Silverstone’s article on the concept of domestication in conjunction to the media is a complex analysis of the way media has evolved to become incorporated into our everyday lives. This analysis is a long theory that draws on sociological aspects as well as semiotic readings of the media. He not only deals with the homogenization of the media, but focuses more so on the ‘moral economy’ and the way media is structured to interact with the ‘user’ and vice versa. The terms (pg.243); “centripetal mediated cultures” of the 20th century; and; “centrifugal mediated cultures”of the 21st century suggest the transformation of technology into the domestic home. Using recording audio technologies I will demonstrate how this process has occured. Preceding this, I will outline how various technologies and concepts have been framed in the context of a metaphor for the world, as Silverstone explains in his introduction. I find this intriguing and quite true, as ideally, concepts do develop from life per se.
Silverstone begins his article explaining that, “concepts take a life of their own. Concepts are metaphors. They stand in place of the world, and concepts address empirical reality. Domesticaton is no exception (for all these statements).” The invention of the computer can be an example of this. Computers “take a life of their own.” We are accustomed users of the computer. In the early stages, the computer was invented to substitute a work-desk. They then developed and took a stance on the world. The internet can be considered as an add on to this concept. It can also be considered as a metaphor for a filling system, on a desk and thus a form of data collection. They have “empirical value” historially, in that they were originally developed to gather specific covert information for governments and military departments. With time, they became affordable, and accessible to the consumer. Computers developed this notion of the transformation from technology to social changes that are now part of our daily lives within and outside of the household. Recording audio devices are another example of this transformation.
The process of recording sound has transformed from what Silverstone explains as, technological or scientific to social changes, and furthered this development in terms of materialism and constructivism, that has a basis on “audience freedom and creativity” then to consumption and thus into the domestic home. Silverstone makes an interesting link to consumption in the domestic. He analyzes consumption to a theory linked to the “domestic animal.” This concept, is based on making technologies (as a metaphor for animals), as part of an individual sphere, training them to suit the domestic laws of space in the home. This can be demonstrated using TV sets, and telephones; however I will show this process in the succeeding sections in regards to recording and audio devices.
Transformation of audio recording devices, and its ‘user’ has significantly changed. It has gone from the Labs, to the Studio, to homes, now to the first generation of screens, such as computers, the second generation as laptops and even available on third screens, i.e our mobile phones that connect to our belts, or arms, and blackberries and so on. The first recording device, was a Reel to Reel tape recorder (eg European Revox A77). This machine looks robust, and sturdy, it was first used in the Studio environment. However, they were very inconvinient to use, in that the editing process involved careful cutting of the magnetic tape. This was not only inconvinient, but also time consuming and expensive. It was inevitable for the recording device to thus transform. This is evident is the next form of recording devices; the Cassett recording device. They became more convinient and eventually portable. Cassett recording devices, became faster and less expensive, however the main problem that did occur with the recorders, were the tapes that did become easily damaged over time. However, due to their efficiency, and design they became widespread in terms of domestication. People would use Cassett recorders in their household to record favorite programs on radio or tapes. Over time as Silverstone describes, technology did become “sensitive to human needs.” MiniDiscs developed within the market. They were protable and designs were made more appealing. I actually carry around a little MiniDisc, attached to a mic. For interviews and generally for spontaneous activities it just seems perfect to record sound. There is a line input to the computer as well. I tend to use a mixture of old and new technologies, although when I shop I attempt to look for quality and price. Anyhow in turn, CD recorders transited into the market. They had nice slick designs appealing to the house. Everyone had a CD player that most commonly had a CD Recorder associated onto it. It is evident that this technology referes to Silverstone’s concept of ‘consumption’.
Comsumption runs on the same idea in the preceding sections based on the idea of ‘domestic animals’. You can choose you animal to your tastes, and then train it to your laws within you space. Speakers, for instance, were set up to a position in the house, based on receiving good quality sound. To gain good sound, particlualry in Home Theatre Systems, loud speakers are most commonly positioned at least 3-5m apart, and best on an angle to reduce sound reflecting on walls. One of my favourite Speakers, is the Spendor S3/R5 Speakers. Anyhow, recently, I bought Logitech Speakers for my computer, they don’t really satisfy taste in terms of good quality sound, but they are portable, and functional for the price, and they came in fancy packaging too.
Home Set Speakers are not necessarily defined in the media context, in terms of what Silverstone describes as ‘objectification’ to ‘incorporation’ in the home in its traditional sense. They don’t overall adhere to the traditional ways of thinking about the ‘User.’ Unlike contemporary research on the TV, of which is studied in terms of gender specific use, audio devices are a little different. For instance, CD Players and DVD Recording devices are domesticated, but they don’t have a stong hold in “the micro-politics of gender, generational and sibling rivalries (p.234-235.)”. This is possibly related to what Silverstone describes as ‘objectivation,’ involving placing and timing. There is no specific body part that connects to the speaker, (unlike a remote for the TV) with the exception of intangible forces. Speakers are not just slick and appealing to the eye, but they also appeal to the ear, the hearing sensory. They are now widely used in the household. Analogue sound developed and became digitalized. Computers and Flash-drives, now preced MiniDiscs, and Cassett Players. Today innovation on technology has taken a turn.
There are are recording devices on mobile phones, IPods, and on laptop systems. Recording devices have transformed from the Studio environment and developed into a ‘taken for granted’ technology, both inside and outside the house. New applications, that derive over the internet, and enable recording systems have redefined the private and public space. You Tube and MySpace appear as extra widgets on websites making recording and public viewing accessible. Silverstone argues that, “private conversations occupy public spaces and their public performance, creating new kinds of public cultures (p.244).” I agree with Silverstone’s arguement, and I have attempted to displayed this concept using one of the most oldest forms of communication media. To conclude, the future is where the private and public “moral economy” do indeed converge with technologies and do become part of the domestication in the household.
Silverstone, Roger. “Domesticating Domestication. Reflections on the Life of a Concept.” In Berker, Thomas ,et al, eds. Domestication of Media and Technology. Berkshire, UK: Open University Press, 2006, p. 229-248.