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Digital Social Science and Oral Narrative Research (2018- )

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Lead Investigator: David H. Slater (3238-4044:



ICC members: Takeshi ITO, Noriko MURAI, Hanako OKADA

Post Doc. participants: Kevin ZALESKI, Megha WADHWA


Background of Project

The Research Unit builds upon the success and accomplishments of the previous projects, “3.11 as Crisis and Opportunity” and “Political Activism in Japan.” For these two projects we have accumulated more than 600 hours of digital oral narrative surrounding the triple disasters of 2011. While we are securing other funds to continue the data collection phase (see below), the ICC Research Unit funding has been vital to further the methodological understanding of this innovative approach into other fields of social sciences.


Purpose of the Research Unit

The goal of this research unit is to explore the scholarly and political potential in the method of oral narrative research as captured on digital video. The assumption behind this project, illustrated by previous work since 2011, is that human voice when captured on digital video represents a hugely valuable scholarly data source that can be analyzed on the micro-level (discourse analysis and proxemics research) or macro-level (with scalable data that can be shared and integrated into multiple forms of presentation and display.

Approach and Goals
  1. By focusing on the nature of the medium itself through different thematic and cultural contexts, we hope to illustrate the utility of this approach. Oral narrative is a relative older field, developed in folklore, history and community studies. Yet, this this focus on the use of these methods to apply to contemporary ethnographic context is still very underdeveloped in any principled theoretical way.

  2. We seek to also integrate a strain of research commonly referred to as “digital humanities,” attempting to share the insights from these projects as we develop more ethnographic trajectories. While “digital humanities” is well-known, digital social science is still a new and developing field. This focus here is both on the digital-enabled collection of data, but also on the ways that digitality has transformed the way we share, curate and represent our data in electronic means.

  3. The range of projects of different types and different foci in the post 3.11 period, from disaster and recovery, political activism, homelessness and now refugee and asylum seekers in Japan, points to the diversity of applications of this methodology.



Previous Research Units related to this project

  • 3.11 as Crisis and Opportunity

  • Political Activism in Japan

image from Pexels by cottonbro

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