Existing theories of cultural pollution take two forms. It is seen either as the product of a binary disambiguating activity that codes the problematic Other as symbolically distant, or conversely the result of ambiguity, confusion and hybridity that locates the Other as in-between. The article introduces a third option of ‘near pollution’. On the basis of the work of the roboticist Masahiro Mori this indicates the significance of classificatory proximity and similarity, extreme sensitivity to signals and non-linear cultural effects. Examples are given ranging from computer-generated images to body modification, mental incapacity, material culture, artistic and political performance, and political purges. These capture the uncanny effects originally identified by Mori but also map out a far wider range of empirical and theoretical opportunities for cultural sociology.
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Smith, P. Of ‘near pollution’ and non-linear cultural effects: Reflections on Masahiro Mori and the Uncanny Valley. Am J Cult Sociol 2, 329–347 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/ajcs.2014.11