The "Hidden Homeless" in Japan's Contemporary Mobile Culture

Posted by NeMe | Mon Oct 1st 2012 11 a.m.

Our latest text is by Miya Yoshida

Since its inception, mobile telephony and all it ensues has gained attention due to the massive impact it has had on the organization of daily life as well as on popular and youth cultures. However, the phenomenon is more complex than many perceive. In the context of recent critical discussions on neo-liberal capitalism, there are other contemporary socio-political issues at stake around the mobile telephone, especially in relevant social formations among younger people in different cultures.

In this text, I focus on one specific phenomenon in Japanese society which the media have termed the "hidden homeless." Jobless and homeless persons, for various reasons, have to (or, in some cases, have chosen to) live in mostly self-built, mobile shelters made of cardboard boxes and containing only the bare necessities for urban survival. Images of these shelters-surprising in their extremity-have been presented in media around the world. The mobility implied here, the central concern of my discussion, is not only on the level of a kind of bricolage survival in improvised shelters as found in earlier decades and the topic of a famous 1973 novel by Abe Kobo, Hako otoko (The Box Man). Today, in order to regain access to jobs or to maintain contact with society, box dwellers have to rely on and strive for access to mobile phones and other contemporary network media. In this text, I want to explore the ambivalent space opened up by their encounter with the mobile telephone.

Read the complete text on http://www.neme.org/1500/hidden-homeless
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