A robot vacuum cleaner

Mina Yee

It was in 2014 when a robot vacuum cleaner suddenly entered my home. My parents are very interested in home appliances– so I have seen robot cleaners that are developing day by day, wireless vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners, wet mop robots, etc. The subject of 'robot' is familiar to me, but it doesn’t seem friendly. The general image of a robot for me is a cold metal that looks similar to a human. The robot cleaner, however,  looks like a pretty cute insect. The body of the robot cleaner is round and has side brushes on both sides like the front legs of a ladybug. It moves around with the brush and cleans every corner of the house deeper. There is a sensor on the side of the body, and it avoids obstacles with ultrasonic waves and prevents collisions with furniture. The robot cleaner remembers the location later and does not clean the cleaned area again. What's more convenient is that when the battery of the robot cleaner runs out, it recognizes that it has no power, goes into the charging base, recharges itself, and starts cleaning again when the charging is complete. Or, if it recognizes that there is no more space to clean, it goes into the charging station and finishes charging. If you flip it over, it looks like a ladybug flipped over like the front side. There is even a remote control so that you can operate the cleaner without following it. You don't have to bend over with a vacuum cleaner to clean every nook and cranny of the house– just sit on the couch and press a button to finish cleaning. With the advent of robot cleaners, the amount of time I can watch YouTube has increased considerably.

Over time, machines have reduced our working hours. Korean workers tend to work more hours than those in developed countries, in spite of Korea implementing a four-day work week. Computers are replacing tasks in the industry by doing a lot of work that is incomparable to humans. Nowadays, machines take care of most of the tasks. A lot of things aren't the same at home. Thanks to electronic appliances such as rice cookers, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, and washing machines, I have time to watch dramas in the evening. Now, a world where robots take over work and household chores at work and at home is ready. Is labor enjoyed by machines, while rest and leisure are enjoyed by humans?

The rest of the labor time saved by the machine is given as free time, but I find myself busier than before, as there is a natural reason that there is a lot more work to do than in the past. As society diversifies, many opportunities come to individuals, but a lot of work still needs to be done. I am a worker, daughter, granddaughter, friend, girlfriend, colleague, roommate, studio mate, a member of art collectives, and 24 hours a week is not enough time to fulfill many roles at the same time. It does not seem to be directly related to the increase in free time thanks to machines. The more time-saving machines you acquire, the more time-stressed you feel. When I'm done with my work, I start a little bit of work in advance for next week. I have to read books that I bought a long time ago and couldn't read because I was busy, I have to check out some exhibitions that are going on now that I wanted to go to on my day off but I couldn't manage it because I was busy, and still I have to watch good movies for my own artistic practice. On the bus to work, I have to stick my smartphone on my forehead to follow Facebook's overflowing exhibition event info. I have to check who got the funding, the open calls that I can apply for, and when the deadline is.

But it's my day off, and I should call my family who is worried about me living abroad, and say hello to them. When it's a sunny day after raining for a long time, I want to go on a picnic or go to a quiet cafe with my friends. I want to go to my boyfriend's place to have a warm meal together. No matter how machines save my time, it seems to come from the perception that there is always no time based on my desires, goals and expectations. The level of desires, goals, and expectations may be living in the compulsion of lack of time because of the guilt of having to work hard more than others in the uncertain future my generation has.