Why Ikigai?

Much of the material we have covered in our projects intersect in unexpected ways.  But one main reason for this has to do with a major false underlying assumption relating to the digital-the passive and active players.  The majority of the material dealing with digital impacts are based on naïve assumptions that the developer/owner as the active agent, while the user is the vulnerable, clueless and passive agent.  This logic can be seen in ongoing discussion with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook where only CA and Zuckerberg are active agents, and the abused users are passive.  Yet if you look at the follow-on, a fascinating subtext emerged when the huge majority of the users went ‘whatevers’ and just went back to checking their likes and posts.  As Miller and his group have noted: look at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/why-we-post.  The digital is defined by the users—a phenomenon we have seen dramatically in Second Life’s history.

But if the user is actually the key player then one key question has to be: Why are they so heavily engaged in the digital given all the problematic impacts of that engagement (emotional, social, psychological, physical)?

This is the driver for the Ikigai analysis—looking at existing motivators and potential motivators (or change agents).  Who we see ourselves as and how we see that relationship with everything around us, is central to understanding how and why we make the decisions we do.  Why we get drawn into a catfishing episode, why we take on a digital avatar in a virtual world, why we use an app to modify our ‘casual’ appearance before we post…

But it also helps us to understand why it is so difficult to modify our behavior, and maybe with digital, learn how to disengage (at least temporarily).

Ikigai and Otaku: Self-Identity and Self-Motivation Research Path 2

About 20 years ago I began looking at change in Japanese society.  In the post-80’s in Japan there was a huge amount of discussion about the ‘collapse of Japanese values’, lack of work ethic in the young, widespread cynicism about the Japanese work ethic.  All of this was quite interesting given the hyper-coherent structure of Japanese society, where there is tremendous uniformity of attitudes and values.  So in contemporary Japanese society change is a very interesting topic to be looking at.

A term which frequently arose was that of ikigai, an internalized sense of self, reason for being or one’s reason for functioning every day—“what makes life worth living?”  Within the change discussion was both that younger generations had ‘lost’ their ikigai, but there was also the counter, that the younger generation actually had a stronger grasp of ikigai, but in forms that were foreign to their elders.

Mathew’s very good work (1996) on ikigai was key to making sense of this concept.  Frequently spun into this discussion was the role of otaku as examples of the changes.  Galbraith has done a number of works on this topic, Otaku Spaces (2012) being a good example.  Otaku is a term which is usually defined as someone who’s identity is based on a specific interest or hobby.  But a more sophisticated distinction is that otaku are individuals who are mainly engaged in the 2-dimensional (visual or digital) reality in contrast to the 3-dimensional (i.e., ‘normal’) reality.

When you combine the concept of self-identity along with this very flexible perception of 2-D/3-D reality, and all this discussion was taking place in the early 2000’s, it became clear that what was seen as a culture-specific (Japanese) phenomena actually had value for understanding behavior in much of the digital world.

This continuum of reality can be best illustrated in the Hatsune Miku phenomenon we saw at the beginning of the semester.  One of the top pop stars in Japan is a digital hologram stage entertainer, singing songs with a synthesized voice, built in large part by software; but in a real concert, on a real stage with a real live backup band, all in front of thousands of real fans [https://youtu.be/KNrdGx69pCo?t=3].  A perfect illustration of the complexity of defining reality in 2020–a continuum.

The second path is looking at how we place ourselves in our world view (part of ikigai) and how we engage with the various forms of digital reality.  For many today, it could be said that that they are otaku with social media; that our world revolves around the 2-D digital constructs that engage and motivate us.  This can be at the cost of fully engaging in the 3-D world.  This helps to explain the results of our study (the extremely high rates of depression in current 18-25 year olds) and also the responses that we get in our perceptual studies (which show high levels of concern about the controlling nature of social media).

A possible process by which to engage users to re-structure their relationship with both the 2-D and 3-D is to train people to more clearly define their sense of self (ikigai) in the context of a digital reality.  Sensitizing people to their relationship and dependency on digital reality, but at the same time helping them to structure a more balanced and robust sense of “what makes life worth living” is the goal of our second path of research.

This is the basis of much of the Learning Modules material that we had this semester; attempts we are making to sensitize and modify behaviors in students.  But notice how it also goes back to some of the discussion about residents in Second Life—their level of emotional and investment with a 2-D virtual world.  There appear to be a number of parallels with how we engage with the digital regardless of the platform or content.

Miller’s Why We Post project

First thoughts-a great website, fantastic project.  But I think a real key point he makes is that users define how social media is used, not the developers.  This is an eerie echo of Second Life, which upon starting up (2003) had exactly the same thing happen–the users quickly defined what the platform would become, which was very different from what the developers had intended.  Again it appears that in many ways SL was a precursor to the social media phenom, at least from behavioral POV.

