This research project is based on the belief that a way in which we can study and understand how people are experiencing techno-historical transformations such as the everyday datafication and automation of the home of their children and automation of their homes, is to explore how they imagine the future. In anthropology the concept of imagination has been widely used to highlight not an individual or personal process, but actually as a collective process. Imagination is something that we do, when we reflect on our experience on the cultural beliefs that we assimilate, and when we try to foresee how our experience will change. Imagination is also linked to action, in other words, human imagine things in a particular way and shape their practices according to these imagination. Within the anthropology of media, therefore studies of imagination are not new, especially if as Pink et al. (2016) have shown we think about the relationship between technological design and everyday experience. The last part of the interview with parents, and the focus groups are all aimed at understandings their visions of the future. How do they imagine the Home of The Future? What do they think about the relationship between Digital Data and Citizenship?
Automated Homes – Between Excitement and Fear: One of the aspects that is emerging very well from the in depth interviews is the fact that parents seem to be almost certain that the Home will become completely automated. At least 5 different parents in the UK and US referred to the example of the ‘fridge and milk’. They argued that soon all homes in the US and UK will be equipped with Fridges able to tell you if you ran out of milk and buy it. One parent imagined toilets predicting health problems from urine samples or self-washing floors. What is fascinating about the different ways in which parents are imagining the future home is that these imaginations are met simultaneously with excitement and fear.
Datafied Citizens/ Future Citizens – When I ask parents to imagine the future, I also ask them to imagine the role data will play in the future of their children, and especially in shaping the public life of children. Many of the parents I talked to seemed not to have thought about it. Yet increasingly more I am encountering parents who are reflecting critically on how data will be integrated, and whether this data will in the future be connected to social security or national insurance numbers. What is emerging at the moment is the frustration and lack of control, as well as the difficulty in trying to predict how things will be. H, for instance who lives in south London told me “The biggest concern is for the future, the change is happening fast, a and there is no alternative you either jump on board or you are left behind. It’s just what is happening, and I am quite frustrated about this because it makes me have to be cleverer than what I have time to be. It’s a bit sneaky, backhanded and it’s not obvious what they are doing and I feel left out”