YOSHIMOTO, Mitsuhiro, Dean/Professor, The Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies, Waseda University
The Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies, or GSICCS is one of the newest graduate units at Waseda University. It aspires to be a premier center of knowledge in the age of radical changes and uncertainties. For many years, globalization has been regarded as a root cause of these changes. However, as this all-purpose word is fast becoming a vacuous sign, to stress the importance of “being global” now seems like a tautological exercise. Globalization as a theoretical concept does not have enough explanatory power to illuminate such problems and issues as fake news, post-truth, neo-populism, political division and extreme polarization, security and all-pervading surveillance, walled states and communities, climate change, and species extinction. Yet it is misleading to equate the present day with an age of crisis because the word “crisis” creates a false impression that there is a normal state of things to which we can eventually return.
As exceptions are increasingly turning into a new norm, the University faces serious challenges in its role as a hub of education and research. Traditional disciplines and division of knowledge cannot effectively deal with the questions and problems mentioned above. The world we live in is at the fully-developed stage of what the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze called a “society of control”. There is a widening gap between the discipline-based enclosure of knowledge and the reality of the society of control. Interdisciplinary studies try to break down the enclosure, but for the most part, they remain ineffective.
The exponential proliferation of information and visual images in the society of control makes it imperative to scrutinize the means of communication, including language and digital media, and the production, dissemination, and consumption of images. With the ubiquitous spread of smartphones and social media, it has never been easier to take pictures, make movies, and have them watched by—potentially millions of—complete strangers all over the world.
The far-reaching implications of the radical visualization of human experiences are yet to be fully explored. So is the effect of using English as a hegemonic language of global academic discourse. Language can never be a neutral means of communication. Even though it is impossible to avoid English as a virtual lingua franca for the transnational circulation of knowledge, we must use English reflexively and avoid internalizing the hegemonic values of the global academic center.
I envision GSICCS as a utopian space where critical thinking and intellectual camaraderie prevail over professionalization and empty competition. We look forward to welcoming you as active participants in our collective endeavor.