Great data from Miller’s group, and I think we can reference their key findings as social impacts for our project.

Emotional Support Bot Design 1

From my sister’s data, it’s becoming clear that the Hasbro Cat is very effective at eliciting an emotional response from people.  A key point of interest is why is it effective–our quick and dirty beta test here is that the Dog is not near as effective, in fact is negatively(?) effective.  The Cat in the office gets fairly constant interaction even when not turned on–the Dog has by request been turned off most of the time, as it is very irritating in a social environment.

D. thinks that a key ‘trick’ is the demanding of attention–a 2018 version of tamagotchi, and that the effort leads to valuation.  Oddly, the Dog is more demanding, but with voice rather than movement/purring.  This doesn’t work.  Bob thinks (and I suspect he’s right) that the 2 units were developed by different teams w/in Hasbro, especially since the Cat posture/movement were not copied in the Dog, which is missing most movement.  So it appears that the emotional link is based on perceived need–“IT” needs you, but there is a fine line between bonding and irritation.

We have also just realized our ‘ikigai‘ model has suddenly become a hot topic in self-help/self-improvement groups, witness all the new books coming out with ‘ikigai’ at key, new blogposts on the topic, etc.  Having said that, as far as we can tell, all miss a major component of Mathews 1996 work, which was that most Japanese don’t even know what their ikigai is, nor is there any real general agreement on how one gets there.  His work is very clear that ikigai is not self-improvement, “making yourself all that you can be” or such–it is an internal need to have a central, persistent purpose to existence.  This within the Asian context of good/bad being in balance, and without the idea of self-improvement, but rather within the idea of following a path (unique to each individual).

Second Life as a Research Project

My Second Life research looks at the role of digital built environment.

As we have seen, Second Life is like a whiteboard—what is in SL is reflective of a particular point in time and a particular set of participants who are paying for the right to put up aspects of their imagination or fantasy into a digital world.  However, just as with changing classrooms, where the whiteboard gets wiped clean, to have new material placed on it, so does the SL landscape get erased as users leave and new users show up.  This makes the SL landscape uniquely different from our real-world landscape, which is constantly embedded in the past—think of going down Harding or Waialae—new buildings, old walls, sidewalks, roads, plants—all sorts of different periods, all mixed in, the past and the present intertwined.  Also, you are constrained by money, zoning and rules of the group in terms of what you can do in Honolulu—almost all of which is absent in SL.


Theoretically you could walk down the same road in SL once a month and never see the same built environment—but every time you went on that road you know that you are looking at a specific persons’ image of what they want to have and/or be in a unconstrained virtual setting.  This is especially true when you remember the SL is structured for anonymity (unlike Facebook), so it should reflect more of what YOU want rather than group or social demands on you.


From a cultural geographer’s standpoint, since we are mainly interested in the ways in which people view, function and modify our environment, SL gives us insights into place and space that we can’t get elsewhere.  From the standpoint of an archaeologist, who are frequently looking at the built environment as manifestations of social values and symbols, the freedom of the digital allows us to see SL as a unique experiment into choice, message and values.


As we’ve seen, the paradox, which famously mystified the staff at Linden Labs when they first opened up Second Life to users, was that the exotic expressions of ‘free individual fantasy fulfillment’ was frequently a small ranch style home that would look totally at home in anywhere USA (such as Boring, Oregon)[Au’s Making of Second Life covers this in detail].  But from my background in archaeology and cultural geography this is a great area of study, especially as with the whiteboard, the audience is constantly changing.  But in a rather surreal way, while the users/residents change, the built environment seems to remain pretty constant.  This is especially striking given the demographic shifts in the SL audience, with roughly 30-40% from North America, changing percentages from Europe and Asia, a recent major growth in percentage from Brazil, but the built environment remains strikingly boring.


A second note is that if the majority of residents are from outside the U.S., why is the built environment so American looking?  Strip malls, bungalow/ranch style homes, furniture…  Very little of SL’s built environment reflects in any way the diversity of the global group of residents.  You wonder what proportion of the population of “Pleasantville” is actually American?  Is this reflective of globalization, of Hollywood/mass media?  But if that’s true, where is Asian media?


Studies have shown that the vast majority of built pieces (including clothes, avatars, etc.) in SL are purchased, many in Marketplace.  But when you look at the diversity of offerings in Marketplace, again the choices that an apparently diverse population make are puzzling.  Where is the diversity?  Where is the extreme individual expression given the anonymity of Second Life?  The only place you see this is in the avatars themselves, though a number of studies have noted that the longer residents stay in SL, the more they modify their avatars to reflect their real world selves.


