Prosthetic sociality building new senses of home

by Minami Ichiji

“Prosthetic sociality” means the transformation of human relationships in 21th century Japan: warm sensibility is getting to be less fleshy. Anne Allison (2013) explains “In an era of material accumulation and sterile decorporealization (datsushintai), young people who “float” the waves of “net society” have “informationalized bodies.” That’s to say, they communicate with one another mainly by “social network services” (SNS) for example, Facebook, Twitter, and Line. Allison also uses “techno-intimacy,” that is “an intimacy premised on care and built into technology” (Allison, 2013) to literally focus on technology. She sees robots, Tamogotchi and Pokemon as techno-intimacies. I find some examples of it. “Bishoujo” (beautiful girl) and “renai” (romantic love) games, players meet bishoujo or ideal partner and go out with her/him on an electronic screen. They establish imaginary relationship through this play.

Allison refers to techno-intimacies, “this is a play that, while mulitifaceted and complex, turns on fostering sinews of attachment that burrow into the nervous system ‘as if humanly interactive, even social”. I agree with her analysis, prosthetic sociality is meaningful concept. “The paradox of the vanishing social today: the kinds of human connections that bring warmth have also come to seem annoying” (Allison, 2013). She points out this paradox is stirred up structurally, accompanies with the advance of technology and “shifting in constant, competitive, and intense labor”, she says is spreading all over Japan. I consider this phenomenon as the issue, prosthetic sociality and techno-intimacy play an important part in it.

Reading chapter 4 of Precarious Japan, I notice that there was a sign which would lead to the paradox. Before the destruction of the family-corporate system, according to Allison (2013), under the trend that “aspirational adults treat their kids as investments for the socioeconomic marketplace, the young people he (psychiatrist Serizawa) treats as hikikomori are emotionally stunted, hungry for a kind of love they rarely get from parents overly focused on achievement.” If the abandoned youths should meet a chance to get a robot or a game, they would rush to these prosthetic tools.

In a struggling recession, more and more people are hired as unstable labor. It is hard for them to have the opportunity to spare time for “the soul”, “the time to touch a mother with Alzheimer’s or to shelter a child getting bullied at school or to simply enjoy the rhythm of slow eating with friends” (Allison, 2013). As the author remarks (2013) “a nuisance coming from ‘existence utterly depending on me’ also drives people to prosthetic sociality, dog and tamagotchi will die without perpetual caregiving”.

Although, what I see as the most serious issue is the paradox I state above. To be specific, anyone feels lonely can seek human connection. And then, affording to pay for a maid café, a hostess and a game, they can buy some kinds of easier “home” and go their house. There are desperately lonely people who have nowhere to go and lack money, like net café refugees. No exception, this can happen to anyone.

Prosthetic sociality is created as new and ultimate way of organizing home.

References

Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp.52,100-101,106,118). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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