Ordinary Lives: Studies in the Everyday

Ordinary Lives: Studies in the Everyday

Ben Highmore

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 0415461871

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This new study from Ben Highmore looks at the seemingly banal world of objects, work, daily media, and food, and finds there a scintillating array of passionate experience. Through a series of case studies, and building on his previous work on the everyday, Highmore examines our relationship to familiar objects (a favourite chair), repetitive work (housework, typing), media (distracted television viewing and radio listening) and food (specifically the food of multicultural Britain). A chair allows him to consider the history of flat-pack furniture as well as the lively presence of inorganic ‘stuff’ in our daily lives. Distracted television watching and radio listening becomes one of the preconditions for experiencing wonder through the media.

Ordinary Lives links the concrete study of routine existence to theoretical reflection on everyday life. The book discusses philosophers such as Jacques Rancière, William James and David Hume and combines them with autobiographical testimonies, historical research and the analysis of popular culture to investigate the minutiae of day-to-day life. Highmore argues that aesthetic experience is embedded in the mundane sensory world of everyday life. He asks the reader to reconsider the negative associations of habit and routine, focusing specifically on the intrinsic ambiguity of habit (habit, we find out, is both rigid and adaptive). Rather than ask ‘what does everyday life mean?’ this book asks ‘what does everyday life feel like and how do our sensual, emotional and temporal experiences interconnect and intersect?’

Ordinary Lives is an accessible, animated and engaging book that is ideally suited to both students and researchers working in cultural studies, media and communication and sociology.











entertainers, as well as critical academics, have associated the word ‘style’ with ‘lifestyle’ and established the latter as a consumer, ‘off-the-peg’, choice. Aesthetics reunites lifestyle with something, that while it may be hedged in from all sides by commercial forces, is not simply reducible to it. In his book The Comfort of Things the cultural anthropologist Daniel Miller presents thirty portraits of individuals and their relationship to the things they possess (and, as he will suggest,

it does not press too close, and pity is a passion accompanied with pleasure, because it arises from love and social affection’ (Burke 1998 [1759]: 42).8 The passions then are crucial for aesthetics because, for writers like Burke and Hume, passions are what give social force to communication and artistic performance, and this allows us to reflect on and manage our passions. For Hume, in particular, the passion of pride is central in that it organises the sensorial subject into a perceiving self.

to the study of the ordinary is the dynamic sense it gives to the public intimacies and feelings that circulate across and between individuals. Human creaturely existence is lived-out communally even when (or perhaps especially when) the values being pursued are set to encourage critical elites to imagine that they have the sensitivity to produce standards and values that could only further the cultural superiority of aristocratic taste. This is, of course, to oversimplify the results of

job of private or personal secretary away from its role as apprentice executive towards its association as ‘office wife’. An employment guide for educated women who didn’t want to enter the teaching profession could claim in 1910 that ‘a man chooses his secretary much as he chooses his wife, and for much the same reasons’ (cited in Davies 1982: 154). The account of a typist’s routine that I want to look at here is from a book published in 1975 called All the Livelong Day: The Meaning and Demeaning

in muzak and free newspapers; drenched in the advertising I barely noticed but which flitted by on the edge of my peripheral vision; sopping wet from last night’s TV binge of the ‘top one hundred most enigmatic moments in US cop dramas’. If we are saturated by media, and if it takes more effort to avoid than it does to succumb to it, then what does this mean for our perceptual attitude towards it? Should we expect indifference and blasé attitudes, new forms of information and 116 Ordinary Lives

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