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Accepted Paper:

Pandemic Kitchens: A study of online commensality and the acceleration of digitised togetherness  
Bee Farrell (University of Kent)

Paper short abstract:

Shaped by the architecture of algorithms and machine intelligence, the virtualised kitchen space of a promised togetherness began with enthusiasm but over the extended time of the pandemic grew weary.

Paper long abstract:

In the weariness of social distancing the rupture of the pandemic revealed we are ‘alone together’ (Turkle, S., 2011), however much the video conference platform companies tell us otherwise. The choice of something so sensorial and biologically profound – cooking and eating together – set within the sterile and efficient digital space was like two worlds colliding. And in that collision society’s hidden pandemics of loneliness and vulnerability were observed and talked about. From my auto-ethnographic studies, thematic and diary-style interviews with the chef educators, observations of 50 online cooking group lessons, online food workshops, presentations, illustrations and articles I gained unexpected insights. Because of its visible absence what I extrapolated from the intensity of conducting fieldwork during a pandemic was the need for public facing physical displays of togetherness – such as extra-domestic commensality. And that the tethered-ness of internetworked communities of affinity distort or mask the vitalness of physical togetherness founded upon the mutualised workings of the sensorium—the internalised bank of senses and memory. The transformation of physical and relational activity into the virtual space revealed digital wayfaring; hierarchies of control through software design features; a new digital lexicon; blurredness of time; the tensions of asynchronous interaction; human-machine synthesis and how the physical absence of togetherness impacted on mental health and wellbeing. I intend that the research will show how anthropology can interpret and understand digital society and contribute to mental and social healthcare transformation.

Panel P37
The Digital Architecture of Kinship in Hybrid Spaces of Togetherness: Are Anthropologists critical to the 'cultural and not technical' digital dilemma?
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 June, 2022, -