/ |

Computer addiction dulls wits at work

by Mark Schreiber

Differences in familiarity with computers are creating ever-wider gaps within the ranks of Japan’s salarymen. Evening tabloid Nikkan Gendai (July 17) reports on the emergence of a new type of person at companies who never stops typing on his PC, even while being spoken to by a colleague.

Such people have been tagged katakata-zoku (the clickety-clack tribe), derived from the noise they generate from their keyboards.

“Our section’s ‘Katakata-kun’ types away furiously during meetings,” says a 39-year-old worker at an IT firm. “Then when the meeting ends he’ll say, ‘Hai, dekimashita’ (‘All done’) and begin shooting off e-mails with the minutes of the meeting to all the participants. I suppose it’s convenient to have it, but I told him that he really ought to take part in the discussions as well.”

As might be expected, attentive customer service is not exactly the forte of such introverted staff. Some, during a business discussion, will avoid making eye contact, instead typing the customer’s remarks into an online search window. Then they’ll turn the laptop toward the customer and point to the screen, asking, with a solicitous expression, “Is this is what you meant to say?”

Another variation of the katakata-zoku constantly fiddle with their iPhones, which don’t generate annoying keyboard noise but are still seen as a distraction, leading to the banning of their use from meetings at many companies.

One side effect of keeping computer- addicted workers away from their terminals is that staff appear more pressured to arrive at consensus, so meetings tend to be terminated more quickly. But other complaints over their dependence on online data have arisen.

“Unless a person learns necessary knowledge and data by heart, they can’t make the leap to other knowledge or data,” says financial journalist Takuya Iwanami. “And that prevents them from coming up with new ideas. Young staff don’t seem to understand things that should be completely obvious.”

The katakata-zoku also seem to be proliferating in the field of journalism.

“During press conferences, I see a lot of reporters who don’t even appear to be engaged in the goings-on — they just peck away at their keyboards,” the editor of a national daily is quoted as saying. “Since updates are constantly posted on the Internet, I suppose this activity can’t be helped, but it might explain the reason why there seem to be more and more shallow journalists who can’t differentiate between facts and misinformation.”

Age of Aquariums: Some vernacular publications have a real flair for parody. Refusing to be outdone by Paul, the psychic octopus in Oberhausen, Germany, a reporter for Weekly Playboy (Aug. 2) captured a yogen-ika (predicting squid) in Tokyo Bay, placed it in a glass tank and began firing questions at it, interspersed with horrible puns. Among other things, the squid predicted the winners of this year’s pro baseball season (the Hanshin Tigers got the nod); which party will win control of the government in the next Lower House election (the Liberal Democratic Party); and that Japan’s Blue Samurai would reach the quarterfinals in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Ika-ga desu ka? Omoshiroi ja na-ika? (What do you squink? Isn’t it ink-teresting?)

Obituary: Amid the blizzard of coverage of sumo’s current troubles, I was especially saddened to learn of the demise of Oozumo, a bimonthly fan magazine published by the Yomiuri Shimbun-sha since 1958. The announcement read, “With the trend toward diversification of the sports and media, the decision was made to suspend publication. Thank you for reading us these many years.”

This writer’s education in kanji actually began with attempts to read the names of wrestlers off the TV screen during NHK sumo broadcasts, and my first awkward steps at reading the Japanese-language print media were the articles and interviews in Oozumo. So I’ll definitely be buying Oozumo’s final issue when it goes on sale August 24. Two other sumo fanzines, Oozumo Chukei from NHK and Sumo from Baseball Magazine-sha, are still hanging on, although the former suspended its July issue due to fallout over the baseball betting scandal.

Headlines from this week’s magazines:

Bungei Shunju (August) lists the predictions of 50 famous people that proved accurate.

Shukan Economist (July 20) says that due to the aging of the population and other demographic trends, one Japanese in four will be living alone by 2030.

Spa! (July 27) issues a white paper on how to have a happy life without the Internet.

Shukan Shincho (Aug. 22) warns that dropping the 10-year moratorium on the import of foreign species of rhinoceros beetles may wreck Japan’s ecosystem.

Sunday Mainichi (Aug. 1) lists 10 conditions for extending one’s life to age 100.

Shukan Taishu (Aug. 2) looks at the race to breed bluefin tuna in captivity.

Weekly Playboy (Aug. 2) wonders if now is the right time to buy a 3-D television.

In Shukan Bunshun (Jul. 22), a source claims to reveal North Korea’s “biggest secrets.”