book cover: The Immersive Enclosure: Virtual Reality in Japan


The Immersive Enclosure: Virtual Reality in Japan 

(Columbia University Press, 2022)


Although virtual reality promises to immerse a person in another world, its true power lies in its ability to sever a person’s spatial situatedness in this one. This is especially clear in Japan, where the VR headset has been embraced as a way to block off existing social environments and reroute perception into more malleable virtual platforms. Is immersion just another name for enclosure?

In this groundbreaking analysis of virtual reality, Paul Roquet uncovers how the technology is reshaping the politics of labor, gender, home, and nation. He examines how VR in Japan diverges from American militarism and techno-utopian visions and becomes a tool for renegotiating personal space. Individuals turn to the VR headset to immerse themselves in three-dimensional worlds drawn from manga, video games, and genre literature. The Japanese government promises VR-operated robots will enable a new era of remote work, targeting those who could not otherwise leave home. Middle-aged men and corporate brands use VR to reimagine themselves through the virtual bodies of anime-styled teenage girls. At a time when digital platforms continue to encroach on everyday life, The Immersive Enclosure takes a critical look at these attempts to jettison existing social realities and offers a bold new approach for understanding the media environments to come.

Reviews: ChoiceH-Net: Sci-Med-TechJournal of Japanese Studies, Explorations in Media EcologyJapan Review. Winner of the Lewis Mumford Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Technics from the Media Ecology Association.

book cover: Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self


Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self 

(University of Minnesota Press, 2016)

Available open access via Manifold (web) and pdf


Ambient Media examines music, video art, film, and literature as tools of atmospheric design in contemporary Japan, and what it means to use media as a resource for personal mood regulation. Paul Roquet traces the emergence of ambient styles from the environmental music and Erik Satie boom of the 1960s and 1970s to the more recent therapeutic emphasis on healing and relaxation.

Focusing on how an atmosphere works to reshape those dwelling within it, Roquet shows how ambient aesthetics can provide affordances for reflective drift, rhythmic attunement, embodied security, and urban coexistence. Musicians, video artists, filmmakers, and novelists in Japan have expanded on Brian Eno’s notion of the ambient as a style generating “calm, and a space to think,” exploring what it means to cultivate an ambivalent tranquility set against the uncertain horizons of an ever-shifting social landscape. Offering a new way of understanding the emphasis on “reading the air” in Japanese culture, Ambient Media documents both the adaptive and the alarming sides of the increasing deployment of mediated moods. Arguing against critiques of mood regulation that see it primarily as a form of social pacification, Roquet makes a case for understanding ambient media as a neoliberal response to older modes of collective attunement—one that enables the indirect shaping of social behavior while also allowing individuals to feel like they are ultimately in control. 

Selected open access reviews: All the AnimeElectronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies. Other reviews: "Immateriality and Absence in the Search for Self" in Cultural PoliticsEmotion, Space, and SocietyJapan Times; International Journal of CommunicationJournal of Japanese and Korean CinemaJournal of Japanese StudiesThe Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory.

Journal Articles + Book Chapters


Online and Other Media


  • Nakane Chie, “Group Characteristics based on ‘Place’ (1967)Review of Japanese Culture and Society 25. Special Issue: Working Words: New Approaches to Japanese Studies (2013)

  • Hasegawa Hitomi, “The Group 1965: Shining Under the Spotlight.” Catalogue for The Group 1965: We Are Boys!, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany (May - July 2011)

Note: pdfs above posted for scholarly/personal use only; any citation or excerpting should give proper attribution. For permission for other uses, please contact me or the publisher.