Fridge talk: stories from the coldface of domestic kitchen life

Speaker: Dr Mary Brennan # Business School, University of Edinburgh

9th Mar 2015

15:30 - 17:00

Room 1.06, Old Surgeons' Hall, High School Yards


In our pursuit of understanding food, the role it plays in people’s lives and its contribution to many modern day health and sustainability challenges (i.e. obesity; foodborne illness; food waste), there have been increasing calls to broaden how, where and with what methods we investigate food.  This seminar will explore, using insights from recent projects and drawing on an innovative collaboration between Food Marketing and Human Computer Interaction (HCI), how research situated within the domestic sphere, and more specific inside our domestic refrigerators, can shed a more critical light on the myriad of reasons why people do what they do with food.

Drawing inspiration from Social Practice Theory, this seminar will reflect on how essential it is to push beyond the dominant cognitive paradigm and will argue that everyday food practices are the outcome of intricate and repeated interactions between the practitioner(s) (the person(s) performing the practice), the things/appliances central to, and used in, the performance of a practice, the space in which practices (and the associated things/appliances) are performed; and the other people present and/or involved in the performance.

A Food Standards Agency funded Feasibility Study, using novel activity and temperature recognition (ART) devices, designed with HCI specialists from the Culture Lab at Newcastle University, will be discussed. These ART devices facilitate the capture of mundane activity and temperature data from within domestic refrigerators thus giving a voice to not only the practitioners but also the things and spaces within which everyday domestic food life is performed.

By bringing to life and giving a voice to key kitchen appliances, such as the refrigerator, domestic food practices research no longer needs to rely solely on human accounts, and observations, of domestic kitchen practices.  Instead, the things/appliances central to their performance can now be unobtrusively observed, in order to better establish how these things/appliances shape and determine the performance of everyday domestic food practices. In addition, such data can aid research and policy makers in assess how ‘fit for purpose’ certain appliances are in supporting practitioners to follow, and adhere to, best food safety guidelines (i.e. fridge temperature, usage and storage).

To conclude, the seminar will consider what the implications may be for the development of food policy and behavioural change interventions aimed at modifying/changing everyday domestic food practices.

Speaker's biography