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Jason G. Karlin・Media Incitements in Japan: Social Contagion, Self-Harm, and Freedom of Expression


June 19 @ 3:30 PM 5:00 PM JST


Despite forecasts that suicides would increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, suicide rates in the US and many other countries declined. Notably, suicide rates increased in Japan after a more than decade-long drop. Though, middle-aged and older men typically account for most suicides in Japan, the pandemic spike was skewed towards the younger generation and women. Through a review of the dominant narratives about suicide in Japan that are often highly reducionist, oversimplifying the issue by focusing on a single factor, this presentation will emphasize the complexity of self-harm behavior and the many factors that may contribute to it, including the role of the media. The analysis will present how the concept of media contagion, or the Werther Effect, has been received in Japan. It will discuss the role that traditional media has played in inciting suicides through reckless reporting. Finally, it will assess the dangers of social media in providing an unregulated space for the circulation of information and images that can trigger urges to self-harm and enable social connections with others who are self-harming.


Jason G. KARLIN is a professor of media studies in the Interfaculty Initiative for Information Studies at the University of Tokyo. His research and teaching focuses on gender, social media, and computer mediated communication. He is the co-author of AKB48 (2019), and co-editor of Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture (2011) and Media Convergence in Japan (2016).

Kanagawa University

西区みなとみらい4丁目5−3, Room 5030 (5F)
横浜市, 神奈川県 220-8739 Japan
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