My Home is My Memory
The concept of `home' seems to be hardly adequate in a time when everybody is on the run and the ultimate destination is cyberspace. We gather here at the second Doors of Perception Conference in order to discuss new concepts and ideas related to home.
Is home where my heart is or where my computer is? While we keep our ideas in a laptop that seems to be the home for some people, our ideas of home are very emotional and rooted in memories.
Home is ultimately where the memory is - a place to go back to; a anchor place that puts the conceptual system into perspective. Not by coincidence is the concept home used widely in complex computer systems. The Home Card in Hypercard as well as the home page in html are bases to set out from.
Ruth Leunig, an Australian artist is interested in the way our home interacts with us. Her drawings `There is no place like home' show a home where the objects live a life of their own - constituting our home.
Home -- `The place of one's dwelling and nurturing' a definition dated back to 1460 by the OED defines us in the way we think and perceive the world we live in'.
The most important home for ideas in our culture are books and the Printing Press is possibly the first `machine célibataire', the celibacy machine that steps in where human relations leave off.
Reading at home was a common activity until the TV took over and sucked up everybody in the same story rather than leaving the diversity of different books for different interests. This proves also that electronic books will happen on PCs, namely small laptops rather than on TV.
This mock-up of a Sony Sports reader, water resistant, with a high res. high contrast screen and stereo sound shows how `sexy' a consumer electronic book reader could look like in the near future. Books of the next generation will emerge from the books we know today but as Alan Ginsberg points out, we have to break up the old form as gently as possible to leave space for a new form to rise.
The major link home today are telephones and a payphone is sometimes as close as you can get to home. If you look at US movies, there are many scenes where people call home from the middle of nowhere. A study in USA today shows that many US homes have three or more phones -- phones integrate the average home far more into a social net than neighborhood relations. Is the computer becoming more and more the defining environment in a non-communicative society, thus replacing neighbor communication with long distance communication via electronic devices? The telephone has long taken over direct contacts now it may be the PC as a next step.
The old image we have from `Home Sweet Home' (this picture is from outside on a house in Tyrol, Austria) is no longer valid as our family and our friends are around the world and we relate to them via electronic paths. The memory -- be it artificial or natural consists of spaces and images and rules that correlate the images to the places. `Constat igitur artificiosa memoria ex locis et imaginibus' -- (the art of memory consists rules for places and rules for images). These memory images are constituents of our perception of home -- the place, the people and the gatherings.
The movie about the family dinner -- taken from the CD `Ephemeral Films' by Voyager -- shows an American family getting ready to celebrate home at its best in their view. Apart from the gender-related roles that seem inappropriate for the generation X this clip is interesting for its event-driven approach to home: home is having dinner together.
But home is no longer confined to the house -- we create our moving house in the car and the communication industry provides the necessary contraptions. Many people spend more time on their car stereo than for the equipment in the living room -- which makes sense as the car radio is used more often. Looking at cars and dinner tables we have to keep in mind that home is a memory concept that is inside us and laptop computers as well as family houses are only are only containers for our concepts. In Vienna we have the Kaffeehaus, a place where you are neither at home nor in fresh air, an institution that is at the same time a home and a public space. It is above all a meeting place and a place for information exchange.
Vienna has the great advantage of a unique institution the Kaffeehaus, which has nothing to do with the café. You are neither at home nor in the public; You are in your Kaffeehaus, in an environment known to you, where you are known where you have information resources available and partners to communicate with. It is similar to a networked environment with the advantage that the agents are really intelligent and the coffee is good.
A whole literary style has emerged from authors working in the Kaffeehaus rather than at home. One of them, Alfred Polgar pointed out : `In the Kaffeehaus you find people who want to be alone but need company to do that. And there are so many who hate the Kaffeehaus even though or because of the fact that it is somehow a home to them. The Kaffeehaus has always been a home for people who cannot afford a real home, who cannot afford to heat their private rooms and resort to a Coffee as this was cheaper than the heating'.
We should always keep in mind that when talking about new electronic information-driven homes many people for whom a cardboard box is a better sleeping room than concrete. (The three photos are from a campaign by design students from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena for the Los Angeles Mission)
@Home -- in new-marketing-speak `Cocooning' is also a great advertising concept. Sony, like most other consumer goods producer currently advertise for a better home -- a home with their products. Products that generate home by creating and presenting memories.
While advertising makes us believe that we spend more time at home now, the far more interesting aspect is what @home means to us today.
While @home is today far more a feeling and a state of mind than a location, it used also to be a attitude, specially in England where people were invited by telling them that the hosts will be `at home for their friends'. When showing up at the doorstep without proper invitation you would be told by the buttler, that `Mrs. So-and-so is terribly sorry but she is not at home'.
Even in a virtual world like the MediaMOO, a text-based world inside a computer at the MIT you need a home, a place to start off from. The system helps you build a home and my home in the MOO consists mainly of my powerbook which serves both as a storage place for my memories and as well as a gate to the internal Internet representation and a hughe piece of Apfelstrudel requested by a Dutch friend.
Then there are different places you may call home -- Mr. Pickle a children's figure designed by... of Jelly Fish, a subsidiary of the Seiko-Epson Group in Japan lives in a book and you canwalk through his hause and visit all the rooms by flipping the pages. No matter where you are at home, home is in most cases a somewhat comfortable place.
In the face of the two women waiting for the bus in northern Austria to take them home you can see that they do not really feel at home where they are. For me this is an incredible images of being on the way even as they sit still under the tree. While we go through the images it becomes more and more clear that home is in addition to being a memory place also a very emotional place.
The old Viennese streetcar on the next picture feels far more at home than the bench under the tree even as it is more of a journey than a reward. As pointed out earlier, Vienna has the Kaffehaus as a somewhat comon home and thus common memory, it also has a strange set of billboards greeting the traveller comming from the freeway.
The first sign reads `Home will be Home' (Daheim bleibt Daheim) and the second `Vienna will be Vienna' -- I guess this is less of a warning to foreigners and more a self assurance for the locals -- still it gives you a strange feeling to have these signs at the gates of a city.
Home is in our memories, home is in our emotions -- home is the underlying reward for our journey -- and companies like AMEX offer you home wherever you are. A credit card size portable home money can buy. These promotions rely on our experiences how it feels to be home-deprived but they cannot give you your home if you don't have one in your mind, your memories.
Gustav Mahler, the famous composer who, coming from a small bohemian town, with at that time predominantly German speaking population, who became world famous in Vienna felt threefold homeless -- as Bohemian among the Austrians, as Austrian among the Germans and as a Jew in the whole world.
Ultimately home is not inside the books, not inside the house but inside ourselves and to quote a famous ad `don't leave home without it' -- without your memories.
Florian Brody's @home URL is HTTP://radawana.cg.tuwien.ac.at/~brody/