Accepted Paper:

Energy biographies: Everyday life and socio-technical change in energy systems  


Karen Henwood (Cardiff University)
Christopher Groves (Cardiff University)
Fiona Shirani (Cardiff University)

Paper short abstract:

In the wake of COP21, it is important to take stock of research-led understandings of why people use energy in the ways that they do, and to consider the contribution of methodologically innovative energy demand projects (such as the Energy Biographies study) as energy experiments.

Paper long abstract:

In the wake of COP21, it is timely to reconnect strategic visions and policy interventions with research-led understandings of how and why people use energy. A key relevant research focus in STS has been on the socio-technical entanglements of practices and technologies over time, and their influence on trajectories of demand (Shove, Pantzar, and Watson, 2012). The Energy Biographies study (2011-2015, has developed innovative methodologies for rendering visible sociologically and psychologically intangible aspects of our ways of living in resource-intensive ways. It has developed psychosocially-nuanced understandings of the ways in which relational subjects are essential for understanding energy-using practices. It has also opened creative spaces where energy usage across the lifecourse creates opportunities for exploring continuity and change dynamics. This presentation will bring into relief theoretical and methodological issues involved in experimental ways of working that have been taken forward by this project, and in connection with three substantive concerns: the dynamics of participation in sustainable or unsustainable patterns of everyday energy use; the embedding and entanglements of energy usage and social practices in everyday life, wider systems, and cultural conditions of late modernity; the role of psychosocial intangibles (relationships, emotional attachments and investments) in the dynamics of everyday energy use and systems change. In doing this, we will show how it is possible to bring STS scholarship relating to sustainability transitions, everyday energy use, and sociotechnical systems change together with social scientific research investigating articulations between sociotechnical change in the everyday and lifecourse or psychosocial (including narrative) perspectives.

Panel T098
Energy Experiments