By Christine Bjerke
The home is primarily seen as a place of privacy, enclosure, and constancy, yet it is increasingly being disrupted by the invisible layers that are added to our urban fabric. The digitalization of domesticity is changing and challenging the physical framework of the home as it expands the outline of the actual built space. Constant flows of data and information being introduced into the private sphere questions how we navigate within our homes as well as the spaces beyond the private realm. Meanwhile, it also opens up for new potential modes of creating equal rights to economic resources within the household itself.
When we usually discuss the home becoming digitalized and “connected” we tend to circulate around the term “smart home”. Although today’s normalized use of an extensive range of devices, products, and sensor control systems plays a major role in this development – the main player here is Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi leaves no major architectural traces of its presence but often flips our perception of where we can access and participate in the world without even leaving our bedroom. As described by Adjustments Agency in the text Wi-Fi Metonymy.
|“Usually, to install Wi-Fi, a small hole must be drilled from the inside of the intended building to the outside. Then, a cable must be stretched from a nearby telephone pole to the building, fed through the hole, and connected to a router. It is not a drastic architectural intervention by any means, but it expands a given space much more radically than French windows or an open-concept kitchen. With the introduction of this small hole into your home, suddenly your bedroom becomes a global marketplace.”|
|/’Wi-Fi Metonymy’, Adjustments Agency for thefxbeauties.club|
New modes of connecting with the outside world from our homes and engaging with global networks are shifting traditional domestic structures and often played out in range of different ways. This form of digitalization of the home through Wi-Fi goes beyond the everyday gadgets that you will find in most modern homes as it connects with the outside world instead of only optimizing the private spaces. What should not be overlooked is the effect it can have on both structures within the home itself as well as the surrounding city – even how in some countries it has changed societal structures and improved economic balance between genders in households. For example, the foreign exchange market (FX) which is regarded as the largest unregulated economy in the world – a fluid infrastructure of digital money that is immensely powerful and equally impossible to grasp. It has the potential to compose new types of democratic platforms never seen before. Since the individual trader is within an anonymous position while trading he/she is not limited by restrictions related to gender or a certain societal position. Here the access to Wi-Fi is the front runner of creating a “free-space” to reach out from the physical confines of the home.
In Japan for instance, there has since the global financial crisis of 2008 been an increase of women, housewives in particular, engaging with larger economies going beyond the one of the domestic. Traditionally, the main responsibility of the Japanese housewife has been to protect and control the savings of the family, and to secure the stability of income and expenditure. Through the embedded system called “kozukai” the woman manages the budgets and is often an expert in balancing financial economies. However, the access to digital networks is allowing for expanding responsibilities that begins to empower the position of the housewife as she can now invest in the global economy and not only save the money.
The largest female digital platform for foreign exchange trading in Japan, the FX Beauties, is operated by an unknown number (although estimated to be five million by the Japanese government) of female members, mostly housewives, and has found Wi-Fi to be their access point into economies reaching out of the home. In this case the economy is not only seen as actual money but also how value of social status, communication, knowledge sharing and so forth is rearranged when the home is without visible borders. The digitalization here becomes a tool to push historically-determined expectations of behaviour for a Japanese housewife who can find herself to be limited by the physical space of the home.
To keep up with the official trading hours for the market, a large portion of these women are trading in secret while their husbands and children are away from home. Although many of them find successful ways of incorporating the trading in-sync with daily routines, they sometimes find the need to build computers into the walls or other ways of hiding their activities as it is not socially accepted. Architectural adjustments to the home, such as the implementation of the Wi-Fi router and thicknesses of walls, starts to subtract the built space of the home while at the same time expanding the digital space. These are all subtle architectural adjustments, though powerful in their potential of affecting political, social and cultural layers as they question how we define the borders of domestic space.
|“Wi-Fi constitutes a shifting architecture of energy, information, laws, and transactions that we inhabit and which inhabits us.”|
|/’Wi-Fi Metonymy’, Adjustments Agency for thefxbeauties.club|
The world is yet to explore how this increasing evolution of domestication might continue in the near future. The emergence of digital network platforms, like the one of the FX Beauties, have become an effective tool to pursue creating equal rights to economic resources within the home and there is no doubt that these new modes of digitization of space will move society forward at the full speed as the algorithms themselves. The question is how can we begin to acknowledge these forces and understand what they are trying to tell us.
www.thefxbeauties.club was launched at the Neutra VDL House in Los Angeles on March 4 2017 as part of the event ‘Floating Worlds’ hosted by Archinect and Adjustments Agency. Dedicated to the Japanese female Forex trading collective, the FX Beauties, the work investigates digital and decentralized platforms, gendered environments and spaces within quiet networks. Tomorrow May 19 2017 the event ‘(On the Floating World of) the FX Beauties’ will serve as the Copenhagen launch of the website.
May 19 2017
Leth & Gori
1659 Copenhagen V
Christine Bjerke is an architect based in Copenhagen and editor of the project, thefxbeauties.club.