The Japanese Government is trying to figure out how to get it’s people to have more sex.

Source Article: The Japanese Government is trying to figure out how to get it’s people to have more sex.

Google Doc : Group Critique

Scenario:  It’s been nearly 20 years since Prime Minister Shinzo first enacted sweeping policy changes which focused on increasing the number of Japanese families that comprise of multiple children. Due to the declining birth rate, many economists feared an inevitable depression, fueled by a decrease in the number of individuals entering the work place and an increase in the number of elderly citizens they in turn would need to support. Shinzo’s policies, instituted with intentions to raise the birth rate to a more sustainable 2.2 children per family, were wide ranging, with some more popular then others. Extreme tax credits to subsidize the costs required to raise a child were put in place. Many of these tax credits were in turn paid for by a sales tax on birth control, particularly condoms. Mandatory paid leave for couples was instituted, and the Japanese government invested heavily in online dating sites.

Shinzo’s policies found success almost immediately, significantly raising the birth rate from a paltry 1.4, to a robust 2.9. No longer were there fears of a bankrupt social security fund, or even worse, losing a culture forged over 2000 years of history. With the excitement of a new future for Japan, the economy excelled due to a more happy and diligent workforce that was excited about future success.

Sadly, the Japan we see now resembles very little of the Japan we knew 20 years prior when Shinzo’s policies first went in to effect. Within the past five years, a slow and deliberate spike has taken root in national crime rates. Initially, Japan began to see an increase in petty crime rates through major urban areas. As those crimes began to spiral outward into the suburbs, more disturbing crimes appeared to replace those in urban neighborhoods. National newspapers began displaying headlines reporting more and more gruesome crimes. Within the last few years especially, organized crime has returned with a passion taking control of entire boroughs of major cities. Secondary and tertiary Japanese economies have arisen which focus on services with questionable moral and legal status.

Many Japanese scholars have recognized the correlation between the increase in birth rate and the increased crime rate, and have attempted to prove if one may have influenced the other. One theory posits that taxes on birth control led to lower usage, and an increased number of accidental births and in turn unwanted children. Fifteen years later, these unwanted children began contributing to increased crime rates due to a lack of parental supervision. Another theory highlights the tax credits, arguing those who took advantage of the credits most were poorer citizens that contributed less to the economy. Coupled with a national decrease in IQ levels, some scholars believe the credits enticed those citizens to raise children, as opposed to Japans brightest and hardest working individuals who were less enticed by the tax credits. Still others believe the crime rate to merely be a side of effect of a larger population. With more people living in more densely packed cities, arguments have been made for higher crime rates being merely due to increased stress caused by increased interaction rates and more chances for crimes of opportunity.

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Additional Resources:

Japan Funds Japanese Dating Sites

Economic analyst suggests “Handsome Tax”

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Critical Design as a means for change

As we progress with this class, and we read more papers regarding critical design, I find myself reverting back to a issue we spoke about early on: are we able to over-analyze design, leading to an entire line of thinking around it’s discussion due to the fact we do not have to focus on the present.  As students, academics, etc. we’re free to have these conversations about how design may be critical of itself since the grand majority of us do not have to worry about working 80 hour weeks to ensure we have heat in our homes or feed offspring (likely due to inflated student loans), walking down the street in the midst of a civil war, or any number of other real life worries we’re shielded from within the walls of CMU.  How can our conversations within class be implemented outside the walls of CMU, away from academia?  Between Tobias Revell’s online lecture and the proceedings of IASDR especially, the majority of examples they cite fall in to what we would consider a fine arts.  It makes me wonder if critical design, being so introspective itself, can lead to the creation of a design product/solution/etc. that has some sort of commercial viability.  Not necessarily in the sense of a creating massive revenues, more so as design that can exist outside of an art-gallery with more “real-world” implications and uses.  Can the ideals put forth by critical design be used to influence or enhance a broader group of individuals who will never enter an art gallery?

Or is that that not the purpose, and by trying to find some final product or object, or some sort of use case for critical design, am I completely missing the point?  Perhaps critical design’s focus on “Ideas rather than objects” can merely be one of many design philosophies, and not all need to have a focus on actual creation of objects.  By not having to focus on daily terrors present in others lives, does that give us the ability to focus on other “big picture” ideas, with critical design being a method to do so?

Science fiction: The playground of the intellect

In the extra reading this week, Brian David Johnson made a rather salient point regarding regarding science fiction I found extremely interesting.  He mentions writers having written fantastic stories about various technologies or other fictional events such as attending the moon over the years.  These stories, as they become more and more abundant, become part of our pop culture and not out of the ordinary to many of us.  When many of these stories come true, and the actual technology required to allow them to live is available, they’re not nearly as fantastical since we’ve been writing about them for so long.

This makes me question, that if stories were not written about huge triumphs for mankind such as visiting the moon, would that make them infinitely more important, and blow our minds beyond comprehension?  What about on a smaller scale?  Are there technologies that appear within science or design fiction which never even get created, since we can see their potential for not being useful within their postulated realm?  When making these pieces of design fiction real, is the role of science fiction to prepare us for possible future outcomes, and allow us to test the waters and choose which future is most preferred?

Is it possible to take this a step further, and utilize design fiction, or science fiction, as a way to prepare our culture for possible negative outcomes?  Can you mitigate the possibility for large scale disaster by inserting the possibility of it into our minds through design fiction, to lessen the initial emotional blow?

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Two thoughts on points by Malpass & Sterling

From the readings, two key things within two of the articles particularly stood out to me, inspiring additional thought which momentarily hindered my ability to focus on reading the rest of the articles.

The first of those two was Malpass’ discussion of design’s ability to have an intellectual credibility rather than directly feeding a capitalist desire to create more items and in turn sell those items. Coming from a background of working within an advertising agency, I often struggled with the enjoyment I received engaging in visual design vs the nagging feeling that the ultimate goal of my works was intended to make the viewer take out their wallet and purchase a service or product. This struggle was on the exact opposite of the spectrum from my experiences as an undergraduate fine arts major where every creation was a purely personal endeavor with no thought as to what purpose it may serve outside of it’s perceived aesthetic beauty (most of the time … hopefully).  As I’ve grown as a designer, person, artist, and individual, trying to find a happy medium between these two extremes has become much more of a focus of mine.

The second point I found interesting was within the wired article where the concept of vaporware was mentioned as an example of design fiction.  My thoughts began to wander towards Kickstarter as a means of design fiction, featuring many different products where contributors can purchase a piece of speculative design in the hopes that it may become a reality.  Many of those products never come to be, since the technology to create the product is not available, feasible, or at times even possible.  Last semester, a professor spoke of a Kickstarter project he contributed nearly $500 to which promised to ship him a wand you wave over a piece of food, which in turn tells you its caloric content.  While this clearly seems like something that is not quite possible, the campaign still reached its goal due to so many contributors wishing that this piece of design fiction could in fact be real.