Collecting visual data in SL is extremely easy, you simply set a screen grab up and go traveling in SL.  Analyzing the data is a much more complex process for a number of reasons.  As with almost all of our material this semester, digital virtual worlds are so recent that there are no clearly defined set of techniques or processes by which to analyze the context of SL.  Since you change a house in a second, leave SL in a second, purchase land in about 10 seconds, old forms of data collection and analysis are not usually a clean fit.  How important is house size, placement or color in a virtual world?  If it’s floating in the air vs being on the ground?


A big one in my travels, that I still don’t have a satisfactory answer for, though I’m sure it’s significant in some way is: Given the lack of zoning, is there any significance to clusters of structures vs. ones by themselves?  Is the clustering a reflection of group, shared values and attitudes, the surrounding environment or simply random?  If a mix, how (as an observer) can you tell?


Central to all this is the premise that if people are spending time (and money) putting something up, even virtual, then what are they trying to communicate to others?  And how does that differ in the digital, if at all?


No answers, just more questions.


It is also becoming clear that in many ways Second Life in many ways was a precursor to our current engagement with social media.  The desire to be in groups by choice, to identify with a like-minded group that shares similar goals or values (again think Pleasantville or furries), all this predates social media by at least 5 years.  What was seen as an isolate or exotic has turned out to be in many ways the norm.


What does it mean for the future?  There is a bunch of money being pushed into virtual worlds, most famously Facebook, and as technology quickly moves away from phones to augmented reality systems, I think it is likely that even more aspects of Second Life will have turned out to suggest the world we will exist in by 2025.  This has implications for all of us in terms of life choices, careers and future plans that in many ways make going back and wandering around Second Life while pondering the near future for a couple of days a worthwhile exercise.


A number of behavioral characteristics are persistent in Second Life [SL] and appear to be indicative of greater realm of digital social media.  Second Life came to popularity in the 2006-2008 period, 4-6 years prior to the massive growth in digital social media and the following Second Life characteristics appear to be as central in the worlds of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat as in Second Life:

  1. The accelerated process of friending-discard; both in speed and emotional impact. A constant refrain in SL is that social relationships are both more intense and also very short, essentially amplified and on fast-forward.  Residents frequently comment on going through complete relationship cycles within a year, when the same sequence would take years in RL [real life].
  2. Lack of diversity-siloing. Pleasantville on one hand is somewhat unique, but the clustering into like-minded communities is symptomatic of SL.  The majority of residents never go into the ‘public areas’ but stay in private communities, ranging from vampires-furries-Gorean-medieval…
  3. Socialization is unstructured but very fast. SL is relatively uncomplicated in terms of social norms, but they are acquired within a very short period of time and entirely w/o intentional socialization training.  This can be seen in the constantly ‘revolving door’ of people entering and leaving SL.
  4. Territory and personal ownership (both of land and objects) are very important to Residents in SL, as can be seen both in studies in SL and also in the activity in the SL Marketplace [https://marketplace.secondlife.com/]. Given that both the land and objects only exist in a digital format amplifies the value that people can place on digital-only ownership.
  5. Many, if not most residents in virtual worlds seem to have very little difficulty integrating the digital into their normal frames of reference/world views. This can be seen with the dislike for flying in SL and the proxemic social norms found in virtual worlds.
  6. People are willing to invest major amounts of time and capital in virtual worlds both to self-define and also to be part of a group/community. A large structure (such as a shopping area) will generally cost 40-75$ US per month on the mainland; remember that you then have to either design/build your own structures or purchase them (in Marketplace).  Private areas are at least $295/month minimum.  While the App is free—(gain a model taken up most successful social media Apps) the costs to engage rise rapidly, especially when you include the time spent in-world.

Similar to tourism, virtual world users are not looking to live in truly exotic or different.  They want a digital realm that allows them freedom, has less constraints but looks and functions like RL [real life].

‘Ai Noa: An Interpretation of the Overthrow of the Kapu, 1819-1821

[Written for the Peoples of Hawai’i section 1/18]

1819-1821 ‘Ai Noa The Overthrow of the Kapu

rb 2018


Kamehameha becomes Ari’i ai Moi for Kohala-Kona in 1782 [Note this is 4 years after Cook’s arrival/death at Kealakekua at the hands of Kamehameha’s dad] on the death [which he instigated] of his cousin Keoua, who through his link with Kewala’o was technically Kamehameha’s superior at the command of their father Kalaniopu’u [as you remember from the podcasts was responsible for a lot of destruction on various islands in various conflicts].  Think ‘Game of Thrones’ politiking here.  So he comes to dominance by ignoring the mandate of his father to support his cousin(s), and instead kills him.  Within a few years he moves to consolidate control of the Big Island; by 1795 he has wiped out the opposition on all the other islands except for Kaua’i-Ni’ihau, so has unified the islands under his personal control.

