service (BBS) ‘2 channel’, which provides a space for people to connect around a topic of common interest. According to a survey by NetRatings Japan (2007), ‘2 channel’ was ranked among the top eighteen websites that exceed 10,000,000 unique users (UU) per month. Another survey on a page view (PV) in 2008 reported that approximately 60 million PV requests were made to download contents from ‘2 channel’.

In this paper, I will analyze an incident which occurred recently on the blog of a Japanese comedian, in which a huge number of trollish comments had flooded the blog in response to a rumour about the comedian that had been spread on the 2 channel website. Uniquely, this “flame war” led to the arrest of 18 people after their legal identities were disclosed in February 2009. Currently, this event is the subject of a large thread on ‘2 channel’. It is this thread which I will analyze. The analysis will demonstrate the nature of “matsuri” (lit. ‘festival’: an explosive growth of a thread in a bulletin board), “arashi” (lit. ‘storm’: internet vandal) and the effects of “echo chamber” on Japanese Web 2.0 behaviour, and their realization in the Japanese language. We conclude that the anonymity that a bulletin board provides is a double edged sword, allowing such negative incidents to occur at the same time as protecting whistle-blowers’ identity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2009
EventLanguage in the (New) Media: Technologies and Ideologies - University of Washington, Seattle, United States
Duration: 3 Sep 2007 → …


ConferenceLanguage in the (New) Media: Technologies and Ideologies
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Period3/09/07 → …


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