Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Our Digital Selves Film and Interview with iSkye and Slatan

Interview with iSkye Silverweb and Slatan Dryke, May 24, 2018
By Gentle Heron

Slatan Dryke and iSkye Silverweb relaxing under some trees in Second Life
Slatan & iSkye in Second Life.
Click to watch the film Our Digital Selves
iSkye and Slatan, both long-time members of the Virtual Ability community in Second Life, appear as avatars in the documentary “Our Digital Selves.” They were both active participants in Tom Boellstorff and Donna Davis’s “Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Self” research project conducted on the Ethnographia Islands.

I interviewed them together as avatars in a virtual world, which is how I know them. The interview was conducted in text chat, and edited for continuity.

Q- In your opinion, what was the value of this research?

SD- It’s been a challenge for everyone who was involved, but so therapeutic for many of us.

iS- Some of us never met before and formed new friendships.

Q- In addition to the research project, the documentary was another way to be “heard.” How did you feel about participating in the documentary? Was it difficult to do?

SD- I was terrified in the beginning during the interview. It’s not easy to explain my feelings in a foreign language, and properly.

iS- You did very well. I was nervous about using voice.

SD- Now everyone loves her voice.

iS- It’s not my first time using voice in Second Life, but this went on film and is being heard literally worldwide. That was what scared me.

Q- So you helped each other be brave?

iS- We did!

SD- Yes.

iS- Though Drax interviewed each of us separately, it made me smile how our comments dovetailed so well. Slatan and I were saying complementary things without even knowing it.

SD- Everyone was so brave to come out in RL too.

iS- They put into words things that a lot of us think and feel.

Q- Yes, I was glad to meet the "RL selves" behind some of my VAI friends’ avatars. Did you learn anything about your fellow Ethnographians from the film that you did not already know? Did they learn more about you?

SD- I would say we have learned much, not knowing their other side of the mirror, so private in same cases. During the meetings everyone was telling in general some aspects of their life, but never so deeply, and everyone has a different view about what their own avatar is and represents.

iS- A lot of it went to trust. How much could we trust Drax with what we were telling him? "What does my avatar mean to me?" The questions he asked were kind of open-ended so we could tell however much or little we were comfortable sharing, but it still went to trusting Drax with the information we did give him.

SD- Yes, and nothing being prepared in advance, it was a free talk. We were free to express ourselves.

iS- I told Drax a lot about my childhood, growing up, my experience with my family, work experiences, etc., and I know he spent hours with each of us. The way he put the film together, edited it, he kept the most significant things we said. He had hours and hours of footage and recordings, and he had to edit that down to an hour and a quarter. He told us there were things he wished he could keep in, but perhaps another time, who knows.

SD- Yes, he cut part of my interview.

Q- But you knew ahead of time that he would. That’s how film making is.

iS- Yes, we did. We’re not complaining about it, just saying we knew that would be necessary. Originally the film was supposed to be much, much shorter. I think it would not have the same impact as it does in its current form.

iSkye Silverweb sitting for a portrait in soft light in Second Life
iSkye Silverweb
Q- Did you consider yourselves disability activists before Ethnographia? You certainly are now, after that film.

iS- I've been active in my local area as a Deaf activist. Here my focus is broader, because there is strength in numbers.

SD- Honestly I don’t feel like an activist, but more than Ethnographia, being part of Virtual Ability [often abbreviated VAI] opened my view on people with disabilities.

Q- Did you learn about other types of disabilities, and did other people learn more about your disability, from the Ethnographia project and the filming?

SD- I did yes, knowing different disabilities and or form of them.

iS- I learned a great deal about each person's experience with their disability through the film, and at times some of us shared that in our meetups. I think when Drax released the teaser with me in it, the Ethnographians became a bit more aware of what things are like for me. They became a lot more sensitive to the need for text in the meetups. In Sansar, they try to remember to include me in text. That all came about because of the film. It helped them to understand what it's like.

SD- But again, being in contact with people from VAI opened my mind.

iS- Yes! For me too, because I came to understand the benefits of virtual worlds for VAIers with different disabilities.

Q- People talk about "the" community of persons with disabilities. Is there one?

iS- If you mean just one community, it's a loosely connected one. There are so many levels of community: global, local, state, national, and different groups online and inworlds. Virtual Ability is one, Ethnographia is another, Dreams is another. And we call them communities, too, not just groups.

Q- Why is that?

iS- The mutual support aspect.

