Ageing and the Transportal Home


  • Pauline Garvey Maynooth University, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
  • Xinyuan Wang University College London,



Ageing, Downsizing, Smartphone, Transportal Home, Ireland, China


Taking a comparative approach to two field sites – Shanghai in China and Dublin in Ireland – this paper explores the relationship between ageing, home, and the impact of the smartphone on domestic space. Although Shanghai and Dublin are extremely diverse contexts, both have seen rapid social shifts in recent decades, and domestic life seems to reflect these changes. Here, we outline how older people reconfigure their lives through the manipulation of their homes, variously upsizing, downsizing, and rightsizing – but also through sifting through their possessions, decluttering, and adopting or adapting to new domestic spaces in different ways. However, whereas these material practices may be found in cities worldwide, we examine the smartphone in domestic environments and consider how the digital expands, create, blurs, or traverses conventional views of the home in each field site. A central concept here is the ‘transportal home’ (Miller et al. 2021).  Weaving perspectives from material and digital approaches in anthropology, we explore and expand the notion of the transportal home, as outlined in the comparative book, The Global Smartphone (Miller et al., 2021) and reiterated in brief here. We adopt this concept but take it further by asking how the transportal home differs in both fieldwork sites. This leads us to question the role of the transportal home in Shanghai and Dublin in terms of mediating, blurring, or traversing domestic boundaries, or expanding or shrinking social and architectural environments. Through these practices, conventional notions of home itself are challenged.


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Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Aging