Design / Domestication Interface

Domestication is a component of what Silverstone and Haddon (2006) refer to as the design/domestication interface. This model has two main purposes: first, to consider the importance of technological use in the process of innovation (a component that is somewhat lacking in deterministic theories); and second, to focus on the interrelationship between design and domestication. The model shows the importance of understanding media technology’s double articulation (explained in greater detail below): technical innovation is not just a matter of engineering, but new and old technologies are social products that are symbolic and aesthetic as well as material and functional. Production and consumption of these technologies can not be explained through a linear process. Rather, the connection between them is a complex pattern of interactions that incorporates both producers and consumer-users.

Design is a key concept in understanding the design/domestication interface. Design consists of three main components:

  • Creating the artifact – In this stage, the artifact is created both functionally and aesthetically. In other words, the artifact is created to fulfill some function and to appeal to a potential consumer. In describing the process involved with creating the artifact, Silverstone and Haddon present a term they refer to as “double articulation,” which is distinctive to media and information and communication technologies. The term describes the dual-nature of a technology as both an object and a medium. “With both dimensions of doubling in mind, it becomes both possible, indeed essential, to see the innovation of media and information and communication technologies as a fundamentally social process.”
  • Constructing the user - In this phase, a projection of a potential user guides the innovation process. At the same time, the eventual user is also designed.
  • Catching the consumer – Places the design process as a central component of the wider economic and social processes of commodification and indicates the importance of recognizing both the central role that technology plays in the consuming culture of contemporary capitalism and the role of the market in defining the status and meaning of technology.

Domestication (Silverstone, 1994) is “akin to the domestication of the wild animal.” It involves the process of bringing a technology into the home and adopting it into everyday life. In the process of domestication, consumers (or users) incorporate the technology into their lives and subsequently fuel the innovation process: “the product of the work consumers do in taking possession of new technologies and services, hardware and software, feed back into the innovation process” (Silverstone and haddon, 1996). Domestication is not a one-way process, rather, it must be understood in various sociocultural contexts.

Consumption is a key aspects of domestication. Consumption contains the following dimensions (Silverstone and Haddon, 1996):

  • Commodification - Commodification refers to the industrial and commercial processes that create both material and symbolic artifacts and turn them into commodities for sale on the market. It also refers to the ideological process at work that defines them as products and to a varying extent, the expressions of dominant values and ideas in societies that produce them. It describes how the imaginative process in which the consumer undertakes as they participate in the consumption process.
  • Appropriation - When consumers or users purchase a technology and bring them from the market into their private spaces. Objectification is an aspect of appropriation in which the technology is physically placed within the home. Incorporation referes to the manner in which the technology is incorporated temporally, into the lives of the consumers/users. It is at this point in time that the interpretive flexibility of a technology allows the user to find new meanings.
  • Conversion - Describes the flow from private space back into the public sphere around the technology. It is through this process that the market agents involved with the technology learn about the manner in which it is consumed.

Critique of the Design/Domestication Interface

According to Bakardjieva, the design/domestication interface ties the actions of users/consumers to a dualism that distinguishes between production and consumption, which leads to a number of shortcomings when applying the framework to the study of interactive media: First, she describes how portraying the home as the center of consumption fails to take into account its changing role in society; secondly, she she points to the fundamental distinctions between the experience of using interactive communication technologies in comparison with broadcast media.


Silverstone, R (1994), Television and Everyday Life, Routledge, Oxford.

Silverstone, R and Haddon, L (1996), ‘Design and the Domestication of Information and Communication Technologies: Technical Change and Everday Life’, in Silverstone and Mansell, R (eds.), Communication by Design: The Politics of Information and Communication Technologies, Oxford University Press, Oxford.