The Networked Home

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with my mum about the ways television has changed (and stayed the same) since she was a child. It was interesting to see this contrast, more specifically how the role of the television has stayed very similar, but the content has changed.

Before I learnt about the ‘networked home’, I assumed it would be a way to describe the technological communities within a household, which I think holds some truth. Within my house we don’t think of ourselves as ‘technological’, and value time spent with a family, without our noses buried in various devices. But, when thinking about this we have quite a lot of regularly used devices, which includes:

  • Two televisions
  • Two laptops
  • Four Samsung Galaxy phones
  • Two iPod touches
  • A PlayStation 4

Our family of four are all connected, both in person, and online, and I think this is our ‘networked home’. Each of these is connected to out Telstra internet. Each device is connected to this through Wi-Fi, and each phone has its own data plan. We have a ‘slow’ internet (in my opinion) compared to my friend’s internet, as well as overseas nations. In fact, quite surprisingly, Australia ranks quite poorly in global internet speed rankings, as stated in Akamai’s State of the Internet Report, which found South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan had the fastest internet speeds, while Australia sits in position 44. I found this believable, but both annoying at the same time. I wonder why Australia’s internet speed is so slow compared to countries with a similar economic presence in the world.

Figure 11

And now on to the NBN. When typing in my address on the National Broadband Network rollout map, it says ‘the nbn rollout has not started in your area’, which is quite disappointing. When looking at the amount of devices and the supposed ‘need’ to be connected to the online world the need for a fast and reliable internet service obviously needs to be here sooner rather than later. We aren’t going to be spending less time online, or use a smaller amount of devices in the future, so the NBN really is needed in this household.

Figure 22

I had a talk to some family members about their experiences with broadband and their thoughts about being constantly connected, and the responses were just as I imagined. The use of technology is a common talking point for my mum, who attempts to live a conservative lifestyle free of gadgets, and full of relaxation, and she restricts the use of devices during family times. Make sure don’t get caught on your phone at dinner time in this house! But seriously, it is evident that my parents aren’t as tech savvy as they think they are, sometimes complaining about various technological problems, often to do with issues with ‘slow internet’. Then there’s my younger brother, who plays a bit too much PlayStation 4. He doesn’t complain about the internet since we changed providers from iinet to Telstra almost a year ago. It’s hard to think how we survived with an internet speed about three times slower and half the download allocation. It appears he is satisfied with the current internet speeds to play his games and download his media. The general consensus in my household is that fast internet is better in every way. But, occasional drop outs are the main concern. I’d put this down to congestion with the large number of devices being connected to the network.

But all this mutual connectivity to the network must lead to togetherness, right? A term which I think sums this up perfectly is ‘being alone together’. We are each doing our own thing, but within the same vicinity as each other. Therefore, we are together, but in our own bubble, buried in our devices. (I must say this doesn’t happen too much in my house).

I think this connectivity has a definite effect on social interactions, both positive and negative. With 83% of Australian households being connected to the internet (ABS, 2014) we clearly are a connected society.  We are now able to speak to communicate with friends and family on the other side of the world quick and easily, but at what costs? Are we becoming so consumed in our devices that actual person to person communication is compromised? I think so. Often times while working as a waiter at a restaurant I see families each doing their own thing on their devices. There’s little communication between each other, and this makes me think that this networked home is restricting actual human interaction (both in the literal home, and out of it). With the number of houses with internet, especially dsl, this isn’t going to stop any time soon.

Figure 33

References:

Akamai’s State of the Internet Report, 2014, viewed August 22, 2015 <https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1452782-akamais-state-of-the-internet-report.html>

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Household Internet Access, viewed August 22, 2015 <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/D0DD505F12749281CA257C89000E3F5E?opendocument&gt;

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Patterns of Home Internet Use, viewed August 22, 2015 <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/8A12E6E0D07D36A0CA257C89000E3FB7?opendocument&gt;

Donovan, S, 2015. Internet speeds: Australia ranks 44th, study cites direction of NBN as part of problem. ABC, 13 January <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-12/australian-internet-speeds-rank-44th-in-the-world/6012570>

https://www.telstra.com.au/broadband/nbn/nbn-rollout

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