Assignment X: Hatsune Miku and Participatory Culture

While watching the lecture for module four and learning about participatory service, I was struck by the image of ABBA’s avatars performing on stage. I was not thinking about how amazing this tech was, however, I was thinking about Hatsune Miku. More specifically, I was thinking about this video.

This is going to be a bit of an internet culture deep dive, so hold on to your socks. I promise, I will tie this back to libraries in the end.

If you are not familiar with Hatsune Miku, she was created in 2007 as the anthropomorphic mascot of the Japanese media company, Crypton Future Media. Her name means “the first sound of the future”. Miku is a Vocaloid, a voice synthesizing software that can be made to sing any tune and lyrics that a user puts in. She is a virtual idol that performs live concerts and has fans all over the world. She has no “real world” counterpart. How did she get to be so popular?

The answer lies in participation.

We are now going to talk about onions and polka music. Why? Because of a meme from 2006.

A flash animation of this gif was set to the Finnish song “levan polkka”, and the internet thought it was great. So great in fact, that the band Loituma who recorded the song in 1995 saw a sudden uptick in popularity.

Next, Hatsune Miku the vocaloid was released. One video in particular, had Miku holding a spring onion and singing the now viral polka song. Much like the original meme, this took off.

Users have since composed thousands of songs, covers and originals, and communities were formed around this software.  New software came out to make Miku dance. Folks collaborated on creating original content and grew to love Hatsune Miku, as she was something that was as much theirs as the media company’s. Hatsune Miku became a global phenomenon.

Can you imagine a world in which Crypton Media had restricted access to Miku? Maybe we would have gotten a few covers, maybe some promotional material, but it would have been nothing next to the creativity of the internet hivemind.

This participatory culture of content creation lead to the previously unimaginable success of a Finnish polka song from the 90s, a anthropomorphized software system, and a vegetable. It is fun to dive into strange internet phenomenon, but how can we as library professionals create a culture of creation and connection?

In  “Age of Participation” in The Heart of Librarianship, Michael Stevens talks about the ultimate participatory culture happening when the guest becomes the host.  When we are creating the library as a community space, we are giving that space to its users. If it is their space, then they get to help create it. This will mean letting go of a lot of rules.

I am taken back to the user experience lecture from INFO 200 in which Aaron Scmitt wrote “Every touchpoint, or place that someone can come into contact with your library or its services, is fair game for evaluating how it fits into the experience you’re giving your users.”

If we notice that folks are eating in the library, maybe instead of posting a “no food in the library” sign, we create a cafe space with tables and chairs.  Another example from INFO 200 (though I can’t seem to find the link), if teens are drawing all over the furniture, why not give them furniture that is meant to be drawn on? If visitors are often sleeping in library chairs, perhaps there should be a quiet space with reclining furniture for folks to nap.

Some may be afraid of letting patrons run the library, but if we practice radical trust, we have to at least give the idea a try. In a world where a spring onion could lead to a world wide pop phenomenon, any idea could be the next big thing.

Thanks for reading! @brynnoleda

Stephens, Michael. The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, Positive, and Purposeful Change. American Library Association, 2016.

One thought on “Assignment X: Hatsune Miku and Participatory Culture”

  1. Dear Brynn,
    I’m waving around a green onion and dancing right now! This is a very cool post about how the guest becomes the host. Maybe in the future the differentiation between these roles in the library will become moot. I find some of the examples you include about creating services and spaces in the library as a way NOT to say “no” to users to a sage foreshadowing of this week’s module video, since both talk about writing on furniture, and sleeping and eating in the library. Clearly you have the futuristic outlook needed to support a Hyperlink library model. Thanks so much for sharing Hatsune Miku!

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