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Publication Detail
Visions of the future at the Japanese Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Shea MJM
  • Date awarded:
  • Pagination:
    1, 308
  • Supervisors:
    Buchli V,Kuechler S
  • Status:
  • Awarding institution:
    University College London
  • Language:
  • Date Submitted:
  • Keywords:
    Technology, Public Engagement, Japan, Miraikan, Material Culture, Social Anthropology, Robotics, Human–robot interaction, Device Art, Design, Culture, Artificial Intelligence, Museum Education, National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, ASIMO, AIBO, Paro
This research is based on ethnography conducted at the Miraikan National Institute of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo. As a museum of the future the devices Miraikan houses are often framed in terms of their potential uses. By critically engaging with the visions of the future that are presented in the museum the research hopes to elucidate some of these underlying influences traceable to social concerns and to determine which among these are particular to the Japanese context. This research also critically assesses the role of educators and volunteers in exhibit design and implementation, their background and activities as well as their relationship to one another as a community within the museum and research centre, drawing on participant observation with volunteers and staff as well as academic literature and journalism concerning volunteering and museum curatorship in Japan. The visions of the future on display at Miraikan can be seen as attempts to replace kinship relationships in various ways. In the kind of machines being created and in the nature of the roles these devices are designed to fill the changing relations of society and kinship in Japan can be seen. The demand for cheap labour in a country with little inward migration and a rapidly aging population leads inevitably to fantasies about how these roles might be filled by further leaps in technology. At the museum volunteers act as surrogate workers. By acting as volunteers they are able to compensate for lack of participation in the workforce at large. The role of female and elderly volunteers is particularly relevant to the effort to replace these ‘lost bodies.’ Miraikan, as a forum for the presentation of future technology, provides the opportunity to engage with the current kinship crises and is the ideal place to critically engage with these issues.
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