Anime Fandom, Bajeena, body, culture, cyberspace, Descartes, Digital Cartesianism, dualism, Kirino Kosaka, Kyosuke Kosaka, mind, My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute, Ore No Imouto Ga Konna Ni Kawaii Wake Ga Nai, Saori Makishima, virtual
Technology significantly changes the architecture of reality. In this modern era, a different kind of space started to occupy and affect our lives—the cyberspace. In this virtual landscape, users can freely disembody themselves from the corporeal trappings of the “real” world. However although this is the case, the manifestation of the self in this digital world is still implicitly attached to the objectification of our consciousness. Tracing this back to René Descartes, this subject-object dichotomy is normally conceived as mind-body dualistic view. Together with the technological advancement, this ideology evolved into Digital Cartesianism wherein autonomy and choice are the hallmarks of user interaction in the virtual culture.
The radical division between mind and matter suggested that one must transcend the body in order to avoid polluting knowledge and truth. In this contemporary time, this ideology is reconstructed and perceived through the text-based computer-mediated cyber-culture. Moreover, this Digital Cartesianism tells that the physical identities of the users are left behind as the mind travel to the virtual realm. The rational thinkers in us try to break out from the material world, in order to freely start a new reality and individuality.
Take for instance Kirino from Ore No Imouto, due to the negative societal perception about otaku, and due to her established image—popular teen model, achiever, and model student—she couldn’t freely enjoy her love and passion for anime and eroge. Aside from that, she’s a prisoner of her adored and praised “real-life” persona. That’s why in order to help and have his sister secretly gain friends who enjoy the same hobbies, Kyosuke’s suggested Kirino to join the online otaku community. By doing so, Kirino didn’t disclose her real name online, and at the same time didn’t inform her “real” life friends about this. Hence, she managed to create distinct realities which allow her to be herself without suffering from regulatory predispositions. But of course, this didn’t last for long, since it’s impossible to fully separate the mind from the body.
Another good example is Saori. She clearly exemplifies how a body is merely a machine that encapsulates the rational thinker who demands for liberation. By using the alias “Bajeena” and her nerd glasses, she invokes her otaku-ness and efficiently cover her “true” identity—a beautiful and wealthy socialite—in which she’s trying to conceal but can’t fully do so. For instance, Kyosuke recognized right away that Saori is a well-brought up young lady upon reading her polite and refined email to Kirino. Similarly to Kirino, the physical world consigns Saori to carry-out her presupposed roles. Hence the reason why the virtual world becomes a nesting place for her otaku-ness.
Truly we can see that as a person enters the digital world, he or she has the capacity to fully control the vectors of interaction. Further, the cyborgian dealing of person and computer facilitates a clear demarcation between the interior experience of self and world. By examining ourselves as cybercitizens, it’s noticeable that the communication happens within an interior mental arena shaped entirely by the users’ collective imaginations. The feeling of comfort in liberating our thoughts is assured by the benefits of “privacy” and being detached from the physical world. Or simply, the virtual self is quintessentially “concealed,” and able to hide its interiority from others.
Likewise, indeed we can experience certain levels of ‘disembodiment’ through interacting in the cyberspace. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that no matter how hard we may try, we can never totally extricate the rational self from the its vessel because the mind could only go as far as the body would allow to. Surely we can think of this disembodiment and the creation of cyberself as an escape from our “true” selves, but tracing this cyber-identity back to its source, a physical, unchanged body sitting in front of the computer screen is there waiting. Also, once the cyber interaction ended, we’ve no choice but to return to our inescapable offline identities.