Even if smart fridges and drone delivered food are still more futurist visions than everyday reality in most households in Germany, kitchens are long since smart. Smartphones, tablets and laptops are routinely involved in all kinds of domestic food work, from ordering ingredients or entire meals to searching for a recipe, sharing eating experiences or disposing of leftovers via app. Much more quietly has been the recent success of digital kitchen robots, especially the internet enabled Thermomix (elsewhere in continental Europe known as Bimby). With its abilities to, for example, weigh, chop, cook, ferment or steam food but also manage shopping lists, suggest one from among thousands of specially coded recipes and guide through the cooking process, it is transforming domestic cooking in Germany (and elsewhere) from the ground up. While these observations suggest an increasing digitalization of domestic food work, in this talk I argue that a cook’s bodily and multisensory engagement remains central to every aspect of this work. Indeed, shopping and cooking with digital kitchen technologies like the smartphone or the Thermomix require a whole range of bodily practices, which generate new kinds of sensory knowledge. To note and study the intermingling of digital and bodily knowledges in everyday practices such as cooking, I propose an ethnographic methodology called participant perception. This approach is based on the phenomenological understanding of learning and knowing as based on lived experience and thus requires the ethnographer’s multisensory immersion in the field. I hope to show that participant perception allows us to study all everyday practices precisely because it embeds them within their wider material and social environment, including the digital.
Katharina Graf is a social anthropologist. She currently researches the interaction between humans and machines in domestic kitchens and the transformation of bodily knowledges therein. She obtained her PhD from SOAS University of London. Since 2021 she’s based at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology at Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany. Her research interests range from food, gender and knowledge reproduction to STS, urban space, global markets and food insecurity.
Dr Katharina Graf
social anthropologist, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology at Goethe University Frankfurt
Katharina currently researches the interaction between humans and machines in domestic kitchens and the transformation of bodily knowledges therein. She obtained her PhD from SOAS University of London