My teaching and research center on modern Japan, with specific interests in the history of media and communication, cultural analytics, platform studies, the sociology of literature, book history, and environmental history.
Cultural analytics has been a primary area of interest since 2010. I have written and collaborated on several essays that introduce computational methods such as social network analysis, natural language processing, and machine learning to the study of trans-Pacific literary modernism and modern Japanese literature. More recently, I have shifted attention to the study of contemporary digital media, pursuing projects on machine translation and the impact of platforms on both the production and global circulation of culture.
In 2021, much of this work culminated in The Values in Numbers: Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age, which brings debates around computational literary history and the digital humanities to the case of modern Japanese literature. The book examines the pre-history of quantitative methods in Japanese literary studies; situates digital archives like Aozora Bunko in relation to their print antecedents; and guides readers through computational experiments that offer new insights into the emergence of vernacular fiction in Japan, the transnational circulation of literary form, and the semantics of racial discourse under Japanese empire. Drawing lessons from the history of science, book history, world literature, and critical race theory, I argue for the value of numbers in literary study and the values literary critics can bring to reading difference in numbers.
In addition to directing the Chicago Text Lab and co-directing the Textual Optics Lab, I have been a member of Knowledge Lab and NovelTM and currently serve on the editorial board of CA: Journal of Cultural Analytics. Outside of my primary research, I have worked on a wide variety of digital projects, including Aozora Search, an online search interface for the Aozora Bunko collection; the History of Black Writing project at the University of Kansas, for which I am helping to digitize a collection of over 1,200 African-American novels; and the Japanese Text Mining initiative, a series of workshops that aims to introduce basic text mining methods to Japanese studies scholars.
My work in media history is currently centered around the project Socializing Media: Japanese Letters and the Modeling of an Information Society, 1880-1930. This project examines the ways that changes in communications technology at the turn of the last century impacted practices of writing, patterns of social association, and ideas about communication. Drawing on a variety of archival sources that include letter-writing guides and epistolary fiction, it seeks to uncover the shifting meaning of connection in a postal age, particularly as related to discourses and practices around handwriting, voice, memory, and brevity.
My first book, On Uneven Ground, similarly grew out of an interest in the sociology of language and literary forms. It takes up the relation of cultural production to spatial imagination in Japan’s interwar period, giving specific attention to writer Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933). The book offers a history of cultural production from the perspective of Japan’s domestic periphery and proposes a new methodology for tracing genealogies of local imagining across space and time.
- The Values in Numbers: Reading Japanese Literature in a Global Information Age, Columbia University Press, 2021
- “Stories on Demand: #COVID or Writing Crisis in the Platform Age,” with Richard So and Kaitlyn Todd, Critical Inquiry (forthcoming, Summer 2023).
- “Chance Encounters: World Literature Between the Unexpected and the Probable,” Journal of Cultural Analytics (July 2021).
- “Can Algorithmic Bias Teach Us about Race?” in Public Books (June 2021)
- “Race, Writing, and Computation: Racial Difference and the US Novel, 1880-2000,” with Richard So and Yuancheng Zhu, Journal of Cultural Analytics (January, 2019)
- “Self-Repetition and East Asian Literary Modernity, 1900-1930,” with Anatoly Detwyler and Yuancheng Zhu, Journal of Cultural Analytics (May, 2018).
- “(Il)legibility and Handwriting in Meiji Letters: A Media History,” positions: asia critique (May, 2017).
- “Turbulent Flow: A Computational Model of World Literature,” with Richard So, Modern Language Quarterly (September, 2016).
- “Literary Pattern Recognition: Modernism between Close Reading and Machine Learning,” with Richard So, Critical Inquiry (Winter, 2016).
- “Fog and Steel: Mapping Communities of Translation in an Information Age,” Journal of Japanese Studies (Summer, 2015).
- “Network Analysis and the Sociology of Modernism,” with Richard So, boundary 2 (Summer, 2013).
- On Uneven Ground: Miyazawa Kenji and the Making of Place in Modern Japan (Stanford University Press, 2012).
- “Performing the Village Square in Interwar Japan: Toward a Hidden History of Public Space,” Journal of Asian Studies 70.3 (August, 2011).
- Platforming Culture in East Asia: From Newspapers to Web 2.0 (Grad)
- The Science of Literature (Grad)
- Japanese Literary Theory and Criticism (Grad)
- The Novel in East Asia: Past, Present, and Future (Undergrad)
- Introduction to Digital Humanities (Grad)
- Network Analysis, Literary Criticism, and the Digital Humanities (Grad)
- Japanese Modernisms (Grad)
- Media, History, East Asia (Grad)
- The Question of Minor Literature in Modern Japan (Grad)
- The Modern Japanese Novel (Undergrad)
- Imagining Environment in East Asia (Undergrad)