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Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of the Self, Paul Roquet, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis MN (2016), 245 pp. $27.50 paperback, ISBN: 978-0-8166-9246-0

Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article review

  • Andrew Lapworth
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-68
Number of pages2
JournalEmotion, Space and Society
Early online date16 May 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 4 May 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2018
DatePublished (current) - Aug 2018


‘Sit back, relax, and let your thoughts drift away…’ From ‘contemplative cinema’ to ambient electronic music, ‘healing-style’ literature to therapeutic video, our contemporary urban landscapes are increasingly populated by various forms of ‘mood-regulating’ media designed to provide those that encounter them with an affective sense of calm and security in a world defined by ever-growing anxiety and insecurity. Paul Roquet's book offers a meditative reflection on the rise of these new media ecologies, which he groups under the concept of ‘ambient media’. Works of ambient media, he writes, usually function below the thresholds of our conscious attention, and are oriented towards colouring the surrounding environment with a specific emotional tone or mood that bodies can then attune to. Empirically, Roquet's book focuses on the subjective and political implications of ambient media in Japan, highlighting how, since the 1970s, Japanese audiences and artists have increasingly turned to ambient aesthetic styles as techniques of self-care to help them weather the social and sensory bombardment of modern urban life. Today, Japan is the global centre for the production of such therapeutic ambient media, a fact that may come as little surprise to those who have found themselves on rush-hour commuter train in Tokyo. Although quite brief, Roquet reflects on the distinct set of historical, cultural, and political conditions that might help explain Japan's enthusiastic embrace of ambient media. Central here is how ambient media's goal of blending seamlessly with everyday life – of becoming ‘part of the background’– resonates with the emphasis in Japanese society on ‘reading the air’ (kuuki ga yomenai) and the social harmonics of ‘going with the flow’.



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    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Elsevier at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 117 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY-NC-ND


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