What Sociology 3740 Taught Me

August 17, 2007

In this class, I learned various networking technology that help us to express our identity. There are MUDs, MMORPG, Second Life, Facebook, My space and so on. We are surrounded with multimedia world and virtual reality world. We can choose the best way to express our identity from the various networking tools. Then, with the preferable networking tool, we can experience self-revelation, self-reflection and self-liberation. The way I like the best was MMORPG. For example, in Second Life, I could play a male character. In the real life, I wish if I were as independent and strong-willed as a male. By playing a male character in Second Life, I was liberated from my female identity in the real world. However, I think the real self becomes more important in today’s network society. Although the character created in the virtual reality is also important for us to understand ourselves, we should not forget the fact that the real self is also attractive. Although we can easily meet new people through social networking sites, we should not forget the impressive real-world encounters. What I felt most through this class is the value of the identity. I realized I am living in the highly network-based society. At the same time, I realized that it is important to maintain my identity in this network-based real world. No one has the same profile with others in online worlds (such as Facebook). Everyone is different and unique. Through the networking tools, I realized that I am allowed to exist in the world as an irreplaceable individual. This class provided me with an opportunity for self-reflection, which is great! I will not compare myself with others and develop my unique precious identity in the real life. Thanks!

Here is a YouTube celebrating the completion of the class!

[YouTube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=bz2qp74-pm4%5D

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My Online Character

August 17, 2007

Today, I found an interesting website, “meez” (http://www.meez.com/main.dm). In this website, we can create characters as we like. It is free!! Since my topic of the final paper is online identity, I read many articles by Sherry Turkle that talk about ‘gender switching’ in online world. Therefore, I thought this was a good opportunity to create online identity of the opposite gender and decided to create a male character. Actually, I sometimes wish if I were a man. I don’t know if it is true or not. But for me, men seem to have more freedom and more independence than women. When I was an elementary school student, I wanted to join the local baseball team. But they did not allow girls to play in their team and I was rejected to play baseball just because I was a girl. In addition, since I was a girl, my mother worries about me more than my brother, which sometimes makes me feel a lack of freedom. For example, my mom let my brother go travelling abroad without any hesitation. My brother enjoyed travelling to Singapore last month!! On the other hand, it took me a few months to persuade her to let me go to attend the university in Canada. Generally, she respects everything I want to do. But when my action might involve some risks, she worries too much. The male character I created today was an active and good-looking adventurer. He was also riding on a horse, which is my favourite animal!! He is also wearing a cool suit, which is also my favourite fashion style!! The background I chose was a fantasy world, not the real world setting. I guess this fantasy world reflects my pursuit for freedom in the real world. At first, I thought it was meaningless to create a virtual character. However, the process of creating a character was fun. And I felt liberated to some extent. The character is male and looks different from myself, but it definitely reflects my real intentions. I feel a sense of closeness to the character. So I named him “Rema”.

100th Desire is Really Really Worthyl!

August 17, 2007

 

Do you regard “desires” as the negative things? I had had a negative impression against desires before. Now, I don’t think so at all. I am not a Buddhist. But a Buddhist monk whom I met at a temple in Japan taught me that desires were not necessarily bad. The monk said to me, “List 100 desires”. I started to list my desires such as “I want to go to Hawaii”, “I want to go to Disneyland”, “I want to have a cute dog” and “I want to do scuba diving under the beautiful ocean” and so on. These were the desires for my own happiness. Then, I kept listing my desires such as “May my mom and dad live long”, “May my sister find her favourite job”, “May my brother find a kind girl friend next time” and so on. These were the desires for others’ happiness. Then I kept listing and listing my desires until I could not list my desires any more. I could not list even 30 desires. The last desire that I listed was “world peace!”. The monk asked me “Do you still think desires are totally bad?”.

Wow!!! Of course, the desires include the personal selfish ones. We start listing our own desires. But then, we start listing the desires that represent wishes of others. The desires can be charitable. Ultimately, we start listing the desires that represent the wishes of all human beings all over the world. Now, I am curious to know my 100th desire!!!

Online Identity with Cyber Trance!?

August 16, 2007

One of my favourite music is “Cyber Trance”. “Cyber Trance” is computer programmed RAVE dance music. In Tokyo, I sometimes went to dance club on Friday night. At the dance club, cyber music was resounding loudly. We could experience the different space and the different feelings there because of the cool electronic music and flashy illumination. In addition, I even felt the different identity from the everyday identity.

Although some people disagree, the different identity in the dance club may be regarded as an online identity in a wide sense. I think that online identity is a representation of self that is expressed through the networking technology. Arranged by the computer, the electronic music can be seen as a networking technology. Therefore, the different identity that is expressed in the dance club is a kind of online identity. I can tell clearly that each individual is experiencing his or her own personal world. The people are involved in their own dancing and they cannot see others. They do not care if they hit others and they do not care if they are hit by others. Most of them hardly interact with others. They are just enjoying their world.

