How do everyday people use the space in their homes? How do they interact with the objects in their homes? These are the questions researchers sought to answer when they began an in-depth study, the results of which are published in this book. Anthropologists and photographers involved with the project, which lasted from 2001 until 2005, followed 32 dual-income, middle-class California families around their residences. They collected data from detailed house floor plans, videotapes of family interactions, family-narrated video home tours, scan sampling observations (records of how family members moved about the home), digital photographs and house history questionnaires to cobble together a fascinating ethnography of contemporary home life in America.
Reading Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century is like showing up as unexpected company and being invited inside. The many photographs offer a raw, unfiltered look at “real” homes (unlike the magazine spreads we are all accustomed to seeing). These photos, combined with charts, quotes and narratives, demonstrate the toll modern consumerism has taken on families. There are several major trends that become apparent, including “waning outdoor leisure time, unprecedented and often burdensome clutter, reduced social interaction at mealtimes, clashing schedules, the invasion of kids’ material culture into all corners of the house, stockpiling and more.” Being that this is a scientific study, the data is presented objectively and no solutions to these issues are offered, leaving readers to fill in the blanks.
If you haven’t been able to park your car in the garage for years or have a refrigerator loaded down with papers and magnets, perusing this book will help you recognize that it’s not you, it’s us. Americans, in general, have been swept up by consumerism over the past few decades.