Am I doing it? Am I finally doing it? No, I am not going to write my own song using Vocaloid. Perhaps that could be a project for the future, but not now. But I am going to commit to doing research about Vocaloid.
Although it might seem as if I already commited to this long time ago, I always still had my doubts. Until now, the kind of projects and the themes were always sort of decided by the class I took. A class about religion? The paper is about religion. A class about books, maps and prints in the Edo period (1605-1868)? And I would write a paper about books in the Edo period. As we did had to think of our own topics, it seemed very free, but obviously the paper had to connect to the theme of the class so there were certain guidelines.
Studying abroad, I realised this. Kind of the hard way. My friend and I were told we could do any kind of research we wanted, as long as it had a connection to Japan (which is quite obvious for a Japanese studies student, we can’t really do anything else now can we). Anything. And while I was struggling to find a topic that had a connection to the Edo period (the period in Japanese history that I am the most interested in), I kept coming back to the only paper I wrote during my first year. A paper about Vocaloid.
Of course this paper wasn’t really a big deal. It was my first paper, so looking at it now, the arguments I made were quite far fetched and I made some comparisons that might not have been as accurate as I thought them to be. Yet it did make me realise how interested I actually am in this Vocaloid phenomenon.
That being said, I started to look up academic sources. It turned out to be harder than I thought. In the end, I didn’t want to look into the technical side of the vocal synthesizer software. After all, I am a humanities student. The papers that related to humanities that I did found, were all over the place, but I was unable to find sources about what I wanted to research. In all honesty, I probably wasn’t even sure of what I wanted to research. I only knew that the texts I did find, did not address the parts of Vocaloid that I wanted to look into, whatever that may have been.
Like this, I started a journey of endlessly looking for usable sources and possible themes for my bachelor thesis. While struggling to find what I was looking for, I often considered going back to the comfortable Edo period, a popular research topic within the Japanese studies, an oasis of available, relevant academic sources and several professors with much knowledge about this period. But the thought that almost half of the MACH (Media, Art, Culture and History) course students were going to focus on the Edo period actually stimulated me more to accept the challenge and go with Vocaloid.
This decision was quite a big deal for me. I wouldn’t say I don’t like to challenge myself, but I do like the feeling of security. A lack of proper academic sources does not feel very secure. So, what do I do about it?
First of all: Do not rule out ‘lower level’ sources. Although many scholars within Japanese studies (I honestly do not know about other studies) consider sources of lower level universities or published bachelor thesises as ‘unsuitable’ sources, they can actually shine a new light upon your own research. It is up to you how you use it, but do stay critical.
Second of all: Do not be afraid of collecting your own data. For some reason, I always assumed that collecting data, making graphs and interviewing people for your research was something for a master thesis or a dissertation, not a bachelor thesis. Taking this minor, I realised that this is not true. If I need certain data to support my arguments, no one is holding me back to collect the data and visualise it in such a way.
And last: Don’t be afraid to use more general research sources. Even though I have used more general sources within Japanese studies to look into more detailed themes within Japanese studies, I never had the guts to look for sources outside of Japanese studies (which I am not very proud of), afraid I would not understand it (I used to do natural sciences in high school, so I am quite unfamiliar with a lot of more general themes within history, economics, politics, etc.). For example, the classes and the readings about virtuality were a real eye-opener to me. Combining general sources about virtuality, sources about other virtual idols in Japan (maybe also outside of Japan?) and other information about Vocaloid and Hatsune Miku could give me surprising results.
In conclusion, I did find some ways to tackle the problems this theme has brought me thus far. I do not know if I will succeed in actually tackling the problems in the end, but I am willing to do my best and challenge myself witht this research about Vocaloid.