From day one of this subject I knew that I was more than excited to research into Hatsune Miku and the entire concept of who she is and why she exists.
I’ve been fairly interested in the entire concept of holographic idols in Japan ever since I began this degree. However, my interest always sat at me thinking it was exciting and revolutionary, whereas this subject has definitely opened my eyes to the very real issues and social panic that come up due to the influences of this holographic obsession.
In case you have actually been living under a rock and don’t know who Hatsune is, she’s a humanoid persona in Japan. She performs as an animated projection hologram and is voiced using a synthesizer application created by Crypton Future Media. Her name actually was made by combining the two Japanese words for first (初hatsu), sound (音 ne) and future (ミク miku). Meaning her name is “the first sound of the future” which makes sense seeing as she was the first part of Crypton’s “Character Vocal Series”.
It’s insane to realise that Hatsune is a huge trend in Japan. She has toys and endless amounts of merchandise as well as literally selling out stadiums for her concerts where thousands of people watch a hologram perform for hours. She is adored by the majority and while it seems exciting and fairly innocent, there are definitely some issues that come along with this.
My experience with Hatsune began a while back when I was very much involved in the anime world and fandoms online. Friends I had made online started introducing me to her music without actually telling me she was the holographic animation that she was. And instantly I was hooked, and playing her music all day every day while thinking how great her and her voice was. So then I looked her up on youtube, and found myself watching a video of her performing at a concert. There and then I realised I had been praising an animation for the past few weeks and adoring a synthesized voice.
Linking this to what I was learning in my digital media studies, I instantly starting thinking, is this an issue? Should I be worried that I’m so heavily invested in the music of a hologram? Should I be questioning the fact that she sells out stadiums?
I think the first thing I realised when looking into Hatsune, was how this relates greatly to the downfall of population in Japan. Already in the last 5 years, Japans population has fallen by 1 million and is projected to fall to about 83 million by 2100. Researchers are almost certain it atleast will fall somewhere below 100 million. Now this drop can be explained by a few things however we can’t ignore the social panic towards the lack of human interaction in Japan and other Asian countries which can be influenced by the demand towards “fake” personalities or holographic idols. As most of us know, Asia is well ahead in technology than we are, quite specifically when it comes to mimicking human connections. Holographic entities aren’t new to Japan, in fact they’re very common and are always becoming more and more normalized.
It was only a few weeks ago that I found a post on facebook advertising a “friend” you could buy in Japan, she is a holographic animation stored in a little box. She can text you, talk to you and comfort you the way a friend would. You can hook her up to your phone and have her text you all day long, receiving warm, friendly and relatively emotional responses. This devise is called the GateBox. The goal of the creators was to give people the opportunity to “live with their favourite character” but it’s clear that it’s unintentionally caused some other concerns. (Feel free to click this if you’re interesting in learning more)
The main concern is if this will replace human contact or the demand for human connections. I never really considered this a concern until I realised how badly Japans population was dropping. This can definitely be somewhat explained due to people having a lack of human connections, never meeting a partner and therefore not producing offspring. I personally refuse to believe that humans will never need that face to face connection. We are smart enough as a species to know it is vital and necessary, at least even a little bit. However I won’t lie and say that I am slightly worried to how common these “friends” are getting. It’s interesting to watch my opinions change the more I read about them.. and I expect my opinions to keep changing the more I look into it. I’m excited to see where I end up and what my conclusion will be regarding my thoughts on this phenomenon in Japan.
I plan on working my final project around this, I just need to figure out exactly what angle I want to work it. Possibly maybe even a review? A personal experience? If I can manage to get my hands on the Gatebox, or something with a similar concept then I can record my own experience and document my opinions over time, assuming I would be involved with it for a few weeks. That’s the plan. I have already explored the world of video and podcast quite a bit during my degree, so the next task will be deciding what media platform to use. Hopefully I will have this all sorted and ready to propose to you all next week!