Domestication

The study of domestication of ICTs comes from media studies examining questions pertaining to the role of television in our everyday lives. Conceptually, these approaches have been informed by anthropological and consumption studies. The domestication framework is one of the key elements in this topic area and has heavily influenced a great deal of the research in this area, particularly in the United Kingdom.

David Morley’s The Nationwide Audience was one of the first empirical studies into audiences’ reactions. Much of the research was done with focus groups, removing the audience from the environment of their home.

Key Contributions from Media Studies:

  • Hobson (1980) found that radio and television helped provide structure in the everyday lives of housewives, and also provided them with a sense of social presence in an otherwise isolated environment. Additionally, he found that housewives would relate their everyday problems to what they saw in soap operas.
  • Bausinger (1984) argued for the need to empirically examine media consumption rituals in the home. He also concluded that media is an integral part of everyday life, even though we are not always actively engaged with it. Additionally, he looked at media consumption as a collective social practice and realized that media content provided material for everyday conversations and can not be separated out from interpersonal communications.
  • Morley (1986) studied the television habits in the home. He examined topics like gender divides in who controls the programming (who is in charge of the remote control); gendered viewing styles (full attention vs. multitasking); and gender and conversations about television. Morley (1980) was also one of the first academics to focus on audience studies.
  • Lull (1990) provided an account of the various social uses for the television
  • According to Lull, television can serve structural functionality, including environmental uses in which the television serves to provide background noise to accompany other activities; and regulative uses in which the television can serve to structure time.
  • It also has relational functionality including communication facilitation – to illustrate and clarify values, to provide a common ground for talking, and a way of avoiding conversational discomfort. It can also facilitate affiliation and avoidance, providing a way for families to spend time together, can serve as a family relaxant, and can be a social distractor, reducing the need to talk.

Key Contributions from Consumption Studies

Consumption literature focuses primarily on products we consume such as food and clothing. It asks questions about why we make certain consumptive choices and how we feel about, organize, and use things we possess. Many of these ideas have been applied to the study of ICTs.

In the 1980s, studies of other ICTs such as VCRs, home computers, and the telephone began cropping up, causing academics to think that ICTs may be studied as a whole instead of as separate media. The earliest description of domestication comes from Silverstone, Hirsch, and Morley, in which they liken “domestication” to the taming of a wild animal.

Silverstone and Haddons’ design/domestication interface provides a structured model for thinking about domestication of ICTs.

References

Bausinger, H.(1984) ‘Media, Technology and Everyday Life’, Media, Culture and Society, 6.4., pp.343-352. (Background)

Hobson, D.(1980), ‘Housewives and the Mass Media’, in Hall, S. et al.(eds.) Culture, Media, Language, Hutchinson, London.(Background)

Lull, J. (1988) World Families Watch Television, Sage, London (especially chapters 2 (Morley) and 4 (Rogge and Jensen).(Background)

Lull, J. (1990) Inside Family Viewing: Ethnographic Research on Television’s Audiences, Routledge, London, (especially chapter 2)

Morley, D. (1986) Family Television: Cultural Power and Domestic Leisure, Comedia, London (Background)