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Techno-Realities and Affective Creatures: the Love Simulation Devices

Techno-réalités et créatures affectives : les dispositifs de simulation amoureuse

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Published on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 by João Fernandes

Summary

Modern-day embodiments of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises, the techno-realities are seen as a threat to human relationships in “real” life, in particular when they relate to love. Such human-shaped products however multiply: domotic spouse, tactile screen’s boyfriend, holographic companion, bride for Virtual Reality glasses, interactive downloadable partner, otomegames and bishōjogamescharacters… pending the development of Hololens friends. The explosion of these technologies (forecast to reach 181 billion euros in 2021 for VR only) generates anxiety and rejection. People engaged in Love Simulation Games have to face attacks: emotional relationships with non-existent beings are frowned upon. The tendency to get involved with a digital creature is being stigmatized, as opposed to founding a family (i.e. a reproductive unit). In spite of the stigma, a growing number of men and women, worldwide, are however using love devices: how can we explain that?

Announcement

Argument

Modern-day embodiments of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises, the techno-realities are seen as a threat to human relationships in  “real” life, in particular when they relate to love. Such human-shaped products however multiply: domotic spouse, tactile screen’s  boyfriend, holographic companion, bride for Virtual Reality glasses, interactive downloadable partner, otome games and bishōjo gamescharacters… pending the development of Hololens friends. The explosion of these technologies (forecast to reach 181 billion euros in 2021 for VR only) generates anxiety and rejection. People engaged in Love Simulation Games have to face attacks: emotional relationships with non-existent beings are frowned upon. The tendency to get involved with a digital creature is being stigmatized, as opposed to founding a family (i.e. a reproductive unit). In spite of the stigma, a growing number of men and women, worldwide, are however using love devices: how can we explain that?

It is significant that such devices are mainly marketed in Japan and Korea, two countries currently suffering from depopulation which can be regarded as «  laboratories of the XXIst century » (Dumont 2017): laboratories of ageing population in both North and South. While its cities are shrinking and its rural areas are being abandoned, Japan has become the world’s number one producer of synthetic creatures, followed closely by Korea which also records falling birthrates. Because they are part of a marketing trend dubbed “o-hitori-sama” which targets singles, commodities such as video games, love app for smartphone and holographic boxes cannot be separated from the critical issue of celibacy, which makes them very problematic products. Why do more and more people – engaged in what is perceived as ''anti-social behaviors'' – are running counter to the norms?

It is precisely this specific phenomenon that the very few studies to date fail to explain: usually based on socio-cognitive analysis models, such studies (Dela Pena 2006; Taylor 2007; Pellitteri 2010; Tanikawa 2013) establish that these games enable user to evade from the real world, to reassert their masculinity/femininity and to achieve a more desired self-image.

Regardless of their merits, these explanations – which equate surrogates use with escapism or compensatory consumption – are not accurate enough. As some Japanese researchers state it (Azuma et al. 2003; Honda 2005; Saitō 2007), love simulation devices can as well correlate with irony, to the extent that these products may be produced or used with a second degree humor, in accordance with what the sociologist Alessandro Gomarasca (2002) described as “parodic conformism”.

To put in other words: until now, scholars’ inquiries focused on Love Simulation Devices consumption as a way to be received and perceived as ''normal'' (i.e. a “predator” concerning men and a “princess” concerning women). Let’s consider the question the other way round: what if users were using these products as a collective expression of commitment to another lifestyle or to withdraw themselves from a society which does not allow them to get marital bliss in the “real” world? Absolutely no research has been done concerning the affective devices as a counter-space of the kind that Michel Foucault might call a “crisis heterotopia”.

The purpose of this Symposium is to analyze Love Simulation Devices as signals allowing users to express a variety of messages, even contradictory ones, yet to be deciphered within their specific contexts, at every level of the different in-play sociocultural frames they contribute to build up. Working on the Japanese and Korean products will provide a revealing insight of processes that still have not been analyzed and may serve as an eye-opener in the field of comparative studies in the western cultures. Why and how do western men or women use otome games or bishōjo games? Is it possible for a western user to feel at ease with a character whose behavior is drafted in accordance with Asian sentimental scripts? How different are the western love simulation devices?

