Techno-intimacy in Japan

by Natsuki Ota

Japanese society has been changing due to the precarious economy or depression. The number of youth who are not good at communicating with others is increasing. Such young people tend to feel lonely easily and become psychically and socially withdrawn; “referring to the phenomena much in the news of youths who literally take themselves out of school, work, or human circulation” (Allison 2013:81). Moreover, with regard to marriage, they think it is mendokusai [a nuisance] and they want to protect their money and time for themselves (Allison 2013:100). Then, the change of such as poor skills of communication or thought of taking care of someone makes a new concept. It is called “techno-intimacy” by Anne Allison (2013:101). In this blog, I will show three points. First is an explanation of techno-intimacy, next are examples of it in Japan, and final is my opinion.

To begin with, the concept of techno-intimacy was generated by problems of human relationships. This means that a human has attachment to a presence which feel lifelike. Tending to a child, a pet or something is regarded as mendokusai (bothersome) today because of many chores. This connects to the thought that young people are unwilling to get married today: “the kinds of human connections that bring warmth have also come to seem annoying” (Allison 2013:101). However, since the game of taking care of digital creature had been discovered, producing such a creature came to evoke an intimate attachment in humans, which Allison calls “techno-intimacy.”. Although the play is multifaceted and complex, it becomes to foster drives of attachment that read the nervous system as if humanly interactive. According to Allison, kids who grow up practicing social intimacy with such a technological friend will be the user of care robots when they get old, which will be more likely alone. As above, the condition ―“electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continually plugged into circuits for information, communication, and affect” (Allison 2013:101) is called prosthetic sociality. This is penetrating the sociological gap left by the weakening of human bonds in the family, workplace and community in Japan recently. According to Allison’s book, the anthropologist Katsuno Hirofumi has discovered that being able to have a companion makes people pleased even if it is not real human. A heart to heart relationship between human and robot is important to the heartlessness in humanity.

Secondly, in Japan, we have many games as a techno-intimacy. For example, Tamagochi or Nintendo 3D game software’s ones―the virtual pets, or pet robots like dogs or cats. Also, dobutsu no mori (a forest of animals) is a good seller game in Japan, which user has a village, makes residents and has them get along with each other.

Finally, I agree with Allison’s analysis that “the ‘heartlessness’ of the times and a society that has lost its humanity” (Allison 2013:103) brought the tie of heart to heart between humans and robots. Because the fact that care of daily living is regarded as mendokusai things and techno-intimacies comfort people exists. In addition, in my opinion, I thought that Japanese tend to have an attachment to unreal creatures like techno one is the influence of a national anime “Doraemon.” He is a robot and can communicate with humans. As almost all Japanese watched this in childhood, people may have little reluctance to make a friend with robots or other techno-intimacies.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (pp.77-82.100-103)

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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.