SD- Affinity.

iS- Coming together for a common purpose and with us it would be mutual support and the ability to be around other people who 'get' disability. Shyla made a comment about the 'screen generation,' the attitude that being in virtual worlds is 'addictive.' 'You need to be part of the world, not shut off from it.' Yeah, well...when I am in a room full of people I am still isolated, in the physical world. I can't communicate easily with other people, especially in group settings. Inworld, it is so much easier for me to understand everybody and to do things, to be empowered to do things. Text-enabled is me :)

SD- Because for some, that is the world outside.

iS- What Slatan said, the virtual world IS the outside world for some of us.

Q- You participated in a research project as a participant, even though in the video you are only shown as avatars. Would you feel comfortable being part of additional research studies conducted in a virtual world? 

iS- Depends who is conducting the study and why.
I think what really helped us was that all along the process of the work on the film, Drax, Tom and Tredi shared with us what they were doing, and why. Tom was spot-on in explaining the “shift” I was describing with my experience. This is because of frequent meetups over the course of three years, with the film work during the last year. The researchers took time to get to know and understand us, and to let us come to trust them. I think this is important to any research study; you won’t understand the messages of the individuals without really spending time with them.
I don’t expect other studies to go that long, but I appreciate when researchers take time to get to know and understand the individuals who are participating in the study. I especially love it when they may start out “embedding” in the community, but then become members and friends IN the community after their research projects wrap up. I don’t know if researchers are prevented from doing that after their work is done, but I can tell you, I miss some of the people who came to SL to conduct studies – as graduate students, research professionals, medical researchers – and then left SL, and we don’t have an ongoing connection with them.

slatan Dryke sitting indoors with his cat in evening sunlight
Slatan Dryke
SD- I agree with iSkye. I could feel comfortable being involved in another research, but only if I can protect my identity in physical world. I can express who I am through my Avatar because he talks for me, in every way. Moreover, my many avatars are an extra under which I can state my feelings, my moods and a key to be more included and accepted in the way I am.

Q- Do you feel this type of research yields valid results?

iS- The research that was done in connection with the “Our Digital Selves” project gave some very compelling results. Tom and Tredi put into words in a very clear way the things that we had been trying to say to people for years.

SL and virtual worlds are not “addictive,” “games,” or “time wasters.” For so many of us, they provide a way for us to connect to other people, to overcome the various forms of isolation that we experience, to be able to do meaningful things, and to be able to define US, ourselves, instead of having labels put onto us. I think the film brought that out very well.

If more studies are needed to add to the research and other findings, and to make it more possible and easier for other people with disabilities to enter virtual worlds and connect with others, I think it is a good thing.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Our Digital Selves Film and Interview With Donna Davis

Interview with Donna Davis, May 24, 2018
By Alice Krueger

Donna Davis during filming of Our Digital Selves
Donna Davis, March 2018
Image courtesy of Bernard Drax
Donna Z. Davis (University of Oregon), along with Tom Boellstorff (University of California, Irvine), has been studying how persons with a range of disabilities use the affordances of Second Life to represent themselves as avatars and share their experiences through creative expression. Davis and Boellstorff are the principal investigators of a 3-year, NSF-funded research project titled “Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Self.” Many Virtual Ability community members volunteered to be participants in this research study, which is ending soon.

I interviewed Donna about her work and conclusions from this study, and about the project summary documentary by Bernard Drax.

Q- You are a professor in the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. What were the communication aspects of this research project?

DD- I was terrified all along the way, not really knowing how it would land. We had many tough audiences, with perhaps academics being the toughest.

But also the disability community holds many opinions about what is appropriate language. I didn’t want to misrepresent anyone, so it was important in Drax’s film to let people speak for themselves. I think it’s important to remember what Daisy Gator said: “Disabled people are overwhelmingly presented poorly. Most include awful stereotypes like disabled characters who sit around all day thinking about how horrible their disabilities are; whereas in fact, disabled people just don’t think like that.”

We have a vibrant community of capable individuals. They expressed themselves clearly, both on Ethnographia and in the documentary. My heart has been touched by the response to that video.

Q- Are people with disabilities in general not good communicators?

DD- A lot of people, not just people with disabilities, are not good communicators. We all have strengths and weaknesses. I think symbolically, Cody would be thought of as a poor communicator because his tongue does not allow him to speak clearly. But if you slow down and get to know him, he’s an extremely good communicator. He observed that women want you to communicate in complete sentences. He also noted that when he has to use voice in Second Life, people think he is retarded, his word. He’s actually bright, witty and charming.

