Exploring the Power of Media to Mobilize Society and Activate Nationalism


Shotaro Tsuda, Professor

Department of Media and Communication Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences

Posted Dec. 19, 2019

Faculty Profile

Professor Shotaro Tsuda studies the relationship between media and nationalism, with a focus on the role played by radio in wartime Britain. From the standpoints of mass communication theory and political sociology, he continues to explore the ways media influence society.

Exploring the Role of the Media through the Case of Radio Broadcasting in Wartime Britain

I specialize in media research. I investigate roles and influence of media on society, shedding light on relationships with nationalism.

Ever since my student days I’ve been conducting case studies on the social climate of Britain in the period from after World War I through to the end of World War II, and its connections with radio, which was the mainstream media  at the time.

Radio broadcasting began in Britain in 1922, and spread rapidly thereafter. By 1935 access to radio was almost universal, with 98% of the population tuning in.

As media becomes more influential, gaps emerge between what information providers consider necessary and what their audiences want. Providers often adopt the notion of using media to educate large numbers of people, but audiences tend to demand entertainment rather than education, so things usually don’t go to plan.

Media can’t maintain influence without the support of audiences, so media roles change little by little in line with popularity. However, if media providers pander to the masses and deliver only entertainment, ultimately an ethical problem arises: is it acceptable to spread fictitious and fake information if it helps attract the audience’s interest? 

I believe it’s important to learn lessons from historical case studies, think about how media should function, and equip oneself with the knowledge required to strike a balance between ideals and reality.

What is Media? Learning through Practical Experience

Before I came to Hosei, I worked for the Research Institute of Telecommunications and Economics (now the Foundation for MultiMedia Communications), an extra-departmental body of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, conducting surveys of trends in telecommunication services and systems in different countries.

My hope eventually was to work on deeper research projects that provided a sense of people’s dispositions and thoughts, so I am grateful that I gained the opportunity to take up a university position. Hosei respects academic freedom, and leaves its researchers alone – in a good sense. I think it’s a privileged environment for those who have clear objectives for their research.

In my seminar classes, I want students to gain a sense of what media really is through practical, experiential learning, so I encourage them to pursue group research projects on specific topics.

For example, my third-year students are currently working on the topic of “media and Tokyo.” A city’s image is closely connected to media, and media can influence the nature of the city. This is especially apparent in Tokyo, where different images have been formed for each of the city’s major train stations. My students go out to areas they have selected for themselves – Shinjuku, Shibuya, Kichijoji, and so on – talk with the people who live and work there, and explore the relationships between media and the city.

At a study retreat we held in summer 2018, we enlisted the support of the people of the town of Kawanishi in Yamagata prefecture, conducting interviews about local residents’ life in the town and creating posters of the interviewees. What kinds of information should you gather in order to create an attractive poster? What expressions should you use to convey your message? I hope that by undertaking all stages of the process by themselves, from information gathering to editing, students can develop the practical skills to convey their message, and gain some sense of the roles played by media.

What Students Aspiring to Work in the Media Industry Should Know

I feel a little uncomfortable, however, when I see students show great interest in the media, but a tendency to be rather uninterested in social problems. The roles and influence of the media changes with the social climate, so in order to understand the media you need to understand what’s happening in society today.

What’s more, I recommend that students thinking of pursuing a career in media first undertake training in how to convey information. In recent years, social media has gained great momentum as a new form of media in which individuals can disseminate information for themselves. I myself follow, exchange, and utilize information with researchers in various fields, newspaper journalists, and other people I find interesting.

As you share your writing, images, and other content on social media, you engage in a process of trial and error in determining how to make your output enjoyable for people you don’t even know. It’s good training.

However, if you only tune in to those voices that you already identify with, you’ll start interpreting things in a way that suits you, and your perspective will grow narrower. I hope my students will maintain an awareness that their outlook may be just one of many, and utilize their knowledge of media as “practical wisdom.”

Have a forward-looking spirit and the perspective of a bug, not a bird

We easily believe stories told by those close to us, but tend to feel something “wrong” about information that comes from those we don’t like. Studying media theory is a useful way to gain an objective view of this kind of bias in our personal feelings. It prompts you to become aware of what influence others are having on you. I hope my students become a little more conscious of the possibility that they’re interpreting things in a way that suits them, and think about what traps they can easily fall into.

Media literacy is important, but I’m a little skeptical of the current fixation on it. Some experienced users of social media adopt the position of a critic who can see everything from a detached perspective. They evade the censure of others, while launching into their own critiques that pinpoint others’ faults. I don’t want my students to think that this approach reflects a high degree of media literacy, or assume that such a cold, detached stance is desirable. Rather than adopting a bird’s eye view, looking down at everything from a distance, I’d prefer that they adopt a bug’s eye for discerning the details.

If you want to achieve something special, you need the nerve to step forward and an enterprising spirit. You’ll find yourself in the firing line, under intense pressure and sometimes subject to unreasonable backlash and criticism. It takes courage. But if you fear these things and stay back within your comfort zone, you’ll never achieve what you hope for.

One of my former students revived a student club that had long been disbanded, and started running it by themselves. The student wrote, designed, and printed booklets on their own, took them to bookstores and had them put on display. When I see a student with that kind of toughness, pushing ahead resolutely to achieve their goals, I am delighted and keen to lend my support.

I hope I can be someone who supports students from behind, helping to send them forward into the wider world.

Shotaro Tsuda, Professor

Department of Media and Communication Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences

Born in Osaka in 1973.

Graduated from the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law, Keio University and completed the Master’s program in Media Studies at the Graduate School of Culture and Communication, University of Sussex (UK). Withdrew upon completion of all course credits in the Doctoral program in Political Science, Graduate School of Law, Keio University. Ph.D. in Law, Keio University. Worked in survey research in the Information and Communications Research Division of the Research Institute of Telecommunications and Economics (now The Foundation for MultiMedia Communications) before being appointed Lecturer in the Hosei University Faculty of Social Sciences in 2006. Appointed to current position in 2016.