Introduction: Unveiling the Similarities

The image of a veteran writer’s cluttered study, as often depicted in literary lore through figures like Gay Talese, Marguerite Duras, or Javier Marías, shares more with the vibrant setup of an online streamer, adorned with colorful LED lights, than one might initially assume.

At first glance, both spaces serve the same purpose: they are sanctuaries of solitary creation, where the creator, be it a writer or a streamer, can either unleash their genius, as myth would have it, or succumb to the pressures of deadlines, household chores encroaching dangerously close, and the myriad distractions of accelerated remote work. Secondly, both the writer’s den and the streamer’s setup, if active, are surrounded by an array of objects, albeit vastly different, all centered around a screen. Gaston Bachelard, the pioneering philosopher of domestic spaces, once wrote in 1961 that “the true space of solitary work is, in a small room, the circle illuminated by the lamp.” Today, that lamp has transformed into a screen emitting a bluish light onto our tired faces, as depicted in Bianca Baganarelli’s illustration for the first New Yorker of this year.

Ergonomics vs. Aesthetics: Crafting Our Surroundings

In 1969, Dorothee Becker designed Uten.Silo, a milestone in domestic space organization that has since been widely imitated and, in its original version, marketed by Vitra. With a panel resembling the tools of a mechanic’s workshop, Uten.Silo freed up space on desks and in drawers, bridging the gap between the worlds of work and our living spaces. Becker’s panel was designed to hold everyday objects such as writing utensils, cables, and scraps of paper, decluttering the desk surface and working in tandem with Arik Levy’s Toolbox to organize small items.

Efforts to create more pleasant and ergonomic workspaces within our homes are not trivial. Some studies suggest that remote workers spend up to 13 hours a day in front of a screen, effectively tethered to their desks. Thus, the desk has become a tiny territory in an increasingly virtual and deterritorialized world, a realm reserved for a solitary inhabitant who will adorn it with habits, quirks, and superstitions. Moreover, the desk has become the cockpit from which we dive into the depths of the internet.

If the monitor serves as the porthole through which we view the virtual universe, around it, we also have provisions (a cup of coffee or an energy drink leaving rings of moisture) and talismans (a portrait of a loved one or a cherished trinket) to turn to when faced with something terrifying amidst the pixels. The desk also dictates postures, has a certain texture, and reminds us, with its sharp edges etching into our forearms, that no matter how much time we spend online, we are still embodied beings.

From the Dressing Table to the Desk: Spaces of Self-Construction

The glow of screens illuminates us much like bulbs did around a mirror in the past. This is the analogy suggested by architect Rosana Galián, who compares the desk to the dressing table, a piece of furniture dedicated to the construction of one’s own image, particularly female beauty.

Galián, from Garra Estudio, explains that like many contemporary professionals, her way of working, and consequently her desk and daily environment, is influenced by the mantra of the Eames (the architect couple who revolutionized and flexibilized American interior design): “Work is life, life is work.” “Our physical workspace, our desk, overlaps with our leisure and our fetishes. We can’t seem to separate one thing from another,” the architect and designer asserts, “so our intellectual or professional construction is intimately linked to our construction as women, to our construction of beauty, and even to our construction of gender and eroticism. A working person’s desk is a desk of emancipation in every sense, not just professional.”

Galián, an advocate for the intimate yet seemingly cluttered desk, recalls encountering resistance when designing offices: “There is a preference for more corporate constructions, which deviate from the real work desk, which is more personal and allows for the exploration of creativity.” She concludes, “The desk accommodates tools, fetish objects, and, above all, modes of connection. We don’t work from a hermetic position; rather, we open ourselves to space and hyper-identity. The desk is a connected, baroque, and disorderly space.”

Conclusion: Two Worlds, One Essence

In essence, the writer’s den and the streamer’s setup, despite their outward differences, share a common essence as spaces of creation, self-expression, and immersion. Whether adorned with relics of literary history or bathed in the glow of LED lights, these spaces serve as the stage for the human endeavor to craft stories, connect with audiences, and navigate the complexities of modern life.

As technology continues to evolve and reshape our work environments, the fundamental human need for a space to think, create, and be remains unchanged. Whether in the serene solitude of a writer’s retreat or the dynamic energy of a streamer’s studio, the essence of creativity persists, transcending the material trappings that adorn our workspaces.

In the end, it is not the objects that define these spaces, but rather the human spirit that animates them, infusing them with meaning, purpose, and possibility. And whether we find ourselves in the quiet sanctum of a study or the bustling arena of a streaming platform, it is this spirit that unites us in our shared quest for expression, connection, and understanding in an ever-changing world.

Last modified: 2024年4月28日