Open Thinkering


Tag: house

First world problems (or, On buying a house in 2014)

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We’re currently in the process of buying a house. It’s actually the one we ended up renting after our plans to move abroad fell through. As the saying goes: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Previously when we’ve bought houses we’ve known that the chances of us being in it for more than a few years were quite slim. This was for a number of factors: the ‘housing ladder’ <shudder>, changing jobs, and just being in our twenties without an absolutely clear plan of what we wanted to do with our lives.

The house we’re planning to buy is situated in a market town within the North-East of England. I can see us staying here a while now that our eldest is in school and our youngest starts full-time next year. Knowing this means we’re thinking less of the ‘value’ we can add to the house and more about how to make it liveable as a family home.

We can (just) afford to live here because I work remotely rather than from an office. The house we’re buying may only be going for an amount just less than the national average but, if I had to commute every day, we’d be struggling to afford it. And it’s not anything spectacular: just a two-bedroom terraced house with a small front garden. Our generation was screwed over by my parents’ generation – and goodness knows what the economic crisis has to the next.

By this point in my life, I kind of expected to live in a reasonable sized family home with a garden large enough for my kids to run around in. But that hasn’t happened – and it isn’t likely to happen any time soon. We’re not alone in this. If you haven’t watched the video above yet, then now’s the time to do so. Skip to about 3m 54s and watch Vinay Gupta pick apart the western dream piece by piece.

The implicit assumption, he states, is that we work in the city until we have kids, and then move to the countryside to bring them up in rural bliss. The trouble with that, of course, is it remains a dream for most people. Given intense competition (in housing, in jobs, socially…) it’s difficult to generate enough money to do anything more than remain within commuting distance of the city centre.

Vinay’s point is that in developed countries, the current and next generations become ‘trapped’ in cities. Due to the increases in population, the concentration of wealth, and increasing resource scarcity, we simply cannot afford a middle-class lifestyle for everyone no matter where they live.

What we can do though, I suppose, is make cities nicer places to live. Cities are actually pretty good per square mile in terms of efficiency. Making them nicer places to live, though, would mean jettisoning our rugged individualism and inherent competitiveness with peers. These are the kinds of things that lead to families buying two cars and driving everywhere instead of demanding better public transport. And, you know, if we pooled together we could all work 21 hour weeks while providing a minimum basic income for all. We could end poverty, at least in our own country.

But we don’t do any of this. Why? Because we’re trapped and immobilised by a nostalgic mythology. Instead of demanding and working towards something different and better, we’re spurred on by consumer culture that tells us we ‘deserve’ more of the same. The truth is that most of us aren’t going to attain the dream they’re peddling. All we get to do is silently, seethingly observe in the media other people doing things presented as ‘normal’. The truth for most of us is that those things are increasingly merely a distant dream.

Image CC BY-NC-SA Jonathon Hurley

Weeknote 29/2013

This week I’ve been:

  • Editing the skill descriptors and examples in preparation for the beta launch of the Web Literacy Standard next week
  • Writing about the Web Literacy Standard launch (including listing all the competencies and skills)
  • Talking to David Ascher and Vinay Gupta about the future of Firecloud (and getting our ‘pitch’ right).
  • Helping Wikimedia UK think through how they could use Open Badges.
  • Mapping the links between the Web Literacy Standard skills using post-its.
  • Trying to get the intermittent fault with the DisplayPort of my MacBook Pro fixed. Unsuccessfully.
  • Getting ready to sell our house. More on that soon.
  • Sorting out my expenses.
  • Giving feedback to Chris Appleton on designs related to the Web Literacy Standard.
  • Attending the Webmaker, Open Badges and All-Staff calls.
  • Preparing for a work week with my colleagues in Maine, USA that we’re affectionately calling ‘Badge Camp’.
  • Planning to update the Mozilla/P2PU School of Webcraft with Vanessa Gennarelli, Chloe Varelidi and Laura Hilliger.
  • Updating the Mozilla wiki to ensure a consistent structure for the Web Literacy Standard.

Next week, as I’ve already mentioned, I’ll be in Maine, USA for Badge Camp with my colleagues. I’m planning to travel as little as possible for the rest of the school summer holidays.

Weeknote #3

This week I have been mostly…

Attending the Thinking Digital Conference

I spent Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday at the Thinking Digital Conference, recording my thoughts about it here (I haven’t quite finished yet!) It was an awesome event, seemingly expensive but for the quality of ideas and knowledge I went away with, fully worth it!

Rationalising the work/private divide

It’s a tricky one, but I’m trying to get my head around my work interests and personal interests occupying the same space. It’s always been the case, but just a whole lot more obvious (with attendant consequences) in my current role.

Finishing off my first journal article

I’m going to be submitting my very first journal article on the ambiguity of ‘digital literacy’ soon. I’m sending it to my thesis supervisor this weekend to see if he can put his name to it at joint author…

Not selling our house

We’ve decided to take our house off the market. The thought of downsizing, even if transport links are better in Whitley Bay (where we planned to move), didn’t exactly inspire us. Looking around some houses there last weekend sealed the decision.

Selling my MacBook Pro

I decided to sell my 15-inch MacBook Pro this week, along with some other technology stuff I don’t really use or need. Interestingly I’m finding that – as Stammy noted recently – social media such as Twitter can be as good as eBay for selling tech stuff.