Ian Condry on “How Virtual Pop Star Hatsune Miku Blew Up in Japan”

Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku

Associate Professor Ian Condry—a specialist on anthropology in Japan—spoke with Wired Magazine about one of his favorite topics, the virtual pop star Hatsune Miku.

Ian Condry, a professor at MIT who teaches courses in Japanese pop culture, including a section on Miku, says the character serves “as a platform people can build on. She becomes a tool of connection who, through people’s participation, comes alive.”


“She’s a wiki-celebrity,” Condry, the MIT professor, says. “Enough people act on her that she takes on a life, but not of her own–everybody else’s life.”

Or as Condry wrote in more detail for the Civic Media blog:

Ian Condry

Ian Condry

Miku reinforces some of the lessons for civic media that we’ve heard before: people need to feel a genuine openness to participate; sharing and dialogue are key to building a community; free culture is more generative than controlled-IP systems; cooptation and commercialization are always risks, especially as popularity increases.

But Miku offers a particular schema of distributed creativity, different than both Wikipedia and human celebrities. Miku lacks a back-story. She has no pre-defined personality. She doesn’t exist in a singular made-up fantasy world. This Wikicelebrity makes old-fashioned human celebs look like appliances, when the future is platforms.

Might this provide alternative ways of thinking about democracy and participation as well?

Andrew Whitacre

About Andrew Whitacre

Andrew directs the communications efforts for CMS/W and its research groups. A native of Washington, D.C., he holds a degree in communication from Wake Forest University, with a minor in humanities, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. This work includes drawing up and executing strategic communications plans, with projects including website design, social media management and training, press outreach, product launches, fundraising campaign support, and event promotions.


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