Invisibility by Design

Women and Labor in Japan's Digital Economy

Invisibility by Design

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 23 illustrations Published: January 2020

Subjects
Anthropology, Asian Studies > East Asia, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In the wake of a recession and labor market deregulation in Japan during the 1990s and 2000s, online content sharing and social networking platforms were promoted as new sites of work that were accessible to anyone. Enticed by the chance to build more personally fulfilling careers, many young women entered Japan's digital economy by performing unpaid labor as “girly” photographers, net idols, bloggers, online traders, and cell phone novelists. While some women leveraged digital technology to create successful careers, most did not. In Invisibility by Design Gabriella Lukács traces how these women's unpaid labor became the engine of Japan's digital economy. Drawing on interviews with young women who strived to sculpt careers in the digital economy, Lukács shows how platform owners tapped unpaid labor to create innovative profit-generating practices without employing workers, thereby rendering women's labor invisible. By drawing out the ways in which labor precarity generates a demand for feminized labor, Lukács underscores the fallacy of the digital economy as a more democratic, egalitarian, and inclusive mode of production.

Praise

“Addressing crucial issues for our time, Gabriella Lukács brings an ethnographic perspective to young Japanese women who aspire to lucrative careers in day trading and beyond. Through a writing style filled with warmth and empathy, she portrays how these women often face disappointment in their entrepreneurial endeavors, and analyzes how these women's desires for better careers can sometimes be self-defeating. A deeply insightful and thought-provoking book.” — Ian Condry, author of The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story

“Stunningly powerful, Invisibility by Design tracks the movement of young Japanese women into the digital economy where, ‘seduced’ into imagining its possibilities for meaningful work, most found instead that they labored too hard for little pay-off or gendered advancement. Indicting the capitalism that drove digital economy's rapid expansion in 2000's Japan by exploiting and invisibilizing women's affective labor, Gabriella Lukács has given us a book that is at once theoretically profound and ethnographically dense, dancing through the stories of women bloggers, net idols, girly photographers, amateur traders, and cell phone novelists. A rich tour de force!” — Anne Allison, author of Precarious Japan

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Gabriella Lukács is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Scripted Affects, Branded Selves: Television, Subjectivity, and Capitalism in 1990s Japan.

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Table of Contents Forthcoming
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0648-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0581-0
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