The research on youth's representations addressed and realised by young people in Asian media has led to the analysis of five case studies:
- She Japan (web site), Japan. Representations: the Japanese students in relation to their country, culture and traditions and young foreigners interested in Japan. Key issues: Japan, culture and traditions.
- Artists of the Floating World (photos, web site), India. Representations: the youth involved in the project, promoted peace and human rights. Key issue: children's rights.
- Dj Tommy (music CD), Hong Kong. Representations: young people and Hip Hop movement. Key issues: music as a bonding agent among young people and as a mean of communication to express themselves.
- Moonsoon Wedding (movie), India. Representations: two generations, two sons and fathers, and their lives in a traditional yet modern India. Key issue: wedding in the context of the current Indian culture.
- CEE India (web site), India. Representations: young people taking part in activities for preserving the environment. Key issue: awareness of environmental issues.
The research on youth's representations in mediatic products for the international audience led to three case studies:
- (bill board). Representations: young people as they deal with the results of international politics. Key issue: the impact of war.
- Sculptor (TV advertisement). Representations: young people and consumption. Key issues: engagement, strength and imagination as tools to overcome economic difficulties and realise a dream.
- Spot Coca-Cola (TV spot). Representations: young people as active and without prejudices. Key issue: changing mentality.
1. Research methodology and special features of Asian media
1.1 Internet and research
The research on media productions realised by and/or for Asian young people was led mainly on the Internet. This mean of communication made the research process easier. It made possible to reach media products, which would have been difficult to approach as a consequence of the geographical distance. Yet, researchers faced other two main challanges. The first one was related to the fact that there were several products that were addressed to young people rather than realised by young people. The second problem was linked to the lack of material written in English. Most of the documents on the internet are in Chinese or Japanese. The web sites had mainly Japanese origin. Moreover, besides personal web sites, the research group mainly found web sites having commercial purposes, and most of all still in Chinese and Japanese. Then we found some bilingual web sites (Chinese - English, Japanese - English) and only a small percentage in English. Therefore, the research was strongly influenced and limited by the language factor.
1.2. Online Asian media products and development projects
For the purpose of this research, the most interesting Indian web sites were those that had developmental aims. These projects are supported by international collaborations and produce web sites with high quality standards from both a graphical and organisational points of view. "Youth Writing Peace" is one of these projects from which the research group selected the work Artists of the Floating World The purpose of this project is to push young people to have an active role in their society through the realisation of peace and human rights projects. Having said that, it is necessary to mention that in the Indian case the movie industry has the most dominant role in the media. The Indian movie industry, which is one of the most important in the world, offers a significant representation of the country habits, traditions and culture.
2. Media and culture
Means of communication are very good tools to transfer culture. Some of the case studies considered are media productions specifically for young people, whose purpose is to transmit information on a country's culture, habits and traditions (for example, the web site She Japan and the movie Moonsoon Wedding. In other cases, the attention focused on subcultures. For example, the web site "J-sonic" (from which the researchers selected the song canzone Respect for the chopstick Hip Hop), provides information on the Hip Hop culture in Hong Kong.
2.1. Asian media productions and culture
Among the Japanese web sites considered in the research She Japan,was selected. She Japan, which describes Japanese traditions, was realised by university students, who studied English. This web site represents the combination of modern media, Internet, and ancient Japanese traditions.
In the Indian case, the research group found that the greatest part of the media productions belonged to the movie industry. In this country, cinema has a very interesting history and attracts a large audience. In all the case studies, both traditional and innovative elements can be found. Links between the culture of a country and modern factors emerged and are often influenced by Western models.
2.2. Criteria in Glocal Youth research
Nowadays media have assumed a central role in our daily life. The technological progress of the last few decades has improved among
other things also communication means. Internet, for example, has a central role in our life, especially for young people. This means of
communication started a real revolution in communication processes. For instance, news can be constantly updated.
The work of research group aimed at selecting products that interest young people. This interest should be both for the short and long-term, or at least a medium term considering that in the world of new information technologies everything changes very quickly. The research group carefully selected the case studies that could be used not only in high-technology contexts, like for instance schools with access to the latest technologic updates, but also in those lacking technological resources.
In the West, Asia is usually constructed as a distant, homogenous and monolithic country. As a matter of facts, people in the West often know little about single countries, and the only areas, which are known are China, Japan and India. Generally, it can be said that prejudices and stereotypes on Asian countries and peoples exist.
