Domestication

Domestication

History and Orientation

Households are seen as part of a transactional system of economic and social relations within the formal or more objective economy and society of the public sphere. Within this framework households are seen as being actively engaged with the products and meanings of this formal, commodity- and individual based economy. This engagement involved the appropriation of the commodities into domestic culture – they are domesticated – and through that appropriation they are incorporated and redefined in different terms, in accordance with the household’s own values and interests.

Core Assumptions and Statements

Domestication deals with the cultural, social and technological networks of the everyday life of households. The meanings and significance of all our media and information products depend on the participation of the user (Silverstone, 1996).

Four phases describe the concept of domestication. 1) Appropriation: When a technology leaves the world of commodity it is appropriated. Then it can be taken by an individual or a household and owned. From this perspective appropriation stands for the whole process of consumption as well as for that moment at which an object crosses the threshold between the formal and the moral economics. (Miller, 1988).

2) Objectification: this is expressed in usage but also in psychical dispositions of objects in the spatial environment of the home (living room). It is also expressed in the construction as the environment as such. All technologies have the potential to be appropriated into an aesthetic environment. Many are purchased as much for their appearance of the home as for their functional significance.

3) Incorporation: The ways in which objects, especially technologies are used. Technologies are functional. They may be bought with other features in mind and indeed serve other cultural purposes in appropriation. They may indeed become functional in ways somewhat removed from the intentions of designers or marketers. Technologies also may have many functions.

4) Conversion: defines the relationship between the household and the outside world. It may happen that technologies pass the household defines and claims itself and it members in the ‘wider society’.

Conceptual Model

Not applicable.

Favorite Methods

Observation, longitudinal, in dept-interviews.

Scope and Application

The domestication approach can be used to describe technological change in a wide range: from households to institutional settings.

Domestication provides a network for an understanding of the complex interrelationships of cultures and technologies as they emerge in institutions and individuals.

Example

See Bergman (1997) for example.

References

Key publications

Silverstone, R. & Hirsch, E. (eds.) (1994). Consuming Technologies: Media and Information Domestic Spaces. London: Routledge.

Mansell, R. & Silverstone, R. (eds.) (1996). Communication by design: The Politics of Information and Communication Technologies. Oxford University Press.

Miller, D. (1988). ‘Appropriating the state pm the council estate’ Man 23: 353-72.

Bergman, S. (1997). ‘De betekenis van communicatietechnologie in het huishouden’. in J. Servaes & V. Frissen (ed.), De interpretatieve benadering in de communicatiewetenschap. Theorie, methodologie en case-studies, Leuven/ Amersfoort: Acco, 273-291.

Punie, Y. (2000). Domesticatie van informatie- en communicatietechnologie. Adoptie, gebruik en betekenis van media in het dagelijks leven. Continue beperking of discontinue bevrijding. Proefschrift, vrije Universiteit Brussel, Faculteit der Letteren en Wijsbegeerte.