Posts Tagged With: technology

Inside out: Emerging interior design

F. D. Richards. Flickr. October 13, 2012.

F. D. Richards. Flickr. October 13, 2012.

Global warming will encourage us to spend more time outdoors.  Our needs for shelter from the sun and heat and conservation of electricity will prompt the design of hybrid dwellings.  Sunrooms, porches, patios, and skylights will expand the definition of indoors.  The sunroom won’t just be a playroom, reading room, or afternoon snooze nook.  The kitchen table will migrate to a sunny corner of it.  Breakfast, after school snacks, and neighborly chats will grace it daily.  Patio designs will offer partial shade through awnings and roofs as well as lawn furniture and carefully placed trees.  Mobile barbeque grills will become obsolete.  Barbeque pits will become sophisticated built in grills powered by the sun.  Solar ovens will bake bread, cookies, and root vegetables.

Eventually, indoor kitchens will disappear.  Finished garages will sport refrigerators accessible to children seeking drinking water and parents barbequing dinner.  They will be easily stocked with groceries by opening the adjacent van door.  The mudroom’s washer and dryer will be accompanied by a dishwasher.  A china cabinet will decorate its upper reaches.  The nearby bathroom will offer a sink for mandatory hand washing before dinner.  Instead of retiring to the dank if cool environs of the basement to cook and relax, families will enjoy the cooler evening air outdoors on their patios as they dine.

More families will grow their own vegetables and flowers, too.  Greenhouse designs will become human as well as plant friendly.  Instead of utilitarian rows of seedlings and delicate flowers, they will be atria harboring pools of koi, raised bed flower gardens, and family picnic areas.  In ground pools will be an expected feature of single family homes like garages and basements are today.  Swimming classes like driving instruction will be a curricular standard at public schools throughout the United States.  Expert, certified swimmers will live in Kansas and Ohio as well as in Florida and California.

Inside homes, skylights will permit indoor landscaping.  Gardens and trees will help manage the temperature, humidity, air quality, and sunshine.  Less electricity for heating, cooling, and lighting will be needed.  Floors of ceramic tile and stone will eclipse wood and carpet in their durability, ease of care, and cool comfort.  Furniture will be more functional and less decorative.  Its comfort, mobility, durability, and cleanliness will be assured by its design and composition.  Lightweight, folding frames of aluminum and washable cushions will permit immediate furniture re-arrangement to accommodate changing purposes, numbers of people, and events.

Despite the global rhythms of life in the Information Age, humans will be able to live closer to the land.  They will be able to observe the seasons and cope with changing climates rather than avoid or conquer them.  Their respect and care for their neighbors, communities, wildlife, and the earth will grow.  It will inform their daily life and their plans for the future.  This stewardship will foster the wholeness for which people long.   A nap on the couch can become Shangri-La.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2013

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At a computer near you: Customized culture

Kinchan1. Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Flickr.
April 19, 2010.

Public entertainment is an Industrial Age phenomenon.  Beloved ball parks, shopping malls, cinemas, symphony centers, restaurants, and theaters are less traditions than innovations.  They helped to foster the cultural diversity and social equality that we cherish today.  Surprising though it may be, their continued presence in the Information Age is not guaranteed.  Youthful consumers are already making the transition to online shopping and entertainment.  The advantages of online commerce for both customers and businesses are already evident to many of us.  For Americans, our striving for convenience is amply rewarded by online shopping.  Our demands for freedom of speech are fulfilled by social media.

Despite concerns about Main Street, small businesses, publishing, and the postal service, American values are still supported by online commerce and communication.  It is the development and institutionalization of social norms to govern our participation with which we are struggling.  As we learn from sometimes sad experience, we are writing policies and passing laws to make the Information Age pleasanter and safer for all of us.  These formal rules enable institutions to protect us from unethical businesses and predatory criminals.  It is public events that lack the security we now need because our famed ingenuity has yet to find solutions.

Stories of shopping downtown, walking the mall, riding public transportation, and cheering at sports events are now fraught with tragedy.  The achievements of national and international athletes are overshadowed by the heroic recoveries of victims and first responders.  Memories of finding treasures on sale at the mall are lost in experiences of bullying or assault in the parking garage.  The feeling and experience of security that should be each individual’s birth right is escaping our grasp.  Its restoration may only be practically possible at home. High definition television, international radio broadcasts, downloadable music, films, and books, and home theaters enable us to choose our recreational companions.

