Humans as Mashups or, The Crowdsourced Human

I have written before about the importance of mash-ups to the future of communication processes. A key to mash-ups is the use of data produced by various otherwise unconnected sources. At the time, I was thinking of how these various data would be used to create media products, like dynamically rendered websites or video mashups. But an article by J. Verini in Dec 2012 issue of Wired introduced me to Hatsune Miku, who I see as a human mashup.

Miku is an image, an animation, and a pop star in Japan. It is not unusual for companies to create personas to sell products, and that is why Miku exists. She was created in 2007 to sell a virtual voice program created by a company called Crypton. But timing and context were critical. Miku was created in Japan where, according to Verini, fan culture is a popular phenomenon and fan created content is ubiquitous. The content poured into a technological environment capable of monitoring, analyzing, filtering, and extracting themes to constitute and sustain a new human identity: Hatsune Miku.

Verini writes,

“Miku…is just unreal enough, it seems, to be relatable. At a fan convention, Condry [from MIT] told me, he asked some kids why this was. “They said, ‘We know she’s not a person. We like that she’s a machine. Those of us who are into this like dealing with machines more than with people.'”

This is one example of why constitution and configuration should be a new focus for communication studies. Traditional conceptions of communication (as connection or information) miss the point of what is happening here: design and dynamic organization. Miku is an open-source person. What might result if these same processes where used to create other identities?


Reference: Verini, J. (2012, Immaterial girl. Wired, 20, 146.

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