Geography of the Digital Hearth

Publication Type  Journal Article
Year of Publication  2003
Authors  Flynn, B.
Journal Title  Information, Communication and Society
Volume  6
Pagination  551-576
Key Words  Video games; gender; spatiality; cybernetics; living room; parlour
Abstract  

Console based video games are an increasingly familiar and engaging technology in the living room and as such, warrant critical attention. Considerations of their impact on the home have been widely regarded by new media academics as technological innovation and by social scientists as symptomatic of a decline in social and familial connectedness. In an attempt to move the debate beyond discussions of machine functionality and social crisis, this paper argues for a reframing of some of the ways we think about the impact of entertainment technologies on the home. It presents the notion of the digital hearth as a concept that shows how cultural meanings associated with the home can be transformed through gaming and changing patterns of consumption. The research examines the domestication of the console through cultural histories of the living room, the social context of electronic media, and ethnographic studies. It argues that the concept of the digital hearth represents a re-organization of the spaces in which collective engagement occurs and a shifting of the cultural norms associated with that collective engagement. In these spaces not only does the living room become the site of collective engagement but also the form of that engagement changes with the digital hearth acting as the focal point around social interaction. The paper traces parallels between the appropriation of television and of radio into the home and the domestication of the console while arguing that the console represents a shifting of spatial and social norms of domestication from previous electronic media. In addition it represents gaming in the home as symptomatic of changes from public to private forms of entertainment which constitutes a changing geographic base for social networks.

Notes  

Introduction to special edition of 'Information, Communication and Society' on digital games. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/routledg/rics/2003/00000006/00000004

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