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unclassified - 15 12 2001 - 14:08 - katatonik

On a <A HREF="http://tiny.antville.org/20011213/3488/#5848">slightly related matter</A>

“Even those who are keen to emphasise the inventiveness of contemporary Japanese technology often seem to accept that this creativity is a new phenomenon. But a close look at the processes of technological diffusion in Japan makes it clear that ‘invention’ and ‘imitation’ are not radically opposed alternatives, but are really two ends of a spectrum along which outside inspiration and innate creativity are combined in many complex ways. Japan’s ability to react swiftly and constructively to the nineeenth-century challenge of western technology was based on a heritage of technological innovation within Japan. The two centuries leading up to Japan’s opening to the west had been a period of quite rapid development and diffusion of techniques within Japan’s main craft industries. Most importantly, many Japanese people – commoner and intellectual elite alike – had discovered the process of invention itself. In other words, they had come to recognise the importance of new productive techniques in enhancing their own or their region’s wealth and power.”

Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “The technological transformation of Japan: From the Seventeenth to the Twenty-first Century”. Cambridge University Press 1994.

now the only thing I know a bit more about in the Japanese uptake of technologies is photography. I read considerably about how the Japanese passed the Germans in becoming the dominant manufacturers of optical and mechanical photographic equipment. My impression is that they did not better the Germans in terms of innovation but in terms of integration. What do I conclude?
Japan might have had a long heritage in technological innovation. As far as I know no society valued technological innovation as a value in itself highly as the "bürgerlich - capitalist" one. To argue for that heritage in Japan looks like submitting to that value set. I do not exactly know how high the Japanese society ranked "technological innovation" so from here I would have to do more research.

slauti (Dec 16, 07:04 pm) #

Well, it doesn't quite require submitting to that value set. As I understand it, the argument runs like this: When looking at technological development in Japan, we are used to look at it after the Meiji restauration (1868), after Japan came into contact with Europe and the US. We then give credit to whatever technological development there followed to European/US-influence and characterize the Japanese attitude as imitative.
Looking at the centuries before, Tessa Morris-Suzuki argues, allows for a broader perspective. Then suddenly you realize that the description as "imitative" is not a description, but a selection of one out of several co-existing attitudes present in a society towards development.
Whether, and how, innovation and development are evaluated, is independent of the argument *that* innovation and development took place in Japan not exclusively in terms of what we have become used to see as imitation.
Another question one could ask on the basis of this reevaluation is whether the "innovative" character of the West is really a fact - whether it might not be a similar selective apprehension that represents ideals held up in a society much rather than actual social practice in scientific and other circles.

katatonik (Dec 16, 08:12 pm) #

Der Vorschlag, die Zeit vor der Meji Restauration in die Betrachtungen miteinzubeziehen, ist sicher nicht nur gut, sondern notwendig. Trotzdem halte ich meinen Gedankengang, nämlich zu überlegen, innerhalb welchen Wertesets (und die sind immer gemischt) argumentiert wird, für valide. In meinem Werteset z.B. ist "Integration" mindestens ein "ebensohoher Wert" wie Innovation, wenn ich unvorsichtig bin, "preferred". Deswegen sollte ich aber sehr auf meine eigenen heterophilen Tendenzen aufpassen, gerade im Sinne von Rückseite der heterophoben Münze. Ich versuche das auch.
Nevertheless my slightly distorted value set helps me the other way round. Arguing that "Japanese do not or not only imitate" but innovate by themselves and their tradition is in the context of valuing innovation and devaluing imitation, which might or might not be a pejorative term for integration or development. Here I agree completely. My positive term is integration. I would be nice to integrate expressions from other languages than english and not only into "esoteric" topics.

Das Buch von Tessa Morris-Suzuki würde mich einmal sehr interessieren, sollte ich mir vielleicht besorgen.

slauti (Dec 18, 11:57 am) #

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