Places exist for purposes, and when those purposes emigrate to new locations they also bring along the specters of their former homes. The bathroom is a place to shower or to cast out human waste. Bring your phone in there, and it’s also an office where you can complete procurement requests in enterprise-resource-management software such as Workday, and a theater where you can watch The Crown on Netflix, and a classroom where you can practice Latvian on Duolingo, and a travel agency where you can book a flight on Delta. And your office isn’t just at home, either: It’s anywhere. At the gym, on the train platform, in the gastropub, behind the wheel.
It’s easy but disorienting, and it makes the home into a very strange space. Until the 20th century, one had to leave the house for almost anything: to work, to eat or shop, to entertain yourself, to see other people. For decades, a family might have a single radio, then a few radios and a single television set. The possibilities available outside the home were far greater than those within its walls. But now, it’s not merely possible to do almost anything from home—it’s also the easiest option. Our forebears’ problem has been inverted: Now home is a prison of convenience that we need special help to escape.
Ian Bogost is.
So I added this to my drafts folder months ago, which means it’s kind of surreal to encounter it again now, in late March, right after I’ve spent my first week in serious social distancing/work-from-home mode due to the coronavirus pandemic. And by the time this pops off my scheduled posts queue, sometime in July… where will we be? After spending weeks or months locked into our homes, relying on Xoom and Slack and Citrix and Deliveroo and Amazon? Will our enforced reliance on the non-place have changed our relationship to Outside? And if so, how?
See you in the future, I guess…