Student wins coveted Japanese scholarship

Ashley Pearson looks forward to adding to her extensive anime figurine collection while studying in Japan.
Ashley Pearson looks forward to adding to her extensive anime doll collection while in Japan.

PhD candidate Ashley Pearson will further her love of Japanese anime and culture when she travels to Kobe in April on a prestigious MEXT scholarship.

The Law/Arts graduate was awarded the highly competitive two-year Monbukagakusho (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology — MEXT) Scholarship offered by the Japanese government to study at Kobe University.

Part of the ‘Pokémon’ generation, Ashley grew up watching Sailor Moon (a Japanese manga series) and playing her Nintendo Gameboy, and is looking forward to ready access to Japanese video games and comic books.

She also wants to become fluent in the Japanese language and learn more about the country’s complex culture.

Despite 10 months studying in Nagasaki at high school, in addition to her language study with the School of Languages and Linguistics, Ashley said learning three different scripts, each with its own set of characters was challenging.

“Being immersed in Japanese culture will help greatly with improving my language skills,’’ she said.

“I’m also interested in learning more about Japanese law and jurisprudence, the basic theoretical foundations of law.

“To me, law and culture are intertwined. I’m curious to discover what unique legal meanings that Japanese popular culture texts may hold.”

Griffith Law School senior lecturer Dr Kieran Tranter said the MEXT was a highly prestigious and competitive scholarship.

“Candidates need to have very high academic qualifications as well as fluency in Japanese. Ashley had to go through several rounds of examinations and interviews before she was awarded the scholarship,’’ he said.

“Ashley is a quiet achiever with a natural flair for interdisciplinary work. Her honors paper not only was graded 7 but received a special commendation from the examiner as highly innovative and thought provoking.”

Ashley web

Super Mario and law

For her honours, Ashley researched how Nintendo’s Super Mario video game franchise is an analogy for the way legal processes have moved from analog to the digital realm.

“Law is no longer just about lawyers and judges shuffling through stacks of documents to ultimately make another document. Instead, it has been transformed to the digital.”

She explained that the laws of digital justice such as speed cameras are enforced by code.

“In Super Mario the player cannot jump higher than the code allows, likewise, a driver running a red light is ruled by code.

“A red light camera will only take a picture if they crossed the threshold after the light turned red. However, the camera is unable to distinguish between a law-breaking citizen and an ambulance. It lacks the ability to appeal to a higher power.”

“While Super Mario demonstrates a basic justice narrative of good triumphing over evil there are deeper legal meanings to be found.”

She said video game players and others were becoming used to thinking of themselves as data.

“Players understand that pressing a button makes Mario jump, they naturalise themselves as data input.

“This mentality is at use in law too. People become input, legal decisions become output. While it is an efficient way to do law, it also could also be dangerous.”

Ashley will build on her honours research while in Japan as part of her PhD.