Unlike Lethbridge dance club, the dance club in Tokyo closes at 6 a.m. The longest time period that I was dancing was 9 hours (from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.). When I got out of the dance club in the early morning, I was brought back to the reality. I realized that I had been in the dream world. My real identity also came back. I remember that I missed the fantastic dance world and that I took a train to go home in very low spirits.

Here is YouTube that shows the feelings at the dance club!

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQ7O0goRrIo%5D

Online Dating and Luis Vuitton

August 16, 2007

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Online dating is one of the serious issues in Japan. It is not rare that a female is killed by a male whom she has known through online dating. Now, even young children are involved in online dating. The middle-aged or older men preferred young children to young adults.

One of my friends at college was doing online dating. I attended English College in Tokyo. Since English was not the first language for us, it was hard to study and we had to study hard in order to do well in classes. Therefore, we could not do part-time jobs so often. But she was very independent and did not want to totally depend on her parents. My friend, who loves Luis Vuitton, was looking for a way to earn money in a short period of time. The way that she found was online dating. She registered the online dating company that was run by the gangs. Through it, she knew some middle-age men, actually met and dated with them. She could get much money in a few hours. However, she also got sexual diseases from them. In terms of her grades, she was a good student and took many “A”s. When we became the best friends, she told me this story. She also said that she wanted to stop online dating but that she could not find an easier way to get money. Once people learn the easy way to earn money, it is hard for them to give it up despite the risk of their life. Since we were the best friends, she listened to and accepted my advice. She started to do normal part-time job. At first, she was complaing about a small paycheck, she felt better about herself by earning money in the healthy way!

After she graduated from the college, she decided not to go to the foreign university and decided to stay in Japan. However, this summer, she said to me that she was coming to New York to attend the university from this September. I will definitely visit her in New York.

Animated Online Identity

August 16, 2007

“PUFFY” is my most favourite group. The group is made up of 2 girls, Ami and Yumi. These dingers are famous in Japan for their uniqueness. Their melody of songs is unique and not similar to other singers’. Their dancing is also funny.

A few years ago, they became the characters of American animated television program. The TV program is “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi”. Although I have seen the images of characters, I have never watched the program. But sometimes, people here, who know this TV program, ask me about them. The characters describe them well. The model of the character with pink hair is Ami. In the real life, as we can tell from her cartoon image, she is a feminine, cute and romantic girl. The model of the character with purple hair is Yumi. As we can tell from her cartoon image, she is a powerful punk girl. But these are not always true. Sometimes, Ami acts like a punk girl and Yumi wears fancy dresses. But their identities are fixed as cartoon characters. Additionally, this animation is running in North America. Therefore, many people guess their real personalities from the animated cartoon images. I wonder whether Ami and Yumi feel comfortable or not. The characters in Second Life are only known to the Second Life users. In addition, other users cannot tell who has created the character. In other words, privacy and online identities of the users are protected. On the other hand, everyone can watch the animated character of Ami and Yumi. In addition, the audience know the fact that the models of these characters are real people, Ami and Yumi. I guess they may feel uncomfortable when the characters on the screen act differently from their behaviours in the real world.

The picture on the left are “Ami (right) Yumi (left)”. The picture on the right is animated version of “Ami (right) Yumi (left)”.

CG versus. Handwritten Animation

August 15, 2007

I like watching movies. However, I watch only animation movies at the movie theatre in Canada because it is often hard for me to catch up the development of the non-animation movies. Today’s animation movies are making use of computer graphics. These techniques create the very realistic movements of the characters. Some people say that the traditional handwritten animation cannot satisfy today’s children who are familiar with many refined CG images. However, Hayao Miyazaki is worldly regarded as a matchless Japanese director of the handwritten animation. Here is his photo.

One of his well-known animations is “Spirited Away”. The themes of his animation are always so deep and it is said that we need to watch at least two or three times in order to understand his themes. I watched “Spirited Away” twice and my sister watched it five times! He draws a scene one by one with his hands and rarely uses computers for image making. Although the realistic movements or refined images are the very important elements in the entertainment animations, I also like his non-CG animations. Because of his handwritten technique, the soft images of his animation give me pleasant and comfortable feelings. I am curious about high-technology, but I do not want Hayao Miyazaki to give up his way of animation making. His new animation, “Ponyo On A Cliff”, is coming soon! In this movie, he did not use computer at all in the process of image making. The main setting of this animation is the ocean. I love ocean! So I want to watch what kinds of ocean waves are shown by the handwritten technique.

Here is an image from the coming movie “Ponyo On A Cliff”!

Bank of Life!?!?

