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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Research Overview

Avatar-Technologies for an Inclusive Society

English, PDF (1,7 MB)

Conference Reports

April 11, 2023: Robot (inter)faces: Understanding and mapping robot/avatar faces. Hosted by Institute for Future Initiatives, The University of Tokyo, co-host: JST Moonshot R&D Program “Cybernetic being” Project; supported by Australia-Japan Foundation (Japanese version)

September 26, 2023: Staying Connected: Implementing Avatar Robots at Schools in Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Japan. Hosted by Institute for Future Initiatives, The University of Tokyo, co-host: JST Moonshot R&D Program “Cybernetic being” Project (Japanese version)

Cyber-physical spaces and avatar technologies: new opportunities for an inclusive society?


The Japanese Cabinet Office launched the "Moonshot Research and Development Program" in 2020. As Moonshot Goal #1, the CSTI formulated the vision of a society "in which human beings can be free from limitations of body, brain, space, and time by 2050" (CaO 2020). The intention is to create solutions for the declining birth rate and ageing of Japanese society and, in particular, the resulting labour shortage. Elderly or physically impaired people and people with responsibilities such as caregiving and child-rearing should be able to participate in the labour market, regardless of physical, cognitive, spatial or temporal limitations (MEXT 2020: 120). To this end, so-called cybernetic avatars and a cloud-based infrastructure are to be developed, and social acceptance for this visionary society created.

In my project I analyse how these visionary new cyber-physical spaces of the so-called society 5.0 are constructed. I examine what understanding of the human being or the body underlies this vision and what it means to live a good life in this future society.

On the empirical level, I explore already existing hybrid forms of cyber and physical spaces. Through participant observation and interviews I investigate how users experience these spaces and what opportunities and constraints they contain. Furthermore, I consider what these new technologies mean for self-realization and diversity, for social participation and inclusion, and for interaction between human and human or human and machine.

Recent Publications

Spoden, Celia & Ema, Arisa (2024). "Staying Connected: Implementing Avatar Robots at Schools in Germany and Japan". Digital Health, section Digital Mental Health, Volume 6 - 2024. LINK
Spoden, Celia (2024). Introduction to Session II: Sociocultural Practices on Situating the Self and the Other: Robots with Heart, Virtual Humans and Matter with Soul. LINK


2023年9月11日 - 2023年9月13日
Discursive and material dimensions of the digital transformation: Perspectives from and on Japan

Panel Discussion 'Human-Machine Interaction and Responsibility'