A recent interview on the news radio program "On the Media" covered a new craze that has swept Japan. Over the past few years, growing numbers of people have been renting time in "media immersion pods"—small rooms packed with multimedia options in an office building or the back of a café. A typical media pod includes a Play Station 3, XBox 360, Wifi, top of the line PC and/or Mac, large computer screen, TV, and a large library of games and DVDs. Rooms often include a big comfy chair and/or a bed. Some even have padded leather floors. And just to make sure these is no reason to leave, the rental fee will often include food and drink.
Nestled away in their liminal space, pod renters can engage in almost any form of electronic entertainment or just relax and take a nap. According to a New York Times story that covered this new phenomenon back when it first took off, "What they do there is up to them. Some people channel-surf. Others trade stocks. You can download music, read novels, watch pornography, play video games, have sex, [or just] go to sleep." Many renters say that they enjoy having a space to be alone and away from buzzing office building and crowed homes. For them, it’s about the ability to do anything or nothing all by themselves.
A great debate surrounds the media immersion pod phenomenon. Are these just "crack dens" for Internet addicts? Is this a trend away from community and human interaction? Are these pods anti-democratic in any way? Why are people craving a mediated existence?
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