Interview: Love at a Distance

Touch plays a crucial role in generating and enhancing love – it is the first sense to develop and unlike the other senses it implies an interaction with another person (Field 2014, pg. 19). It brings a sense of belonging, communication, affection, intimacy and arousal. Even the briefest touch from another can elicit strong emotional experiences. So what happens when that touch is removed? This is reality for a friend of mine, Will Brooke[1] a graphic designer living in London who is in a long distance relationship (LDR). Will has been in this relationship for over a year, only to have 6 months physical contact (made up of two separate meet ups) with his partner living in another country. I asked Will how important physical contact meant to his relationship, he responded:

“Very important to continue the relationship on a certain level…some relationships can be formed around physical relationships more than emotional one, I’d doubt these are as strong long term”

It has been said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. But how does it do so? Closeness has always been an element in determining emotional intensity and much of how we express our love is through tactile behaviours such as kissing and hugging. Love incorporates a profoundly positive evaluation of another person, including the desire to become as close a possible to that person (Ben-Ze’ev 2004, pg. 51).

“Forces you to judge and consider what you want…being more critical you appreciate their strengths then that brings you towards growing fonder…”

“Obviously there is a limit to the level of intimacy for month when you’re apart but hopefully it makes you appreciate it more when you spend time together”

Studies have shown long distance dating is more intimidate, positive and less contentious, with couples reporting more intimate talk and activities. Open and honest communication contributes to the relationship stability and satisfaction. Commitment and trust have a greater significance, as there are more opportunities that may threaten it. (Ben-Ze’ev 2014)

“You have to try and ensure you’re still engaged in each other’s lives…you have to try to communicate more…”

“You have to be more open with your emotions and feelings, as you cant always pick up how each other is feeling over text, you can’t always gauge the situation as easily”

With communication at the core, technology plays an important role in maintaining that constant connection and ultimately the relationship. Without that physical contact and tactile sensitivity, LDR couples must find that ‘touch’ through other ways.

“ (Technology) has made it possible to continue, without it and having no contact for months would prove impossible. With every picture/FaceTime/phone call you’re transported across any distance and space even if its only for a second, a minute or hour of FaceTime or whatever, it all adds to the sense that you’re still living your life with the other person”

With new and emerging technologies, there are devices that attempt to substitute or imitate that sensory ‘touch’ and presence. From the Apple watch (which sends your heart beat to another) and Hug Shirt (wearable touch, detects strength and warmth of hug) to Roly Poly (emotive interactive devices which enable two people who are apart to ‘sense’ the presence of each other) and even sex toys such as ‘Lovense’ (His and her devices are in sync, controlling each others movements).

Despite these innovative, mobile, digital experiences it can never fully emulate the true form of physical touch. Online emotional experiences take a lot of mental energy and can often have its downfalls:

“It only works on a singular level you don’t get the depth or more rounded level of contact and connection you would have normally, you don’t experience anything together, you cant go for a meal or visit somewhere, it can be a superficial experience”

Advanced technological developments in things like virtual reality and possibly in the future, surrogate sex experiences e.g. the 2013 film ‘Her’, adds another dimension to the human experience, bringing that ‘touch’ we desire closer to reality.

“I make the other’s absence responsible for my worldliness” – Roland Barthes

[1] Pseudonym for privacy purposes

References:

Barthes, R, 1977. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments . 2nd ed. London, United Kingdom: Vintage Publishing .

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2014) Distance is the new closeness. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201401/distance-is-the-new-closeness (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

Ben-Ze’ev, A. Love Online : Emotions on the Internet. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 2004. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 27 October 2016.

Field, T. Touch (2). Cambridge, US: A Bradford Book, 2014. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 27 October 2016.

 

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Single Parasite: Japan’s Sex-less Society

Japan is at a crisis – a sex crisis – one that is becoming a national concern.

Millenials and young adults are becoming more disinterested in sex and pursuing traditional relationships that are well below global averages. Ken Shimizu, an adult film actor, tweeted there were more Bengal tigers (endangered species) alive than male porn actors. Employment rates, economic uncertainty and rising housing costs have been linked to the cause of this, birthing the term the ‘single parasite’ (Masahiro Yamada of Tokyo Gakugei University).

