Social relations with Robi and Tamagotchi

A Tamagotchi Connexion V1

A Tamagotchi Connexion V1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Marie Fudaba

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison mentioned “prosthetic sociality”. Prosthetic sociality means electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continually plugged into circuits for information, communication and affect. It is percolating in the social gap left by the weakening of human ties in the family, workplace, and community in Japan today. In Japanese society, the attenuation of human relations becomes a serious problem and the number of people who enter prosthetic sociality seems to be increasing.

The author mentioned ‘Tamagotchi’ as typical example of it. Tamagotchi is the virtual pet that came “alive” by hatching, an egg on the electronic screen that grew to adulthood by feeding, playing and tending to do it like a “real pet”. It is popular for people who feel lonely without human connection because it evokes an intimate attachment in humans and it has healing power. The author called such an electric good that offers an intimacy premised on care and built into technology “techno-intimacy”. She is optimistic about it because there is a constant sense of connection and an expectation of instant communication, it effects good impact people who have the weakening of humanities.

I agree with the author’s opinion that the number of people who rely on prosthetic society is increasing because they feel attenuation of human relations, and her optimism for it. Actually, an annual lifestyle white paper written by the Japanese Cabinet office shows a dilution of human relationships in the family, community, and at work. Particularly in the family, people don’t have time to spend with each other. Under modern capitalism, the father and mother are working for long hours every day, they spend no time with their family and it makes their children lonely. Moreover, many children often tend to go to cram school or individual enrichment courses so they can work in a good company in the future. They also spend a lot of time on the internet and playing electronic games at home. Ties between children and parents all get weak, and they must think they don’t have ibasho and feel lonely. In work, Allison mentioned there are many people who don’t get on with the people at work, and they seems to feel a lack of communication.

In this situation, techno-intimacy can help them from a lack of human connection. For example, there are ‘Robi,’ which is a robot that can communicate like a human because it is a therapeutic robot. Moreover, Japanese engineers are putting a lot of work into development to establish a ‘heart-to-heart relationship’ to become closer, like with friends, between people and robots. If that development can be implemented, it might decrease the number of solitary persons or the number of solitary deaths from now on. Therefore, I agree with Anne Allison’s opinion and am anticipating its future development.


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

Japanese Cabinet office HP, annual lifestyle white paper.