Hatsune Mik-who?

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 (hatsu), sound ( 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”.

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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)

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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!

 

 

 

 

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5 comments

  1. I think this is a really interesting topic. While I agree that humans will never be completely disinterested in face to face connections, I do definitely think that many technologies are making a virtual connection more and more appealing. Connections through video games and fandom sites have made virtual connections quite normal in the past two decades, however new technologies are beginning to remove even these lessened human connections.
    The concerns surrounding virtual reality are very similar to your topic. With VR one of the major concerns is that people will live the bulk of their lives in this virtual world as it allows connections to feel truly connected to what can be perceived as a personal interaction. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future.

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  2. It was interesting to read about your reaction to Hatsune Miku, particularly when you realised this ‘pop-star’ was in fact a hologram. It is such a foreign concept here in Western culture, one that has not really been explored to its full potential (besides the Tupac hologram at Coachella; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGbrFmPBV0Y).
    The attitudes held in Asian culture towards such technology become abundantly clear whilst reading your post. From buying a digital friend to worshiping an animated pop icon, their perceptions of everyday life seem to focus strongly on the now and instant gratification, as opposed to questioning the ramifications of such technology.
    The fact that this may have a connection to/explain why the Japanese population is dropping is very interesting and would make for an intriguing area of research.
    It would be interesting if you do end up recording your experience with Gatebox or if you interview someone who has experienced Gatebox. Questions such as ‘Is it as equally as satisfying as face to face interactions?’ could be answered in this situation.
    You have described and analysed your personal experience and thoughts on this phenomenon of artificial life.
    Additionally, I believe “thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience” (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011) such as interviews and artifacts, will make your research more intriguing and engaging whilst simultaneously educating your readers.
    Overall, it will be interesting to see how your opinions may change further down the track as you further experience this cultural phenomenon.

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  3. Ohh such a fascinating topic! You have developed quite a narrative behind your initial encounter with listening to Hatsune. Great summary on who and what she is, along with your impressions. I believe that this is a good area for yourself to research, as you seem to have connections/friends to people who may be more widely surrounded by Hatsune. This will be a fantastic opportunity for your autoethnographic research in conducting any interviews which provide opportunities to examine members of such culture. When it comes to this topic, and your potential area of researching social interaction with the holographics, I think that social stimuli & conversation will be key.

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  4. This a pretty interesting concept, this idea of holograms reminded of when the Gorillaz played live at the MTV awards. (https://youtu.be/BdAXIj5QViw) the crowd was heavily invested in their performance through these characters, and for a fact, I only know the band through their animated alter egos. Even Tupac went on to perform live as a hologram many years after his death, (https://youtu.be/TGbrFmPBV0Y). The concept of using holograms to perform live isn’t completely new, but as technology progresses I can see it getting more and more realistic.

    Are these holograms any less real than an actual pop star? In your post, it seemed like questioned whether you should be enjoying the work of a hologram, but there are still people behind the scenes crafting the music and the performance. There is as much skill in this than any other performer playing music. It would be interesting to see how much work behind the scenes goes into these songs. There was also a movie made about the idea of a non-existent movie star being portrayed as real (https://youtu.be/HuAjeuKXX7c).

    Also when you went on to talk about the lack of human interaction in favor of a digitized one, it reminded me of the movie “Her” (https://youtu.be/6QRvTv_tpw0) in which a man falls in love with artificial intelligence. I think this could also be something worth looking into, this idea that the less human interaction made after the more human-like but not human interaction is sought after.

    And just one more thing, I wonder if the idea of using an actor instead of the actual artist is any different to using a hologram. MF Doom used an actor to conduct his performances (https://www.wired.com/2007/08/rapper-mf-dooms/) as he thought that the reason people were at the concert was to hear the music not to seem him.

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