Shinto and ubicomp
A lovely genre-spanning post from the Keitai-L list on a possible relationship between animism and an acceptance of ubiquitous computing in Japanese culture. Unfortunately this post hasn't made it into the archives of the list yet, so here it is in full; it's from Robert Osazuwa Ness:
"Shintoism's concept of place and things and implications to applications of ubicomp and location-based mobile technology.
Shinto involves the worship of kami (神), or gods. According to
"Some kami are local and can be regarded as the spirit or genius of a
particular place, but other ones represent major natural objects and
processes". This is a cultural and religious contribution to the
conversation on the relationship between the virtual world and the
Kami can be defined as virtual objects because they cannot be
through the naked senses, but are nonetheless we perceive them
they have specific qualities in our imaginations. A kami is a body of
virtual qualities ascribed to a physical object or place.
Locational and object-based characteristics of Shintoism originated in
shamanic beliefs brought from the Continent (China) and the Korean
peninsula. At first this was worship of kami who inhabited things.
Ceremonies were held outside before iwakuras, a small space or
of stones. After the arrival of Buddhism, the idea of building
for kami arose and shrines were built.
The development of Shintoism has been intertwined with Chinese
well as other Chinese philosophies, and is generally part of the
Chinese-born idea of a monist nature of existence (天人合一, man
and nature are
one) that has influenced many belief systems in East Asia (though
be point out that this way of thinking has largely been lost in
The most interestingly theme in Shintoism is reverence for nature and
natural beauty. Thus kami are ascribed to objects and places that are
striking in their natural beauty. More interestingly, Wikipedia
time went by, the original nature-worshipping roots of the
never lost entirely, became attenuated and the kami took on more
anthropomorphic forms, with a formidable corpus of myth attached to
I feel this implies that kami could easily be perceived in urban
especially with high-tech themes. Moreover, the reification,
anthropomorphism, and myth have direct implications to digital
and story-based events such as urban gaming.
Modern day Shinto is better viewed as a cultural mindset than as a
religion. In other words, it is an implicit factor affecting
rather than an explicit set of goals (such as do something so you
can get to
Heaven and avoid Hell). This is highlighted in the fact that
belief in Shinto as a dogmatic religion has declined since the War
of Shinto artifacts, participation in ceremonies, and other Shinto
have remained popular.
The implication here is a unique cultural openness of the Japanese to
growing Ubicomp applications. The kami represent a cultural
ascribing virtual qualities to real objects. The fact that
Shintoism is a
way of thinking rather than a dogmatic religion has the potential for
innovating on Shinto concepts in the design of Ubicomp and location-
applications without fear of treading on the sacred (although
and respect are still required).