How does the Internet affect policy making and the communication of politics in Japan? Does the Internet open new avenues of communication between citizens and political actors, adding to the existing formal and informal channels of influence in Japanese politics? Do state and non-state actors change their communication strategies in reaction to the World Wide Web? Does digital communication change the way politics and policies are made in Japan? Is there a difference between the political use of the net in Japan and other Western democracies? These are some of the questions that stimulated the Social Science Section of the DIJ when it chose "Politics and the Internet in Japan" as its current research focus. After first gaining a broad understanding of general Internet use in Japan, the researchers in the DIJ's Social Science Section are conducting case studies to determine how state and non-state actors in Japan make use of the Internet.
Verena Blechinger (a member of the DIJ until January 2002) analysed the role of the Internet in the House of Councillors election campaign in 2001. She examined the online strategies of Japanese politicians and parties and investigated the extent to which the Internet is changing the dialogue between voters and politicians in Japan. Isa Ducke's initial study on the topic examined the communication of foreign policy issues. Taking as an example the dispute that erupted in 2001 between Japan and South Korea about school history textbooks, she looked into how the various parties in this dispute made use of the Internet to present their positions or to influence policies. Her project addressed differences in the online representation of policy positions between Japan and South Korea, and also between state and non-state players. In a further study, she scrutinized the use of the Internet by various Japanese citizens' movements, trying to find out which features of the Internet are of practical use and relevance to the groups. The findings were then used for a comparative analysis of Internet use by citizens’ groups in Japan, Germany, and South Korea, as well as for a series of comparative studies on the peace movement in Japan and South Korea.