Note that his original authority was through his father Kalaniopu’u but also in large part due to his position/training as the top kahuna [priest] for the Ku order in Kohala-Kona.  So Kamehameha’s knowledge of religion, ritual, manipulation of mana and related issues were central to his ability to control the islands.  He had developed a close relationship with Lieut./Captain Vancouver as I mentioned in the podcast—this gave him invaluable access to alternative ways of structuring a state based on geneology [a monarchy] versus a personal dictatorship which would only survive as long as he ran it.

By 1815 he’s starting to become more private, and shifts much of the management of the State to one of his wives, Ka’ahumanu.  She is a fascinating figure which has never been given the credit (or blame) that she deserves, and is a great example of the powerful political role that female ari’i played in the Hawaiian political system.  She is the descendant of both Maui and Big Island high chiefs, and a number of her relatives died in the various conflicts between Maui and the Big Island.  She becomes one of Kamehameha’s wives and later his consort.

1817-1819 Kamehameha starts to weaken, and formalizes both that Liholiho is the Crown Prince (and will take over his position of ruler) and that Ka’ahumanu will be the senior advisor to Liholiho [Kuhina Nui].  As I mentioned in the podcasts Kamehameha’s control of the islands was not solid, and any sign of weakness would have meant the collapse of the Kamehameha state.  Unfortunately for the family Liholiho was not the person for the job.  He is a hard character to get a fix on—he was in the shadow of his father, who was a hugely dominant character physically and in presence—his mother and ‘aunty’ [Keopuolani and Kaahumanu] were also powerful characters.  So he sort of disappears, but he seems to have made some very significant decisions (or was at least party to them).

1819 Kamehameha, the Ari’i Nui, is dead.  Many of the factions that lost power under his rule want a re-match.  Conservative factions are distressed at the scale of changes here, most of which were instigated or supported by Kamehameha.  So the sharks are circling.  Ka’ahumanu was both politically astute and also willing to gamble.

But she has a problem-if you start taking out your enemies, it will turn into a civil war and you will likely lose.  Passive—you lose.  And you don’t have the time to take them on one-on-one.

She comes up with an elegant solution.  She decides that the key are the kahuna as they are not only the central part of the bureaucracy, but they have allegiances to specific ari’i.  Of course the irony is that her husband had gotten to power through the kahuna—but that also provided a guide for some other kahuna to take the same route.  They are the basis of the State, but they also control the State through their generation and manipulation of mana.

The two women [Ka’ahumanu and Keopuolani] convince Liholiho to break two of the most rigid kapu—eating with women; and highest-rank ari’i eating with anyone else.  They make sure that the kahuna hear about the lunch before it takes place—as predicted a number of dire prophecies are generated by the kahuna.

They go ahead with the lunch, and nothing happens—no end of the world, not even indigestion.  Note the elegance—she’s gotten the kahuna to commit to a set of predictions based on both their knowledge and control of the system—all of which proved false.  Liholiho then sends out the proclamation that ‘the kahuna are false, that their kapu are false, and should be ignored.’  She has gotten the kahuna to test the validity of religion [always a bad idea] and they have effectively committed suicide.

As Ka’ahumanu had planned, the power of the kahuna collapse.  This also cuts off the power to most of the factions that want to take Liholiho from power.  But……

The ari’i had become so distanced from the majority population, the maka’ainana, that Ka’ahumanu didn’t realize how the maka’ainana would react to this scenario.  Rather than mild political issues, the islands degenerate in to a wild scene of maka’ainana hunting down kahuna, in many cases regardless of their role or function and killing them on the spot.  Many, if not most of the heiau are heavily vandalized if not completely destroyed.  From Ka’ahumanu’s standpoint she had missed a key point (or didn’t realize how central it was)—the power of Liholiho was based on the kahuna and mana.  With the collapse of that belief, the ability to the ari’i to justify their superior and control was gone—why should the maka’ainana listen to Liholiho or obey his rules if he didn’t have any mandate for authority?

Panic ensues.  Most of chiefs, including the Kamehameha’s, go into hiding, waiting for the dust to settle [the maka’ainana to calm down].  After around 9 months, the results are in—most of the religious orders are gone, the few remaining kahuna are in hiding.  This would include ALL the trained specialists—education, medical care, ritual information, stories—a large part of Hawaiian societies world was held in the minds of the kahuna, and now large parts are lost.

NOTE that this has nothing to do with the missionaries—they’re not here yet.  It’s not Cook’s fault—he’s been dead for over 30 years.  This was done by a small group of Hawaiian leaders trying to hold on and consolidate control.

