The Uncanny Valley

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Anthropomorphism in Japanese Visual Culture

What is Anthropomorphism?

The process of giving animals or inanimate objects human characteristics to make humans feel empathy is called ‘Anthropomorphism’

The term anthropomorphism was first used by the Greek philosopher Xenophanes. The word is derived from the Greek word Anthrōpomorphos. ‘Anthrōpos’ meaning, “man” or "human", and ‘Morphē’, "shape" or "form". He used it when he criticized the Greek conception of gods and deities with human appearances and qualities. Anthropomorphism is widely used in religion and mythology. Although theologians have tried to reduce it, some ‘concede that anthropomorphism cannot be eliminated without eliminating religion itself’. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/27536/anthropomorphism

Throughout history we have used anthropomorphism to describe the nature of things. We see faces in cloud formations, mountains and trees. In the fable “The North Wind and The Sun” by Aesop we observe the sun and the north wind speaking to each other. In the illustrations by Milo Winter (Fig.1-2) we can identify the Sun and the North Wind as having faces and gender. Anthropomorphism is the ‘personification’ of natural phenomena like rock formation, wind and the sea, to all the strange characters we see in animation such as magical broomsticks and talking animals all the way to real life situations such as anthropomorphising ones cars or pets.

‘There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities, with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. No wonder, then, that mankind, being placed in such an absolute ignorance of causes, and being at the same time so anxious concerning their future fortune, should immediately acknowledge a dependence on invisible powers, possessed of sentiment and intelligence. The unknown causes, which continually employ their thought,

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