In earlier posts (“Hatsune Miku,the idol who doesn’t exist” and later posts), I have written about Hatsune Miku being an idol that doesn’t exist, or referred to her as a ‘virtual idol’. On other websites, she also gets referred to as a ‘virtual idol’. But can we just make assumptions like that?
In “The Physical and Social Reality of Virtual Worlds”, Philip Brey discribes an apple. Not just a regular apple, but a virtual apple. He argues that virtual objects do exist, by stating that virtual apples exist as virtual apples, but not as real apples. Just like immitation apples are not real apples, but they do exist as immitation apples. Virtual apples simulate or imitate real apples, but one cannot say virtual apples are real, as real apples (Brey, 43). With this theory in mind, does that mean that Hatsune Miku as a virutal idol does exist, as she imitates a real idol, but she does not exist as a real idol?
In the same article, Brey also states the following:
“Virtual objects resemble fictional objects in requiring a suspension of disbelief: just as immersing onself in a movie or novel requires one to experience or perceive depict events as if they are actually happening, immersion in a virtual world requires one to act as if it is real. In addition, just like fictional objects, virtual objects depend on authorship, and this sometimes implies that facts concerning virtual objects are made true by fiat of their creator, in the interest of a narrative of which these objects are a part.”(Brey, 45)
A virtual world. This is one of the two main points that stir up questions in my head. As Hatsune Miku is not a character in a game, what is the virtual world she is living in? She lives in MVs and in images. Due to her fame, she also started to appear in fan-made manga (Japanese comics) and commercials. But when you focus on her origin, she was just an image made to promote a product (the Vocaloid2 voicebank).
I might be overthinking things, but her virtual world might look a little different than for example the virtual world of a game. Hatsune Miku’s virtual world might be the MVs, where she imitates real idols:
While she doesn’t move like an idol in the MV, she still is seen as the protagonist of the story while singing the song from her perspective. This creates a narrative that could be seen as one of the many virtual worlds that Hatsune Miku lives in as a virtual idol.
Another place that could be called her virtual world is the stage
I think the feeling of a virtual idol imitating a real idol is muchstronger during performances like this. While a listener does interact with the object (Hatsune Miku) when watching a MV, an interaction during a live performance is much stronger than just looking at the screen. This is probably true for virtual idols as well as real idols. So, this also makes me wonder: Is an on-stage performance by a virtual idol such as Hatsune Miku an occurrence in which we from the real world get invited deeper into her virtual world, or does she step from her virtual world into our real world? The start of the niconico Cho Party 2015 as shown in the video above might be telling us that the latter is the case. Then again, all these people in the audience gathered right there for the interaction with the virtual idols. Does that mean they meant to come there to get closer to the virtual world of Hatsune Miku after all?
Virtual objects depend on authorship. The second point. Crypton Future Media brought Hatsune Miku into this world without creating a narrative themselves. The narrative of Hatsune Miku and other vocaloids is created completely by VocaloidP’s and artists of fan art and such. VocaloidP’s are then again fans as well, and it is full circle again. The radically crowdsourced idol Hatsune Miku (“Fan Art and a 41 Minute Piano Medley“) has become who she is while a whole community contributed to her narrative. This, of course, creates several different narratives and also makes it unclear who Hatsune Miku actually is.
Then again, when watching only one MV, there is only one narrative created especially for that video. That means there is an immense amount of narratives. Of course there is one more mainstream narrative, but even that one is not definitive. During concerts as well, in that moment there is only one (group of) author(s), but their job is to make a smooth medley of all these different narratives.
I do not think that this makesher not a virtual idol, as she does not completely fit into the description Brey gives of virtual objects, but perhaps itis also wrong of me to compare her to an object. This way of thinking did, though, widen my perspective and I think we can say that Hatsune Miku in factdoes exist, but as a virutal idol.
Brey, Philip. 2014. “The Phyiscal and Social Reality of Virtual Worlds.” In The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality edited by Mark Grimshaw, 42-54. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199826162.001.0001