August 14, 2007

During my stay in Japan, I found an interesting Japanese toy. This toy is “Jinsei Ginko”, which means “bank of life”. “Jinsei Ginko” is not a simple piggy bank. Since it was developed by a toy company, it has the nature of game. In other words, with “Jinsei Ginko”, we can save money while we are enjoying a game.

Once the user starts to put a coin into the toy, the character in it starts his life. At first, he lives a poor life in a small room. However, if the user keeps putting coins into it, the life of the character improves better. For example, he can move into a gorgeous larger room and can enjoy watching a TV. He can also marry and live a happy life with his wife. There are also various kinds of jobs that he can get. In addition, he can also participate in many events such as concerts and parties that are held around his life.

The scenario of the character all depends on how the user saves money. For example, the scenario changes according to the target amount and date that the user decides. In addition, saving pace also influences the character’s life. If the saving pace is slow, the user is pressed to put a coin into the toy. The changes in the character’s life based on the various scenarios encourage the user to save money with fun. When the targeted date that the user inputs at the beginning comes, the game ends. If the user successfully saves a targeted amount of money by the targeted date, the user sees a happy ending of the scenario and shares the happy feelings with the character. If the user fails to save a targeted amount of money, the character disappears from the screen…  

I was really attracted by the concept of “Jinsei Ginko”. It is very interesting to combine two very different concepts (almost two opposite concepts) of “saving money” and “fun game”. “Saving money” is practical use and that of “fun game” is entertainment. Actually, it is reported that many people succeeded in saving money thanks to this fun toy. For many people, it is annoying to save money against their desires. I was amazed by the power of new technology to change the negative perception of “saving money” into the positive one of “have fun”.

The pictures below are some scenes of the chracter’s life. In the first scene, he lives a poor life in a small room. On the other hand, the middle scene is his wedding! And, in the lowest scene, he married and lives a happy life with his wife!!!

Hove You Ever Seen These??

August 9, 2007

This summer vacation, I went back to Japan. I visited Yokohama (a city) with my mom. Yokohama is a famous city that has fashionable stuffs. There were various shops; clothing shop, furniture shop, accessory shop and so on.

One shop that attracted me so much was an electric appliance shop. This shop was selling computers, stereo cameras and TVs. What was special for their products was their cute design. For example, TVs are designed in the figures of apples, soccer balls, fried potatoes, frogs and elephants. At first, I did not realize they were TVs. I am sure that young people who are susceptible to changes in fashion are deeply impressed by these cute designed products.

Now, the customers expect the electric companies for the fashionableness in the design as well as the quality of the products. These products work their original functions and also decorate the space or rooms of the customers. If we have these electric appliances in our rooms, they make us happy and comfortable. The new technology satisfies not only our physical needs but also our mental needs. I want to buy them!!

Cool Online Research!

August 8, 2007

The rapid advance in technology has introduced the new way of research. That is online research. What made me feel attractive about the online research are the qualitative data and the high efficiency.

According to Adam N. Joinson in the book “Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet”, anonymity in online research makes a large contribution toward the qualitative data. Judging from our group assignments we did in class, I agree with it. I felt no restriction in online interview and could response honestly without worrying about what others think of me. I strongly felt this when my group partner asked me “Why do you want to become physiotherapist?” In online research, I could answer “Because I want to help rehabilitation traing of the physically handicapped.” However, I think I cannot answer like this in the face-to-face interview. This summer, I met a girl who was fighting against an incurable disease. Due to her disease, she had a difficulty in walking. It is said that the day will come soon when she is not able to walk by herself. In order to prevent her disease from getting worse, she is working hard at rehabilitation training every day. I was deeply moved by her strenuous efforts and learned the importance of life. Now, I really want to help those who are doing their best in rehabilitation training as a physiotherapist. As I stated before, in face-to-face interview, it is a little bit difficult for me to say “I want to become a physiotherapist.” One reason is that I am afraid of what the researcher will think of me when I answered so. I feel ashamed when the researcher thinks that I don’t deserve that job. I also hesitate to say “I want to help those who have physically handicapped”. Her understanding the value of her own life, I respect that girl with an incurable disease. But, the researcher or others may think it is hypocritical to help the handicapped. In brief, I realized that the face-to-face interview has a restriction on free expression of own genuine ideas because we care about others’ perception toward ourselves in the society. On the other hand, online research, provides us anonymity and therefore qualitative data. Another attractiveness I realized through the group assignment in class was the efficiency of online research. Unlike traditional face-to-face or telephone interviews, we can collect data efficiently without wasting time and cost.

I also wondered about one possible weak point of online research. The online research may have a restriction on the representativeness of sample population. Although the computer is very popular in the society, the main users of the Internet are the rich and the youth (people under 50 years old). In the case of online marketing research, reflection the desires and opinions of them, online research is making a contribution for the future society where these population have a great power.

Here is a YouTube that shows the importance of advanced research in the marketing!

[YouTube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=WEw7VQJ1P3w]