IEA DSM Task 24 workshop Domestication of technologies in every day life


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  • Everyday life inconspicuous, repeating practices infrastructures framing and structuring our lives
  • Domestication is on the one hand an analytical perspective that reminds us to include the ‘social innovation’ in a study of technology in society. On the other hand it is a practical concept linking the practical, symbolic and cognitive processes that take place when a product is integrated into a household. In other words, people actually domesticate a technology—they place it, learn to use it, fit it into their routines and give it meaning—or they reject it. These activities may vary from person to person, from group to group. Thus the discussion is not about effects of technology, but of the development of different user patterns in ‘negotiation’ with the technology.
  • I will use the concept of domestication to analyse the practical experiences of the users as well as the symbolic meaning they attribute to the Ebox and the process of use. How the Ebox is presented through design, as the physical object and as an interface through the Internet, will be explored in the light of the concept of script. The starting point of this analysis is, in other words, that the consequences of a new technology cannot be taken for granted. Although a pattern of behaviour is inscribed in the technological artefact, research shows that the user domesticates (develops, and to a certain degree changes) the product. It is not given that the Ebox will be used and understood in the way the producer, or in our case the network owner, plans. Thus we cannot predict whether and how the Ebox will contribute to new patterns of heating or if new communication possibilities between the users, the network owner and energy saving department, will be developed. Exploring the script and processes of domestication will provide knowledge to assist the ongoing process of distributing the Ebox. The analysis will also highlight the importance of integrating these aspects when studying technological innovation. The different domestication strategies illustrated through the three ideal types, show that in spite of a relatively strong script the users have domesticated the Ebox in different ways during the test period. Previous habits, attitudes, age, technology interest and competences appear to differentiate the users, but this test group is too small to make such conclusions. These users do, however, exemplify the possibilities of flexible understanding and use of a specific technology. This means for the Ebox as for other energy technologies marketed towards the household sector that information, supervision and support must be tailored to fit various user groups. Different users need different levels of information and support. In order to obtain, and keep, satisfied users of the Ebox, the device itself, as well as the network that it is a part of, must work in accordance with the objectives, appear logical, and the relationship with the utilities must be based on trust. A lack of support from, for instance, the utilities will affect the domestication process. So will deficiencies in the design of the Ebox. Problems with, for example, the web connection may change the image of the Ebox from representing an easy way of controlling indoor temperature to a more bothersome method. The participants in this project have relatively small apartments and the Ebox controls only one heating unit. Potential cost reductions are thus limited. If the customers become more aware of their electricity consumption as a result of the introduction of the Ebox, this may have positive consequences for the costs. But one should be very careful when stating anything about the cost reduction potential. Whether the customers will save money, depends on previous habits. It is not unthinkable as discussed that some of the participants in this particular project will end up consuming more electric power as a result of using the device. What this means is that the domestication strategies of the utilities influence the domestication strategies of the end-users. It is therefore important to create an environment for a successful domestication from the ‘producer’ side. Establishing trust has been shown to be important. The users that mistrusted the intentions of the utilities were negative from the start. Many of the users were positive, however, for different reasons such as responsibility for the environment, curiosity or just a general interest in energy saving. But this attitude will probably not last if the users do not experience the effects that they are promised. Functionality is also a crucial factor. The device itself as well as the network that is part of the technology must be easy to operate and work as expected. The amount of time and effort that should be used to attract and motivate the customers must be seen in relation to the desired goals. In this project, the aim was to test the Ebox as a means of controlling consumption, and it was important to reach as many as possible. Is this a good strategy? The experiences gained in the project indicate that when trying to reach a customer group with the aim of controlling the load factor in a certain area, it would be wise to concentrate on those with Internet access and interest in using the device. It would be unreasonably time consuming to include and support all possible user groups, both regarding motivation and backing. Furthermore the analysis illustrates that if the objective is to be as mentioned above, the Ebox must be sold cheaply or given to the consumers free of charge. In order to include many users it would be wise to offer reduced prices for accessing the electricity grid. If on the other hand, the aim is to offer the customer a new technology for controlling energy costs without participation of the utilities, other strategies could be followed. When the users buy the Ebox for their benefit, the motivation is present from the outset. However, there is an upper limit on the price. By selling it cheaply, or giving it away, and granting discounts on grid access, it is likely that an interest for energy control through the Internet could be created. This could ‘help’ the Ebox, and similar technologies, to access the market. Until now, energy technologies have been diffused from a market way of thinking (demand oriented), and have achieved rather poor results. The sign of a successful integration of technology in the household sector, as e.g. with computers, mobile phones, and other ‘life-style products’, is that the product has a symbolic aspect in addition to the utility aspect. This symbolic aspect seems to be lacking in energy technologies. They must symbolise more than just saving. The Ebox, with its relationship to the Internet, might make a contribution in that direction.
