Institute for Liberal Arts News
Associate Professor Ryosuke Nishida, Sociology, Public Policy Studies
My specialization is sociology.
The syllabus used for education in Japan casts aside post-war history. Consequently, knowledge of modern history among our students is extremely poor. My instruction in liberal arts classes for first-year undergraduate and graduate students focuses on contemporary Japanese history, particularly the period after World War II.
The low turnout in Japanese elections is well known. Why don’t people vote? I see the cause in lack of knowledge, specifically the knowledge to comprehend politics and the political landscape. The intellectual framework to make assessments is not built into our students’ minds in the first place. The problem originates in secondary education curricula, which I definitely want to address with our liberal arts program. Learning post-war Japanese history should help students to find the intellectual framework, or in other words the means to make real political choice. This belief prompts me to teach specific historical post-war events before sociology.
My classes involve working in small groups of five. Each member takes one of the five chapters from the textbook and presents a synopsis. A few of the groups are chosen to present to the entire class. Everybody must present within their group and are forced to take the initiative (the educational benefit). Preparation is at the heart of classroom discussions based on diverse positions.
I offer a sociology seminar that brings undergraduate and graduate students together. Including these seminar students, my research lab goes on field trips each semester: media companies like Kyodo News and Dentsu, for example, as well as juvenile detention centers. Much is incomprehensible unless actually observed directly. Examining our diverse world out in the field is quite effective in learning sociological thinking, liberal arts and elite education. The programs get students outside of the university and provide beneficial stimuli.
Incidentally, the Tokyo Tech undergraduate students belong to science and engineering schools, while graduate students in the Department of Social and Human Sciences are literary students mainly transferred in from other universities. When they mix, synergy occurs: the undergraduates learn literary thought processes and research methods, and the literary graduate students gain stimuli from outstanding science and engineering students.
I am presently pursuing three main research themes:
The first is information and politics. For instance, in 2013 Internet usage was authorized for election campaigns. We should look at the subsequent practice. How are politicians disseminating information? How are SNS media used? This field concerns politics and novel information technology.
The next is about prevalence and comprehension of democracy. Democracy is a single word, but the system actually takes many forms. Some nations install a president, while other nations like Japan are parliamentary with a cabinet. When democracy is able to function, how do citizens understand the system? In other words, one major influence relates to the education dispensed about democracy. My approach to the prevalence and comprehension of democracy in our society examines history and government policy.
The third is non-employed youth, defined as youth and young adults aged 15 to 34 who neither have a job, attend school, nor perform housework. Currently, local NPOs assist this demographic and enable joint research in my case. We look into actual living conditions of non-employed and investigate factors that influence the length of non-employment periods.
Another survey in joint research with a manufacturer looked at demand trends of devices for the early detection of dementia. I am also engaged in various actual duties associated with the media.
What is sociology all about then? The field of study became established over the latter half of the 19th century to basically answer the question, “How can social order be formulated?” The discipline is considered the last among the traditional social studies like political science and economics. Jurisprudence holds an interest in how laws are made and what mechanism they operate under. Political science is interested in how political systems function. Sociology considers the premise to functioning laws and politics by tracing back to analyze the premise.
Tracing back, for instance, considers the sharing of norms to be important for the laws to function. In turn, the need for sharing of culture, or experience from a revolution might have an influence on sharing of norms. Traditional sociological thinking involves tracing back on the premise and critically examining without immediately accepting what lies in front of the eye.
Another important role of sociology relates to respect for diversity and creating protective logic. The recent calls to respect LGBTQ and somewhat earlier movement to establish the Equal-Opportunity Employment Law for Men and Women are rooted in feminism, which has had an extremely close relationship with sociology. The refinement, systemization and permeation of logic to respect and protect minorities and minority opinions have asked sociology to serve a vital role.
Along with fellow faculty at the ILA, I have taught the required undergraduate course Tokyo Tech Visionary Project. Starting in 2019, I am participating in an integrated Academy for Leadership for selected graduate students during their entire master’s and doctoral years.
Most Tokyo Tech students I have met to date command an outstanding intellect. They are frequently brilliant and edgy.
But, they sometimes also seem to have prejudicial views on society. Their values can be several decades old and political thinking gravitates toward extreme, commonplace, and baseless levels. Reading the popularized speech of a well-known gender researcher, many students displayed strong resistance and commented on feelings of wasted time. On another occasion, I brought forth the problem of Japan-Korea relations and received belligerent comments based on a mistaken understanding. Regardless of good or bad, the behavior is inappropriate for modern-day elite. Tokyo Tech students are virtually assured of an elite science or engineering track, which means they must be appropriately well-educated and dignified, nobles oblige.
For modern-day elite, the knowledge of post-war history to form a logical understanding of Japan today, critical thinking that traces back to premise, and opportunities to learn the logic of respecting diversity are all extremely important.
Many pro-active programs like Tokyo Tech Visionary Project are emphasized in developing intellectual elite at Tokyo Tech, but defensive sides to fix elite prejudices are equally necessary in parallel. The fixer role belongs to us, the liberal arts faculty; we must continue to be vigilant.
Research Fields: Sociology, Public Policy Studies
Born in 1983 in Kyoto. Graduated from Faculty of Policy Management and master’s program at Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University. Left Keio University doctoral program with full credit attained. Conferred Ph.D. (Media and Governance) in 2014 from Keio University, followed by appointments to Assistant Professor; Researcher at Management Support Information Center, Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation Japan; and Special Visiting Associate Professor, Ritsumeikan University Graduate School. Assumed post at Tokyo Institute of Technology in September 2015. Authorship of many titles includes 情報武装する政治1 (Politics armed with information) published by Kadokawa, 政治はなぜわかりにくいのか1 (Why politics is difficult to understand) published by Shunjusha, 不寛容の本質 なぜ若者を理解できないのか、なぜ年長者を許せないのか1 (Essence of intolerance: Cannot understand youth, cannot forgive elders) published by Keizaikai.
1 Published in Japanese