Two weeks ago, my Media Production class at AU held a Virtual Dinner Guest project with a group of young people from Cairo, Egypt, as well as the head of the project – Eric Maddox.(See SKYPE DINNER CONNECTS CULTURE) The project aims to bridge cultural differences and misunderstandings by having groups of young people from two different countries hold a video conference. During the video conversation, the two sides 1. Eat, and 2. Discuss a variety of topics, including social and political issues in their countries, misconceptions they may have about each other’s culture, the state of media in their respective societies, and where they see their countries heading in the future.
After finishing our conversation, both teams got chance to select a topic question for each other to take to the street. They asked us to ask DC, “Do you think America is the best place to come to make a better life? Why or why not?”, while we asked them “What advice would you give the next generation of Egyptians? These answers are compiled into videos and shared a week or two later when the two sides reconvene for another video conference.
And here are the videos both sides done answering the questions.
[vimeo 91496719 w=500 h=281]
The Virtual Dinner Guest Project: American U., Washington, D.C. – Cairo, Egypt from Eric Maddox on Vimeo.
[vimeo 91476652 w=500 h=281]
The Virtual Dinner Guest Project: Cairo – American University, Washington, D.C. from Eric Maddox on Vimeo.
Japanese cultural diplomacy, as seen by Kazuo Ogoura in his Global Asia article “From Ikebana to Manga and Beyond”, generally operates as a temporal response to international events and trends, whether to counter post-WW2 international perception of Japan as an overtly-militarized nation bent on conquest in Asia or American fear of a Japanese economic take-over during the 80s and early 90’s. Japan’s current cultural diplomacy strategies thus serve, I believe, to balance against rising anti-Japanese sentiment in a nationalistic China as well as introduce a new generation (Millennials) to the ‘content industry’ created and fostered in Japan. One of these initiatives through which Japan hopes to accomplish these goals is the newly-created Kakehashi Project (Kakehashi is Japanese for ‘bridge’), an exchange program where Japanese Millennials will have the opportunity to explore America for two weeks while their American counterparts will have the chance to visit Tokyo plus one other Japanese city over a ten-day period.
Through my work with Dr. Quansheng Zhao and the Center for Asian Studies at AU, I had the chance to be selected into a group of AU students who will be traveling to Tokyo this summer as part of the Kakehashi Project(we have not confirmed yet what the second city will be). I am very excited about the prospect of participating in this new cultural diplomacy initiative. Although our programming is still in its early stages, we will have the chance to visit government officials and leading academics as well as discuss relevant and current themes with Japanese students. I look forward to the opportunity to observe how Japan is positioning itself in the new world order emerging in East Asia, particularly viz a viz China (and to a lesser, yet no less extremely important extent, Taiwan), through the use of soft/smart power strategies.