As Michael Ignatieff mentioned, we are now living in the age of virtual war where we are participating as the disengaged spectator[i]. We have been more and more moved and even driven by the images and codes appearing on the TV and on the PC monitor.
Before March 2003, as Communication head of the Japan Committee for UNICEF, I’ve received so many telephone calls from usually generous UNICEF supporters asking why UN does not take more firm position against war itself. They even asked if it is not unethical for UN agencies such as UNICEF to prepare for rescue operation of the potential victims before the military actions commence.
However, the very same people have turned to the chauvinistic supporters for the military action one year after when the Japanese Self Defense force was dispatched to Iraq. They were also so severely criticizing and even ostracizing the three Japanese young fellows who happened to be arrested by one of the resistance groups in Iraq, based on the information provided by the media.
If his argument is correct, ICT (Information and Communication Technology) may bring us, human being, from individualism to a collective identity. The hysteric response by the Japanese mass against the three Japanese young fellows may confirm his theory.
Referring to my personal experience as one example as mentioned above, I would like to present one proposition that a new social imaginary, created and developed by the ICT has the extended features of the space of fashion, which we have built up as a new social imaginary in the 20th century. The space of fashion, in Taylor’s account, is of a horizontal, simultaneous, mutual presence. The development of ICT, particularly since 1990’s, makes this space meta-topical where the meaning of our social participation might be changing. We may call this new social imaginary as “virtual public sphere”.
[i] Michael Ignatieff, Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond ,Metropolitan, 2000.
[ii] Marshall and Eric McLuhan, Laws of Media, the New Science, University of Toronto Press, 1988.
[iii] “Social imaginaries are the ways people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations that are normally met and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie these expectations.” C.Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries, Duke University, 2004, p.23.