Accepted Paper:

Habits, harm, and hope: an everyday experience of storms and energy blackouts in Finland  


Kristiina Korjonen-Kuusipuro (South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the meaning of electricity in Finnish people’s everyday lives. I examine the vulnerability of the energy system at household level and tensions between risks and security by analysing energy blackouts caused by three storms in Finland during early winter 2013.

Paper long abstract:

Climate change is expected to change our weather. It is generally believed that the number and intensity of storms are likely to increase in the future. Since we are very dependable on electricity, an interesting question is how we are prepared for electricity blackouts that may follow the storms. Electricity blackouts can be seen as moments when the vulnerability of our everyday lives becomes visible. According to van der Vleuten et al. (2013, 10) vulnerability may refer to (technical) systems and even (technological) cultures that are susceptible to harm, and their ability to anticipate, resist, cope with and recover from events that could impede their functioning, but David Nye (2010) has pointed out that blackouts are most often seen as technical failure, and they have seldom been studied as social or cultural phenomena.

During early winter 2013 there were three powerful storms in Finland and during all these storms numerous households in many areas were left without electricity. At everyday level days without electricity were anthropologically interesting: How did people experience these blackouts? Did people consider energy blackouts as unexpected harm or were they prepared for them? How did their everyday patterns change? What remained unchanged? I am also interested in the question of normality - what kind of situation is considered as normal? Did people connect these blackouts to climate change?

This paper is part of UbiEnergy research project and it is based on an analysis of internet material, experiences gathered by interviews and an autoethnography.

Panel P25
Force, change and readjustment: weather and energy