Getting the measure of it: energy metrics and folk quanta by Tom Roberts.


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Presentation at the BSA Climate Change Study Group event, “Energy, Climate and Society: Insights from Early Career Researchers”, held on Thursday, 18 April 2013 at the University of Westminster.

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Getting the measure of it: energy metrics and folk quanta by Tom Roberts.

  1. 1. Getting the measure of it:energy metrics and folk quantaDr Tom Roberts18th of April 2013Energy, climate and society:Insights from early career researchersUniversity of WestminsterB
  2. 2. Outline• Why energy metrics matter.• What history of science tells us.• A typology of energy and folk quanta.• Comments on monitoring.• Closing thoughts.
  3. 3. In science:• Energy is always conserved. In every process,there is always the same total amount at theend as there was at the beginning.• Energy is an abstract, mathematical idea, aproperty of an object or system that can begiven a numerical value.• Scientists measure energy: Joules, Calories,British thermal units, Watts and Kilowatt-hours etc...• It is concerned with epistemic and technicalforms of knowledgeEnergy metrics matter:Problems with energy conservationIn everyday life:• Energy should be conserved. It can be felt, seenconsumed and bought.• Energy is a thing in the sense that it is used todo things. It holds a relational value.• Consumers measure energy using informalmeasurement techniques known as ‘folkquanta.’ (Kempton and Montgomery, 1983).• Is concerned with phronetic and forms ofknowledge i.e. It involves practical reason and(Flyvbjerg, 2001;)
  4. 4. Energy metrics matter:Invisibility and equivalence‘Double invisibility’• An invisible and abstract force entering thehousehold via hidden wires. (Hargreaves et al2010)• Consumption part of inconspicuous routines andhabits difficult to link to specific actions (Shove,2003).• Difficulties of finding equivalence as multiplepractice domains with different folk quanta.(Like Imperial and metric).
  5. 5. • Modern idea of energy masks a much richer past• Energy, from Greek energeia, ‘activity’, fromenergos, ‘being in action’• Corporeal energy – “Labour united the human andanimal bodies” - ‘working like a horse’, ‘feeling hisoats’, and ‘working in the traces’ (Nye,1998)• 1590s – Galileo’s experiments• 1599 – ‘Energy’ first used to describe ‘force orvigour of expression’.• 1676 – Leibniz and ‘vis viva’• 1807 – Thomas Young and ‘energy’• 1840s – law of conservation of energyEnergy: theoretical construct toindustrial reality
  6. 6. Thinking energy otherwise:A typology of energy and folkquanta
  7. 7. Energy relationalityCorporeal-energy feltKinaesthetic- energy andmovementAffectual –energy you feelyou can affectFuel–energy youknow youhave storedVicarious–energyexperienced indirectly
  8. 8. Energy relationalityCorporealKinaestheticAffectualFuelVicariousEngagement andpossible ‘change’ mostlikely to occur closer tothe centre
  9. 9. Energy relationalityCorporealKinaestheticAffectualFuelVicariousMost behavioural changeagendas target.
  10. 10. In reality far more complex!
  11. 11. CorporealCorporeal-energy felt- ambient energy-thermoception-largely intuitive‘If you’ve got something like a log fire,just the sight of those flames has apsychological effect to make youfeel warmer ...Yes, there is theradiant heat but I think you get anextra boost’ (U5)
  12. 12. KinaestheticKinaesthetic - energy andmovement‘... kinaesthetic investmentsorient us toward the materialaffordances of the worldaround us in particularways...(Sheller, 2005)My relationship with mymy motion and chemicalenergy on my bike is of avery different quality tothe guy in the BMW
  13. 13. AffectualAffectual –Energy use you haveperceived agency over-Purchasing and Waste decisions‘You know, you lift the [food waste] atthe end of the week and you’ve got15 kilos of wasted food. It makesyou... You know...that’s very tangible.Whereas electricity, okay, it’s a bill’.(U5)-Explains why waste issues come upwhen addressing energy-Frugality; careful use of money,goods, resources (i.e. avoid beingwasteful)(Rettie and Harries, 2013; Evans2001)‘We only talk about things thataffect us […] we lose the biggerpicture about how things areproduced: the power stations,nuclear, solar etc… cause wecan’t affect that stuff, can we?(X7).
  14. 14. FuelFuel–‘potential’ orstockpiled energy-Stored food-Wood-Coal-Gas / Oil-Mpg and its relationship to distancetravelled
  15. 15. VicariousLabour saving devices•Energy experienced vicariouslythrough machines (usually)appreciated as replaces humaneffort e.g. older generation andwashing machines.•Today guilt over tumble dryer anddishwasher•Can we think in kettlefulls?• £ compensates for inability toconvert energy units. (e.g., kilowatthours, gallons fuel, megajoules).• Money becomes the common unitfor measuring all energy use.(Silvis, Leighty and Karner 2007)Energy experiencedvicariously throughtechnology and £INT: Is there a reason for leaving your energymonitor on the cost mode?U9: It sort of makes sense, penny per hour. The doesn’t mean anything.INT: Doesn’t mean anything?U9: Well does it? Does it mean anything to you? Thepenny per hour makes sense...if we could get it…down to say 2p an hour it would cost us, youknow... 48p a day...
  16. 16. Energy relationalityCorporealKinaestheticAffectualFuelVicariousNeed to make energyconsuming actions moresalient – pushing themcloser to the centre
  17. 17. Increase what we can affect’Affectual –I just thought, ‘why wastemoney?’Can be applied to showerroutines e.g. The 4 minuteshower!Gas for heating somesuccess?Electricity ?a lot harder!e.g. Use Folk quanta thatare domain specificWashing = No of ‘wears’
  18. 18. Increase what we feelCorporeal-energy felt- ambient energy-thermoception-largely intuitiveThermal imaging parties-Make energy use / losssalient in the home
  19. 19. I’m using how much £!?• Monitors increase salience (at least initially)‘[...]monitor’s ability to make energy use relational’(Hargreaves 2010)• Need to incorporate meaningful metrics and linkwith equivalent appliances and practices.• Comparing apples and pears e.g. Kettles 90%efficient but spike - baseline or vampire moreimportant!• Also what is normal – who to compare with?
  20. 20. 1. Language of conservation of energy confusing2. Folk quanta important to behavioural change agenda as theunits used can increase salience of energy.3. Multiple units of measurement that incorporate meaningfulfolk units should be encouraged.4. Not just a case of more and better measurement. E.g. EV andthe search for new meaningful equivalent metrics to replaceMPG.5. Need to understand energy qualitatively or relationally as wellas quantitatively.6. Corporeal, kinaesthetic and affectual can be powerful ways ofrethinking an approach to engagement with this topic.Closing thoughts and policyimplications
  21. 21. Thank you!Dr Tom
  22. 22. • Community action project domestic energy reduction• Prof Ruth Rettie, Dr Kevin Burchell and Dr Tom Roberts• Team of local project partners• Lots of community engagement!• See: Communities
  23. 23. E=MC2FACTS...• For traditional science educators:• “Energy is the important bit ofmathematics that you learn about ifyou ever study science at advancedlevel...people who do not knowanything about it use the word ‘energy’to mean all sorts of different things,most of which are silly. Take no noticeof them”. (Warren, 1991:8-9)Energy metrics and educationBUT...• Children ‘start with ideas of energyrelated to personal experiences of humanactivities, vitalism and activity - “jumpingabout” or “being lively”’.• Their conceptions of energy are, ‘messy,contradictory and obstinately persistent’.(Solomon, 1982)And its not just school kids that thought ofenergy this way...