Probing ‘Mixi’: Japans Re-birthed ‘MySpace’

My decision to dive into and experience a Japanese social media service was one influenced by a desire to explore an unknown place and use documented material to convey what it is like to use a foreign media service that I’d imagined would be comparable to Facebook, and then successfully convey that experience to others. That criteria for success I determined as being demystification. If I could observe and make note of both operational and behavioral differences and similarities, with the aid of screenshots I’d consider these epiphanies to constitute a successful autoethnographic work.

The methodology I applied was that of recording observations and thoughts via screenshots and comments, particularly focusing on the processes undertaken during my foray and mentally comparing them to my experience of their ‘domestic’ counterpart (Facebook). This coupled with a particular focus on key pivotal ‘epiphanies’ moments accounts for my operational methodology.

And so, I set out to determine which website I should dip my proverbial toe into…

japanese-social-networking-site-mixi-logo

Mixi‘s official logo

Realizing that I knew very little about foreign ‘SNS’ (social network sites), I decided to start research fairly broadly and then specify after a little research. As such, the title ‘Japan Social Media‘ jumped out at me as a good place to start.

Socialmediareasearch.png

Admittedly, as a sometimes impatient  impetuous researcher, faced with six, seemingly redundant-looking pages of fluff information, the above dot-points jumped out at me and immediately informed me of two significant bits of information:

  1. Mixi is the most popular;
  2. Facebook is Mixi‘s rival;

This was essentially all I needed to know. Retrospectively, there was one specific facet that I overlooked: the published date of this information sheet. As would become clear later, the source with which I established my expectations over was several years old and Mixi had since succeeded it’s social media reign in Japan to its rival, Facebook. More on that realization later.

A quick search later for ‘Mixi social media’ returned these results with another interesting tid-bit:

14488942_1424930330868931_575877484_o

Coincidence? I think not. (It may be).

 

Seeing the ‘About’ page mention the service’s launch as February 2004 intrigued me, as I knew Facebook launched in the same year. To my surprise, they both happen to call February the launch date. This was something I was eager to investigate later, as I assumed Facebook inspired Mixi.

I tentatively entered the ‘mixi.jp’ site, stepping into the great unknown. A moment later, after the Google wizards translated it to English, I was greeted with this surprisingly comprehensible front-page:

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Mixi landing page: not an alien monolith

Not only comprehensible, but familiar. Being a daily user of message boards and embedded in their communities, it instantly clicked that Mixi mustn’t be the easy counterpart of Facebook which I had originally assumed. There were ‘community’s, which clearly featured as the primary interactive circles as apposed to Facebook’s focus on ‘friends’ and professional development. A tangential ‘epiphany’, however: Facebook noticeably tailors the content of the user’s ‘timeline’ based on their use of the service. My timeline, once  filled with anecdotal posts and pictures by friends, has evolved into primarily content from ‘groups’ I’m part of. Perhaps Mixi would do the same?

Confirming my account and setting up the rest of the details, I’m met with this curiosity:

14489708_10209330201224392_1456615995_o

An indecisive programmer?

Likely a culprit of Google’s automated translation of the incompatible/confusing (from my cultural perspective) Japanese character set. Reinterpreting this now, I feel it’s likely that either the original characters do not align perfectly with our own meanings, or maybe the string value is too long to display;

  • ‘Thirteen’ = 8 alphabeltic characters long = display as integer
  • ‘Fourteen’ = 8 alphabeltic characters long = display as integer
  • ‘Fifteen’ = 7 alphabeltic characters long = display as string?

This theory is shut down as I repeat the registration process and look at the other numbers:

14522507_10209330372068663_2066715655_o

Yep, no rhyme or reason

Oh well, Google Translate. Everybody makes mistakes, it’s only human but you shouldn’t.

Finishing the registration I assumed this meant I could freely begin to explore Mixi, but a final hurdle; mandatory access to a Japanese telephone. Not as optional 2-Step Authentication, but a purposeful step towards ensuring the site remains sealed off, reserved to Japanese citizens. Baffled by this as I’d assumed it would be easily accessible , I did some digging and found that I’d missed the memo.

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Goddamnit. So close.

Having united this project with it’s analytical DIGC202 Global Networks companion, I enlisted the help of fellow DIGC202 student Jessie Davis and her friend in Japan to help me out. The first hint that perhaps Mixi was no longer a prime candidate came from this frank exchange between Jessie and her contact:

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Enter a caption

Due to this epiphany, I sheepishly engaged in more comprehensible (see: ‘basic’) research and confirmed that Mixi had indeed passed its prime. Now in its death throes as the dominant social network in Japan, the remaining users are kept there presumably due to Mixi’s reinvention as a mobile game platform. Bolstered by the company’s own Monster Strike (2013), Mixi had suddenly transformed overnight in my perception from unassuming Facebook clone to something completely different.

monster-strike-3ds-game-ann

Monster Strike (2013)

At this stage, despite my expectations being thoroughly disheveled, I look forward to elaborating on and dissecting my Mixi experience with further research in Week 8. Denzin mentions that  Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992) value ethnography ‘grounded in everyday cultural practices’, similar to the work of a sociologist. I aim to observe, interpret, and alliterate based on my later findings. Additionally, Willis and Trondman (2000, p.12) speak of reflexive methodology as ‘lived experience… [rendered] into a productive but unfussy relation to theory’. By drawing on further research, I will critically evaluate my assumptions contextually, and reflect on them.


 

Thanks again Jessie! All external pictures hyperlink to their source.

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