Q- In other words, it takes two to communicate, the one sending the message and the one receiving it.

DD- Right, it’s good communication when the recipient of Cody’s speech tries to understand. Then you get the treasure at the end of the rainbow.

There can be many reasons for communication disability: being slow putting thoughts into sentences, low vocabulary, lack of sensitivity… It’s often a hidden disability.

Q- Please say more about hidden disabilities and communicating for self-advocacy.

DD- In the video, Jadyn said, “People with mental illness sometimes refer to it as ‘invisible disability’. … When somebody wears a sling on their arm, nobody asks them to lift a heavy object. … You do NOT walk around in real life wearing a sign [indicating your hidden disability], and it might be nice if we could.”

Some people are good at overcoming their disabilities, those with the internal strength to “do it anyway,” but others are beaten down. You have to have confidence to speak up. Some people speak constantly and in some cases as a result, others may tune them out when they become too domineering. Whether in-world or in RL, there’s a phenomenon known as the “Spiral of Silence” -it occurs when people speak up only to be silenced, embarrassed or ignored until they no longer speak up at all. We try to make sure everyone has a voice in our community and are grateful to give them a voice through Drax’s video.

We know that in disadvantaged communities, people often communicate from a place of hurt or anger. Hurt people tend not to speak at all; angry people often yell. And when someone is yelling at you, you tend to put your self-defense walls up. You need to find the sweet spot. Find the right message, the right voice, and the right medium for effective communication. I work with people, though, who also strongly believe that some people never hear a message unless it’s at the highest volume and in a way that affects the intended audience personally. It’s how we end up with protests and revolutions and they’d argue that sometimes it takes that to create change.

Q- Let’s talk a little about the “Our Digital Selves” video.

DD- We had so much fun! I’ve spent the last ten years in Second Life. I’m one of those people Warren Buffett meant when he said how great it was to get paid to do what you love. My son is a gamer, and he used to joke that it wasn’t fair that I got to hang out in “games” to get my PhD.

I’m a social beast. This community taught me more than I would have learned on my own. Fran Serenade is my hero! She is strong, persistent, optimistic, resilient. At 91, to build a vibrant social life in a technology most people half her age don’t understand… .

Every day in this community I discover new things about myself. It is so much fun being with creative, resilient people. They live with things most people don’t have to deal with, but they shine. It gives me gratitude for my abilities, not to take them for granted. Attitude is so powerful.

But resilience isn’t a choice for everyone. Shyla started the video by saying, “That’s another thing about being disabled… People are like, ‘Well, just hold your chin up!’ or ‘Be strong!’” They hear that all the time, but how are you supposed to do it? I am always in awe when someone in the community is down hard and you see that sense of resilience; they find another creative way to move on.

Q- You’re talking about your previous experience doing research with the Parkinson’s community in Second Life, aren’t you?

DD- Right. DB in one of our discussions said that he wondered what it was that allowed some people to do things when others would just curl up on the couch and wait to die. All the people in Creations for Parkinson’s are resilient. For some people, receiving a diagnosis of a disease that is going to take things away from you, they give up, but others remain vibrant. That strength is a magical gift.

Q- But your work with the Parkinson’s community was not your first virtual world research.

DD- My dissertation research was done in Second Life. I have had a divergent academic path. I started as an undergrad pursuing a degree in pharmaceutical chemistry, and ended up graduating in journalism. I started my PhD research on family media literacy, but ended up working in virtual worlds. I was studying how relationships in Second Life evolved as they moved to the physical world. I was interested in the concept of relationships. Then a friend introduced me to Barbie Alchemi, the founder of the Creations for Parkinson’s community, and I changed to looking at community relationships. That was about eight years ago.

Q- You’ve learned some things about communicating as a researcher about disability.

DD- There are so many disparate expectations of how the disability community wants to be communicated. Some people don’t want to be called “deaf” and others don’t like “hearing impaired.” You end up angering people who don’t like the terms you use. You want to get on the same page as the community you are describing, or you will step on a landmine. You want to talk about disability in a way that people can understand and respect. To do that you need an open mind, you have to listen carefully and you can then only do your best to represent the people you’re working with, with compassion and accuracy. “Tell me what you feel and why, so I can tell your story accurately.” We may need to get more unity and a common language so that outsiders can understand the community better.

Q- Is there really “a disability community”?

