Accepted Paper:

Crafting the sustainable future: the values, knowledge and technology of Lammas ecovillage  


Willow Leonard-Clarke (Cardiff University )

Paper short abstract:

Here SCOT is used to shed light on sustainable development, adding 'symmetry' to understanding its success or failure. Lammas 'ecovillage' at Tir Y Gafel is used to explore craft, knowledge and technology in sustainable development, highlighting how human values and social practices shape our world

Paper long abstract:

The view persists that technological innovation presupposes sustainability with blame placed in technology itself, though technology is a product of social values. A 'green future' relies on re-imagining not just our technological world but our practices and values, and understanding the way these all intersect. I draw on the social construction of technology (SCOT) and the sociology of knowledge to examine craft, knowledge and technology within sustainable development community projects. The concept of 'interpretive flexibility' (Collins 1981, Pinch and Bijker 1986) I propose brings new methodological light to understanding sustainable development projects, and adds symmetry (Bloor 1976) to their success or failure; here focusing on materiality and the way this is embedded with, shaped by and reproducing of human values and practices.

The case study in this paper is from participant observation conducted at Tir Y Gafel, an 'ecovillage' in West Wales and alternative community development which gained retrospective planning permission under Welsh One Planet Development policy. Here life is centred materially and socially around values of sustainability, in a functioning example of the 'green future' now, with alternative energy, buildings and agriculture e.g. 'permaculture'. Residents are eager to transfer knowledge, promoting the site as a replicable 'model' of sustainable living. There is conflict however with the 'technological frames' (Bijker 2007) of wider society, from large scale technical systems like transport, to policy, to having a capitalist economy. Sites like Tir Y Gafel challenge, resist or are halted by these wider material and ideological frames.

Panel A18
Uncertain futures: green alternatives and STS interventions