We can also feel confident in the safety of that venue; wireless alarm systems, automatic exterior lighting, surveillance cameras, electronic locks, and gated communities are affordable to homeowners.  Routine overtime hours for police officers, federal background investigations, and securing public places through environmental design prior to sports and entertainment events would overwhelm the budgets of communities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.  Paradoxically, then, our virtual relationships will burgeon due to international social media.  At the same time, the local, public, in person mass gatherings that foster so much community loyalty will gradually disappear.  Protests and nostalgia over the closing of department stores such as Marshall Fields, bakers such as Hostess, and local cinemas will be replaced.  Virtual friendships in online communities, individual online reviews of restaurants and retailers by customers, and online shopping malls will enable both the conviviality and security we need.  What’s your screen name?

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2013

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Hope for privacy in the 21st century

Alan Cleaver.  Flickr. November 14, 2009.

Alan Cleaver. Flickr. November 14, 2009.

It isn’t just that the opportunities for attention and self-promotion have expanded.  If you’re reading this blog, you are probably aware of other blog hosts, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.  You also know of many more social media applications.  Nearly all are free; professional versions for the seriously attention deprived are usually low-cost.  Small marketing firms and self-employed marketers to tell us how to employ social media in service to our public image have also proliferated.  Of course, the nefarious among us have been quick to exploit social media for cyberbullying, pedophilia, and identity theft.  Nonprofit organizations and government agencies have responded with advice and strategies for social media users to protect themselves.  These numerous brochures, slideshows, videos, and webinars are – needless to say – distributed by social media.

It isn’t just that social media are so widely and freely available; it is that so many people are actively choosing to use them to communicate.  The latest toothpaste commercial, coupons for the newest toothpaste flavor, and a customer preferences survey can all be easily offered worldwide online.  Pride in junior’s first word, too, can be easily shared on Facebook with grandparents living across the world.  It can also be shared with whoever on both continents uses Facebook.  Unfortunately, free access to social media has convinced some marginal sorts that any publicly posted photos, videos, and text can be copied and re-purposed as they wish.  Toothpaste manufacturers may view this appropriation as free publicity.  Junior may regret becoming a celebrity at the age of one year.

For these reasons, it is more important, yet more difficult to protect your own privacy.  Choosing to avoid the web entirely is no longer an option for people in the paid workforce.  Even if you decide not to become a member of the LinkedIn professional network, your employer may post your profile and photo on the company web site.  Use of email to communicate within and without the company is routine and required.  Etiquette for its use has improved, that is, most formal organizations have policies stipulating its format, content, and purpose.  Still, very little policy and, certainly, not any oversight prevent people from forwarding any email message they receive.  The threaded nature of email conversations is often forgotten as people are copied and recopied on new messages.  Being circumspect about the content of your email messages or demanding a phone conversation can prevent the accomplishment of tasks or the development of important business relationships.

In the future, then, both definitions of privacy and social norms about its protection will most likely change.  Just as children learn to use the telephone through parental instruction during conversations with grandparents, they will learn to post on the family social network page.  Neighbors will welcome new residents to the block or housing development by posting to their social network page.  Play dates, birthday parties, and weddings will all be scheduled and invitations issued online.  Although interest in and incidents of sexting will decline, bullying will move nearly in its entirety from the athletic field and sidewalk to the web.  No longer will people be enamored of establishing their own fame or infamy on the web, though.  Few individuals will have Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest accounts.  Even the creation and maintenance of web sites by individuals will decline.  The web will become just another, albeit virtual, communication and home management appliance like an automatic washing machine or a television.

This winnowing of participation in social media will facilitate the management of your reputation online.  Slanderers, bullies, and other interlopers will be fewer and more readily identified.  Due to the instruction of children in the etiquette of social media by their parents, bullying behavior will become less severe.  Often, it will be the equivalent of silly, anonymous jokes.  Even these infractions will be promptly identified and routinely punished by service providers.  Due to this permitted and expected prior review, not background investigation of new acquaintances, life will be less surprising, but it will be much more serene.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2013

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The refrigerator: A short story

Your Postmodern Cornucopia
Travis Hornung. Flickr. Santa Cruz, CA, USA. May 27, 2006.

