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2017 | Buch

Japanese Robot Culture

Performance, Imagination, and Modernity

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Japanese Robot Culture examines social robots in Japan, those in public, domestic, and artistic contexts. Unlike other studies, this book sees the robot in relation to Japanese popular culture, and argues that the Japanese ‘affinity’ for robots is the outcome of a complex loop of representation and social expectation in the context of Japan’s continuing struggle with modernity. Considering Japanese robot culture from the critical perspectives afforded by theatre and performance studies, this book is concerned with representations of robots and their inclusion in social and cultural contexts, which science and engineering studies do not address. The robot as a performing object generates meaning in staged events and situations that make sense for its Japanese observers and participants. This book examines how specific modes of encounter with robots in carefully constructed mises en scène can trigger reflexive, culturally specific, and often ideologically-inflected responses.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter
Chapter 1. Introduction: The Japanese Robot and Performance
Abstract
The introductory chapter provides background to the themes this book addresses. It locates the robot in Japanese history, and sees it as a figure that uniquely reflects and, in turn, shapes the Japanese approach to modernity and technology and thus its envisioning of the future. The chapter clarifies that the robot’s social resonance can only be adequately approached through concepts in theatre and performance studies, rather than in terms of the themes that typically characterise science and engineering narratives. This chapter argues that these theatre and performance concepts must first be inflected with particularly Japanese understandings of the way that objects can perform and the role of the spectator.
Yuji Sone
Chapter 2. Robotics and Representation
Abstract
In this chapter, I examine writings by Japanese roboticists and cultural theorists who discuss anthropomorphic bipedal robots in Japan. In their writings, they highlight how representations of the humanoid robot in popular culture—manga/anime—have contributed to their stated rationales for robot development in its early phases. I also discuss how the image of the robot in manga/anime lends a particular presence to anthropomorphic robot prototypes, which renders them familiar and unthreatening. The aim of this chapter is to indicate the affective power of the appearance of next-generation humanoids in relation to these popular-culture sources and in the context of theatre and performance studies.
Yuji Sone
Chapter 3. Futuristic Spectacle: Robot Performances at Expos
Abstract
This chapter brings a critical perspective to government and corporate robot spectacles for the public. This chapter examines the nationalistic and promotional narratives in demonstration performances of robots presented as entertainment at large international events held in Japan since the 1970s. I highlight the rhetoric of robots as emblems of futurity that pervades these spectacularised robot events, which feature fantasies of future human-robot interaction, modelled for the wider Japanese public. I examine in what ways the dramatic and dazzling mises en scène of such events have been crafted to make the next-generation robots symbolically meaningful to the Japanese audience.
Yuji Sone
Chapter 4. The Anthropomorphic Robot and Artistic Expression
Abstract
Extending an investigation of the affective mise en scène constructed for mimetic robots, this chapter examines what I discuss as liminal aspects of robot performances in art productions. This chapter examines collaborative theatre experiments by Hiroshi Ishiguro and Oriza Hirata, and Ishiguro’s android performance. These works are contrasted with artist Kenji Yanobe’s installation work of a fire-breathing, gigantic robot doll presented in a visual arts context, a work that reveals the robot as uncanny or strange. In contrast to Chap. 3’s triumphalist expressions of Japanese culture through the figure of the robot, these artists’ works offer more ambiguous and complex representations that dramatise differences between humans and robots.
Yuji Sone
Chapter 5. Robots, Space, and Place
Abstract
This chapter discusses varied forms of fighting humanoid performance in popular entertainment. Though designed for different audiences (Japanese robot fans and foreign tourists in the case of the Robot Restaurant), this chapter exposes how these popularised productions embody fantastical narratives to do with the image of a futuristic but wacky ‘techno-Japan’. The robots in this particular prismatic reflection of the popular understanding of the robot are not nationalistic boosters, as they are in Chap. 3, or intended for the purpose of artistic exploration, as discussed in Chap. 4,but instead are humorous or outrageous performers of phantasmagoria for their fans. Importantly, spectators, creators, and performers knowingly and enthusiastically participate in this spectacle, the sort of demonstration that is an essential part of fan and tourist cultures.
Yuji Sone
Chapter 6. Hatsune Miku, Virtual Machine-Woman
Abstract
This chapter discusses a popular Pygmalion fantasy in the Japanese context, that is, the creation of an ideal woman, by examining the virtual singing performance of Hatsune Miku. Hatsune Miku is software that combines synthesised singing with an illustrated girl character. For its male fans, Hatsune Miku embodies the metonymical aural and visual signs of femininity. Fans within the otaku subculture manipulate and control the figure and its outputs through this software and related packages, which can generate images and music videos featuring the character. As scholars indicate, these productions can actually stimulate sexual arousal for hard-core fans. This chapter explores the darker side of the modernist fantasy of technologised progress by considering the figures of the robot and the woman in terms of themes of control and subjugation within the otaku subculture.
Yuji Sone
Chapter 7. Competition Robots: Empathy and Identification
Abstract
Extending discussion of hobbyist participation in robot culture in Japan, this chapter looks into humanoid competitions. These competitions are organised events for purpose-built, small-scale hobby robots: they sprint, play soccer, or fight each other. Focusing on the fighting robot format, this chapter discusses these robots as important intermediaries, facilitating a reflexive anthropomorphism in which participants project themselves into their robots. Through an examination of a comedy contest for robots that is designed to entertain the audience with laughter, the chapter also examines the intersection of humour, robotics, and spectacle. As this comedy robot contest shows, humour can successfully facilitate the audience’s imaginative capacity to accommodate something imperfect, strange, or unfamiliar, such as a humanoid robot.
Yuji Sone
Chapter 8. Robots that ‘Care’
Abstract
Taking ideas of the theatrical encounter in the Japanese context into situations of close physical proximity, this chapter critically examines the assumptions that have guided the development of robots designed to interact with the elderly. The use of the ‘social’ robot for aged care is highly calculated, designed so that users will adapt to and align themselves with the robots in the context of games and prompted conversations that facilitate the users’ responses. It also raises ethical issues. Researchers are aware that the users may not be fully aware, depending on their health status, of the nature of the solicitous object. The final part of this chapter examines performative parallels between manga/anime that include narratives of robots used in aged care and related occurrences in real situations. These correlations suggest a deep social entanglement with robots in Japan, even in the conceptualising of aged care.
Yuji Sone
Chapter 9. Epilogue: Staging a Robot Nation
Abstract
The book’s epilogue examines the theme of the robot in relation to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The robot as a symbol of Japan’s futurist ideology takes centre stage again, in the context of another national event (as matsuri) that seeks to represent Japan through the figure of the robot.
Yuji Sone
Backmatter
Metadaten
Titel
Japanese Robot Culture
verfasst von
Yuji Sone
Copyright-Jahr
2017
Electronic ISBN
978-1-137-52527-7
Print ISBN
978-1-137-53216-9
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-52527-7

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