How do I copied Japan


In the relationship between Asian and nerd identities, the flipside to the Asian nerd stereotype is the appropriation of Asian popular culture by nerd subcultures in the west. Such is the case in otaku subculture, in which participants obsess over anime and manga, and Japanese culture in general. A subset of this community interact online using specialised forum software called imageboards, in which communication revolves around the posting of images.

Of the few English language imageboard sites that exist, almost all have imageboards dedicated to anime and its various subcategories. However, imageboards have become just as synonymous with a particular brand of humour, and the juvenile behaviour that sometimes accompanies it.{mosimage}

The concept and software for imageboards was developed in Japan, largely derived from Japan’s unique “floating style” text-based forums. Like these forums, imageboards display the contents of multiple threads underneath each other on a single page, and have a system in which replies to a thread bump that thread to the top of the front page. In Japan, imageboard culture is a relatively popular phenomenon, with there being numerous imageboard sites and the largest, Futaba channel, receiving tens of thousands of posts each day. 4chan was established as an English version of Futaba for western anime enthusiasts, and remains the most populous English imageboard site, with the other major site currently being iichan, set up to replace 4chan during one of its many deaths.

Considering the Japanese origins of imageboards, it follows that English language imageboard culture is associated with Japanophile nerdism. A caricature of an imageboard patron might be a white teenage male who is slightly overweight, socially awkward, a gamer and an anime addict who romanticises all aspects of Japanese culture. While it is difficult to determine the actual demographics, it is clear that a large proportion of the English imageboard userbase is made up of anime enthusiasts. Both 4chan and iichan have dedicated about half of their boards to anime, with 4chan having a greater focus on types of hentai pornography, and iichan focused on niche anime and anime from particular artists or series. There are boards for users to upload anime wallpapers, translate series, show cosplay (dressing up in character), and share and critique fan art. There are even oekaki boards, which load an interface that enables users to draw fan art on screen, often with very professional-looking results.{mosimage}

Much of imageboard culture has been shaped by the particulars of imageboard software. For example, there is an option to prevent bumping a thread when replying by typing “sage” in the link field. This has created an etiquette where one may sage a thread out of politeness (when posting in a thread that one started, or when posting something trivial), or out of disdain for the thread, depending on the context. The ability to post anonymously is also central to imageboard culture. The norm of anonymous posting on imageboards is such that users posting repeatedly with their handle and a verification method called a tripcode are often derided as attention-seekers. The key argument supporting anonymous posting is that it dissociates the content of a post from the status of the poster, leading to discussion that is focused around ideas rather than power dynamics.

However, the anarchy that erupts when anonymous posting is allowed on a board that has official rules of “ZOMG NONE!!!1” is demonstrated in 4chan’s “random” board, /b/. /b/ is by far the most heavily-trafficked English imageboard, and its content and overall character usually swings wildly over the span of 24 hours. /b/ is notorious for users that are hilarious in their methodical retardedness, but also for being flooded with obnoxious fratboy-type ratbags. /b/tards, as they’ve dubbed themselves, frequently antagonise each other, challenge each other to find porn on any given subject, pretend to have paedophile complexes, post shock images and racist propaganda, and flood other websites. Most of all, they post memes in the form of image macros (images with a catchphrase superimposed over the top), which are often funny if you’re geared towards that sort of humour.

An interesting relationship exists between /b/tards, anime fans, and other imageboard users, with there being no clear distinction between groups. For example, /b/-type humour and memes are widespread throughout the community, and anime is frequently posted in /b/, despite the development of an anti-wapanese sentiment there. /b/ tends to be the entry point for trolls who migrate to other boards and cause trouble, much to the resentment of many imageboard users, but as a whole, discussion on most boards is fairly civilised. Every board has its own tone and regulars, with many users developing a strong sense of loyalty to their particular imageboard site. It should be noted that board topics are not limited to anime, with common board themes including photography, cats, food, and traditional nerd interests such as technology and videogames. Certain sites are based around unique themes, such as 1chan and 420chan’s dedication to trains and drugs respectively.{mosimage}

Whether imageboards will find a wider userbase and start to diverge from their roots in Japanophile nerdism and juvenile humour remains to be seen. If an image can say a thousand words, then imageboards have the potential to capture the stream of consciousness of an online community without the sometimes unwieldy trappings of language. Moreover, communication in images encourages a culture of spontaneous and creative responses, and being presented with visual stimuli is more immediately engaging than blocks of text. Imageboards have obvious applications in the discussion of visual media such as film, photography and art, or any number of other subjects. Personally, I would like to see imageboard application reach its potential, but I also feel that it would be a shame if imageboards became so commonplace that their specific culture and community became lost.


Wikipedia entry on imageboards

The society for the study of modern image board culture

Overchan, a directory of English language imageboards


A list of 4chan memes


* content of some boards may not be safe for work

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