Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Dancers in Niigata Got back yesterday from the Enjin01 event in Niigata. The theme of this year’s event was laughter. (Flickr set here.)

Enjin01 is a Japanese non-profit that I helped start. It is a funny mishmash of people including artists, business people, politicians, academics, journalists, novelists… just about every kind of background you can imagine. It is a membership organization with about 180 people. It is a totally volunteer organization and no one gets paid for talks we give or activities we participate in and it is funded by membership fees from the members and corporate donations. Some members give a percentage of their normal lecture fees to the organization as well. I was involved in the selection of members and setting up the organization a lot at the beginning, but am mostly just a member now.

One of the activities that we do is go teach at Jr. High Schools that want us to go. Any Jr. High School can sign up for us to dispatch teachers on our websie. I blogged about this earlier. We also have a group that focuses on trying to change government policy, especially in the area of taxation of donations to non-profits.

The main activity of Enjin01 is to organize an annual meeting in a different region of Japan each year. Most of the members attend this annual meeting. The meeting is organized into a few plenary talks, a bunch of workshops and panels, and a “yagaku” where we go to dinner with people from the local community. We also usually have a closed meeting where the members meet an invited guest.

The program committee assigns the participant members to various panels and different “yagaku”. This year, I was assigned to a panel about IT, which is par for the course.

I was also assigned to be on a panel at a workshop lead by Koichi Inakoshi to learn about and actually participate in photographing a nude model. I had never photographed a nude model before so I was quite nervous at the beginning. Mr. Inakoshi started by explaining that we should think about the beauty of the model and imagine looking at our own bodies while we are bathing. He told us to try to imagine and see the beauty of the human body. After showing us some of his nude images, he told us to try taking photographs ourselves.

The audience was also invite to participate. The audience probably consisted of 50% women and maybe 50% of them over 40 years old. The panel, which I was on, chose a number of winning photos. One of the women who won a prizes was wearing a kimono. I wish I had a photo of the woman in a kimono photographing a nude model. ;-)

One side-effect of this session was that I ended up with some nude photographs. I posted them in Flickr flagged as “Moderate” and “Hide this photo from public searches”. I still got a few people telling me that they were surprised and a thread started on one of my photos about nudes and sensitivity about nude images. After reading a bunch of posts about nude vs naked, I realized this is an old and deep discussion online. The collapsed context of the Internet forces us to deal with these cultural differences in a very real way. With nudes, I find that even in the same society, there is a very wide range of sensitivity levels. One curious thing is why people turn “safe mode” off when they don’t want to see nudes…

Charles Robert Jenkins The special guest for the closed member meeting this year was Charles Robert Jenkins, the former US Army soldier who lived in North Korea for 39 years. He gave us a very candid and real account of his time in North Korea and while some of the facts and assertions were interesting and shocking, his personal account of his day-to-day life in North Korea left the strongest impression. He now lives in Niigata, Japan.

The “yagaku” can be hit or miss, but this year it was a lot of fun. The deal with the “yagaku” is that we choose a dozen or so local restaurants and several members are assigned to each venue. Then all of the local people are invited to join us to dinner where we are the hosts. We learn a lot about the local culture and they get to spend “quality time” with us. This year, I sat with a number of women who had worked in Tokyo at companies like Fujitsu and Intel but returned to Niigata after getting married. We talked about how to use the net to “stay in the loop”.

Ken Mogi One of the highlights of the event was getting to hear Ken Mogi speak and having time to chat with him a bit. In addition to being one of the most brilliant people I know, it turns out that he has a very funny and rich personality.

Next year, we will be holding the event in Nagoya. Anyone is welcome to join us.

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