At Home with Computers

At Home with Computers

At Home with Computers

At Home with Computers

Synopsis

New technologies are profoundly reshaping the world around us. Home computers - unheard of two decades ago - now play an intimate role as personal possessions in many people's lives. For some, computer games may be vital to winding-down after a busy day, while for others the home computer represents only work or is a means through which to socialize in cyberspace. Powerfully symbolic of both future and present trends, computers are increasingly seen as essential home purchases.This book is the first sustained examination of the revealing role computers play in our domestic lives. Do computers cause or help to resolve arguments? What role does gender play in negotiating their use? Who spends the most time with the computer? How does the importance of home computers change as we move from childhood through careers to retirement? Drawing upon topical theories from material culture, technology and consumption studies, Lally traces the social life of these machines and provides unique insights into the many different ways in which they are transformed into highly personal possessions. The result is an absorbing account of everyday life in the information age.This book will be of interest to anthropologists, geographers, sociologists and anyone who wants to get to know how their home computer affects their family life.

Excerpt

Indeed, things are perhaps the most faithful witnesses of all, and in their fidelity to us they function as extensions of ourselves, reflections and echoes of who we are, were, and will become. Those things in your room, for example, those simple, ordinary things mirror who and what you are, and situated in that room they give a shape to its space, they form it into a place, they outline a world… Staying in their place, they give us our place, and without such things in our lives we would have no place at all. (Romanyshyn 1989: 193–4)

Computers are, on the one hand, technologies that are profoundly reshaping the world around us and powerful cultural symbols of futurity, and, on the other hand, they are concrete elements of everyday life and personal items which can be bought and owned by householders. As a highly technological object, the home computer takes on an association with processes of globalization and sociotechnical development, and is symbolically linked with imaginaries of the future. As commodity, the home computer is embedded in contemporary production and consumption processes, and its acquisition is generally a contribution to a household's ‘home-building’, its ongoing project of maintenance and reproduction. As an everyday domestic object, the home computer is distinguished by its technological character, but must also find its place among a variety of other kinds of household objects, many of which are not normally thought of as technologies.

This book explores the social life of the computer in contemporary domestic life, based on interviews with the members of computer-owning households in western Sydney. It explores how such objects move from anonymous and alien commodities to become powerfully integrated into the lives of their users. It is centrally about technology and home-building, but the conceptual thread which links these is that of ownership, considered as an activity and a relationship, which is by its very nature complicated, multilayered, even at times contradictory.

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