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Technology At Home

I highly recommend “By Design” by Meg Conley, particiularly if you haven’t read much on the history of technology. When I was in elementary school, the history of technology was presented to me as classic hagiography: changes were the result of heroic inventors being inspired and working hard. The reality is far more complicated, including theoretical research, market pressures, stealing ideas, and (possibly most important) the public’s expectations and desires. For example, the 1943 picture above is titled “San Augustine, Texas. Mrs. Thomas, the wife of a wholesale grocer, at her electric icebox.” Imagine that: an icebox that stays cold through electricity, eliminating the need to buy ice to keep cold.

Conley’s article discusses the intersection of kitchen technology with changing and varied views on the sociology of housework. Maybe the answer is to eliminate kitchen at home and offer communal dining? That may sound like a joke, but I used to live in a high-rise on the Upper West Side that was originally built that way.