Television, mobile phones and technological devices alike have allowed for the infiltration of images and news stories from the outside world into the private home. Thus, the meaning of connection and notion of our home as an intimate space has been transformed.
In this sense, previously living in an NBN connected home, I certainly view my childhood household in particular as a highly networked space. A study conducted by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network found that “NBN connected homes are more likely to make greater use of the internet, and are more likely to engage in more sophisticated online activities, but the association is not necessarily causal.” Before moving to Wollongong for Uni in 2017, 2014-2016 were possibly the most ‘networked’ years I have experience thus far.
Let me take you back.
Armidale, rural NSW: My brother sits at his desk in the lounge room, constantly alternating between Minecraft and Netflix whilst he Googles quotes for his English homework; headphones placed firmly over his ears (who said guys couldn’t multi-task?) I sit on the lounge having returned from school; messaging friends from Germany that I met on exchange via ‘Whats App’ (’cause apparently Facebook is ‘so lame’?), scrolling through Instagram, and frequently emailing questions to my teachers because I ‘forgot’ to listen to task instructions in class again. Dad sits in his office video conferencing over Skype, whilst mum immerses herself in the world of online shopping (with a cheeky glass of red or two) after work. Prior to actually having a significant emphasis placed on final years of schooling and not having access to the recently introduced NBN, I certainly remember spending much more time down the paddock with my brother; constantly chasing sheep, riding our bikes and having picnic lunches outside with mum and dad. Is this the same sense of intimacy we get from being connected online?
In her article “Rural Melancholy and the Promise of Online Connectivity”, Melissa Gregg notes that “computers generate a succession of isolated consumer experiences and market segments, which together combine to form a contained, individual household.” Although I wouldn’t consider my particular situation to involve isolation as such, this was most certainly true in my household to some degree.
I think however, it is important to note that while seemingly excessive use of such online services (made possible through the provision of NBN to rural communities), this was in fact necessary for success in our individual disciplines. Completion of school work and enablement of teleconferencing (which allowed my dad to work from home instead of commuting to Sydney for board meetings), was only possible through a high speed network such as the NBN, with the added benefit of access to other online spaces such as Netflix.
It is for this reason that I am an advocate for a ‘networked’ home, so long as usage does not directly impede the importance of intimate family time (even if it is just reminiscing over dinner together). If there’s anything I’ve learnt from moving out of home, it’s that I wish I had made for time for this.
- Nansen, B. Arnold, M. Wilken, R. and Gibbs, M. 2012, Broadbanding Brunswick – High-speed Broadband and Household Media Ecologies: A Report on Household Take-up and Adoption of the National Broadband Network in a First Release Site, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Sydney. Accessed 20 August 2018, <http://accan.org.au/files/Broadbanding_Brunswick.pdf>
- Gregg, M. 2010, Rural Melancholy and the Promise of Online Connectivity, Cultural Studies Review Volume 16. Accessed 20 August 2018, <http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/index>