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2009年7月11日 (土)


(Mainichi Japan) July 10, 2009
Irate Japanese authors see Google Book Search as 'black ships' of digital era
アメリカよ・新ニッポン論:第4部・受容の終わり/9止 「黒船」グーグル…



The Author's Guild, a U.S.-based organization of published authors, along with the Association of American Publishers, held a briefing session on May 27 in Tokyo for Japanese writers' organizations regarding Google Book Search.
The new tool developed by Internet search engine giant Google allows entire texts of books from all over the world to be accessed from its database. But not everyone sees the development in a positive light.
Scowls were seen on the faces of Japanese writers in attendance. "The U.S. is forcing its view of what is good on the rest of the world," one participant said. "It's the same way the Iraq War was carried out."
 「何が良いことかを勝手に決めて世界中に押し付けている。イラク戦争のやり方と同じだ」。日本側の出席者は顔をしかめた。 インターネット検索サービス最大手の米グーグルが、世界中の書籍をデジタル化する「グーグルブック検索」。米国作家協会と全米出版社協会が5月27日、東京都内で日本の作家団体向けに説明会を開いた。

Yashio Uemura, a member of the Japan P.E.N. Club's freedom of speech committee, argued that Japan and Europe have their own unique cultures, but that at this rate, "American standards will become the global standard, even in the realm of language and knowledge." American representatives at the meeting countered by repeating, "This is in Japan's best interests, too." To that end, the two sides failed to see eye to eye.

Books written in English have an overwhelming advantage in receiving high rankings under search criteria set by a U.S. company. There are widespread concerns that just by being written in Japanese, books will be ranked lower than English-language ones regardless of their topic or quality.

Will Japanese eventually be destroyed by the English language? "People are only free to come and go into the 'libraries' of the languages in which they are able to read," warns Minae Mizumura, a Japanese writer who moved to the U.S. at the age of 12. She has taught at American universities and has published novels that interweave Japanese and English. Her nonfiction book "Nihongo ga horobiru toki -- eigo no seiki no naka de" (The Fall of the Japanese Language in the Age of English) is a bestseller.

The arrival of the "black ships" of the digital era has sent shockwaves through Japan. Not unlike the debates that took place from the late Edo to the early Meiji periods, on one hand, there are the "expulsionists" who argue that the national government should ban such an "invasion," and on the other hand are those who support the "opening of the country."

Makoto Nagao, director of the National Diet Library, takes a pro-Google position, saying, "I can respect Google's ideal of allowing universal access to cultures all over the world." In response to arguments that the new service will force publishers and bookstores out of business, he proposes a set-up that would funnel part of the access fee paid by Google Book viewers to book publishers. "Providing such a service to the whole world can help the Japanese language to grow," he says, emphasizing an aggressive approach.

The Internet, which transcends national boundaries, and the English language, which is understood all over the world, have boosted both their convenience and force, and are now deeply embedded in our everyday lives. Today, these two powers come together in an attempt to subsume the backbone of various cultures -- which equates books with national language -- into an American system. If we are to enjoy the convenience that results from such developments, it will be difficult to turn our backs to a U.S.-made global standard. What is being sought now in the Japanese language is a will and ingenuity to secure a place for itself.

Take for example, "Aozora Bunko" (Open-air library), an on-line service featuring Japanese fiction and critical essays that have been digitalized by volunteers. "The Internet, from the very start, was based on U.S. standards," says Aozora's founder, Michio Tomita. "I reap the benefits of the English language's convenience. But at the same time, I want to establish a secure footing within the Internet for the Japanese cultural sphere that made me who I am. That's what I'm working hard toward."

In addition, Aozora Bunko has contributed to the development of the Shift JIS (SJIS) Japanese character encoding system. It has also been engaged in the distribution of DVD compilations of Japanese works overseas, sending DVDs to over 25 universities, libraries, and institutions involved in Japanese language instruction in 10 countries including the U.S., Britain, France and China. Efforts to make sure that the books one wants to read survive through the Internet age leads, in fact, to the protection of the culture that nurtured individuals.

Toru Nishigaki, a professor of information studies at the University of Tokyo weighs in on the debate. "Americans, even as they try to spread a universalism that is based on the English language, are lacking in the awareness that this is indeed what they are doing," he says. "In Japan, on the other hand, people have always split into the nationalist and reformist factions, ever since the Meiji Restoration. It is important to open up an alternative vision of Internet society that allows for the mutual respect of various cultures and languages, and for Japan and other non-English speaking regions to propose such an effort."

When the U.S. tries to spread a singular ideal and standard throughout the rest of the world, the specific circumstances of other countries are barely taken into account. Japan faced off with the U.S. in the pre-war era, but also enjoyed the fruits of American culture and grew prosperous under the protection of the same U.S. during the Cold War. Today, 20 years after the end of the Cold War, a new relationship is needed characterized neither by confrontation nor subordination.

毎日新聞 2009年7月2日 東京朝刊


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