DD- I am going to waffle on that. Tom and I come from different disciplinary backgrounds. Community as defined in anthropology is very complex! “Do you identify as disabled?” “Do you have a particular disability, based on a diagnosis?” In Ethnographia, the community is defined by its shared space and experiences.  In the Parkinson’s group, it’s about support. In Virtual Ability, the bond is from identification as disabled. There are also the legal terms, which are necessary for determining service provision. There are ways to categorize by experience or identity.

In Ethnographia, we blend them all. Participants identify as disabled, they are in the same place, sharing the same experience, now have developed friendships and support.

There are lots of communities, and tension develops as they grapple with their differences. You can identify within the disability community. Some don’t want that label at all. They compensate; resilient people may (hopefully!) find ways to be open about their disability. “Understand that the disability is me, but it’s not all of me.” They taught me and Tom this, and Draxtor captured it. “My avatar is me, but don’t define me as those labels. Get to know me.” Take time to get to know the whole person. Tom has a great quote about this in Coming of Age in Second Life that he refers to in the video: “In the physical world, you get to know people from the outside in, but in Second Life, it’s from the inside out.”

In Second Life, you are not defined by labels. You create your labels visually and through your behavior. The environment here slows things down. You get to know people by conversation and the way you are treated.

Melyna in the documentary said she has a male avatar to use for blogging about male fashions. This shows how identity is tied to the avatar. In virtual worlds, you can choose an identity that fits your role. I guess in a way that unfortunately can also reinforce labels.

Q- One of your job responsibilities is directing the Strategic Communication Master’s Program. What do you mean by “strategic communication”?

DD- It’s an interesting time in the traditional journalism community. Journalists now are low on the totem pole of trust. Strategic communication means storytelling, except not the kind that is traditional journalism. For example, branding a nonprofit through many communication channels. It’s about how we get a message out. What is the message, who delivers it, who will receive it, what platform is used?

Tom and I are different here too. He doesn’t define virtual worlds as social media. I do. It’s a mediated platform. If you lose power, the medium goes down. I define virtual worlds as a social medium. Social media today may be text based or visually based, but it’s always about social connection between humans.

To me, Second Life is like a parallel universe in which you use the same tools to communicate like instant messaging and “emailing”. However, the platform of Second Life as a social medium allows both place and embodiment, therefore offering a rich context for storytelling and community building through embodied interactivity. The pillars of community building are embodiment, place and communication. I call virtual worlds social media on steroids, and embodiment is the steroid.

Donna Davis as her Second Life avatar Tredi Felisimo
Donna Davis, as her avatar in the film Our Digital Selves.
View the film here.
Q- You are also interested in entrepreneurship.

DD- The light bulb aha moment for me came from Shyla creating the CENT [Capable Entrepreneurs Nurturing Talent] group. It’s about the spirit of entrepreneurship, creating opportunities for what can be done in a virtual world that can’t be done in the physical world.

Sometimes what is started in the virtual world grows into the physical world. Or the other way around. Solas from the Parkinson’s group brought her skills as a fashion designer into Second Life. Like communication, entrepreneurship has to be two ways.

Q- What do you think is the purpose of virtual worlds?

DD- Everyone uses them in deeply personal ways. Some look for community, others for privacy. Some come to the world to create, others to relax. It’s a life experience, whether virtual or physical.

Your avatar is your brand. Human and avatar experience are one and the same. I don’t believe you can pull them apart.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Our Digital Selves Film and Interview With Tom Boellstorff

May 23, 2018
By Alice Krueger

Tom Boellstorff (University of California, Irvine) and Donna Z. Davis (University of Oregon) are the principal investigators of a 3-year, National Science Foundation-funded research project titled “Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Self.” Both digital ethnographers, they studied the various ways disabled persons experience embodiment and place in virtual worlds. Many Virtual Ability community members were participants in this research study.

Tom Boellstorff in film Our Digital Selves in Second Life
Tom Boellstorff, in the film Our Digital Selves.
Watch it here.
As the project draws to a close, I had an opportunity to interview Tom.

Q- The National Science Foundation is not known for its interest in social virtual worlds. How did you manage to convince them to fund this project in Second Life?

TB- People tend to think of the National Science Foundation as one entity, but it operates as separate directorates. This project is funded through Cultural Anthropology, not through the directorates that typically deal with computers and virtual reality. Cultural anthropologists are interested in how people socialize, in whatever venue, be it face to face or on the internet. In terms of the project seeming feasible, it may have helped that I was already a known entity because of my publications in the area of anthropology of virtual worlds.

Q- Did you have to convince them that avatars are people?

