21G.027 | Fall 2016 | Undergraduate

Asia in the Modern World: Images & Representations

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 21G.027 Asia in the Modern World: Images and Representations as it was taught by Professor Shigeru Miyagawa in Fall 2016.

This course explored images that pertain to the emergence of Japan as a modern state. It focused on images that depict Japan as it came into contact with the rest of the world after its long and deep isolation during the feudal period.

A unique feature of this offering was that the instructor used course materials from three concurrent MOOCs to help students learn the subject. These three MOOCs included Visualizing Japan (1850s–1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity (edX), Visualizing Postwar Tokyo (University of Tokyo), and Four Faces of Contemporary Japanese Architecture (University of Tokyo).

Course Outcomes


  • Learn to critically analyze images in their historical and cultural context;
  • Understand the meaning of choosing various forms (woodblock, photographs, etc.);
  • Become familiar with the creation of various media forms.


  • Learn how Japan emerged from a long isolation to become a modern state;
  • Understand the role of Western imperialism in Japan, in particular, and Asia, in general;
  • Learn how public spaces are used to visualize priorities of the ruling body, the common populace.


  • Learn to clearly communicate in writing;
  • Learn to clearly communicate orally.


Meet the Educator

"We said, ‘Why don’t we create a system that’s exactly the opposite of what the rest of the world is doing [in e-learning] and . . . just give [our materials] away so that anyone, anywhere in the world, can take advantage of MIT faculty’s commitment to education.’ That’s how we started with OpenCourseWare."
— Shigeru Miyagawa

In the following videos, Professor Shigeru Miyagawa describes his roles at MIT and the University of Tokyo. He also shares his role in conceptualizing MIT OpenCourseWare and his perspective on transforming residential education with open digital content.

Instructor Interview

In the following videos, Professor Shigeru Miyagawa describes various aspects of how he taught 21G.027 Asia in the Modern World: Images and Representations.

Learn more! The following article from MIT News describes how Professor Miyagawa made use of the Visualizing Japan MOOC in flipping his classroom.

Curriculum Information



Requirements Satisfied

  • GIR
  • CI-H


Every fall semester


Grade Breakdown

The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 10% 2-page paper
  • 20% 5-page paper, revision & oral presentation
  • 20% 4-page paper & oral presentation
  • 35% 10-page paper & oral presentation
  • 15% Class participation (including group work)

Student Information


14 students

Breakdown by Year

1/2 freshmen, 1/2 other undergraduates

Breakdown by Major

Variety of majors

Typical Student Background

1/3 had visited Japan prior to taking the course

Enrollment Cap

17 students

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

  • Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hours per session; 26 sessions total.
  • Sessions were discussion-based, and included opportunities for student presentations.

Out of Class

Students wrote and revised papers, prepared for oral presentations, and completed MOOC assignments.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016
Learning Resource Types
Presentation Assignments
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights