Students Speak at USC Global Conference Panel

Three high school students in the advanced contemporary Japan class reflect on their September 22 and 23 attendance of the 2017 University of Southern California Global Conference, hosted at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo, and their participation in a panel discussion on the use of digital devices and family relationships.

USC’s Global Conference series is a biennial event held in major world cities that brings together academics and business leaders to present and discuss the latest research results across the full range of academic disciplines and their influence. The keynote speaker for this year’s conference was alumnus Kazuo Hirai ’79, who is President and CEO of Sony Corporation.

Hana Kabira (grade 11) on Kazuo Hirai’s keynote address

On the first day of the conference, Kazuo Hirai held a short interview with Elizabeth Daley, the Dean of USC School of Cinematic Arts. He explained how he valued the feeling of kan-do (感動), which translates to “making a deep impression on one’s heart.” He continued to explain how he not only valued the feeling of kan-do that the customers feel when they buy Sony products, but also the kan-do they feel when they discover something new. This resulted in Sony workers re-evaluating each new product to make sure it fit customer needs.

After listening to Mr. Hirai’s presentation, my classmates and I felt kan-do in being a part of a community that has produced leaders such as him.

Rikako Kent (grade 11) on the panel discussion

At this special USC conference, seven other ASIJ students and I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a panel discussion hosted by the USC Annenberg Dean, Willow Bay. Her research, titled The New Normal: Parents, Teens and Digital Devices, was revealed to an audience of more than 200 guests, a crowd that included ASIJ alumni, parents and other students. The study that Willow and her partner, Jim Steyer, conducted showed that in this modern age, many Japanese teens and parents, alike American families, felt that their digital devices were a source of concern, anxiety and overall conflict within households. The statistic they raised may have been alarming to some as their tracking of ubiquity and use showed that “90% of Japanese teens and parents own smartphones and spend hours a day on them.”

As for our part on the stage, the other members and I tried to give the listeners our first-hand insights on how various technologies affect us as teenagers and our thoughts on it being a universal problem that needs addressing. One of the main points that we all agreed upon on stage was that technology usage has been ever-increasing as time goes by; acknowledging that just 10 years ago smartphones didn’t exist and as children are being exposed to it at younger ages, their dependency grows resulting in parents feeling that they must supply it for these kids. In terms of addiction, we did make comments regarding our own use of digital devices and some of my classmates admitted that they felt it necessary to have their phones on them at all times, a sad truth.

I personally expressed my thoughts on the matter in that there is a fine line between having and using a phone for its basic uses and overusing it to pass time, fit in, or simply because you can’t control yourself. We all then agreed that this “control” we speak of builds up as we get older and addiction usually is seen amongst the younger kids who have more free time. As I was up there with the others, being asked questions and having the audience genuinely care about our answers despite our ages, it felt incredible to be a part of something that others could learn from and so relevant to today’s world. You can read more on this particular panel discussion on the USC Global Conference news page.

Remi Kahn (grade 10) on the USC conference

At USC’s Global Conference we attended a number of presentations ranging in topic from Japan’s creative economy, to Sony and their AI projects, to restoring and preserving our gift of sight. We had the chance to listen to professors and educators who all have connections with USC. It was really interesting to hear what they have accomplished in their lives and, speaking on behalf of my class, I can definitely say that we are all inspired by their lives.

Instead of following a strict schedule where everyone goes to listen to one speaker for the whole time, we had the opportunity to choose which presentations we wanted to hear based on the topics we were interested in and hopped from room to room to hear the next short presentation.

For many of us, this was the first time we had attended such a professional conference and it was quite the experience. At the Grand Hyatt, we got to eat macarons and little tarts after every presentation and enjoy the large buffet style continental breakfast and lunch. We were surrounded by Rolex watches and diamond rings. The smartest and most successful graduates of USC were sitting next to us, eating next to us. Frankly, it was very intimidating. However, as the day went on, many of the adults would start to talk to us and it was very interesting to see how the USC community came together in Tokyo to share their experiences and lives with all of us.

If you would like to learn more about the 2017 USC Global Conference, its participants and guests, check out their conference site.