Accepted Paper:

The Electric Nemesis, tale from the Energy Islands Saga  


Laura Watts (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Victor Frankenstein came to Orkney. He created a companion monster, and then abandoned her. A century later and she has been recharged by electric future-making in the islands, by smart grids and test sites. This is her tale, sensitive to the hubris of the universal and the partiality of the edge.

Paper long abstract:

Victor Frankenstein came to Orkney, off the far northeast coast of Scotland. Out of hubris, he sparked islander flesh and photons into life to make a female companion for his monster, and then abandoned her in the islands.

A century later and Orkney is again the site of electric innovation: a world renown test site for wave and tide energy, a test site for smart grid infrastructure, site for an ad hoc islander made hydrogen fuel network, and with more electric cars running on micro wind turbines than anywhere else in the country. But all this is happening despite government policy, despite unreliable and limited infrastructures, which fail to imagine extreme weather, or such cutting edge places. Orkney is modern high-tech living when the hubris and partiality of 'universal' and 'ubiquitous' is made visible and untenable.

Hubris is not possible in Orkney - the figure from Frankenstein still haunts this place (and 'monsters' have always been a friend to STS). Drawing on eight years of ethnography in the islands, this presentation and conversation will share her story, her saga of electrified future-making at the edge.

Panel T155
Islands on the Cutting Edge: Test sites for reimagining future technoscience