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Has technology given us a home life filled with opportunities?
Ruth Schwartz Cowan is a distinguished historian of technology who is perhaps best known for her 1983 book More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. She is currently Bers Professor and Chair in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, USA.
‘Housework rules are unconscious--and therefore very powerful: rules about such mundane things as how often sheets should get washed and how many courses a meal should have and how often an infant should be bathed.  Each of us needs to think about those rules and to decide which of them actually makes sense for us under our present conditions. Only  then can we begin to control household technology instead of letting it control us.  If we just proceed the way the manufacturers and advertisers want us to proceed, we'll end up drowning in--and drowned by--our appliances.’
Debate started 29/04/2004
REPLIES POSTED: 15
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BACKGROUND:

In many ways, technology has given us a home life filled with opportunities for leisure and relaxation. Despite this we are still driven to keep up with our neighbours and create the ideal home. DIY is big business, selling us tools and flatpacks, which will enable us to develop our homes without calling in the professionals. Modern appliances wash our clothes and help us keep our homes clean. The NMSI collections have such examples as the Dyson cyclone vacuum cleaner and Flymo mover.

Yet we often feel under pressure from advertisers and the media to do better. We accept the benefits of new technology, but become disillusioned when they fail to deliver the dream home the advertisers promise us.

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Name / Country Comment
Jane Chance Posted 29/04/2004 16:00
Ideal Home I do not feel liberated from the home even with the new appliances at my disposal. It will not be until attitudes change and household tasks are properly shared out among occupants. Then women will become freer.
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nickname Posted 13/06/2004 16:07
Choose Appliances only save you time compared to doing the task the old way. Relating to the past in this way is what keeps restricting our future. Also it is naive to think we have overcome our base-patterns of which the kitchen is just one of many examples where relationship patterns are common across the globe. The exceptions often just highlight the normality of the roles we find ourselves in. Surely you can see you are only limiting your self. Roll a dice...
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nickname Posted 13/06/2004 16:08
Choose Appliances only save you time compared to doing the task the old way. Relating to the past in this way is what keeps restricting our future. Also it is naive to think we have overcome our base-patterns of which the kitchen is just one of many examples where relationship patterns are common across the globe. The exceptions often just highlight the normality of the roles we find ourselves in. Surely you can see you are only limiting your self. Roll a dice...
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Eric Posted 15/06/2004 15:29
United States Underlying all of this is the question as to whether people really do want to be "free". What does free mean anyway? Often times, acquiring a new appliance to simplify work in one area of the household leads only to the realization that one can now concentrate energy on another, previously overlooked area. A dishwasher may free up time from doing dishes, but it brings to light the fact that you need to rewire your stereo, or now you can wash your curtains, etc... rather than spend that extra time reading a book. The more time you have the more ways you'll find to fill it. People need a way to expend energy, my guess is that most often expenditure will happen inside the home in a non-leisurely activity. There is some deep seated psychological need fulfillment mechanism at work here.
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fintan Posted 18/06/2004 14:44
United Kingdom The technology that takes away some problems, highlights others.
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