Tuesday 1 February 2011

Home, Technology and Concern

What is it to 'be at home'? How does technology affect our 'being at home'? I think I would be at home if I had my family, a piano (important), my books and an internet connection. What is that? How is my experience of home different from previous generations or from other people? What is the relationship between home and geography?

I have been familiar with the patch of ground in Manchester on which I live for over 20 years now. Some of my happiest memories are associated with it. I love the things and places that surround me: gallery, library, church, etc. I also have fond memories of Luton, where I grew up (I am unusual in having fond memories of Luton!). That is a sort of home too, but not one which is actual for me now. It is part of my 'homely' family. Similarly I have fond feelings for London which go deep into childhood: The South Bank, Bloomsbury, Moorgate, Merton Abbey. There is some family resemblance to my home-ness here too.

For me, the essence of being at home is being concernfully engaged with the world around me - where I care most deeply about my actions and their consequences on other members of my family. I see this concernfulness reflected in the Vermeer interiors that we saw in the Rijks Museum at the weekend. But I think it's a dynamic balance between being at home and being 'away from home'.

Is 'play' being away from home? But what about when I play the piano? That is concernful and homely (like Vermeer's Music lesson). Or playing a game of cards with family and friends... What about playing on slot-machines at the seaside? Maybe I'm wrestling with the elasticity of it all...

Going to University is a conscious going 'away from home', where concernfulness is focussed on something new. The relationship between exploration and discovery is one of reaching-out and bringing-back. If we only reach-out, we risk getting lost.

I wonder if social technology takes us away from home too. The risk with technology is that we really can get lost; that we never return home, that we convince ourselves that home is amorphous, unreal, a construct. Is concernful action with Facebook  (or this blog) the same as concernful action with a jug of milk? I'm not sure it is, and maybe the distinction is to do with whether the concern is at home or away. I need to think more about this. When I do this blog, I "reach out to bring back home." I do it because I need to do it. Reaching out is often fun, but I've never really done it simply because it is fun.. I do it because I recognise my need to do it for the sake of a happy 'homeliness'.

Maybe this is another way of expressing the relationship between the inner and outer worlds. Maybe it's got something to do with the discussions around 'dwelling' and 'enframing' that we had when doing the Personal Learning Environment work a few years ago. Concernful action and dwelling are both Heideggarian phrases...Certainly, if I never reached out from home, I think home would drive me crazy!

1 comment:

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