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Private Lives: Embedding Sociality at Digital "Kitchen-tables"

How do people negotiate boundaries between insiders and outsiders when they meet both offline and online? How does recognition and identification unfold when friends and communities consist of persons that hardly ever meet outside of digitalized platforms?

Marianne Gullestad’s classic ethnography Kitchen-Table Society from 1984 describes how norms and values are established among young women during conversations around their kitchen-tables in Bergen, and is a key reference in Nordic ethnography.  Inspired by her work, we ask: where are the "kitchen-tables" today? To what extent, and how does digital social media transform private lives? 

Gullestad describes how norms and values are established among young women around their kitchen-tables in Bergen. If the "kitchen table" was Norwegian everyday life’s prime arena for mediating relationships and practices that maintained moral norms in the 1980s, we ask: Where is that "kitchen table" now? How does it unfold across time and space, and to what extent is it scalable? What can these engagements tell us about the moral evaluations of proximity, "privacy" and distance in contemporary Norway? How do we understand the balance between demands for privacy (bodily, spiritually, emotionally, socially) and voluntary digital display?

Through four ethnographic case studies, we aim to

  • analyze contemporary mechanisms and arenas in which people negotiate morality, sociality and social boundaries
  • identify how digital technology embeds social relations and reconfigures privacy
  • explore the social mechanisms through which social arenas are negotiated and maintained, and finally
  • consider how this affects the cultural conditions of societal change in the Nordic region.

Case study 1: Emotional and digital identity work

What roles do digital platforms play in young adults’ everyday life, such as their choice of movements and meeting places?

Leader: Tuva Beyer Broch

Case study 2: Nature management, reindeer herding and digitalised sociality beyond the human

How do the uses of digital devices in reindeer herding and monitoring affect human-animal relations?

Leader: Marianne Elisabeth Lien

Case study 3: Social media and diversity politics

What kind of possibilities do digital technology offer to diversity politics in the cultural sector?

Leader: Cecilia Salinas


Private Lives is a research project that is ongoing from 2020 to 2022, in collaboration between the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and the Norwegian museum of Science and Technology, funded by the Research Council of Norway (SAMKUL).

Published May 4, 2020 1:25 PM - Last modified Jan. 28, 2021 1:02 PM