The Long History of the Networked Home: Convergences of technology, space and sociality in the domestic environment
Domestic Technology , Sociology
This dissertation is about the increasing technologization of domestic spaces and the implications for human-technology sociality that are ‘built-into’ ICT-enabled domestic spaces and technologies. Its central focus is the socio-cultural development of the networked home in terms of convergences of and between humans and technologies throughout the twentieth century. The dissertation considers electricity, automobility, and the informationalization of domestic spaces as necessary conditions for the emergence of the contemporary networked home. Acknowledging the broader context of changes in capitalism, the dissertation focuses upon sociotechnical change represented within ordinary and popular visions of domestic spaces that circulated in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. To this end, it traces the long history of the networked home between 1906 and 2006 in two mass circulation magazines (and in appliance and home industry research materials between 1993 and 2008), and analyzes the advertisements, advice columns, and research reports contained therein. A framework drawn from social studies of technology, theories of the network society, and of consumption is used to address several broad questions: What are the implications of the scripted, built-in, and assumed characteristics of the relationships between humans and technologies in domestic spaces? What do these mean for the ways in which domestic spaces are configured? What lessons for the future of sociality between and among humans and technologies in and around domestic spaces might be taken from prior configurations? The hybrid sociality that is created by combinations of ICTs, domestic spaces and appliances, and human users relies upon ‘built-in’ scripts to function, layers of which – including the competences, skill sets, and preferred uses – become sedimented and help to facilitate the introduction, normalization, and domestication of novel technologies. By understanding how these built-in scripts have worked in technologized homes since 1906, this dissertation is an important step toward a sociological account of the next emerging trend in domestic technologies: those concerned with environmental sustainability.