“… puisque le monde nous est donné de façon inintelligible, il faut le rendre encore plus inintelligible.”
Japan was one of the earliest countries to widely adopt phones that could access the internet. But a funny thing has happened there: sales of smartphones have taken a dive. Instead, Japanese consumers are flocking to older styles of cellphone — like the venerable flip-phone.
According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, sales of what have been dubbed “gara-kei,” a catchall term for the style of simple screen-keypad cellphone popular before the iPhone, are rising for the first time in seven years. About half of people with cellphone contracts in Japan use gara-kei, which means “Galapagos phone” — a nod to how they have evolved for a peculiarly Japanese market. The phones can have email and basic internet access, with many using the old-school flip design.
Sales of gara-kei increased 5.7 percent over 2014, with smartphone sales, by contrast, falling for a second straight year. The big question, of course, is why.
Forbes’ Jake Adelstein, a veteran Japan correspondent, thinks price is part of the story. But he also proposes two other possible explanations. First, Japan has a low birth rate and a large elderly population. Older people might be less likely to use fancy smartphone features as opposed to simple calling and texting, so as the country ages, smartphone use may decline.
According to Gartner, a leading market research firm, smartphones sales shot up worldwide in 2014. But in December 2014, the firm reported that western Europe was an exception: smartphone sales were down by 5.2 percent, and had declined for three straight quarters. That’s pretty consistent with Adelstein’s theory: if the decline in smartphone use is about aging populations and fatigue with smartphones’ most annoying features, then western Europe is the next logical place to look after Japan.
Two is better than one
While contract renewals may have made up the bulk of the increased demand for flip phones, there’s also a segment of Japanese consumers buying flip phones as a second mobile device.
Take 41-year-old professor Antonio Formacion, for example, who recently purchased a Sharp flip phone to supplement his Samsung Galaxy 5 device.
Having two phones – one for voice and the other for data – works out much cheaper, Formacion said.
“I’m now using two phones. One flip phone from Softbank that has a monthly bill of 2,000 yen which includes unlimited calls to any phone in Japan. And the second phone a Galaxy S5 for data only for 980 yen a month. Previously I was averaging around 9,000 yen a month on my iPhone 5,“ he said.
Formacion says having two phones makes him feel more secure: “I know that important calls will reach me even though my smart phone is already dead.”
For those of you who don’t remember, once upon a time Japan was the world leader in mobile phones. Long before the iPhone, Japanese cell phones had already been surfing the net for years. Japanese telecommunications giant NTT Docomo released a mobile Internet surfing service called i-mode in 1999 that were accessed by cell phones that were way advanced beyond their time. While Japanese people were playing games, surfing the web, and even watching television on sleek flip phones, their counterparts in the United States were still making calls and punching out texts on tiny screens.
The old style Japanese phones are now referred to as ガラケイ(garakei)—a compound word from Galapagos and 携帯電話 (keitai denwa) aka mobile phone. They were dubbed Galapagos phones because of how comparable they were to life on the isolated Galapagos Islands. Like garakei in Japan, the animals and the flora on the Galapagos were unique to the island and couldn’t be found anywhere else.
// At the times I used to be envious of Japanese phones and networks (and never understood why it never arrived to Europe), that permitted them to browse a strange curious phone enabled ‘net and send/receive emails. There was this whole strange cellphone culture there. (with its novels for reading on cellphones, etc.)
Not too long ago i even tried to find a cool model of flip-phone to use here…
I would still be up for a cool flip-phone design with which i could browse the net even basically, read twitter, maybe listen to my music (although there are now cheap MP3 walkmans that can take 32 or 64gb of music on a microSD card and read every format. I bought one recently for 25€ and changed the firmware). And as for the photos, well, i don’t mind the super lower res photos sometimes, i even like the super low res photos in some way, and if i really want to take photos i have a hundred cameras at disposal.
“Tout autour, les façades en verre fumé sont comme les visages : des surfaces dépolies. C’est comme s’il n’y avait personne à l’intérieur, comme s’il n’y avait personne derrière les visages. Et il n’y a réellement personne. Ainsi va la ville idéale.”
