The Design (An)Aesthetics of Data-Driven Domesticity

Authors: Gregory Donovan*, Fordham University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Social Geography, Cyberinfrastructure
Keywords: smart home, social reproduction, carework, digital geographies, design, proprietary media, domestic technology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 4:50 AM / 6:05 AM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper considers how the spectacle of the ‘smart’ home models a gendered, classed, and racialized reproduction that anesthetizes the pains of neoliberalism by expanding the emotional distance between life at home and life elsewhere. Drawing on critical feminist, queer, and black scholarship, four prototypical domestic technologies -- Ring, SimpliSafe, Nanit, and The Mirror -- are analyzed to unpack the digital and domestic registers of contemporary (re)production and the differential ways data-driven technologies help shape space, time, and bodies at home. While a design aesthetic typically indicates a style of stimulating thought and feeling, a design anesthetic is here theorized as a styling of experience to distract and desensitize. Such design within the ‘smart’ home increasingly involves proprietary regimes that monitor and manage seemingly everything except matters of structural inequality so as to unsee and displace public problems from daily life. In doing so, these technologies offer a false promise of reorienting domestic space-time to efficiently absorb the offloading of reproductive responsibility from the state to individuals and civil society. Extrapolating from this deceptive design work, the paper concludes with a discussion of how everyday people might rework the 'smart' home as a site of care, repair, agitation, and activism.

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