Media Immersion Pods

In Tokyo, the New Trend Is ‘Media Immersion Pods’ (from /.) – a very interesting article. Here’s some quotes I’ve taken out of it:

In Tokyo, though, the antidote to urban overload is more of the same. In the world’s most media-saturated city, people take a break by checking themselves into media immersion pods: warrens cluttered with computers, TV’s, video games and every other entertainment of the electronic age.

“In both the anonymity and role-playing games on offer at the Gran Cyber Café, you don’t have to exist in tight social norms,” Mr. Isshow told me. “Your identity can be in flux. You go to these places not to present yourself, but to lose yourself. Lose your name, your position, your pride.”

Mr. Isshow spoke through a translator, but here he introduced some English: “No-face-man, no-ID-man, no-pride-man.”

What they do there is up to them. Some people channel-surf. Others trade stocks. You can download music, read novels, watch pornography, play video games, have sex, go to sleep.

According to Mr. Isshow, Japan’s “petit iede,” or little runaways, come for downtime, free lattes and smoothies, and, at some branches, showers. They use the places as trial separations from home — staying a few hours, overnight or a few days, long enough to scare their parents. (A “night pack” allows use of the pod from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. for about $10; some places sell toothbrushes and underwear too.) Periodically the management will remind a customer that the cafe is not a hotel, but above all Bagus respects people’s privacy.

I loved 16-A the instant I saw it. I closed the door, slipped into a low-slung leatherette seat and surveyed the all-you-can-eat tech feast, which includes VHS and DVD players, satellite and regular television on a Toshiba set, PlayStation 2, Lineage II and a Compaq computer loaded with software, all the relevant downloads and hyperspeedy Internet. In the nearby library were thousands of comic books, magazines and novels. On the desk was a menu of oddball snacks, like boiled egg curry and hot sandwich tuna.

Shizu was catching up on manga. One was “The Monetary System of Osaka,” a left-wing chronicle of graft and usury among the suits of Japan’s second city. Another was “Inu,” or “Dog,” by Haruko Kashiwagi. It’s considered clever, fairly high-toned and mainstream, which is surprising because, in part, it’s about a woman who has sex with her dog.

The extensive manga library also includes pornography for every taste. But sex at the Gran Cyber Café is not just in the fiction. All around me, couples were making out. Some were watching sex videos. They seemed blasé. Still, in the cubicles that seat two, the walls are a little lower, and the seats don’t have a massage option. Meanwhile other customers have taken a more professional approach. The Japanese Web site published an article about a freelance prostitute — a “delivery health” girl — who moved into a Gran Cyber Café after her workplace was raided.

Quite an interesting jump from Internet Cafes. Seems like you can get your own private room or be outside in a cubicle which you can see what others are doing. Must be like a massive library with tons of DVDs, magazines, comics, music, etc. What’s interesting is that you can actually stay overnight for a price of ~$10 (I’m assuming American money). That’s even cheaper than hostels and you even get an internet connection.

What I didn’t get was the tea ceremonies/festivals was similar to this. I mean it sort of made sense with the social status analogy, but are there really still social status in a country like Japan. I mean it’s not like you’ll be intermingling with royalties in these cyber cafes, which is another point that seemed to have left out. In tea ceremonies/festivals, there’s a lot of socializing, but in these cyber cafes, you’re really trying to escape reality and escape into your own fantasy.

Random Crap:

Calif. judge suspends state graduation examA California judge issued a preliminary injunction on Friday suspending the state’s high school exit exam, clearing the way for tens of thousands of students who have not passed the test to graduate. I remember I was the last year that didn’t have to take this exit exam. Or did I? I don’t remember. I was either the 1st year to take it or the last year to not have to take it. However, I don’t think such a test should prevent you from graduation, just like I never really believed in the SATs nor GPAs. However, I also feel that companies and colleges should be allowed to ask for your score and you always have the option of not disclosing them.

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