“L’argent est fluide, c’est comme la grâce, il n’est jamais votre. Venir le réclamer est une offense à la divinité. Avez-vous mérité cette faveur ? Qui êtes-vous, et qu’allez-vous en faire ? Vous êtes suspect de vouloir en faire usage, un usage infect forcément, alors que l’argent est si beau dans son état fluide et intemporel, tel qu’il est dans la banque, investi au lieu d’être dépensé. Honte à vous, et baisez la main qui vous le donne.
C’est vrai que la propriété de l’argent brûle, comme le pouvoir, et qu’il faut des gens pour en prendre le risque, ce dont nous devrions leur être éternellement reconnaissants. C’est pourquoi j’hésite à déposer de l’argent dans une banque, j’ai peur de ne jamais oser le reprendre.”
“Pourtant il y a une puissance poétique dans cette tautologie implacable, comme partout où il n’y a rien à comprendre.”
“Les déserts naturels m’affranchissent sur les déserts du signe. Ils m’apprennent à lire en même temps la surface et le mouvement, la géologie et l’immobilité. Ils créent une vision expurgée de tout le reste, les villes, les relations, les événements, les médias. Ils induisent une vision exaltante de la désertification des signes et des hommes. Ils constituent la frontière mentale où viennent échouer les entreprises de la civilisation. Ils sont hors de la sphère et de la circonférence des désirs. Il faut toujours en appeler aux déserts du trop de signification, du trop d’intention et de prétention de la culture. Ils sont notre opérateur mythique.”
“Ce qui saute aux yeux à Paris, c’est le XIX° siècle. Venu de Los Angeles, on atterrit dans le XIX° siècle. Chaque pays porte une prédestination historique, qui en marque presque définitivement les traits. Pour nous, c’est le modèle bourgeois de 89 et la décadence interminable de ce modèle qui dessine le profil de notre paysage.”
(Three years later I finished the little book…)
I finally have been using OSX 10.10 for a while on my main computer, i solved my eyes/eyesight problem (because of the too-light interface and its lack of contrast) i had with a tiny app that let’s me better control the luminosity of my external screen. I end up switching to 10.10 because of a security vulnerability in 10.9 that Apple won’t fix (Thanks Apple). I’m still not sure of my decision.
I still don’t really like much some parts of the interface of 10.10 but it’s not the worse… (There are also things i like in 10.10…)
Although i noticed recently that the boot times are now longer… Not great, but okay…
And, it’s seems like I, too, now have inherited those famous WIFI problems (that should be resolved if we were to trust Apple), as the WIFI on my MBP has been almost unusable since one or two days, for times, it’s like i’m browsing the web of 2015 with a 56k modem of 1995, or around. The wifi seems to work properly on Linux and Windows…
I’m not really happy about this…
This plus the fact that the newer Macs are even less upgradable (RAM & HDD/SDD), that there are a lot of decisions about OSX that I don’t like (i’ll see if Apple fix things with the next OS X, although i fear they won’t have time to debug half of 10.10 before they release 10.11), the politics of Apple pushing devs to always use the latest OSX/XCode/SDKs etc without caring at all for backward-compatibility, which forces users to always update, not always for the best, and in the end forces users to buy new hardware…
I think my next computer won’t be another Mac/Macbook.
I added two or three lines of code to that previous Fractal01 (Unity3D experiment/learning thing) and here’s that micro… thing, Fractal02b/more cubes.
A previous basic SketchUp test became not much more else, but I put the result, Scene01, here and there. It’s not a game, like i said, there is only a minimum of interactivity. Also the texts are in French.
