Home in the Era of the Platform:
Nine Theses on Decentralized Domesticity

Research paper presented at the ACSA Annual Meeting, San Diego, March 12-14, 2020
Collaborators: Roy Cloutier, Nicole Sylvia, Lőrinc Vass

Models of dwelling. Conceptual diagram.

Digitally networked platforms are transforming interpersonal relations and the occupation of urban space, including how home and the domestic are understood and enacted. Despite a rhetoric of openness, neutrality and sharing, the penetration of digital platforms into the domain of architecture is resulting in increased individualization and financialization— extending the managerial logic of late capitalism deeper into the domestic sphere. On one hand, the networks of this platform capitalism—from Uber to Airbnb and beyond—allow a distributed, fluid mode of exchange, fostering forms of flux and openness that exceed the comparatively static models that preceded them. By altering patterns of interaction, consumption, travel, and more, digital sharing platforms are reshaping the way private and public spaces are conceived and used for work, leisure, and living. On the other hand, this fluidity is too often accompanied by a dissolution of stability and mutual obligation, leading to precarious forms of life. In the process, the centralized model of domesticity ebbs in favour of a decentralization of domestic space—pushing domesticity beyond the bounds of the individual domicile into collective and urban space.

The nine theses of this paper comprise a call for a critical re-evaluation of the trajectories of distributed domesticity—examining both historic experiments and contemporary digitally-networked permutations. The theses are a foray into the realm of platform domesticity: excavating new trajectories from both platform and domestic to inform future models of ‘home.’ To do so, the paper traces three independent but overlapping trajectories in the decentralization of domestic space: the austere dwelling, the collective dwelling, and the networked dwelling. Emerging forms of domesticity entangle aspects of the austere, collective, and networked in novel ways—and do so with a variety of attitudes to technology, control, politics, and design. In response, the paper argues that platform domesticity requires a renewed conception of conviviality and agency: a right to the platform.

Hybrid models of domesticity. Conceptual diagram.
Hybrid models of domesticity. Conceptual diagram.