The purpose of this paper is neither to describe every single Asian country nor to demystify Asian stereotypes. On the contrary, this work aims to provide relevant information on some Asian countries and peoples through the analysis of targeted case studies. Having these issues as a starting point, it is possible to deepen the knowledge of some Asian countries' culture and tradition.
3.1 Western similarities and influences on Asian countries
The Western image of Asia is often that of a distant and different continent. However, globalisation tends to diminish differences and distances. The proof of that is given by the analysis of the Hip Hop movement in Hong Kong through the case study of the song Respect for the chopstick Hip Hop. The Hip Hop movement is more and more successful both in the West and Hong Kong. It is a movement, which criticises society and it is typical of urban areas. The content of the songs and the singers' style are the same in Hong Kong, Europe as well as the United States. Despite the specific features of each country, similarities increase and differences decrease.
In the Indian case, the film Moonsoon Wedding suggests the image of a country, which is experiencing the modernisation process while holding on to its traditions.
3.2. Access and production
In order to produce an effective research and utilize and realize media properly, the impact and role of access and inclusion have to be considered. The Asian continent offers an extremely heterogeneous landscape: there are many differences not only between one and the other country but also within the same country, depending whether it is placed along the coast, in the city or the rural areas. South Korea is the Asian country with the highest percentage of Internet consumers (530,14 dwellers out of 1000 use the Internet in South Korea, 440,20 out of 1000 in Japan and 35,58 out of 1000 in China). The Asian countries with the lowest percentage of users are in Pakistan (7,96 consumers out of 1000 inhabitants) and Bangladesh (1,08 out of 1000) (Source: http://www.nationmaster.com/red/graph-T/int_use_cap&id=ASI)
The access to media is strongly related to the realization of media productions. As access is guaranteed, the number of media and educative productions increases as much more possibilities are ensured. For instance, since it has become easier to have access to Internet, creating web sites has become much more straightforward. However, the economic factor is still relevant: those youths who do not have the economic support find particularly hard to realize independent media products. Therefore, it is possible to distinguish two categories of web sites: those related to commercial activities, like the "j-sonic" web site, and those related to scholarships and/or development projects, like Artists of the Floating World.
4. Representations of young people in selected Asian media
4.1. Misleading representations
First of all, it is necessary to point out that Asia is a massive continent and therefore, Asian countries experience different situations. Generalising on Asian young people would lead to representations, which are only partial.
In the case of Japan, for instance, there is a common idea that all the Japanese youths are modern, innovative and follow the American life style. However, several studies clearly show that there is a new generation of Japanese young people, who are disinterested in the future, alienated by reality, and prefer virtual relationships to real ones. At the same time, there are many Japanese youths, who are engaged with social issues and are aware of their own traditions.
The most common perceptions of India in the West relate to it an extremely poor country where people live in uncertain conditions. Yet, not all Indians are poor, and specifically poverty is not necessarily linked to low standards of education. Indeed, despite the high levels of poverty and demographic density, the levels of education are pretty high.
4.2. Being young
In Asia, Africa, Latin America and in general in the South of the world, the percentage of young people is increasing, while in the North the percentage of youth is decreasing despite the quality of life is much better.
According to statistical data, in the 90's the population being 25 years old had an average of 9,5 years of education in the developed countries, 8,4 in the Eastern and Central Europe and 7,6 in East Asia. (http://www.unirede.br/informe/087/opiniao/o20040124_87; http://latinoamericana.org/2004/textos/portugues/Amaladoss.htm)
According to José Zunga, president of Interstate Brazilian Federation of Professionals in Telecommunication, in South Korea the 56% of the population has individual access to Internet. "Indeed, there are several computer rooms that make it easy to have access to Internet". (http://www.fittel.org.br/html/detalhar-noticia.php?ID=71)
4.2.2. Life style
The variety of countries that are grouped within the Asian continent determines different life styles and social realities that will differ from one to the other country.
If one considers the Japanese example, it is possible to notice a strong wish to stand out. Fashion has a central role in their life and look changes are a constant concern. The Japanese life style is not just influenced by fashion tendencies but also by the struggle to constantly distinguish themselves from others: it becomes imperative to create new styles through their clothes and personalities. At the same time, Japanese youths are becoming a matter of concern for Japan because they are not concerned with the future of their country and their own future. (http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1107000501-44779,00.html; http://www.time.com/time/asia/asia/magazine/1999/990503/export1.html)
If one analyses Indian youths, the situation appears very different. In India a high percentage of the population has to deal with poverty. Most young people cannot afford to pay to much attention to their appearance and style. There are Indians who start working when they are very young. Sometimes they work in their family business while struggling to continue their studies, and hope that the future will bring new and better opportunities.
