The daily life of technologies4 min read
Everyday objects are of certain importance for those who want to understand what everyday life is in its ordinary and consecrated uses. Objects can reveal the hidden meaning of places, bring to light the secret issues of social practices, the implicit meaning of the different moments of everyday life that we experience without even thinking about it and which is certainly not limited to the presence of people. that we meet. The social and cultural dimensions of daily life are intimately linked to objects, to the spaces they occupy, to the times when they are used. And yet, more often than not, we don’t even think about it.
2Thus, the refrigerator, which we find in the heart of practically all our homes, that is to say in the kitchen, is a typical example of an ordinary everyday object. Its primary function of refrigerating food is obvious, but it also reveals many other meanings to those who observe its domestic uses. Thus, its magnetic closing door predisposes it to assume additional roles, such as that of memory aid or space for the exchange of written messages between the members of a household (Lally, 2002). The refrigerator sometimes becomes a concrete meeting place when the children choose a snack after school. It symbolizes the forbidden when it witnesses nocturnal cravings appeased in secret. Here are so many peripheral functions which are thus grafted onto this object which, in appearance, is for strictly utilitarian use. This type of household equipment, which forms a sort of invisible background or backdrop to our daily life, in fact carries multiple meanings that go beyond its strict technical function.
3By their shapes, their dimensions, their colors, their material, these objects are above all material. They occupy space, move and change over time. They interact with other objects and form meaningful relationships with the individuals around them. Techno-objects thus become much more than simple things, and they should rather be seen as full-fledged actors in our daily lives. They behave in fact as partners generating interactions that have concrete and recognized functions. For example, the computer, an object occupying a specific space in our home, becomes part of the family dynamic, transforms it and transforms itself over time.
4Technologies perform an implicit role by functioning as signs, signs that speak and reveal things about uses, relationships between family members, their positions and statuses. Beyond their functional utility, these objects contain an important symbolic character. A user will mention that he has a cell phone to emphasize that he can be reached at all times. It thus reveals a desire for communication and a desire to put oneself in a state of availability. Conversely, a teenager might be reluctant to have a cell phone for fear of not being called. We therefore observe that objects “speak” to us. How to use it is just as revealing: always keep your cell phone with you, keep it off most of the time, highlighting it on the table in a restaurant are manifest behaviors that inform us about the owner of this technology and about his relationship to his social world. Such examples show that objects are not neutral. Whether at home, at school, in the office or in public places, our relationships with others are influenced by the presence of these technologies.
5The question of objects is fundamental to understanding domestic practices, but it becomes complex in the case of information and communication technologies, given that they are media (Silverstone, Hirsch and Morley, 1992), which have therefore the particularity of forging links, of allowing the exchange of messages between individuals and with institutions, of connecting the private and the public.
6With innovations in information and communication technologies, the material context of our daily life is becoming more complex. Thus, the proliferation of techno-objects in the space of the house brings together several generations of technologies. Admittedly, there have been several telephones and radios in a house for several decades, but very recently there was only one television set and one computer. The amalgamation of these techno-objects, both old and new, modifies existing practices. Their integration into daily life is not simply reduced to an addition of equipment, because it entails rearrangements of space and rehabilitation of users in their environment.
Technology studies too often focus on objects, while this one does not work in isolation. It is linked to a system of techno-objects with its own specific dynamics and its own balance. This is what can be called a domestic ecology (Lally, 2002) which therefore needs to be explored by analyzing the interactions characterizing all the technologies in the home.
How to tame technology
8When a new technology enters the ecology of a household, it is subject to a process of domestication (Silverstone, Hirsch and Morley, 1992; Caron and Berre, 1995). Domestication includes different stages, from the acquisition of the object to its integration into the temporalities and routines of the home. Through this process, technology acquires (or loses) meanings, functions and values.
9Several authors use an economic metaphor to describe the process of domestication (Kopytoff, 1986; Silverstone, Hirsch and M