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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

The discourse on the digital transformation in Japan: an analysis based on the concept of data

 January 2020 - ongoing

Although the digital transformation (i.e. the changes in society, politics, business and culture resulting from the rapid spread of information and communication technology) points to a global development, it does not take place in a uniform fashion everywhere. This is because how changes are interpreted and in particular how to deal with them is the subject of discursive negotiation processes. In general, technology does not merely act upon its users or potential users, but is co-constructed by them. In Japan, stakeholders from politics, finance and IT have introduced a system of state-approved "information banks" (jōhō ginkō) to create a data market.

Using a conceptual history approach, this research project examines how this model for regulating the use of data which is (still) specific to Japan was adopted. Research questions are: How was the originally European concept of data received in Japan? How did the dominant translation dēta develop in Japanese as a concept of its own? What specifics of data practices in Japan are formulated using the term dēta?

To examine how the concept dēta evolved, text mining methods from the digital humanities are used. The main corpus consists of relevant speech contributions in the Japanese Diet, whose minutes since 1947 are available in digital form. Another corpus, which covers another section of the discourse and thus enables triangulation, consists of articles from daily newspapers. Moreover, in order to better assess the decisions that have led to the data market in Japan being based on the information banks, expert interviews are conducted.

The study shows how conceptual history can be used for understanding national technology policy. Through this, the study also contributes to Critical Data Studies, in which case studies from Japan have only very rarely been taken up. Notably, since data has been central to knowledge production long before the advent of "Big Data", this project also highlights continuities in the concept.

Recent Publications

Kümmerle, Harald & Waldenberger, Franz (2024). "Japan’s ‘consensual’ variety of digital capitalism and its global relevance". Asia Pacific Business Review. LINK
Kümmerle, Harald (2023). On the relation between Japan’s COVID-19 response and the National Data Strategy. LINK
Kümmerle, Harald (2023). "More Than a Certification Scheme: Information Banks in Japan Under Changing Norms of Data Usage". In: Khare, Anshuman & Baber, William W. (Eds.), Adopting and Adapting Innovation in Japan's Digital Transformation (pp. 193-211). Springer Nature. (Economics, Law, and Institutions in Asia Pacific). LINK
Kümmerle, Harald (2022). "Catchword LINE mondai". DIJ Newsletter, 68. LINK
Kümmerle, Harald (2022). Japans digitale Transformation: Vorreiter, Nachzügler und Partner. LINK
Kümmerle, Harald (2022). "Japanese data strategies, global surveillance capitalism, and the “LINE problem”". Matter: Journal of New Materialist Research, Vol. 3, No. 1 (pp. 134-159). LINK
Kümmerle, Harald & Waldenberger, Franz (2020). "Introduction". In: Kümmerle, Harald & Waldenberger, Franz (Eds.), The Digital Transformation – Implications for the Social Sciences and the Humanities (pp. 7-9). DIJ. (DIJ Miscellanea).
Kümmerle, Harald (2020). "Postscript: Comparative and historical perspectives on the digital transformation". In: Kümmerle, Harald & Waldenberger, Franz (Eds.), The Digital Transformation – Implications for the Social Sciences and the Humanities (pp. 81-84). DIJ. (DIJ Miscellanea).
Waldenberger, Franz (2020). "Knowledge production and the role of SSH in the digital age". In: Kümmerle, Harald & Waldenberger, Franz (Eds.), The Digital Transformation – Implications for the Social Sciences and the Humanities (pp. 72-80). DIJ. (DIJ Miscellanea).
Kümmerle, Harald (2020). "Digitale Transformation in Japan: Diskurs- analyse anhand des Datenbegriffs". DIJ Newsletter, 61. LINK
Kümmerle, Harald & Waldenberger, Franz (Eds.) (2020). The Digital Transformation. Implications for the Social Sciences and the Humanities. DIJ. LINK
Waldenberger, Franz (2018). "Society 5.0. Japanische Ambitionen und Initiativen (Deutsche Fassung)". Die digitale Zukunft (Auslandsinformationen 1) (pp. 54-61). LINK
Waldenberger, Franz (2018). "Society 5.0. Japanese Ambitions and Initiatives". The Digital Future (International Reports 1) (pp. 48-55). LINK


September 11 - September 13, 2023
Discursive and material dimensions of the digital transformation: Perspectives from and on Japan

June 30, 2022
DIJ History & Humanities Study Group
Data protection regulation in Japan against the background of international trends

September 23, 2021
MWS Web Forum Series 'The Digital Transformation'
Knowledge Production in a Data Driven Society

June 10, 2021
DIJ Forum
Data and Values
German and Japanese perspectives