Now Ka’ahumanu has a new problem-how do you legitimize the Monarchy when you’ve just removed that logic?  And all the sudden the missionaries drag in from New England and provide her with a perfect opportunity.  She immediately accepts them, puts them under protection (and control) and moves to link them to the Kamehameha’s.  Several members of the family [such as Keopuolani] become highly visible sponsors of the NEMS [New England Missionary Society], both as a religious base to the Monarchy and also as a counter-balance to the whaling and trading industries (also from New England and UK).

Often forgotten is that a few years later Ka’ahumanu tours most of the islands as a missionary to make sure everyone is converting over to the ‘legitimate’ new religion.  But while she was alive as kuhina nui she always made sure the missionaries were aware that they remained in Hawaii only on her good will.  She was driving; they were just passengers.

Commentary for Digital Realities Course Introductory Powerpoints

PowerPoint Module 1: INTRODUCTION

I would suggest that for all the PowerPoints you put two panels up: one with the PowerPoint, the other with the module commentary—that way you can use it as a narrative.  I will be providing some verbal commentary, but key will be the text.

Look through the first 4 slides—the “What We Know” set.  Look carefully at the numbers—flash back to ancient history [year 1998]–remembering that none of this existed when you were in Kindergarten [and for those of you slightly older while you were in Elementary School].  What we take as normal has existed for a stunningly SHORT period of time.

This has huge implications as we’ll see during the semester.  The main one has to be that we [collectively and individually] have had no time to process these changes into our social world and fit them into our existence.

In the past technological changes were usually been single points, like the telephone 100 years ago—so the process is a lot less disruptive.  But the myriad of changes we are currently bombarded with, without any breaks or time-outs, has led to massive social disruption—witness the polarization in the U.S. related to the recent election cycle, “false news”, mistrust of traditional media, etc.

At a personal level, think of the lack of any clear etiquette guides on appropriate use of phones/social media on dates—is it OK to text while going out with someone?  Check on their social media posts?  If they leave it lying around unlocked, check to see who/what has been tweeted or snapped recently?  All this is symptomatic of people being increasingly at a loss as to whether the digital is their friend, their enemy, or their nightmare—or more likely all of the above at the same time.  Individuality and freedom are interesting concepts, and are central to those who drive social media usage, but at what price?  If you want to see a fascinating discussion on this, look at Gershon’s “Break Up 2.0” (which looks at social media and failed relationships).

We are most connected population in world history.  We also look like we are becoming the loneliest—scroll down to the Facebook specific slide and think about what all that implies on something that didn’t exist 15 years ago.

2nd Set: Basic Premises Slides—these present the set of assumptions central to our examination of the digital world.  All of the assumptions this semester are based on the data presented here—of course all of this is constantly morphing since the subject is constantly moving in new directions.

A very central assumption here is the shift from synchronic—say a face-to-face conversation or a phone call, towards a-synchronic interaction—such as a tweet or a post.  A lot of the research suggests that rise in loneliness, drop in social engagement and narcissism are being linked to this shift towards a-synchronic interaction.

One author made s very good point—the attraction of a-synchronic interaction is that you get to look over how you self-present, check out how you look-sound before hitting “send”.  You can filter out the bad-embarrassing pieces and so present your ‘best’ self to the world.  But then authenticity becomes ambiguous.  When you combine this staging with private-becoming-public, the need to present your best self is really critical with re-tweets, likes and forwards, so you end up in a feedback loop where the idea that you may be seen by a number of people you don’t know really puts pressure on image and presentation.  It all becomes public presentation; gone is casual conversation.

There was just an article yesterday in Think Google (their analytic-marketing branch) looking at how search was replacing friends as the main source of decision-making input [At <thinkwithgoogle.com>, the blog is titled “It’s all about me”].

A fascinating aspect of this which has gotten almost no research (to date) has been the replacement of voice with text, especially when you remember we are lugging around smart PHONES.  This is NOT a technological issue—it’s a reflective of individual/collective choice.  When you combine this with the huge growth in selfie videos (Snapchat, Facebook…) [again, a-synchronic] we are back to imaging and interaction choices that people are choosing to make.

All of this leads to the ‘Blind Men and the Elephant’ cartoon [pulled from Google] as a parable about the difficulty of making sense of our digital world.

Keep the following questions in mind as we travel through this semester:

Is technology (both hardware and software) causative—something that forces social change—such as Facebook?  If so, what are the effects or impacts?

Or is it just a reaction or indicator?  Are these changes driven more by our own wants and needs (individually or collectively)?  If so, why this effect or impact?  What triggered it?  Where is it going?

How does it impact individuals?  The collective?  The social group?  What does it say about individuals?  The collective?

