'Frightening,' muttered a British delegate to the experts' seminar on Manufacturing Business, organised by the DTI and the Japan External Trade Organisation. He had just heard a presentation of a report on the future of manufacturing from Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). While British speakers had earnestly focused on ways to improve manufacturing in the '90s, the contribution from Hidefusa Miyama, director of the MITI's Technology Planning Division, concerned the 'essence of man', spiritualism, and the need to establish 'techniques for evaluation of human sensitivity and other instinctive characteristics'. Consumers, he said, were not simply seeking convenience but had expectations of material objects that satisfied their sensitivity and had 'sentiment'.
The British delegate's obvious unease deepened when the next Japanese speaker's vision disappeared completely over the horizon: 'Consumers', he said, 'have been changed from the mass consumers at the time of the mass production/mass consumption market, to be de-massified consumers at the period of the mass-kinds/small production market, ushering in the era of "prosumers".' The latter, it appears, stands for post-standardisation of the mass-consumers. 'Each person', he said, 'is equal to each medium, and a transmitter of information is at the same time a receiver of information. This is really a peculiar paradigm.' Quite.