The household vignettes: Fowler household

April 2015, Melbourne, by Josh Nettheim

Elaine and Sean

Elaine lives with her son Sean, whose partner Oliver often stays over. Originally from New South Wales, both Sean and Elaine spent many years living and working in Singapore before relocating to Melbourne. Both Elaine and Sean are quite technologically savvy and wherever their home is, the abode itself is always equipped with the latest devices and connective services—especially when it comes to sound systems. While the two are hardware fanatics, they both admit that their software use is primarily work related and their individual social media presences are quite limited, using these mediums primarily to keep abreast of distant friends and reserving more traditional methods of communication for intimate relations.


Elaine moved to Melbourne two years ago and has been working in the health and safety sector ever since. She works long days and carries both a work and personal mobile wherever she goes—even though she shares contacts between the two devices. Elaine is a keen advocate of tablet computing for both visual ease and portability, and while her workplace has yet to “catch-up” to this, she herself is often more likely to reach for the iPad rather than the phone or laptop. She has a strong dislike of geotagging in social media and considers it a form of bragging. However, Elaine is a frequent map user and after an initial episode where she was given the wrong directions has since come to rely heavily on Google Maps.


Sean’s phone is always on silent, but never out of reach. Sean feels a peculiar duality concerning his media engagements, preferring to have the latest and greatest gear more for show than effect. For Sean, the mobile is mostly used for work—especially email—whereas his partner Oliver is constantly using his mobile for social media, so much so that Sean often feels isolated from his partner even when relaxing together. Sean classifies his social media into “regular” and “gay” categories, which ultimately translates into Facebook and Grindr, but really only uses these applications to kill time. Sean considers himself part of the “wrong generation”, and his strong feelings against phones in social scenarios often sees Sean placing his devices out in the open for all to see that, when in the company of others, they have his full attention—and should treat him likewise.

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