TB- Not too much, because we framed it more broadly in terms of social interaction online. People are online in various venues and the funders were interested in how people interact using the internet. If a person is using a virtual world to interact, they do so through an avatar.

Q- Did you face the argument that you can’t consent an avatar?

TB- It was not an issue for the IRB (Institutional Review Board) at my University. It’s becoming better understood that you can do online consent. Many researchers do that now. But there are still some IRBs that don’t understand virtual worlds. It becomes the responsibility of the researchers to educate their IRB members.

Q- You have a personal interest in the area of disability studies.

TB- Yes, in all research there’s always some element of personal motivation. In my original work in Second Life, I was comfortable with the computer technology and I was interested in the method, how to study culture in this medium.

My primary motivation for this project was that early on in my time in Second Life I ran into many people with disabilities who were doing interesting things, including The Sojourner and Virtual Ability. I wrote just three pages in my book Coming of Age in Second Life focusing on the topic of disability, and I always wanted to do a follow-up study where I could delve more deeply into disability experience in Second Life.

Tom Boellstorff as his avatar in Sansar
Tom as his Sansar avatar in the film Our Digital Selves.
See the film here.
Q- Please say a little about how this project started.

TB- Donna and I have been working together for about seven years. After the first couple of years we decided to work on getting funding for a collaborative project. It took us about a year to do the writing and application, and then this was a 3-year project.

Q- How did you decide who to include as study subjects?

TB- We had to define “disability,” and we kept that definition loose. We did not want to focus on a single disability. We were inspired by groups like Virtual Ability that work with people with a range of disabilities. We had to deal with multiple existing definitions, including some people who had a “medical condition” or “illness” or were “recovering from” a condition. We cast a wide net.

Q- But not all disabilities have the same needs. How did you handle that?

TB- Devva Kasnitz talks about “cross-impairment synergy.” This can result in accommodations like communicating in voice and text, like you do in Virtual Ability. Some people who can’t type need to use voice, while others who can’t hear need to use text.

And as you know, the issue of disability diversity is not only present when you talk about different disabilities; it shows up even within a single disability. For instance, this issue comes up a lot in the autism community, with terms like “high-functioning” and “low-functioning.” Many people on the high-functioning end of the spectrum talk about neurodiversity as an alternate way to function in the world. Many on the low-functioning end, or their caregivers, see this as a problem they wish could be cured.

Q- All of your study participants were high-functioning, weren’t they?

TB- I guess it depends on what you mean by “functioning.” High or low doesn’t translate well between different disabilities, and there are personal, social, insurance, and governmental definitions to consider. Cognitively, all participants in this study had to be able to communicate, so in that sense they were high-functioning.

Q- You seem to enjoy your research. 

TB- I have always had lots of good times with all my research. Susan Harding talks about studying the “repugnant other,” and that would be difficult for me. I’ve had beautiful conversations in lovely settings, making the film was magical, and I love doing presentations. I’ve met many people I’ve enjoyed talking with. So yes, it’s been fun.

Q- You enjoyed making the film with Draxtor?

TB- Drax is a lot of fun to work with. Donna and I gave him full editorial control. We were just interview subjects like the others in the film. He decided what to include and what to cut.

Filmmaking is such hard work! I mean, when I am writing, if I get stuck I can push my deadline back. The filmmaker can’t do that. He has to stick to deadlines of availability of people and places. Drax is a good documentary filmmaker because he’s a good interviewer.

Q- You had originally planned to include virtual reality as well as virtual worlds in your studies. What happened?

TB- We had planned to buy VR equipment for our subjects, but the equipment like Oculus and the worlds like High Fidelity and Sansar were not ready in time and were not very accessible. This is a common problem in field work. You need to be flexible.

Actually the unspent money that we had planned to use to purchase the VR equipment was repurposed with NSF approval to make the documentary. We wanted the film to promote the value of social science and reach new audiences. The film is not part of the research, it’s a commentary on it, because the filmmaker had full editorial control. But the cool thing is that the making of the documentary itself did become a part of the research in that it brought people together and stimulated some really interesting new conversations. It’s an example of the saying, “If you are given lemons, make lemonade.”

Q- Were there any downsides to this research project?

Bird's eye view of Ethnographia Island in Second Life
Create an account and
 visit Ethnographia Island in Second Life
TB- We were lucky that we got approval to have an island for the project, which started off as one sim in size and then we got approval to add a second sim to the island after a year. I had never been responsible for a whole island before, and I definitely learned about the management side of that. It was nice to have a home base, a place where we could chat together and hang out. We gave some participants plots on the islands on which they could build, but it was never the intention that everyone involved in the research would be interested in having a plot of land. And not everyone used their land in the same way. Some participants were very active on their plots, others less so, which was fine with us. And of course, everyone involved did things in other places in Second Life, just not Ethnographia Island.

