My name is Grant Jun Otsuki.
Since 2017, I have been at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where I am a senior lecturer in cultural anthropology.
From 2015 to 2017, I was an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
I received my Ph.D. in social-cultural anthropology from the University of Toronto in 2015. I also have an M.S. in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2007), and a B.Sc. Hons. in Science, Technology, and Society with a minor in physics from the University of Calgary.
I am an associate editor of Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, the open access journal of the Society for Social Studies of Science, and a senior editor at the open access journal NatureCulture. In the past, I have been a contributing editor for the Cultural Anthropology website. I have also written for The Newsroom and The Conversation. See my publications.
I’ve been interviewed by The Spinoff, TVNZ, Radio NZ, the New Zealand Herald, the Voice of America, and the New Yorker.
The question underlying my research is “What does it mean to be human in contemporary technological societies?”
How do people today know they are human? The answer is that they learn this as a fact as they learn, create, and think about all kinds of knowledge, including scientific, medical, technological, religious knowledge. It is also because they feel human and feel other peoples’ humanity when they do all sorts of things: eat, sleep, dream, work, play, talk, write, fight, love, think, and so on. They do all of these things with other people, with groups and institutions, with plants and animals and other things in the environment, and with technologies. All of these fit together just so to reinforce the truth that they are human.
In other words, our species was not born human. We became human as we lived our lives in particular ways, and created ways to think about ourselves.
My research is about how people come to think about themselves as human as they learn to live their lives with new technologies.
My main work focuses on scientists and engineers in Japan developing new human-machine interfaces and robots. I study what they think human beings are, why they think they themselves are human beings, and how working with new technologies changes how they define “human.”
I examine similar issues by looking at the history of information and cybernetics in Japan, and technology in Japanese popular culture.
I also explore how to analyze social data using computational methods. You can view some of these experiments at my Projects page.