December 3, 2014

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Zoe Sofia, ‘Container Technologies’ in Hypatia Vol. 15, No. 2, Spring 2000, pp. 181-200.

Through this text, Zoë Sofia explores the origins of the technological object that are the containers.

She brings up the fact that men are inspired by their own body for create tools. The hammer is a fist, the pincers are the human fingers… In the same way the womb is a protective container, the breast, a pitcher of milk. Then she says that it’s for those reasons that women started to play a role of food-provider.

[…] historically, female occupations : all derive from handling the vital processes of fertilization and preservation.” So protection, storage… are attributed to women’s vocation.

the organism cannot be considered apart from the habitat that houses it”

In the continuity of the quick idea that I outline from the author of the previous text, about the fact women have developed some expertises of storage solutions because they were culturally attached to the house tasks. I would like here, focus on the example of Sofia about two distinct way to think the technology for a house.

She compares the prototype of “smart house” with the GaBe house.

The smart house is wired ans electronically programmable for control of the things many men are interested in : information flow and control of security, lights, entertainment, communications, and garbage disposal. By contrast, the GaBe self-cleaning house – designed over 30 years ago by a woman architect Frances GaBe – makes clever use of container technologies to minimize the domestic drudgery still required for the so-called “smart” house, whose programmable washing machine still has to be manually loaded and unloaded, and the washing dried, folded, etc.”

In those words, it’s very interesting to see how men are more interested to use technology for just automatize some human actions in the house, and how women look further in the capacity of technology, they want a kind of smart technology capable to order by itself without any human intervention.

In a certain way, this example gives reason to the words of Mc Gaw in “Why Feminist Technologies Matter”, and proves that women have gained a sort of expertise by their cultural experiences.

And I think that, this aspect can be also connected to the “potential space” of Winnicott. Firstly associated to the fantasy world of infant’s imagination, it is a third space characterised by the personality and the experiences of each person. This space where we are constantly re thinking the world and the spaces, influences our perception of space, or our expectations for a new space, a new technology.

The container that I chose is the kitchen’s storages. They are a technology in the centre of of our everyday life, and as we said the kitchen is became an important life point of a house. The kitchen is not only a place to cook but also a stocking place. New containers have been created, to be able to stock or cook the new kind of food we have created, like the freezer, the fridge, the micro waves for the prepared plates… And those technological objects will then become a source of invention of new ways of cooking.

So as we see in this text through the example of the smart house and the GaBe house, men and women will have different opinions on what could be the kitchen of the future, because of their cultural experiences. The technology’s researches are now focused on new storages design to minimize the motion of gestures or just optimise the storage.

Elise Dorby


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