So it would be a misconception to think that the island and the builds on it were the whole project. In addition, everyone knew from the beginning that when the project ended, the island would go away as well. Of course, even when we know this, it’s understandable that some folks get attached to their land and their builds, so another layer of management is helping people with the transition at the end of the project. What’s key for us all in that regard is that while Ethnographia Island won’t be around forever, the community that formed on the island will continue.

Q- You and Donna are both publishing about the project.

TB- We published one paper together so far, and we also work on individual publications. We come at this from different perspectives, so we sometimes write for shared and sometimes for different academic audiences. And of course, we did a lot of collaboration helping out with the documentary!

For more information on this project, please see the project website: Our Digital Selves 

You can view Bernard Drax’s (Draxtor Depres) documentary, “Our Digital Selves: My Avatar is Me,” about the project on his YouTube channel  Video is 1 hr. 15 min. long.

Visit the NSF: National Science Foundation.

Celebrate GDPR Day by Reading Emails!

Blue GDPR button with gold stars and silver edge
Today, May 25, 2018, is the day that GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) go into effect. GDPR is legislation by the European Union protecting the online privacy of EU citizens and applying to ALL businesses who transact with them, no matter whether that business is in Europe or elsewhere.

You will have gotten several emails over the past few weeks regarding companies’ responses to GDPR. Most of these are about updates to the company’s privacy policies. Please do NOT discard these emails before you read them!

Here’s further information:
Getting a Flood of G.D.P.R.-Related Privacy Policy Updates? Read Them
Will GDPR actually protect EU citizens? "61% of information security pros say yesl 69% of security professionals say they believe similar laws would protect US citizens, according to AlienVault.”
NOTE: This also means that 1/3 of pros do NOT think it is protective!

There are of course also numerous scammers who are trying to take advantage of consumers’ confusion about GDPR. Be careful. Don’t provide personal information just because an email purports to be from a company you trust. Read the email carefully and be sure it’s from the correct source.

Be safe online, folks!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Why Spring Cleaning?

Cleaning is an important skill for independent living!

Cartoon boy with raised arms standing on grass, bright rays of light behind.

According to a 2013 survey by the American Cleaning Institute, nearly three-quarters of US households do some form of spring cleaning. What rooms are the most often cleaned?
  • Bedrooms
  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
Cleaning chores that are not on the typical weekly cleanup list are most often tackled during spring cleaning. Almost four out of five who do spring cleaning attack windows, blinds, and curtains. Other important areas for cleaning (by over two-thirds of cleaners) include clothes, closets and drawers, ceiling fans and carpetsAlmost half of all cleaners scrub out their trash cans.
You might want to compare your spring cleaning list or its priority ranking of chores to this list.

Cartoon man with a broom
You might be wondering, why is spring the traditional season for a thorough house cleaning?
Actually the idea of spring cleaning has deep historical roots. There are also practical and possibly physiological reasons for doing a careful cleanup of our living quarters at this time or year.

Many cultures and religions mark the beginning of a new year in the springtime. There is the Chinese New Year, the Iranian (Persian) Nowruz, and the Jewish Passover. 

Even as recently as a century ago, when our homes were heated in the wintertime by burning wood or coal, and lighted with lamps that burned kerosene or whale oil, the soot and grime from these winter technologies built up on walls, windows, and furnishings. Springtime was a good time to clean these off. Warmer weather also meant that windows could be opened to air out the rooms.

Physiologically, the fewer hours of daylight during winter triggers the release of melatonin in our brains. This hormone makes us feel less energetic and more sleepy. We don’t have as much energy for heavy cleaning activities in darker winter months. 

Group of cleaning bottles and a scrub brushBut with the return of early daybreak and later sunset in springtime, our melatonin production drops, we have more energy, and therefore we are more likely to feel like cleaning. It may also be true that the increased light levels make visible dirt we did not notice during darker months.

Not really into spring cleaning? The 2018 survey by the American Cleaning Institute found that over a third of those who deep clean their homes do it in a season other than spring. And 6% never deep clean at all.

During the next few weeks, Virtual Ability’s blog will feature tips and articles about spring cleaning, to assist the majority of us, who do still believe that spring is the best time to spruce up your living quarters.