Winter Term 2023/24
Titel: Cyborg Cooks: Mothers and the Anthropology of Smart Kitchens
Journal: Digital Culture & Society Vol 9(1): 49-70.
Link to article
Abstract: Future kitchens are increasingly imagined as smart. Wired food processors offer a choice of recipes and prepare food for busy cooks while smartphones or intelligent fridges promise to shop online autonomously. Whatever the futuristic image, so-called “smart technology" is depicted as rescuing domestic cooks too busy or inexperienced to cook. Social anthropology is suspicious of such one-directional and hegemonic visions of technological impact on everyday life and ideally positioned to explore the entanglements of social, cultural, economic and political dimensions in increasingly digitally mediated human-machine interactions in the home. Yet, an ethnographic understanding of how humans and kitchen technologies interact in this rapidly changing context is surprisingly scarce. In this research paper I address this gap from an anthropological perspective on domestic food practices in urban and rural Germany through the feminist notion of the cyborg cook. In doing so, I engage with and challenge the above futurist visions as well as scholarly debates around the smart home and the domestication of digital technologies. I draw on multisensory participant observation of domestic cooks' interactions with the digital kitchen robot Thermomix to demonstrate that smart kitchens are already a reality and that cyborg cooks are firmly established among us. I argue that especially mothers should be considered as early adopters of digital technologies in diverse domestic kitchens and contest the assumptions in futurist visions and in the literature that women, including those from cultural or class minorities, are tech-averse marginal users.