  • In the project "Energy consumption and everyday life" I have studied energy consumption from a cultural perspective related to both stationary and non-stationary energy use. I have analyzed households as socio-technical units where the material framework (house and car) and the inhabitants’ values, knowledge, attitudes and everyday life activities are viewed as a ‘seamless web’ (Hughes 1987). My theoretical basis is thus a synthesis of contributions from technological constructivism (ex. Callon, Latour, Law), and contributions from what we broadly speaking call "culture theories"(ex. McCracken, Featherstone, Silverstone, Bourdieu, Gullestad). The organizing concepts developed from these two traditions are ‘domestication’ (Sørensen) and ‘energy culture’ (Ljones). The study shows that Norwegian everyday life is performed without much reflection around energy consumption as such. Our energy consumption, stationary as well as non-stationary, can be viewed as dependent on our understanding of comfort. Comfort is however interpreted in many different ways. Thus, as our views of comfort differ so do patterns of energy consumption. I have analyzed these differences as different energy cultures: "the environmentalists" which show an engagement towards environmental questions and/or have a clear opinion against consumption waist (however not always explicitly towards energy questions). Their attitudes and behavior are coherent. the “indulged", who do not reflect on energy-consumption at all and let everyday life activities direct their consumption pattern, the "hesitating environmentalists" which really are engaged in many ways but do not use less than the group that do not care often because of a big detached house, the "sober indulged" which have no thoughts about energy use, but still represent a low consumption pattern mainly caused by small apartments. The energy cultures illustrate how practical, symbolical and material conditions are woven together in the frame of everyday life and how energy consumption is a result of this web. Such knowledge can give new and more differentiated tools in our work towards private energy consumption.
  • Sounds better in Norwegian – I can assure you!
  • IEA DSM Task 24 workshop Domestication of technologies in every day life

    1. 1. Domestication of technologies in every day life Margrethe Aune, Dep. of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, Center for Technology and Society, NTNU 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    2. 2. Outline of the talk • Why domestication? Background • What is domestication? • Experiences and examples of domestication • Why domestication? Some good reasons 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    3. 3. Why domestication? Innovation and the effects of technology • Studies of innovation: – Innovation as a linear process from laboratory to marked  products diffuse into the market • Studies of effects on technology in society – Technological optimism or pessimism  determinism 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    4. 4. Innovation  domestication • Problem: – Deterministic approaches  Technology has effects, technology causes social change – Diffusion approaches  Technology used as intended or rejected • No focus on processes in the market. What happens when technology meets the user? – Processes of cultural integration? – Processes of “social innovation”? 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    5. 5. What is domestication? Cultural integration + social innovation • Domestication was tried out as a concept to capture these processes – User focus, process focus, non-deterministic • Allows a much more detailed analysis of the interaction between humans and technologies 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    6. 6. Main inspiration for ”STS-Trondheim” (1992): •Media studies – Domestication in relation to the ”moral economy of the household” (Silverstone et al, Haddon) •Science and Technology Studies – Script and program/anti-program, the consumption junction (Akrich, Latour, Cowan) •Studies of consumption – Consumption as active and creative behaviour/ symbolic focus (McCracken, Featherstone) 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    7. 7. • Domestication captures the processes of ”taming” of technologies in households  integration of action and meaning • Implies mutual shaping processes  technology constructs everyday life and everyday life constructs technology 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    8. 8. The STS-Trondheim approach • Domestication can be analysed through three dimensions (Lie and Sørensen 1996, Sørensen et al. 2000): – Practical; The construction of a set of practices related to an artifact – Symbolic; The construction of meaning of the artifact – Cognitive; Practices related to learning of practice as well as meaning • Generic set of features – not only related to the household 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    9. 9. My Norweigan example I • 2001: Implementing Ebox - an energy controlling technology • My focus: • User pattern • Motivation • Design • Learning • Energy saving results 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    10. 10. Ebox • “Domestication” strategies user categories – “the enthusiast” – “the sceptic” – “the democratic participant” • Flexible (i.e. non-standardized and varying) understanding of technologies 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    11. 11. Example II 1998: Energy use and everyday life • An analysis of everyday life and energy use in Norwegian households • Here domestication was used on a different level – I did not analyze the domestication of specific technologies (tools), but used domestication as a perspective: a non-deterministic process analysis of practice and meaning 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    12. 12. Results • On the basis of information about everyday life routines, discussion about energy and enviromental issues, technological equipment and use, and dwelling type, size and standard, I constructed categories of users which I called ”energy cultures”: 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    13. 13. Energy cultures • “the self-indulgent” (do not reflect on energy consumption at all) • “the soberly indulgent” (no specific awareness for energy but low consumption rates because of socio-economic position) • “the hesitant environmentalists” (or “the shameful indulgent”, energy-aware but not consuming less energy than the self- indulgent) • “the environmentalists” (who may not put energy very high on their green agenda) 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    14. 14. And: • Variations in home construction: – The home as heaven – The home as project – The home as arena for activity Why? • Provides a more complex picture of private energy use (than ”households as economic units” or ”tecnological fixes”) • Variation in policy instruments towards households… hopefully. 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    15. 15. Why domestication? Some good reasons: • Technology as part of the analysis and not only as a frame of social action: – Focus on the practical as well as symbolic dimension of technology possibilities of change – Technological design empirically ”tested”  possibilities of change – Process focus – user patterns ”in the making”  possibilities of change – Learning strategies  possibilities of change 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim
    16. 16. Domestication and sustainability: • Technological innovation will be part of the solution towards sustainable lifestyles, but there is no such thing as a technoloical fix – We need to involve users in the development of technologies – they should be easy to operate, have a appealing design and if necessary carry a sustainable message • Studies of domestication can provide useful knowledge into such processes 07/22/13 2013 IEA workshop, NTNU, Trondheim