Americans expect their kitchens to be equipped with refrigerators, but these appliances are not common in all parts of the world.  Even Americans who eat primarily fast food and restaurant meals still stock their refrigerators.  How would our meals differ without refrigeration?  We’d have to drink warm beverages including water, soda, and orange juice.  Forget the cold tinkle of ice cubes in iced tea and party punch bowls.  There’d be no keeping supplies of condiments such as pickles, ketchup, mustard, and jam.  Consumption of dairy products like milk, butter, cheese, and ice cream would be uncommon.  There would be no milk and cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches, or ice cream sundaes.

Trips to the pantry or dank, dark basement for cans of mushy yellow-green peas and lank grayish green spinach would be necessary.  Bins of potatoes and winter squash would accompany containers of split peas and pinto beans.  Shopping daily for fresh bread, meat, and produce would be required.  Fresh fruit would last only days.  We’d have to eat only locally grown, seasonal fruit.  There’d be no oranges in Michigan, apples in Arizona, kiwi fruit in Connecticut, or bananas in Idaho.

Without the refrigerator, Americans could not enjoy leftover cold pizza, fried chicken, or Chinese food for breakfast.  There would be no midnight refrigerator raids to eat that last piece of apple pie, savor the crispy corner portion of lasagna, or build a sandwich from leftover turkey.  The lullaby of its hum wouldn’t induce overnight naps on the couch after television marathons.  There would be no place to post children’s drawings, doctor’s appointments, or grocery lists.  What’s on your refrigerator?  What’s in your refrigerator?  Do you have a favorite midnight refrigerator raid story?

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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Vending machine snacks: Food or fun?

Paolo Ordovez. Flickr. July 9, 2009.

For parents, school districts, and local governments, vending machines are considered a tempting source of empty calories and future obesity.  Chocolate bars, cookies, chips, and soda pop hold a minimal amount of landscape on the USDA Food Plate.  For hungry overtime workers, relatives of hospital patients, and college students, vending machines offer a convenient source of warmth, comfort, and, even nourishment.  Hot coffee and soup, burritos, cold sandwiches, apples, and cartons of milk and juice are just steps from the pod farm, intensive care unit, and library study room.  How can an inanimate, automated vendor have such a varying reputation and inventory?  Are vending machines a conspiracy of major food corporations to spoil our dinner, diet, or waistline?

Likely, both economics and social norms contribute to their offerings and locations.  If the demand for apples and burritos is low, the spoilage of these perishable foods will diminish the profits of the vending machine company.  The longevity of salty and sweet snacks render them more profitable as long as a competing fast food restaurant isn’t nearby.  Of course, our self-respect, companions, or the culture of our location may influence our food choices, too.  If our boss is a gourmet, perhaps, we’d be too embarrassed to chow down on vended chili.  Instead, we’ll order wood-fired pizza for delivery or bring homemade spinach quiche for dinner.  If a college education is financed by a track scholarship, perhaps the athlete brought bottled water and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a library repast.  Of course, hospital posters and white lab coats may remind visitors of their most recent glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.  These memories may prompt a trip to a nearby grocery store instead of a vending machine purchase.

Despite concerns about “the nanny state”, in our free market economy, marketers are intensely interested in our needs, wants, and preferences.  The dawn of the Space Age in the 1950s brought powdered orange juice and frozen dinners to American shoppers.  Thanks to the natural foods movement in the 1970s, whole grain rice and bread, yogurt, and organic produce are widely available.  Globalization beginning in the late twentieth century has expanded and increased the supply of our tropical produce choices.  Consumers who want more or different choices can vote at government elections, purchase their preferred foods, choose their preferred health care providers, and suggest preferred benefits to their employers.  Choice may be confusing, but it offers us both food and fun.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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Breakfast with the family: It’s toast

Dottie Mae. Flickr. November 18, 2010

Probably the next best thing to sliced bread is the shiny, chrome appliance used to brown it.  Warm, crunchy, and permeated with butter, jam, or peanut butter, the aromas of toast are a friendlier wake-up call than even Italian roast coffee from freshly-ground beans.  Whether you toast raisin bread, blueberry waffles, or pumpernickel bagels, family members will materialize at the breakfast table without setting any snooze alarms.

The toaster is a friend to the reluctant cook as well as the reluctant morning riser.  Sandwiches prepared from toasted bread boast of all the flavor and texture of a heartier, hot meal.  The speed of preparing a stack of toast rivals the production of pancakes.  Even better, toast can be prepared without incident even when the cook is not yet fully awake.  There’s no danger of mismeasurement, breakage, or burns.

