Some Odd Thoughts of ‘Home’
Environmentalists, including eco artists, work on behalf
of the their ecological ‘home’ – planet Earth. They conduct ‘home-making’ by optimizing diversity and biological vigor. This new form of ‘house-keeping’ beautifies and functionalizes this shared ‘household’.
1. “The House I Live In” (1834) by William Alexander Alcott is not the title of a book about architecture. It dealt with the anatomy of the human body. By mapping the body in the manner that geographies are mapped, the book presented the general public with their very first glimpse of their bodily interiors. The use of the term “house” popularized the notion that an enclosing shell protects our interior organs and our spirits. This separatist, interior view is being challenged by ecology. Ecologically, phrases like “the house I live in” extend beyond the borders of bodies and beyond the wall of architectures. They apply the intimate associations with the word “house” to ecosystems and the globe.
2. Real-estate metaphors apply to computers. Peole “stake out territories” by establishing a “home” page. Like a house on street, a home page on a computer has different rooms and different styles that reveal the identity of the owner. Like homes, computers also have “windows” through which occupants can look out, and passersby can see in. However, computer windows see far beyond a neighborhood, linking to computers all over the world. Furthermore, they can link to multiple computers simultaneously. As a result, the home as a center ceases to exist and is replaced by the concept of home as a multiple system. In some cases home boundaries are erased. MUDs (multi-user domains), MOOs (multi-object-oriented networks), and video/computer games all emphasize this plasticity and permeability of cybernetic homes.
3. Wood devouring termites are unwelcome occupants in wood-framed houses. But their ability to wreak havoc on these structures depends on other organisms taking up residence inside them. For example, termites provide the home for microorganisms that live inside them. They help the termites digest the wood. Futhermore, bacteria live inside these microorganisms, so they too are ‘homes’. They either secrete the enzyme to digest the wood or help push the microorganisms through the termite’s gut.
4. The biosphere is home to thirty million species distributed among its diverse ecosystems. Whether the ecosystem is a forest or the human mouth, each has a limited carrying capacity. In the absence of human interference, populations are usually kept in check because increases in the density of occupants also increase competition, disease, and predation. Humans have devised ways to escape this formula. It is estimated that hunters and gatherers required 10 square miles to sustain one person. By the year 2,000 BC in Mesopotamia, this number increased to 28 people per square mile. Today, millions of city dwellers occupy single square miles of space. They all call it ‘home’.