The Black Box and Japanese Discourses of the Digital

David Humphrey


The article examines the figure of the black box in Japanese discourses of the digital, particularly as they apply to attempts to adapt older media, such as broadcast television, to the technological and commercial needs of new media. Analysis focuses on the implementation of the BS Conditional Access Systems (B-CAS) standard with the roll-out of digital broadcast in Japan during the first decade of the 21st century. Although B-CAS’s addition reflected an attempt to bring television in line with the needs of contemporary intellectual property strategies, its implementation and defense reveal a wider spread of the black box as a trope of contemporary digital discourse in Japan. More ideological than technical fact, the black box and its imagined opacity serve as a warning against the unsanctioned use of digital technologies, drawing on a metaphor of opacity as a contagion that serves as an ideological stopgap for perceived shortcomings in digital control systems.


Japan, digital, black box, digital broadcast, B-CAS, opacity, DRM, intellectual property, control, television

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