OK, now apply all this—do the Hatsune Miku assignment.  Use the Critical Thinking factors while you watch this video.

The last set of slides were pulled from a very sophisticated presentation—he did a very good job of showing some of the potential unplanned consequences to new technology, so look them over—I think you’ll find the analysis interesting.


PowerPoint Module 1A Definitions-Concepts


As you work through this slide set, you should notice that most of the terms are in common use—one of the main purposes of this set is to clarify and specify what the terms mean.  A good example would be CULTURE—used (and misused) all the time, but we want to keep to the narrow professional definition.  Note the built-in tension—on one hand all cultures are innately conservative, as people teach the young generation based on their past (“when I was growing up…”)—but at the same time cultures are constantly in a state of change, as conditions and the larger world change.  This can be seen with the discussion about “proper phone etiquette” and other aspects of social media.  Do old social norms/rules apply to new technology, or does new technology demand new social norms?  Who says?  Who decides?  Who has to follow the rules?

Note how dominant PERCEPTION is to all this discussion.  ETHNICITY is perceived—there are no strict criteria needed to be ‘ethnic’, just the 2 factors.  The same is true of COMMUNITY.  A lot of our quickly-changing world is based on what appears to be consensus, but again, consensus of whom?  Who’s left out?

Second Life is an excellent case in point, if you’ve started reading Boellsdorff—there are fairly consistent social norms in SL, but the program is only 14 years old, and most residents have only been in-world for 1 year or so.  So how did the norms develop?  How do new members learn the norms?  Why do they follow them?  What are the consequences of breaking them?  This is the central part of his study of Second Life, and applies to much of Digital Realities.

This brings us to the first of our Critical Thinking questions:


Is music more real is you hear it at a live concert with a live band? [live band, live audience, real time venue]

Is it just as real at a Hatsune Miku concert where the band is live, but the song and singer are digital? [digital singer, live backup band, live audience, real time venue]

Is it less real (how much) if you watch the Hatsune Miku LA concert grabbed by phone on youtube? –[at https://youtu.be/8_9X5wjJ7N8?t=1429]


CT 2= Trance State Clubbing:

You and some friends go out to a club featuring a famous Trance-mix DJ.  You find yourself dancing and so caught up in the music, especially the beat, that you start to forget where you are.  You haven’t had much to drink, and no drugs.  All the sudden you find yourself dancing with a rather cute [kawaii] pink elephant.

What part of this experience is real?

What part isn’t real?


Part 2: REALITIES:  As you thought over the paradoxes above you should have had to separate the “real” from the “unreal”.  It seems straightforward until you look at your world and how you interact with others, and then it gets complicated real quick.

Thinking of your assignments so far, draw a diagram that shows what you consider the overlap to be between physical and digital reality.

Now add in virtual worlds; virtual reality; augmented reality

Where does a Hatsune Miku concert fit in your diagram?

Doing a Google Hangouts or Skye session with our classmates?

VIRTUAL REALITY has become the hot topic in tech circles in the last 3-4 years, especially with Facebook’s purchase of the Oculus Rift VR system.  When a large number of people will be willing to stick headsets on for extended periods of time remains to be seen, especially because at it’s core VR assumes opposition to physical reality—so the two have to be isolated from each other.


By contrast AUGMENTED REALITY [key player is probably Microsoft Hololens] overlays physical reality with digital aspects—a Hatsune Miku performance is augmented reality.  This Hololens review gives a good idea of current thinking [at: https://youtu.be/NwY-6sQDYnk?t=539] which discusses the differences between AR and VR.

The VR-AR Koan is looking at this dividing line—in your view which one is personally more compelling?


PowerPoint Module 1A Definitions: Part 2

Apps and Avatars:

Think for a second about a “free” app you use—whether it be Facebook, YouTube, whatever…  At some point they have software coders and designers, a ton of expenses relating to digital storage, web development, customer service…  If you’re using the “free app”, then who pays the bills?

This is the term MONETIZE—to come up with a way to make something generate money—to make it pay for itself (and show a profit).  This is why there are banners and side-bar advertising in Facebook, pop-up adds in your video on YouTube, etc…  These are all ways to pay the bills.  What is more subtle is the collection of all your personal data—the infamous “big data” that is such a hot topic in biz tech circles.  Many Apps, from the moment you clicked the “I agree” when you first downloaded the App, collect everything that you put on your device–texting, pics, checking websites, online purchases…  You might only use the app to text or send pics (say Snapchat), but their data collection is going on all the time your phone/tablet/computer is on, not just when you’re using the app.  This is “data mining” and it’s a very lucrative business.  You see it in the very targeted adds you see.