It is appropriate to mention the case study of the TV Peugeot 206. This TV advert portrays the story of a young Indian man who owns an old car. This car is similar to all the other cars of the city but he dreams to have the car he has seen in a magazine. By observing that picture, he succeeds in copying it. This young man does not have enough money to buy a Peugeot, therefore, his dream can be accomplished only through his determination, wit and imagination.
The case study Moonsoon Wedding points out the existence of two parallel realities in contemporary India: the presence of consolidated traditions and Western tendencies. Each of the various generations portrayed in the film appear to be influenced in one way of the other in this Westernization process. For instance, the father plays golf with his friends and one of his daughters works in TV and has a relationship with a married man.
4.3. Being citizen
4.3.1. Social problems
Children prostitution, HIV, crimes and poverty are just some among all the emergencies that affect Asian countries, in particular the poorest ones. Children prostitution is a very serious problem especially in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, where this problem amounts to 2-14% of GNP (Gross National Product). (http://www.aidsportugal.com/article.php?sid=728).
In Cambodia, prostitution has significantly increased during the last few years as a consequence of several factors: i.e. vague legislation that does not protect children from sexual violence, chauvinistic and patriarchal society and the belief that children are not affected by HIV. (http://www.aids.gov.br/imprensa/Noticias.asp?NOTCod=56426). HIV is another problem, which is damaging Asia, since people affected by this disease are about 6 millions, half of which are Indians.
Besides prostitution and HIV, another emergency is criminality. Japanese mafia (Yakuza), for instance, is a criminal organisation, which has roughly 35.000 members, who earn 600 million dollars per year trough extortion, prostitution, gambling and drug dealing.
The project Artists of the Floating World stresses the necessity and urgency to work for the protection of children's rights. It is a simple project that aims to educate young people to children's rights by giving them the opportunity of expressing their ideas on the matter artistically. In this way, young people's opinions are placed for once under the spot light while crucial information on children's rights and countries' legislation is provided.
4.3.2. The importance of tradition
In Asian countries, several media projects realised by and/or for young people explicitly refer to culture and tradition, like in the case of She Japan and Moonsoon Wedding . In these two cases, the purpose was not only to describe the habits and traditions of the two countries, but also to keep those traditions alive. She Japan is a web site containing information on Japan, whilst the film Moonsoon Wedding , shows Indian traditions through the story of an Indian family. During the film, modern and traditional elements are intermingled without clash: the existing conflicts are due to intra-generational differences rather than to the consequences of a westernization process. The film is therefore a good example of contemporary India. Modernity and tradition are interwoven in such a way that differences are rarely perceived. This is seen also in the film soundtrack.
4.3.3 Environmental concerns
Dealing with all the problems related to the Asian continent would necessitate of a very time-consuming research. Therefore, the research group will provide an idea of one of the main issues that Asian peoples and NGOs have to deal with: nuclear weapons.
North Korea is a clear example of a country, which invested many financial resources in nuclear weapons. This situation became a significant concern of the United States. Since Clinton's administration, Washington established an agreement with North Korea. The agreement guaranteed the provision of fuel and food for suspending the production of nuclear weapons. President Bush asked North Korea to suspend the exportation of weapons in order to prove its peaceful intentions.
Another significant problem of the Asian continent is the protection of the environment. In India it is possible to distinguish two kinds of tendencies. Most people have not been educated to take care and improve the situation of the environment and consequently they are not concerned with it. On the other hand, there is an increasing number of schools that take part in educative programs on environmental issues, such as the one promoted by CEE India.Thanks to this opportunity, young people are more informed and sensitive about environmental issues.
4.4. Being "other"
Migrations from Asia towards Europe are often perceived by Europeans as a problem and a threat. The European policies that aimed at opening the borders and implementing free circulation of people and goods made more difficult to control the arrivals of illegal immigrants. Immigrants are often perceived as the cause of local unemployment and therefore, the number of people, who oppose immigration is increasing.
Indeed, the Asian immigrants have often been perceived as enemies of industrial development and trade of local goods, because they generally open shops where prices are lower than the national ones.
An example, which makes this issue even clearer, is the Coca Cola advert. In this advert, the main character is a young Indian, who works at a European wedding party. The purpose of this advert is only to promote the image of Coca Cola. It does not refer to problems that relate to immigration and social classes. Nevertheless, all these elements are present in the advert: the social condition of the young man is represented and although it is not crucial for the advert, it ends up assuming its importance at a further and closer analysis.