Yesterday I attended an interesting talk by anthropologist Tom Boellestorf at NYU’s Anthropology department. He is known for his research on Indonesia and his ethnography of Second Life.
He talked about the importance of context in both virtual and in actual words. He also said that developers of technologies have conceptualized devices as canines.
I found the idea of technology as a domesticated animal fascinating. When a new device is inserted into our daily lives, it has to be adapted into a plethora of habits, just like a house-animal. It has to be maintained and played with, it has to be fed, etc.
According to Boellestorff what developers have done is conceptualize new devices–such as the Ipad–as docile pets that are always “nice” with their masters. Ipads, it seems, are dogs. Boelestorff asked: What if technology was developed in a more feline way? Imagine a device that ran away and came back for “food”, or was both present and not present at the same time…
What if we extended the metaphor a little bit further? We could say that beepers and other sound devices integrated into our daily lives like canaries and birds do . What type of electronic animals do you have in your house?