Voilà un point de départ. Maintenant pourquoi cette coupe dans le temps, ce raccord de souvenirs ? Justement, lui ne peut pas le comprendre. Il ne vient pas d’une autre planète, il vient de notre futur. 4001, l’époque où le cerveau humain est parvenu au stade du plein emploi. Tout fonctionne à la perfection, de ce que nous autres laissons dormir, y compris la mémoire. Conséquence logique : une mémoire totale est une mémoire anesthésiée. Après beaucoup d’histoires d’hommes qui avaient perdu la mémoire, voici celle d’un homme qui a perdu l’oubli… – et qui, par une bizarrerie de sa nature, au lieu d’en tirer orgueil et de mépriser cette humanité du passé et ses ténèbres, s’est pris pour elle d’abord de curiosité, ensuite de compassion. Dans le monde d’où il vient, appeler un souvenir, s’émouvoir devant un portrait, trembler à l’écoute d’une musique ne peuvent être que les signes d’une longue et douloureuse préhistoire. Lui veut comprendre. Ces infirmités du Temps, il les ressent comme une injustice, et à cette injustice il réagit comme le Che, comme les jeunes des Sixties, par l’indignation. C’est un tiers-mondiste du Temps, l’idée que le malheur ait existé dans le passé de sa planète lui est aussi insupportable qu’à eux l’existence la misère dans leur présent.
Naturellement il échouera. Le malheur qu’il découvre lui est aussi inaccessible qu’est inimaginable la misère d’un pays pauvre pour les enfants d’un pays riche. II a choisi de renoncer à ses privilèges, il ne peut rien contre le privilège de l’avoir choisi. Son seul viatique est cela même qui l’a lancé dans cette quête absurde : un cycle de mélodies de Moussorgski. On les chante toujours au quarantième siècle. Le sens s’en est perdu, mais c’est là que pour la première fois il a perçu la présence de cette chose qu’il ne comprenait pas, qui avait à voir avec le malheur et la mémoire, qu’il lui fallait à tout prix essayer de comprendre et vers laquelle, avec une lourdeur de scaphandrier, il s’est mis en marche.
As Carl Gustav Horn has pointed out, in sharp contrast to The Matrix, which offers the “Gnostic revelation of a life revealed to be a dream, to be escaped into reality,” for Oshii “there is no difference between dreams and reality, and escape is a concept without referent; a wish that is a waste of time, for… there is no outside.” Indeed, Oshii has gone out of his way to distinguish Avalon from Hollywood films about virtual reality, such as The Matrix, which always reinstate the metaphysics of reality in the end: “Hollywood films about reality always end with a return to the real world. However, because those real worlds exist inside film, they themselves are lies. Reality is a questionable thing. I didn’t want to do a movie where the characters returned to reality. The reality we experience is an illusion inside the heart of each individual…. For me personally, Ash’s imaginary world is not really any different from what i conceive as my real world. I don’t make any clear distinction.“
— Tokyo Cyberpunk, Consensual hallucinations and the phantoms of electronic presence, “Welcome to Class Real”
When Kawashima returns to the computer lab to consult Harue further, she shows him a computer-generated model of social interaction. Harue advices Kawashima not to stare it too long, explaining that if two dots get too close to one another, they die, but if they get too far apart, they are drawn closer. Back at Kawashima’s apartment, Harue sugests that, like the computer simulation, humans may try to connect, but they do not really connect, living separately: “Each of us is living in a disconnected manner [Hitori hitori barabara ni ikiteiru].”
Later, in her apartement, Harue continues this line of conversation, offering strong social commentary on the disintegration of the Japanese familly structure, by telling Kawashima that she feels “no connection [kankei nai]” since she is always alone. The fact that we barely see any traces of familly in the entire film (the only exception being a brief scene involving Michi’s mother who scolds her for making no attempt to contact her father, despite living in the same city) underscores the lack of connection felt by the characters. In this scene, framing and composition are used to good effect to underscore the gulf that seperates Harue from Kawashima. As is the case in many of his films, Kurosawa uses doorframes and window frames to differentiate the spaces inhabited by his characters and to emphasize “the isolation of his characters, their distance from one another.” Harue continues her reflections on the death of the social by telling Kawashima that she fears one might be all alone in death, just as one is essentially alone in life. The possibility that nothing changes in death, that one is always alone, wether in life or death, Harue finds the most terrifying ideal of all. Harue Wonders if the eternal now of loneliness—this incessant isolation and sollipsism in life and death—is what it means to be a ghost. […] Harue points to all the solitary Internet users appearing like digital monads via Webcam on the array of computers monitors situated around her apartement and asks how they are different from ghosts: “Are they really alive?” she asks. She concludes that people and ghosts are the same, whether dead or alive. In her view, the plethora of aimless, isolated Internet users demonstrates that ghosts are not just a metaphor for the dead, they are also a metaphor for the loss of human connection, for the desperate attempt to make contact but the eternal impossibility of fully doing so. When Harue looks at the ghostlike, solitary individuals who appear like empty shells via Webcam on the “Would you like to see meet a ghost?“ Web site, it is clear that she also sees herself reflected on the screen.
