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No. 3268:
View From My Window

by Karen Fang

Today, we take a view from my window. The University of Houston presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.

One of my favorite social media sites is the Facebook group, View From My Window. This group shares landscape photos taken by members from inside their homes, showcasing scenes from all over the globe.

Here is a snow-covered heath, glimpsed from inside a Scottish cottage. There is a sun-drenched backyard, snapped the same week, from an Australian kitchen. Pastel rooftops in Cusco, Peru, nestle at 11,000 feet. No less dizzying are the crowded skyscrapers and concrete housing of Tokyo, Hong Kong, São Paulo and suburban Paris, their balconies festooned with laundry and fútbol flags.

View From My Window - Phillipines.

The accompanying commentary ranges from short and sweet to long personal essays, but it's always sincere. "Hi from Kangaatsiaq, Greenland," reads one caption, over a breathtaking picture of the Northern Lights. Here's "my front porch," says a retiree in rural Georgia. "It doesn't look like much," but after twenty years moving for the military, the "best part" of their view is just staying put.

View From My Window - Kangaatsiaq.

View From My Window - Georgia retiree.

What I love about this site is that these images celebrate the shared experience of home, using social media to make the world visible to anyone, anywhere. It forges connection between strangers, and does so by discouraging the solipsism and conspicuous consumption that social media too often promotes. Under group rules, photos can't include human figures, and vacation or drink pictures are strictly forbidden.

In other words, View From My Window doesn't showcase privilege or compound aspirational longing. Rather, it inspires identification. We see literally with someone else's eyes, imagining that we are with that home dweller inside a Mongolian yurt or Manhattan walk-up.

View From My Window started in early 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic caused the world to go into quarantine and lockdown. The site started as a way to nurture solidarity when the world was shut in, but its sentiments are equally as important when travel is easy. View From My Window reminds us that wherever we are in the world we are all human, with the same needs for connection and shelter. We're all just neighbors, sharing the same planetary address.

View From My Window - Class A Motorhome - Colorado.

This is the same idea behind the first, famous photograph of Earth, which was taken from space by astronauts in 1972. That photo, known as "The Blue Marble," appeared on newspapers all over world, and is one of the most widely reproduced images ever. It became an environmental icon, and a peace symbol. 

Now, though, more a half century after the "Blue Marble" photo, one might say that we aren't much closer to the environmental and humanitarian goals that picture inspired. But that is precisely why View From My Window is so encouraging. Today, space tourism is a reality, and the "Blue Marble" risks becoming a selfie background. But groups like View From My Window remind us what is really important. Instead of perpetuating consumer culture, View From My Window honors the basic, universal experience of home. 

View From My Window - Hungary.

Real privilege, View From My Window reminds us, is getting to call "the Blue Marble" home. That was as true in 2020 as it was in 1969, and will be so as long as humankind has a place we call home.

I'm Karen Fang, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work.

(Theme music)

Lois Alter Mark, "View From My Window' Celebrates One Year of Sharing Views Around the World.Forbes, March 23, 2021.

Al Reinert, "The Blue Marble Shot: Our First Complete Photograph of Earth.Atlantic, April 12, 2011.

Photos are all screenshots of postings in the View From My Window Facebook group.


This episode was first aired on April 19, 2022