Ambient MediaJapanese Atmospheres of Self

Ambient MediaJapanese Atmospheres of Self

Paul Roquet

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780816692446

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press


Contemporary life is increasingly shaped through attunement to the atmospheric affordances of the media environment. Ambient Media delves into the use of music, video, film, and literature as tools to tune this atmospheric self. The book traces the emergence of mood-regulating media in Japan from the environmental art and Erik Satie boom of the 1960s and 70s to the more recent emphasis on “healing” styles. Focusing on how ambience reshapes those dwelling within it, Ambient Media explores the working of atmospheres designed for affective calm, rhythmic attunement, embodied security, and urban coexistence. The book argues for understanding ambient media as a specifically neoliberal response to mood regulation, serving as a way to atmospherically shape collective behavior while providing resources for emotional autonomy and attention restoration at the individual level. Ambient Media considers the adaptive side of atmosphere as an approach to self-care and social mobility. At the same time, the book considers the limits of mood regulation and the low-affect lifestyle when it comes to interpersonal life. Musicians, video artists, filmmakers, and writers in Japan have expanded on Brian Eno’s original idea of a style affording “calm, and a space to think,” providing materials to cultivate sensory serenity within the uncertain horizons of the contemporary social landscape. Offering a new way of understanding Japanese social demands to “read the air,” the book documents both the adaptive and the alarming sides of this turn to mediated moods.