How many roommate situations have you been facing since you left your parents’ home, and which ones had a significant influence on who you are today? Fact is, the more people are jammed in a small space, and the more individualistic they are, the more crucial for our wellbeing are all the aspects that Roger Silverstone (1992) comes up with in his definition of home: “a complex and contradictory social space, a physical and psychical place, a place if both work and leisure, a place where identities are formed, a place of both conflicts and security, a dynamic space of comings and goings.”

This study explores current cohabitant constellations. The mayor goal of this project is to provide material for ideas as how to improve the design of electronic objects: The fact that most of us are on familiar terms with their electronic objects “indwelling” their homes leads me to find out, in what ways this kind of training (i.e. living with electronic objects on a daily basis) effects our perceptions of our apartment mates. Are we able to clearly separate between domesticated pets and peers versus electronic objects or do we already—without being aware of it—transcribe/ascribe the ways we handle and communicate with gadgets also to our human living partners?

COHABITANTS treats this question of possible transference by analyzing two different roommate situations in Los Angeles. For the empirical date I interviewed two different households: A: a one bedroom apartment shared by 3 male, (a musician, a film student, and an unemployed paralegal) and two cats; B: a two bedroom apartment shared by 2 couples, 2 unemployed movie maker (college graduates), a nurse and her unemployed boyfriend (movie maker and soldier).

The interviews incorporated individual questions, as well as a group interviews and a trip to the grocery store. Each person also received a disposable camera for a week to take photos of roommate relations as well as roommates interacting with electronic object.

My concern thereby was to find out about certain behavior patterns: would there be traces of treating each other in terms of trying to domesticate, customize or tame one another? There were, yet some of them still follow the comparison of peer to pet (i.e. treating someone like a dog). Interestingly, my data also contains more complaints from men in terms of inappropriate hierarchic empowerment of female cohabitants:

“Yes, I find it difficult when she uses my bed.”

“Of course, I became wild, when she was talking about the rules that i have to follow.”

“Yes...I was treated like a dog to which she is mastering me.”

“I was toiled by her, when she uses my things, when i was not at home.”

“Absolutely. Some of my roommates have claimed the living room, so I was forced to go elsewhere to do work.”

“He decided where the dishes would go and move them without notice. Furniture appeared and disappeared. I found the garbage can in my bathroom once, as a hint.”

“No, not really, we are about the same level with this sort of thing.”

“No—the way that I would deal with this, is that I would set up a ‘house meeting’ and together we would decide what we wanted the ‘house community’ to be like.”