Tako, Mibu

Mibu Tako

Mibu Tako responds to the question: Who owns knowledge?

Object One: Tokyo Olympics BBC Studio

This object is a BBC studio that was used in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, in which the stage was displayed as if it was broadcasting live from a high-rise building in Tokyo. In truth, they were filming in a studio in Salford, UK, since the crew was unable to fly to Japan due to Covid-19 restrictions. A powerful graphic engine was used to render the stylized 3D images according to the position of the camera, which enabled the program to deceive the viewers.

This object contributes to this exhibition because it demonstrates how some may have more control over certain knowledge than others. The graphing system altered the images of the city corresponding to the time of day in Japan, for instance, the screen presented a sunset in the afternoon and a night view with neon billboards in the evening. Due to this real-time change of sceneries, many of the audience presumed the filming took place in Tokyo. The provision of these limited information manipulated the viewers’ understanding of the situation. Thus, those with technical expertise are likely to become owners of knowledge, particularly in our current heavily tech-dependent society.

Another way in which this object enriches the exhibition is how BBC Sport later revealed the truth by publishing a video online, explaining the logistics behind the operation of virtual reality[1]. It can be suspected that, by deliberately hiding and then sharing information to the viewers, BBC devised an entertaining occurrence – i.e. the audience being fooled by a digitally-built stage –. Their strategy was effective as many media platforms picked up on this event, which increased the TV show’s viewership. Hence, when the original owner of knowledge shares information with others, there can be an increase in the number of knowers. This expanded ownership of knowledge could often be intended to benefit the initial owner.

Object Two: Post by Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai

This object is a text posted on Weibo by the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai in November 2021. This post was an allegation of a sexual assault by a government official Zhang Gaoli. Peng’s account was taken down soon later, and her status had been unknown for nearly three weeks. An email attributed to Peng was then published by the Chinese state media. The email explained that Peng was merely resting at home, and that the allegations were untrue. In her email, Peng added that the content of the post had not been verified by herself.

The reason why this object enriches the exhibition is that this incident may indicate the Chinese authority’s attempt to silence the #MeToo movement. Amnesty International commented on the state media’s track record of fabricating individuals’ statements[1]. Many believed Peng’s extreme change in attitude was the Communist Party’s effort to protect the image of the official. Nonetheless, this is only a speculation, and the Chinese government and Peng herself only hold the truths. Yet the ones capable of controlling the information are the ones in authority. We can therefore conclude that the owners of knowledge are the people with political power and in higher social status.

This object also contributes to this exhibition, given that during the missing of Peng, many people protested for her rights on Twitter, using the hashtag #whereispengshuai. Despite the likelihood of the government’s censorship in favour of Gaoli, it must be noted how some people were only suspicious due to the social media trend. Peng’s initial statement has been identified as the ‘truth’ in Western societies, although this cannot be confirmed with 100% certainty. Once a rigid, common foundation of beliefs on what is true/false or right/wrong is established in a community, those who support the popular opinion (i.e., consensus) become the owners of knowledge. Since the whole society contributes to this building of consensus, small portions of knowledge could be owned by everyone.

Object Three: Youtube video about colour-blind Enchroma glasses

My final object is a YouTube video posted by USA Today in 2019[1], of college students gifting their colour blind friend a pair of EnChroma glasses. EnChroma glasses are claimed to help people with poor colour vision detect the differences between colours and to see the colours with higher vibrancy. This video shares Francis’s reaction to wearing these glasses for the first time.

This video is particularly interesting because the colours perceived by everyone except for Francis are identified as the ‘true’ colours. This suggests that Francis was somehow less knowledgeable than others, because he could not recognize colours in the way the majority did. Therefore, on account of consensus, what the minority perceives from their surroundings does not count as knowledge in society. This presents a contradiction to my earlier statement: everyone can own small portions of knowledge. There are multiple exceptions to this, as the ones holding rare viewpoints cannot become the owners of knowledge, when the rest has a common understanding of the world.

This video also enriches this exhibition because USA Today noted that there was no guarantee the glasses would work for Francis. In this clip, Francis’s friends assumed from his reactions that the glasses enabled him to observe colours with full vibrancy. That being said, neither Francis nor his friends would know if the saturation in his viewpoint had improved to the point where what he recognized as ‘purple’ was the exact same as others’ ‘purple’. Therefore, what we classify as knowledge can be fully dependent on individual perceptions. Wittgenstein claimed that there are certain basic propositions in the world which cannot be justified or doubted, and our sight of colours could be one of them. Therefore, if ‘ownership’ refers to the capability of one to have control over something, and if certain knowledge cannot be justified, then that knowledge may be a matter which no one can own.


Works Cited

Afp. “China Censors #MeToo Claims against Top Politician.” Hong Kong Free Press HKFP, November 5, 2021. https://hongkongfp.com/2021/11/05/china-censors-metoo-claims-against-top-politician/

Evans, Mel. “People Rattled by What BBC Olympics Studio Actually Looks like behind-the-Scenes.” Metro. Metro.co.uk, August 4, 2021. https://metro.co.uk/2021/08/02/tokyo-olympics-bbc-viewers-rattled-by-what-studio-actually-looks-like-15025550/

Fleary, Scott. “Take a Look at Some of the Shots from behind the Scenes at the BBC Tokyo Olympics Studio Environment… Working on a Project like This Is a Massive Achievement for the Whole Scott Fleary Family. A Massive Thanks to Everyone Who Worked on This Project! #Production #Stagedesign Pic.twitter.com/o2n1dtcimtl.” Twitter. Twitter, July 23, 2021. https://twitter.com/scott_fleary/status/1418601903764639746

Neuman, Scott. “Tennis Official Doubts Email Claiming Chinese Player Peng Shuai Is OK Was Sent by Her.” NPR. NPR, November 18, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/11/18/1056850246/peng-shuai-email-china?t=1640550213784

Neuman, Scott. “Tennis Star Peng Shuai Says Her Accusations of Sexual Assault Have Been Misunderstood.” NPR. NPR, December 20, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/12/20/1065775516/china-tennis-peng-shuai-sexual-assault

“The Secrets of BBC Sport’s Tokyo Olympics Studio.” BBC Sport. BBC. Accessed February 5, 2022. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/olympics/58113457

USA Today. “Tears Almost Block Teen’s First Look at Color | Humankind.” YouTube. YouTube, August 31, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG3-SypqqI0