Investigating Mobility, Technology, and Space in Homes, Starting with “Great Rooms”

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SCOTT D. MAINWARING and ALLISON WOODRUFF

Certain American-style homes include large multifunctional spaces, often with vaulted or otherwise high ceilings, that incorporate living, dining, and kitchen areas. As an American cultural phenomenon, these “great rooms” symbolize and instantiate a particular vision of the good life or ideal home, including for example concepts such as openness and togetherness, or in less favorable interpretations, wastefulness and lack of privacy. As such, we see great rooms as complex and contradictory symptoms of unresolved tensions in the politics of everyday life. We describe our approach of starting with a provocative and problematic topic within a larger domain of interest and examining it from a number of perspectives. We argue that sites that are contentious are particularly interesting candidates for technological innovation, in which technology is not limited to assimilating to well-established and understood processes, but rather can participate in an ongoing process, responding to and challenging concerns.

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