On the Spectrum of Communication: Locating the Use of New Media in the 2020 COVID-19 Emergency Response

On the Spectrum of Communication: Locating the Use of New Media in the 2020 COVID-19 Emergency Response

Toru Yamada
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3201-0.ch024
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By examining which media Japanese college administrators chose to use in order to communicate with their students during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the author argues that the intention behind administrator messaging correlates with the effectiveness of each communication medium. While some new media is used more commonly on one side of the world, the same media cannot function or is blocked in other parts of the world. Depending on the social contexts of the emergencies, the selection of a communication medium can turn out to rather be a hybrid of traditional telecommunication and new media, rather than an either-or selection.
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Case Background: Early March 2020, Tokyo, Japan

On the evening of March 5, 2020, Japanese news agencies reported that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had announced that his cabinet was going to implement stricter border regulations in order to control the spread of COVID-19. Abe stated that, starting from March 9, 2020, they were going to invalidate the visas which had been issued by Japanese embassies and consulates in mainland China and South Korea, and to limit passenger flight arrivals from these two nations to two designated airports.

This announcement by the Japanese national government alarmed college administrators in Japan because international students from those two nations made up over 40% of all international students enrolling in Japanese post-secondary institutions (JASSO, 2019, p. 4). While college administrators were puzzled by some ambiguities in Abe’s announcement, they immediately needed to inform their international students to consider coming back to Japan before the new border restrictions would come into effect. They had to reach out to their students within limited working hours as the news agencies reported the governmental announcement on Thursday evening and it was going into effect on the following Monday.

Key Terms in this Chapter

COVID-19: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a fatal infectious disease which was initially observed in late 2019 and spread globally since early 2020.

Lockdown: An emergency measure to reduce the risk of pandemic by restricting people’s mobility.

WeChat: A mainland China-based social networking application.

Illocutionary Act: What a speaker wants to do with the act of speech.

Participant-Observation: A qualitative research method in which anthropologists try to acquire locals’ perspectives while they conduct their research.

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