For Social and Human Sciences (SHS), the field of Interactive and Affective Technologies constitutes a strategic research object as it offers a particularly interesting vantage point on social phenomena such as the stigma management, the relationship to the invisible world, the identity construction and the emotional commodities. 

Main topics 

We will suggest 5 topics of particular interest:

1. The fabric of affective surrogates (Conception). How and by whom are made the characters of love simulation devices? Which schemes or templates are used for the interactions (dialogs, in-play options, plots…)? What are the gender roles assigned to men and women? What are the canonical in-game purchases strategies scaling up the affection of a character? 

2. The practice of love (Uses). Who are the consumers? What is the life course of these individuals? How do they engage into love simulation? What kind of games or characters do they prefer or dislike? How do they deal with the gender stereotypes and the cost of a game (when their beloved character ask for “presents”)? Is it possible to “fall in love” with a character?

3. The social recognition (Imagery and values). To what extent do the love simulation devices help users to create a community and to reaffirm a positive image of themselves? Do they use otome or bishōjo games as an alternative to the family constraining system? In which socio-cultural contexts do the games operate as discriminatory products?

4. Techno-animism (Ritualisations). Is it possible to say that some practices related to love simulation devices share many features with religious rituals?Which ones?Do the makers encourage the “worshipping” of characters? How? Is it a way for the users to legitimize their celibacy (or solitary lifestyle) as an act of resistance against a disenchanted, materialistic culture?

5. The cultural confrontations (Resistance). What economical-cultural fights or policies of interferences are perpetrated through the love simulation devices? To what extent do such devices enable a country to defend national territory (anti-migration policy) and to win foreign markets (soft power)? How do users adjust to products that do not fit their cultural standards concerning love and gender roles? 

Scientific Committee

  • Philippe Combessie, UniversityProfessor, sociologist,  Sophiapol director, University Paris Nanterre.
  • Laurent Di Filippo, Associate researcher, Centre de recherche sur les médiations (CREM), University of Lorraine.
  • Florence Galmiche, Senior lecturer, laboratory “Chine Corée Japon” (CCJ), University Paris Diderot.
  • Agnès Giard, Associate researcher, Sophiapol, anthropologist, University Paris Nanterre.
  • Emmanuel Grimaud, Researcher, CNRS, anthropologist, LESC, University Paris Nanterre.
  • Roberte Hamayon, Director Emeritus, EPHE.
  • Aline Henninger, Post-doctoral fellow, University Paris Diderot/Centre d’Études Japonaises (CEJ). 
  • Fanny Lignon, Senior lecturer, cinematography and audiovisual studies, THALIM, University Lyon 1.
  • Brigitte Munier, Researcher, TelecomParisTech.
  • Denis Vidal, Researcher, Institut français de recherche sur le développement (URMIS-Paris Diderot), associate teacher at EHESS and Musée of Quai Branly.

How To Participate

This call for proposals is open to Phd, Post-doctoral fellows or any researchers in anthropology, sociology, language studies, game studies, gender studies and cultural studies.

Proposals (one or two pages, mentioning your affiliations, address and email) must be sent to Agnès Giard : aniesu.giard@gmail.com  

before April 15, 2018.

On April 30, 2018 we will contact you by email to let you know if your application has been accepted.

Website : https://sophiapol.hypotheses.org

Places

  • Bâtiment B - 200 avenue de la République
    Nanterre, France (92)

Date(s)

  • Sunday, April 15, 2018

Keywords

  • techno-réalités, simulation, amour, affect, non-human, digital lover, simulation love games, otome games, bishojo games, holographic, VR, surrogate

Contact(s)

  • Agnès Giard
    courriel : aniesu [dot] giard [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Philippe Combessie
    courriel : ph [dot] combessie [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Techno-Realities and Affective Creatures: the Love Simulation Devices », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, https://calenda.org/433440

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