A single parasite is person in their late 20s or early 30s who lives with their parents in order to enjoy a comfortable and carefree life. As one of the oldest populations, it has a shrinking birth rate with Japanese women married on average at age 24 and men 27 in 2002 increasing to 27.4 years and 29 years respectively. ‘The Japan Times’ have reported that around 70% of men and 60% of women between the ages of 18-24 years old are not in relationships, and around 42% of men and 44.2% of women are virgins (Tharoor and Post, 2016). Futoshi Ishii from Department of Population Dynamics Research explains this attitude among young people as: ‘they want to tie the knot eventually. But then to put it off as they have gaps between ideals and the reality…that’s why people marry later or stay single for life contributing to the nations low birth rate”.

Analysing these statistical trends and taking into account the rapidly ageing population, researches at the Tohoku University have even devised a countdown clock that claims by the 16th August in the year 3776, Japan will only have one remaining child in its population (i.e. under the age of 15 years), at which nations will people would slowly die out.

Looking back at Japan’s economic history, unemployment rates increased in the 1990s among middle age and young people who do not work full time known as ‘freeters’. The Japanese employment system has been unable to deal with the new age, companies lack flexibility to adjust, which has manifested to the reduction of job opportunities for young people, who have no option but to become economically dependent on their parents. Socioeconomic-driven views, collapse of the economy and inability of the country’s system to react have caused the rise of the single parasite.

The single parasite is a ridiculed symbol of weakening sense of self-reliance among the youth and growing dependence on their parents. Spending income on luxury items, travelling and entertainment are more desirable, with a loss of 2/3 of their income if the were living independently. With heavy media coverage to the declining birth rate, current Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe aims to raise the nations fertility rate from 1.4 to 1.8 by 2025, offering tax incentives for married couples and providing support and services for all stages of individual lives, from pregnancy, delivery and child-rearing (japan times).

Businesses such as match making services, retail stores and even sports teams are profiting, trying to fill the romantic void in society. Known as the ‘konkatsu’ boom, meaning ‘marriage hunting’ services such as match-making parties such as ‘konkatsu seats’ (Speed dating at a Hokkaido Nippon Fighters Japanese baseball game, where men and women sit next to each other during the game, where the seats rotate between innings) and prayer services (Imando Shrine in Tokyo hold prayer services for single men and women seeking good luck in marriage) are of abundance.

Left: Toyota Motor ‘Kirobo Mini‘, 2016  Right: Triumph International ‘Konkatsu Bra‘ 2009

Even products such as the ‘Konkatsu bra’ (designed by Triumph International Japan, which has an in built clock under the bra cups that counts marriage deadline. By inserting the engagement ring into a heart shaped box between the cups, it stops ticking and congratulatory wedding march begins to play) are being developed. Toyota has even released a robot called ‘Kirobo Mini’ designed to be a companion for the growing number of women left childless by the aging population (Inada, 2009).

Marriage and children are becoming luxury indulgences, Japanese society have been rattled by the economic collapse in the past decade completely changing the attitude and behaviours of an entire generation. Will Japan survive this drought in love, sex and marriage? Will it be a child-less future?

References:

Tharoor, I. and Post, W. (2016) Sexless society: Japan has a worrying number of virgins, government finds. Available at: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/sexless-society-japan-has-a-worrying-number-of-virgins-government-finds (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

Inada, M. (2009) Japan has a new name for the mating game: Konkatsu. Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB124623617832566695 (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

tisho (2015) Nearly 40% of single Japanese not interested in romance: Survey | the Japan times. Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/06/22/national/social-issues/nearly-40-of-single-japanese-not-interested-in-romance-survey/#.WBCCqBJ95E5 (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

Today, J. and Co, Gp. (2016) 8 years into ‘konkatsu’ boom, lifelong single population continues to grow. Available at: https://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/8-years-into-konkatsu-boom-lifelong-single-population-continues-to-grow (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

2050 zine: Denis Andernach

For our 2050 future scenario zine, we have chosen to include drawings by German architect and illustrator, Denis Andernach. Inspired by Caspar David Friedrichs paintings, Andernach depicts houses as formal studies in idealised landscapes. The clean, detailed lines and dramatic contrast between the fictional man-made structures and the landscape are compelling and poetic, with each scene inviting the viewer to discover. We thought it was appropriate representation of the journey to a prison-free future scenario of 2050.