Silverstone, Roger. “Domesticating Domestication. Reflections on the Life of a Concept.” In Berker, Thomas, et al, eds. Domestication of Media and Technology. Berkshire, UK: Open University Press, 2006, 229-248

Roger Silverstone’s theory of the “domestication” of media technology is, in my opinion, an interesting one. He states that “Domestication is practice. It involves human agency. It requires effort and culture and leaves nothing as it is.” (p. 231) I found this point intriguing because domestication appears to me to be an extremely subtle process, requiring little conscious effort. When I have purchased a new piece to technology, after the initial excitement has worn down and the instruction manual has been read, I find I hardly notice the technology being incorporated into my life and habits. Perhaps one reason for this is that I am so used to the rate of change of media technologies in my life and my world. As Silverstone says it is second nature to us now to “demand, the next great invention.” (p. 230) Therefore it may not only be the technologies that are being domesticated into our lives and social patterns but also the rate of change and development surrounding these technologies. We are accustomed to new products being revealed monthly, weekly and daily.

 

Silverstone encourages us to see that “consumption was also production” (p. 232), that by consuming technological goods we are in turn creating something different by domesticating them into our lives. It appears a bit of postmodernism sneaks in here, in the idea that everyone brings something new to the text, or technology- new experiences, ideas, opinions- and thus “no technology [is] untransformed.” (p. 232) I believe then there are perhaps two sides to domestication: “domestication as a conservative response to the challenge of technological change” (p. 246), where something new and thus frightening is made familiar and known but also a process where “consumption was linked to invention and design” (p. 232) where by accepting a new technology a small piece of ourselves is combined with it as “the boundaries between humans and machine” (p. 230-231)  are redefined.

 

Another concept being redefined it seems is that of the home and household. Silverstone is conscious in making a distinction between these terms. The “boundaries around the household are breaking down” (p. 241) as a result, it may be said, of new media technologies. The mobile phone ads which propound their product’s ability to allow you to carry your home with you spring to mind. Silverstone defines households as “social, economic and political units” (p. 241) and thus introduces the term “moral economy” (p. 236), or a set of values held in common within a household. This lead me to consider my family’s moral economy and I found I had trouble defining it. Therefore I am in agreement with the writer when he says “[A household’s] defining characteristic lies in the absence of domestic coherence rather than its consistency.” 

 

The home on the other hand is “a projection of self…a notion of home that attaches to the keypad of a mobile phone.” (p. 242) This idea gives new meaning to the phrase ‘home is where the heart is’ and if that is true, I know many people who could be said to keep their homes on facebook. I found this idea of the home being virtual and thus blurring the lines between public and private particularly interesting. “Individuals engage electronically with the public world.” (p. 243) and I found myself wondering whether my home is now globally extended, or whether the world has come into my home. I’m still not sure. As Silverstone says “Public, private: who notices anymore, who cares?” (p. 241) I feel interesting times are ahead as technologies transform the home, our lives, our social patterns and habits even more and I am glad I had some forewarning from this article. 

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