My first interviewee was my ex-partner. So whilst sitting at McDonalds, while he spent ‘quality’ time with our children I thought I’d multitask, and interrogate his current relationship with the networked home.
Me: How is your home connected to the internet?
Him: What’s it called? Wi-fi
Me: Is it NBN?
Him: I don’t know. I guess its broadband — I think.
And we continued much like that. Unless you’ve been on the phone to Telstra recently, I don’t think your internet connection elicits your passion. Let me diverge… maybe I just explain it better.
When internet came in (1993/1994) we lived in a small studio apartment in Bondi Junction. It used to be his bachelor pad, but when I returned from overseas and moved in (because I was homeless) and never got around to leaving. We were both dancers, he taught classes and was quite a well-known Hip Hop choreographer. We both danced professionally. I worked in offices during the daytime and had always done personal computing at the office (in my lunchtime of course). We didn’t even have a computer at home, just two mobile phone, a heavy grey 32cm TV and an impressive collection of discmen.
An ‘opportunity’ came our way, when a guy we knew with a gambling problem came to my partner with a laptop to sell. It was big, it was heavy and it wasn’t his — but we bought it anyway.
It was around the time the stolen laptop came to live on our dining table (that was never used for dining) that dial-up-internet came to town. I’d sit there while the card modem in the computer sounded the dial tone. It was SLOW… even compared to my work places it was slow, but it was something. For a dance business it was an incredible tool and it was free! A great way to access people and for them to access us. Not a whole lot of stuff was done through the computer as not many other businesses utilised it, particularly within Australia.
Music was a major way it affected us. In the 1990’s and before, accessing Hip Hop music in Australia was next to impossible. The only way we got it was through small alley-way music import shops where albums were priced at $30-$40 per CD. A lot of people made money out of making mixed tape compilations that were dealt like drugs from under the counter. Now, the arrival of the internet and file sharing made it possible for people like us to have the latest off the street of New York down to our phone line in Bondi in around six hours after the download started.
Fashion was made possible as we ordered shoes and baseball caps for American prices which at that time were significantly lower than Australian.
Family from overseas was brought that much closer as the cost of sitting on an international phone call was reduced to almost nothing as email became a tool of common use.
Flash-forward to today and my ex-partner tells me the networked home is offering more of the same. As artists and sole business owners we never left our work anyway, so the connectivity in the home is just an expression of that. He lives away from all of his children, so my children, old enough now to have their own devices, are able to Facetime their father giving them the experience of a relationship with him that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
He said, “the internet gives me more informed but less connected.” Personally I think his connected world is just another expression of his self.
In an article in The Journal of Sociology called’ Enacting virtual connections between work and home’, findings were published on a research project that found that despite hypotheses by other scholars on the ability of the internet and technology to destroy the boundaries of work and home, most people were still keeping these boundaries despite having internet access at both work and home.
‘there is no evidence of family to work spillover resulting from the use of the Internet for personal purposes while at work. We found that employees are using the Internet for personal purposes during the workday (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays) to a greater extent than using the Internet for work purposes during non-work times. However, this private use during work time is not proving to be problematic for users. Once again, it would seem that these users are able to manage the technology such that its technical capability to permeate the temporal division between work and home is controlled.’ Wajcman, Rose, Brown & Bittman (2010, p.p. 271)