Virtual affective labor: Looking for love in the virtual world

by Katsuya Nagasawa

The demand for affective labor is increasing all over the world, especially in developed countries. For example, many Filipino and Chinese caregiving workers spread in the world. It is because people lose the peace of mind in exchange for getting satisfaction about usefulness. Therefore, the society have gotten truculent and people came to want the calmness. Then, people start to go to cabarets, host clubs, and maid cafés. I think the trend is remarkable in Japan.

As Allison argued, in modern Japan, there are enormous problems such as killing family, bullying, unemployment, hikikomori, the gap of salary (kakusa shakai). In addition, female and youths are in the bottom in the society. Allison explain that as “the collapse of Japanese democratic system.” These problems made the precarious society and even the collapse of family. People cannot depend on other people, sometimes even their family, they visit affective labors because they can get the emotional feeling but formal feeling by paying money.

I think 2-D world is also affective labor. As Allison argued in the book, “otaku” gathered more than 2000 signatures about marrying a 2-D character, and there is a word for this, “nounaikanojo” in Japan. In the virtual world, 2-D characters never depress people, they contact with real people in friendly ways because they are programed to do so. Therefore people who are not good at making relationships, for example “otaku,” tend to sink into the virtual world. I think 2-D world is a form of virtual affective labor.

In the past, the era that there were no computers, people had to make relationship only in the real world. However, because of the appearance of the virtual world, people face to the computer, and some people think making a relationship is “mendokusai”. According to Allison, the effect spread to the marriage problem. People who think making relationship is “mendokusai” think marriage is also “mendokusai”. In modern society, people came to pay for affective labor to get comfort rather than trying to get along with other people because it is “mendokusai” to do argument, to disappoint in love. They chose that the effort replace into their money.

If the situation that people depend on the 2-D world or affective labor continues, we will depend all of our life on robots, as Allison writes. I think affective labor can never replace our family or friends, and we cannot live in the virtual world literally. Therefore we have to hold more real relationships. Depending on the virtual world is not equal to coexisting in a virtual world. We have to search for the way to coexist.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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