People-centred development: what is a meter? 
Maria Salaru (University College London)
Hannah Knox (University College London)
Simone Abram (Durham University)
58 Banbury Road, COMPAS visitors' room
Start time:
19 September, 2018 at 16:15 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

How can anthropology contribute to the conditions of everyday life? This lab will rethink the design of infrastructural objects, highlighting the conditions that they impose on the everyday, and repositioning the 'user' through people-centred design.

Long Abstract

The lab will rethink how social reality is reproduced through everyday practices of measurement and ask how anthropology can contribute to the re-design of everyday life.

The lab will ask, 'What is a meter?' What does it measure, and what does it ignore? How do meters configure you as a user and your actions as part of a social collective? How is their authority maintained? Is a meter merely a way to facilitate exchange of service for money, or is it a means to generate a calculative subject (von Schnitzler, 2008)? Do meters produce a kind of "space of calculability" (Callon & Caliskan, 2005) which invites residents to subject their daily consumption practices to a constant metrological scrutiny? How do meters mediate the relationship between state and citizen (Anand, 2015; Fennell, 2011; Min & Golden, 2013) or company and consumer (Coleman, 2014)? How much of the meter's utility is evident in its design, its placement, its representation and its products? And what are the implications of digital, smart or open-source meters that promise to give new kinds of agency to both people and things?

Participants are invited to bring a utility bill or a portable meter as prompts towards taking a people-centred approach to re-conceptualisation and re-design of 'metering'. This participative lab will be fun and thought-provoking. It will engage directly with conference discussions on the key theme of Environmental Imaginations, to find out how anthropologists might document and theocratize the use and potential of meters more effectively.