This brings up the second concept, to COMMODIFY.  This has been a ‘hot button’ topic here in Hawaii for generations, especially related to tourism.  If you market “aloha”, but you do so to make sales, or get a tip, you have placed a cash value on both the term and the attached behavior and/or value.  In fact the larger discussion of service tips and the fact that they have become largely involuntary in many industries in the U.S. is the same issue.  If generosity is given cash value, are you being generous because you morally-socially should, or for the cash?  Who decides?  For social media Apps to be successful today they not only have to find out a way to monetize their service—but they also have to do so while making the App appear “free” to the end user.

But if they want to stay around they need persistent use and growth and this usually involves the commodification of behavior in some way.  The more they can make the App a social necessity, the more ways to make money off of it—not only for them, but also for selected users.  Miller talks about this with Facebook users who have made Facebook their business.  This is a common pattern in Second Life, when commodification of a range of objects, behaviors, and other things have become a full-time job for a number of residents.  The last two panels—the “like” button and like vs. want are views of this shaping of behavior by profit-driven companies.

Since you will be wandering around Second Life, the VIRTUAL WORLDS concepts will become pretty obvious—though as we will see later, that can sometimes seem like the tip of a very large iceberg of hidden social identity and meanings.  A real key concept to keep in mind both while wandering in Second Life, but also in the larger context of how you present yourself in social media such as Facebook or Instagram, would be that of the AVATAR.  As we will see, the minute that you make communication asynchronous, you are in the business of ‘avatar-building’, as you are able to share how you are presented to the digital world—you have the ability to shape your image.


PowerPoint Module 1B: History

There are two main takeaways from this set of panels:

  • Notice the lack of clear relationship between technology and social change;
  • The tremendous acceleration in technological change in extremely short periods of times—we move from changes over hundreds of years; down to changes in generations; down to changes in 2-5 years—the norm now.

Remember—when you were in Elementary School, you didn’t have Facebook because it wasn’t built yet.  You might feel like a dinosaur, but you’re not that old—it’s just that the changes are happening so fast.

Feel free to send in other contributions to add to this timeline, especially as they relate to social games, since that’s not an area I’m into or familiar with.


PowerPoint Module 1AB: Changing Social Patterns


JUMP TO PANEL 3—  don’t worry, we will get back to Slide 2 [self-ego diagram] at the end of this unit

Reaction Paper for Module 1AB Part 1:

Look over each line from Slide 3 [social change evidence] through Slide 5 [pervasive nature].  Ponder over a couple of critical thinking points on each, such as A) am I a part of this statistic and behavior?  B) how many of my friends and other people I work with are part of this group?

Then fast-forward to 2025—given these behavior patterns, how do you think our social patterns have changed by then (if at all)?


This apparent contradiction of massively increased social networking and increased individual perceived isolation is quickly becoming one of the major unanticipated consequences of digital media today.  While everyone accepts the data, predicting trends are all over the chart, generally clustering around the two nodes of “Tech is Good” and the opposing node of “Digital World of Doom”.  Ironically, both can be accused of reflecting the PERCEPTUAL BUBBLE definition—that of seeing and reinforcing a very particular point of view.

This same data-trend dichotomy can also be seen when you move on to Slides 6-7 [app gen specifics].  The older among you fall at the fringe of this group, the younger one are full in it, but the contingent right behind you—currently just starting High School, are full dues-paying members of the App Generation.

Reaction Paper for Module 1AB Part 2:

Use the same critical thinking points on each of the points in Slides 6-7, such as A) am I a part of this statistic and behavior?  B) how many of my friends and other people I work with are part of this group?  But this time only look at the “under-20” group.

Then again, fast-forward to 2025—given these behavior patterns, how do you think our social patterns have changed by then (if at all)?

As a finale when you send me the Reaction Paper, add the following—which of those stats/numbers did you find the least surprising?  The most shocking?

Keep your reaction as we will be refer back to this material constantly during the semester.

Finally, go back to Slide 2 [self-geo diagram]

This is a visual to help you understand the following concept-heavy post.

[If you want to see a very detailed discussion of this topic take a look at Mathews, Gordon  1996.  What Makes Life Worth Living?  How Japanese and Americans Make Sense of Their Worlds.  Berkeley: Univ. Calif Press.  This is also the central theme of post-1964 Americans in Twenge, Jean  2006.  Generation Me.  NY: Free Press.]

There are several paired opposing concepts that are central to understanding perception and self-identity.  One is internalized vs. externalized sense of self.  The other is group-collective self orientation vs. individual-self orientation.

Internalized Sense of Self: Your world view, self-identity, perception of what you are, your relationship with others and the world around you, are largely based on a set of parameters that you have developed internally.  From various sources, you have built up your unique sense-identity.  Normative in Japanese society, this is ikigai in Japanese.  There really isn’t a good English translation for the term.  In this framework you have only limited interest in how strangers view and/or judge you.