In interviews, the director has suggested that, in addition to their lack of connection, ghosts are also distinguished by their lack of emotion: “i’ve never seen a ghost [yurei] first-hand, but i don’t believe that ghosts are full of hatred or resentement or anger. They’re commonly portrayed to be filled with emotion, but i think that ghosts are beings that lack human emotion and personality. They’re human-like, but all the emotional elements of a normal person are missing. They’re empty shells. That’s what scares me when it comes to ghosts.” In this way, Kurosawa offers of conception of “yurei” (ghosts, specters, apparitions, or phantoms) that is worlds away from the representation of ghosts as “evil spirits” purveyed in Hollywood.
Harue does not believe that ghosts are setting out to kill people because they would simply create more ghosts. Instead she suggests that ghosts may be trying to make peple immortal “by quietly trapping them in their own loneliness.” The fact that Harue later commits suicide in the film right before Kawashima’s eyes underscores the nihilistic feelings of isolation and lack of connectin that she expresses in this scene.
The electronic circuit (kairo) is not only a metaphor in the film for the technological means by which ghosts pass into the world of the living but also an allegory for our loss of connection with one another in an increasingly technological world. However, rather than simply offering a retread of Nakata Hideo’s Ringu (1998), Kurosawa raises techno-horror to another level by underscoring its sociological subtexts, situating the narrative of Kairo in terms of a social disorder known as hikikomori (literally, a combination of “pull away” and “seclude onself”) that is plaguing contemporary Japanese society.
Those affecter by the disorder often cut off communication not only with the outside world but also with familly members, even going so far as to eat meals alone in their darkened rooms. When Harue tells Kawashima that she feels no connection to her familly and that she is “living in a disconnected manner [barabara ni iketeiru],” broken apart from others, she uses the language and expressions of a hikikomori.
And Japanese novelist Murakami Ryu, who has written a novel and numerous essays about the problem of hikikomori, agrees:
So maybe Japan’s socially withdrawn kids are a harbinger of a new way of life, one forged by the vast changes in the country has undergone in recent years. Japanese society is caught in a paradox: it is concerned with the increase of socially withdrawn kids, while at thte same time it applauds the gizmos like the new Sony PlayStation, which comes equipped with an internet terminal and a DVD player. Technology like that has made it possible to produce animated movies and graphics, as well as conduct commercial transactions, without ever stepping outside the house. It inevitably fixes people in their individual space. In this information society, none of us can be free from being somewhat socially withdrawn…. “Socially withdrawn” people find it extremely painful to communicate with the outside world, and thus they turn to the tools that bring virtual reality in their closed rooms.
Although it is too simplistic to suggest that technology alone is to blame for the current plight of the hikikomori, there is no question that the “the TV’s and computers and videogames that hikimori rely on to fill out the tedious hours” are serious enablers of their self-imposed seclusion.
Hikikomori experts have speculated that modern Japanese society has sown the seeds of its own social disorders in many ways, due to a compounding of multiple factors. First, Japanese working conditions have effectively cut off a father from inteacting with his child, thereby creating the conditions for codependency with the mother (know as amae). Second, Japanese society puts extreme pressure on young people to succeed academically and perpetuate the status quoi. Third, the recession that has plagued the Japanese economy since the 1990s has undercut the expectations of lifetime employment most commonly associated with postindustrial ideals of Japan’s status quoi. Whatever its causes, the silent epidemic of social withdrawal is wreaking havoc on the social fabric of Japanese society and creating a “lost generation” of shut-ins that will place enormous stress on Japan’s health and welfare systems in the years ahead.
— Tokyo Cyberpunk, Consensual Hallucinations and the Phantoms of Electronic Presence in Kairo and Avalon, Letting In Ghosts, Shutting Out The Sun