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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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.

References

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

Japanese Cabinet office HP, annual lifestyle white paper. http://www5.cao.go.jp/seikatsu/whitepaper/index.html

 

Social network service and social movements

by Kaori Isobe

Throughout 2010 to2011, many people in Arabic countries gathered up and did social movements. This is called Arab Spring. Since long time ago, social movements were occurred a lot by protesters. However, Arab Spring was a bit different from former ones. Want was a difference is that many protesters uses social network service to get and spread information by using social network service such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social network service is an online service and site that focuses on facilitating the building of social networks or social relations, real life connections, activities and so on. As spreading the Internet environment, the number of SNS users is increased. For instance, Facebook is strongly growing and reached over 1,000,000,000 users in October of 2012, compering to 600,000,000 users of January, 2011. Including me, users are able to write and post about what they think, pictures, links from other site and so on. Also users are able to share posts so that their friends are able to see my pots. If suppose am I post something like ‘Let’s do protest!’ or something like this on my Facebook page. If my friends like my post, push ‘Like’ to my post, and my friends’ friends will be able to see this. Then my post will spread to other people easily.

In a case of Arab spring, according to statistics, about 80percent of Facebook users in Egypt and the republic of Tunisia used Facebook to get and spread information about social movements. As social movements getting extreme, the number of Facebook users was increased. Furthermore, this social network connected to networks in real-life, which mean people who didn’t use Facebook, also could get information rapidly from real life connections with Thor friends who used Facebook. Social network service is related to social movement deeply because it’s easy to spread information and emphasize. This situation makes people get involve in social movement much easier. This is one of reasons why many people could involve in Arab Spring.

Social network service is working through the Internet, so sometimes it’s dangerous. There is a possibility that someone attacks your page with specific skills, or some information might be wrong. Thus, we have to be careful. However, as I mentioned in above paragraph, social network service has power. Young people are likely to use social network service than elderly people are. It’s getting much easier to make young people participate in social movements, and they may be going to be interested in society much more. Then the society will become much better.

Moreover, in recent years, young people tend not to be involved in society very much. This is because young people don’t have interests in society even their generation will be coming soon.  Or some of them try to change society with complaint. However, their voice is still small. I have many things to ask the government but people around me do not have interests.  I hope young people, especially in Japan, will have much more power to change society like Arab Spring.  And social network service is a good way to do it.