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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

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.