Questioning Everyday Life

Posted: October 31, 2013 in CPD

When thinking about media and culture, I can see why it would make sense to understand how people are in their everyday life. A year ago I would have thought that was easy but then I read ‘Questioning Everyday Life’ by Ben Highmore and once again I’m questioning stuff I didn’t think I needed to! Surely everyday life is about me and what I do on a day by day basis, end of story. How hard can it be? If anyone wants to study everyday life they just need to follow someone around for a few days making notes. If this happens to be someone in the media (advertising, game design, film making) then that should be simple. You want an aftershave to suit a man for ‘everyday’ then watch him in his everyday routines. If you want to make a film about the everyday family life of people in Bristol then follow a family around for a week with a camera and sound engineer. But cultural studies and media is never that simple. Having read Ben Highmore’s account of everyday life, I’m now beginning to wonder if there is such a thing and as usual, I’m not even sure I am in charge of my everyday life anymore!
Henri Lefebvre in his book Critique of Everyday Life [Lefebvre: 1930] said that everyday life is defined as ‘what is left over’ when you take everything else a way. I guess he means class, gender and all the other things that shape who we are. But it is my class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and cultural capital that affect my everyday life and to take those things away might mean I am not being myself in everyday life! Then I’ve got Marx and Freud saying that everyday life is not my own anyway – that I am influenced by people with power who tell me what to do because they can and that I am just a big bundle of unspent desires that make ‘everyday’ living a bit of a battle.

Ben Highmore suggests that in order to understand it we have to look at the micro (what is there and what you see that makes it everyday) as well as the background stuff (the culture and society where the everyday life takes place). That way, we should be able to get closer to what really is everyday. By looking at what everyday isn’t, we should be able to define what it is. Well good luck with that one – I’m off down the pub to study people doing ‘everyday’ things!

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