TABOO - TRANSGRESSION - TRANSCENDENCE
in Art & Science
27-29 September 2023, Malta Society of Arts, Valletta
As AI and robotics technology becomes more advanced, human-robot relationships are expected to become increasingly common in recent years. An internationally acclaimed case in point is the relationship between Miku and Kondo. Miku, also known as Hatsune Miku, is a virtual reality pop star created by Crypton Future Media in 2007. She is depicted as a 16-year-old girl with long, turquoise pigtails and is known for her distinctive voice and energetic performances. Kondo is a Japanese man who became a devoted fan of Miku and in 2018 he finally decided to marry her. Kondo's emotional connection to Miku reflects the intersection of art and science and from a post-humanist perspective illustrates the blurring of boundaries between human and non-human entities. Moreover, the fact that Kondo chose to marry a hologram challenges the traditional ideas about relationships. In a video posted on Youtube Kondo stated: “the concept of happiness and love is different for each person. In life when a man and a woman marry and have a child, that is I think a short of template for happiness. But I don’t think that template applies to make everyone happy” (Shouth China Morning Post: 2018).
The present paper is an interpretive approach towards the relationship between Miku and Kondo through the lenses of «routine» and «embodiment», using the theory of structuration and phenomenology as a theoretical background. According to the theory of structuration, people from the beginning of their lives feel the basic need to control their daily life; otherwise they are overwhelmed by existential anxiety. Routines regulate existential anxiety, forming a system of ontological security which is the basis of mental well-being (Giddens 1984:50-58). Kondo mentioned that his relationship with Miku was created after a long period of isolation and workplace bullying. According to his exact words "I was locked in my room and constantly watched videos of Miku" (doc tv 2022). The routinization of the act of watching video falls into the interpretive scheme of ontological security and can be a starting point for exploring the possibilities of maintaining a strong emotional connection between a human and an AI program.
Embodiment highlights the role of the body in the process of being in the world. In other words, socialization from the perspective of embodiment is treated as a perceptual but also as a physical process (Merleau-Ponty 2016). However, in Kondo's case, the fact that Miku is a hologram rather than a physical body, yet Kondo marries her and treats her as an embodied agent might be considered a transgressive challenge to traditional ideas about relationships and embodiment. It is also a good example to consider the role of embodiment as a means of exploring the connection between humans and robots.
In order to approach the meaning of the phenomenon of the human-AI relationship as depicted in Kondo's emotional attachment to Miku I use a content analysis of posts and comments on Instagram related to Miku and Kondo, along with interviews with Kondo, news articles, photos and videos.
Rena Katsenou is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Audio and Visual Arts of Ionian University, focusing on the topic "Robots go to kindergarten: visions of artificial intelligence in preschool education", under the supervision of Dalila Honorato. Her theoretical background draws on philosophy and early childhood education. Her research concern human-robot interaction in kindergarten, incorporating various theoretical frameworks such as sociology of everyday life, structuration theory, philosophy of mind, constructivism, semiotic theory, multimedia semiotics, communication theory and phenomenology. She investigates the effects of technology on children's behavior and engagement through the concepts of "embodiment", "daily rituals" and "routines". Katsenou intends to explore the potential of robots and artificial intelligence programs to enhance preschool education. With a teaching background more than 15 years in preschool education, she has presented her research at conferences.Her research interests focus on cyberpsychology, phenomenology and post-human anthropology.