Externalized Sense of Self: Your world view, self-identity, perception of what you are, your relationship with others and the world around you, are largely based on how others view and react to you—the judgments they make of you.  Their external opinions are central to your self-identity.  The parameters you use for your world view and self-identity are largely the result of a compilation of the opinion of others—of external input.  In this framework you are extremely interested in how strangers view and/or judge you.

Group-Collective Orientation: Your sense of self and world view are largely driven by your group of association, the collective of those that are important to you.  Individual choice will take back seat to what the group wants.

Individual-Self Orientation: Your sense of self and world view are largely driven by your self-perception and identity, not that of the group or collective that is important to you.  Your individual choices are more critical than the wishes of others.

Thoughts for you to work on:

Where would you place yourself in this chart?

The Kardashians?  The Pope?  Why?

Where would you put a group that is consumed by the need to follow Facebook trends?  Why?



As mentioned in my earlier post [Social Media Part 2, March 2017], ‘social media addiction’ is now accepted by many social behavioral researchers, along with ‘internet addiction’ as more general category.  Internet addiction is now a listed behavioral disorder within the new DSM categories.  Kimberly Young is a key player in this area with a very interesting website (very lucrative also I suspect) at http://netaddiction.com/kimberly-young/.  A number of key figures in social/educational psychology have recently been looking at these issues, most famously Howard Gardner (one of the key figures in educational psychology) in his The App Generation (2013)—very good data-driven analysis.

We have a research group here at Chaminade University working on this subject with the goal of developing self-regulation/mindfulness strategies of higher education students (specifically folks like you at Chaminade).  Darren Iwamoto’s (Psych) research with CUH students indicates a major rise in students exhibiting high stress and anxiety levels—work which is reflected in similar studies globally.

Social media is at the center of this—go back and look again at the short video on this at https://youtu.be/HffWFd_6bJ0?t=1.

Our research group is looking at this issue within the framework of social media dependency as addiction has a number of not-useful stereotypes.  Social Media Dependency means that users need the social media interaction—without it they feel anxiety, stress, and other psychological and physiological (think dopamine) withdrawal symptoms.  As I note in the Social Media Powerpoints (5A-5C), this of course is the intent of the app makers, as they only make revenue if you are using the app.

We have working on a set of short Powerpoint training modules with the goal of sensitizing students (and others) about both the issues and also coping strategies.  We are using the ‘beta’ sets which I am sending out.  A number of them were designed specifically for a sit-down environment rather than the online, so you will have to look for supplemental support online.  YouTube has at least 1 million training videos on meditation (or so it seems) so there should be something out there that works for you.  These Learning Modules serve two functions: 1) they should help with mindfulness training, but 2) they are a key part of what we are specifically looking at in this class, the social impacts of the digital.


Remain Calm and Centered

  • Think of a rock in the ocean—still while water flows around it



  • The rock is centered, calm—the water is energy, activity, noise
  • If the rock gives in to the water, it gets washed away, out of control and at the mercy of the ocean’s random action
  • The rock can take energy from the water [qi-mana] without giving control to the water

    Taking Control of Yourself

  • Clearing away YOUR demons
  • Place yourself in a control IN THOSE ITEMS YOU CAN SHAPE OR CONTROL

Kyoto-Tenryu-ji 2017 (35)

  • Much of your world will be outside your control:
    • BUT you can still control YOUR REACTION TO IT
  • Practice saying:
    • “NO, I’M SORRY I CAN’T” to requests from both inside yourself and from others

Arashiyama 2017 (23)

Situational Awareness

  • Be constantly alert and aware of your surroundings
  • Be ready to deal both with he unexpected and the predictable
  • This will also help you empathize with others

Kyoto 2017 (5)


  • Pause in a quiet place and feel your fingers—what is your body trying to tell you?
  • Breathing exercises
  • Even out your breathing

Breathe from your lower diaphragm—move your stomach to breathe, not your chest

Arashiyama-Kyoto Hogonin (2)

Advanced Meditation

  • Remove distractions
  • Sit or stand in a relaxed stance
  • Imagine yourself Rooted to the ground
  • Note your breathing
  • Let yourself become aware of your surroundings
  • What to you hear? Far away?
  • What do you smell?
  • What do you feel on your skin?

What is the quality of light that you see?  What colors?  What movement?

Arashiyama 2017 (11)

Self evaluation

  • What has worked for you?
  • Why did it work—how was it useful?
  • What hasn’t worked for you?
  • Why didn’t it work?
  • Build on your successes: what other approaches may work for you?
  • How can you modify the successes to make the whole a better fit for your needs and goals?