Toast was likely the first portable or “carry-out” breakfast, too.  As an edible platform for peanut butter, cheese, bacon, or eggs, it’s the perfect convenience breakfast.  Families who formerly ignored or grumped at one another at the breakfast table can now enjoy an extra half hour of sleep.  Junior or juniorette can choose the PopTarts without preparing a parental rebuttal worthy of the debate team.  Eating is a productive use of time in a car pool or on public transportation, too.  It prevents unwanted conversations; there’s no talking around a mouthful of toast.  The judicious distribution of crumbs may ensure an absence of companions within the diner’s vicinity as well. For parental chauffeurs, it provides a respite from complaints about lunch, arguments about school dress requirements, or demands for weekend excursions.  Thanks to the toaster, families can now save their energies, appetites, manners, and repartee for the dinner table.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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The Microwave Oven: An Instant Success

Jim Mead. Lyppard Bourne, Worcester, England. Great Britain. Flickr. September 19, 2010.

Given the American demand for instant gratification, the invention of the microwave oven and its resounding success are no surprise.  Not only does it provide a hot meal in seconds, but it eliminates nearly all of the labor associated with meal preparation.  Chicken dinners, popcorn snacks, and hearty breakfasts of bacon and eggs are all prepared faster than a trip by the drive-through window of the local restaurant.

No more standing over a hot stove in summer heat, elbow deep in sudsy water and greasy pans, or hungrily at the kitchen door.  No advance meal planning is required.  Stocking up on frozen, canned, and packaged foods ensures a ready supply of instant, hot meals. There’s no need for kitchen company and camaraderie; the time spent there is minimal.  The postmodern kitchen can approximate a galley; all that’s needed is room for the appliances, the storage cabinets, and the button-pusher.

No more credit for creativity or presentation, either.  Eating from stylish, albeit colorless and disposable containers suffices.  Microwaved meal containers won’t burn the skin.  There are no leftovers to package.  Individual portions of foods are easily purchased and prepared.  There’s no setting the table with the family china, soft candlelight, or festive napkins.  The companionship of fellow diners is optional and, even, unexpected.

For this reason, no decorum in consumption is necessary.  Sitting or even standing at the kitchen counter while eating is acceptable.  Silverware and even table manners are unnecessary.  Worse, there’s no time to eat.  The instantaneous preparation time has reduced mealtime from a cherished family ritual to physical nourishment.  The computer screen and the keyboard are the postmodern source of sociability and conviviality.  By their pixilated glow and harmonic taps and clicks, we share experiences if not meals with the world.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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Dinner: A brief history

Like the Grand Canyon. Flickr. April 6, 2011.

Soy burgers and molecular gastronomy aside, the foods that Americans expect on their dinner menus and dinner tables fill only a short list.  Despite our claims to ethnic diversity, we cannot claim to be adventurous diners.  How did Americans develop their tastes for hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, pizza, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes?  Who put the comfort in large servings of ice cream, fried chicken, and nachos?

Before you stop for that next bucket of chicken, unwrap your next juicy hamburger, or buy another case of diet soda, consider their history.  Until Americans started assembling automobiles, sewing shirts, and manufacturing steel, they grew or hunted their own food.  If a family wanted bread, they grew and harvested wheat.  Someone had to mix and knead the dough for that bread, too.  A chicken dinner required killing and dressing a chicken as well as baking or frying it.  Americans ate substantial meals because they needed the calories for daylong physical labor in their fields, forests, barnyards, and kitchens.  Cooking meals was a fulltime job; it required chopping wood, picking vegetables and fruit, butchering animals, canning produce, and milking cows.

It wasn’t until the introduction of mass production at the dawn of the Industrial Age that Americans chose quantity over quality and efficiency over conviviality.  Clearly, freedom from kitchen duties, satiation, and convenience reward the fast food consumer.  Indeed, at the height of the Industrial Age, Americans were content to consume Velveeta cheese, green Jell-O, strawberry Kool-Aid, and Chef Boyardee canned pasta.  Not content with the ease of preparing dinner from packages of powders, canned carbohydrates, and frozen vegetables, Americans invented the microwave oven, Pop-Tarts, and the drive-through restaurant.  Now that Americans have achieved excellence in the speed of delivery and the size of portions of food, what’s next?  Is it possible to have convenience and good health, too?  What do you think?  Read more about this issue right here in the next few weeks.

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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