Japanese Timewarp, Sidetracked

This article detailing how japanese teens are using cell phones socially is only one of many that make me think Japan might be in some kind of timewarp that keeps them 2-10 years in the future.


Teens use mobile phones to bring in the presence of other friends who were not able to make it to the physical gathering, or of accessing information that is relevant to that particular time and place. The boundaries of a particular physical gathering, or flesh meet, are becoming extended through the use of mobile technologies, before, during, and after the actual encounter.

Flexible meeting times:

Now teens and twenty-somethings generally do not set a fixed time and place for a meeting. Rather, they initially agree on a general time and place (Shibuya, Saturday late afternoon), and exchange approximately 5 to 15 messages that progressively narrow in on a precise time and place, two or more points eventually converging in a coordinated dance through the urban jungle. As the meeting time nears, contact via messaging and voice becomes more concentrated, eventually culminating in face-to-face contact.

We are barely starting to get decent pricing on messaging, camera phones have been appearing only for a few months while during that time they have completely absorbed these functionnalities in their daily life. In terms of cell phones scandinavia and most of europe is also ahead of us but japanese are ahead in gadgets, laptops, digital cameras and many fashion trends.

(via the shifted librarian)

There is a lot of talk about the fact that the world is becoming one big Americanized monoculture but although the US might be the big screen on which we see that “culture”, making us think it comes from them they are actually only the biggest market for trends coming from all over the world, based on technologies, habits, tastes and actual cultures from everywhere.

Recent blockbusters for example are influenced by Hong-Kong movies and use canadian/new zealand and australian locations. They are branded with Holywood studios but are they American movies?

The Lord of The Rings for example. Tolkien was born in South Africa and lived in England. Peter Jackson is a Kiwi, filmed the movies in New Zealand and based his production and fx companies there. Half the cast is from commonwealth countries. Yet I’m sure when it finds success in european countries local film industries are disapointed that american movies are drawing more people then local ones.

Doesnt make the fact that distinctions between countries and their culture are getting thinner any more acceptable but it should be viewed as a global culture with many inputs, not as everyone bowing to US Imperialism. Yeah, I know, corporate America is getting the lion’s share of the money, little guys are being crushed, bled dry of their ideas, etc. I agree. I’m just saying the actual space we live in, regardless of who sold the actual stuff is being influenced and created by people from around the world.

Euhhh ok, got sidetracked here, I was just gonna make the point that japanese teens are living in the future. Oups.


Karl Dubost August 20, 2003

Et cela sert aussi pour le Enjokosai (prostitution par téléphone) des étudiantes.

Boris August 20, 2003

Seems that article is derived from Mizuko Ito‘s (Joi Ito‘s sister) excellent paper, “Mobile phones, japanese youth, and the re-placement of social contact“.

The behavior described is starting to be seen in other places as well, except that the rest of us, sadly, don’t have the social barriers to voice calls that the japanese have. I say sadly because by sticking with voice calls on cellphones, we continue to percieve the “mobile handy” as *just a phone*. The japanese keitai is no longer perceived as a phone: it is a ubiquitous communication device. VERY different.

Switching from voice calls (which are intrusive, time-jarring, attention sucking) to text based messaging does cause an enormous shift in interpersonal communications and culture as well.

p.s.: why do you disable trackbacks?!?!?! shame!

Patrick August 20, 2003

Ah ah! I wondered if there was a family link between the two :).

Social barrier: You mean they dont accept abnoxious loud talking people as we do so they have to use messaging?

Oups, trackbacks were installed not that long ago but forgot to have them on by default. Done.

blork August 20, 2003

I must chime in with the neo-luddite point-of-view, which I think you’ve come to expect from me by now.

I wonder if this blurring of the distinction between physical presence and “digital” presence doesn’t, in fact, degrade the significance of physical presence — and of personal, introspective time. Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s great that people who can’t be there can be virtually there via their communications device, but are we moving towards a paradigm in which people will stop wanting to be somewhere because there is no clear distinction between virtual and real?

“So what” you might ask, and I’m not prepared to answer that in a comment, but there are huge sociological implications, some good, some bad. I don’t know if we think about that enough.

Personally, I think about this because I really hate the kind of dependence that all this technology creates. We’re all wired together, and one day we may find we can’t function without the network, and at that point you really have to start worrying about “who owns the network.”

On a less Gibsonesque level, I simply worry that kids are not learning basic non-virtual social skills, and are closing the doors to other influences because they are so wrapped up in their virtual and digital environments.

Nothing is more important to most teenagers than their peer group, so what happens when — through digital technology — they are “present” with their peer group 24/7? How will they be subject to other influences? (Parents, school, reading, meeting different people, etc.) It’s like the “Lord of the Flies” on a VoIP network!

Boris August 20, 2003

Patrick: yes exactly.

Blork: remind me to smack you with a trout next time I see you.
a) it degrades in some ways, and enhances in others. it’s called evolution. read Mimi’s paper for exploration of this.

b) so what? yes, there are huge sociological (and other) implications, just as there were with the introduction of fire, the wheel, oral language, written language, printing press, radio, the television, the automobile, etc etc… And there ARE people thinking about it. Many in fact. Start with the McLuhanites

c) Are you not dependant on your pots and pans? and the hydro power that runs your freezer and oven? Who owns those resources? Or your CBC radio? What political forces influence that?

d) Kids ARE learning social skills, Period. Waaay better than the kids of my generation who grew up sitting in front of TV’s with zero interaction. On a persoanl level, my “real world” social skills have improved 500% over the last year when I started blogging and IRCing.

There IS NO distinction between “virtual” and “real”.
Everyhting just is.

As for “Lord of the Flies”.. let’s hope a true emergent democracy emerges from this. ;)

Someone pass me the purple Kool-Aid so I can take this red pill, please. ;)

blork August 21, 2003

Heh. Boris, I’ll take that trout slap with a bit of lemon.

You’re right, of course, that it is simply evolution. In retrospect, my little rant up there was mostly a knee-jerk reaction to a lot of bad behaviour I see among teenagers these days (but then, you should have seen me when I was a teenager!).

Patrick August 21, 2003

Thanks for the links Boris, some good reading coming up for me. I tend to have the same “s’all good” approach to technology evolution, some problems of course but overall I wouldnt go back on the changes of the last years.

Question: Did everyone miss the second part of my post because it was hidden behind a “more” link or was it just worthless drivel that didn’t cause any comments?

blork August 22, 2003

Patrick, I missed it. Personally, I find “more” links annoying. It’s less trouble to simply scroll than to hit a link which inevitably changes everything (e.g., you’re then confined to the one post, instead of the series, etc.) It’s one of those tools that’s a good idea in theory, but is annoying in practice.

IMCO (in my cranky opinion)

Patrick August 23, 2003

Yeah, I’m not a big fan of more links either but since I was going in a bit different direction than the initial subject and it made the post kind of long, I used it. Not something I do very often.

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