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Inside smart homes and workplaces: How are/will people react to the changing environment?

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Inside smart homes and workplaces: How are/will people react to the changing environment?

  1. 1. Inside Smart Homes and Workplaces How are/will people react to the changing environment?
  2. 2. ‘Smartification’ and energy • Background issue: the need to decarbonise energy production, render energy more affordable, and more secure (energy trilemma) • Key question: where are opportunities & obstacles relating to how people use energy? • Smart homes: energy as central focus, with two strategies ▫ Creating smart consumers through real-time information ▫ Automating energy management • Possible problems ▫ Insensitivity to constraining effect of social practices ▫ Insensitivity to biographical attachments to identities and values Source: Eonenergy.com
  3. 3. Smart metering and behaviour change • 2015 Research for DECC by Environmental Change Institute, Oxford, the University of Ulster, and the Tavistock Institute • Key findings: ▫ Well-designed smart meters can assist with noticeable behaviour change ▫ But needs close support ▫ Also need to be used in particular ways (‘monitoring’ not ‘information’
  4. 4. Embedded practices • Practice theory ▫ Individual behaviour is constrained by shared practices ▫ Practices require particular infrastructures ▫ They are associated with cultural meanings Shove and Southerton (2000) – energy implications of freezers, microwaves, ready meals Convenience Practices constrain behaviour by making it easier or necessary to act in certain ways
  5. 5. Energy Biographies: the meaning of comfort Pat: But no, we are not very green- thinking people cos we use too much heat [Neil chuckles] Neil: We like to keep warm. Pat: We do like to keep warm. […] Pat: We do do short sleeves but we do like to be comfortable. Fiona: …Why do you prefer to have the heating on rather than jumpers? Neil: I think to sit indoors and not have jumpers on, you know. Pat: Just to be, to feel comfortable. Neil: Just like to feel comfortable. Pat: I hate to feel bunged up Unintended outcomes of standardised design • Ozaki & Shaw (2014): cultural diversity in cooking practices undermines smart ventilation systems • Against the illusion of the ‘universal home and user’-
  6. 6. Energy Biographies –case sites & methodology • Funded by RCUK from 2011-2016 • EBs approach uses qualitative longitudinal interviews (3 over 18 months) and visual methods (participant photos/films) • Can biographical stories of lifecourse change make tangible hidden aspects of how and why people use energy in particular ways? ▫ Past experiences ▫ Anticipated futures Lammas, West Wales Royal Free Hospital (RFH), London Peterston, Cardiff Ely, Cardiff
  7. 7. Reflecting on smart homes 3rd round interviews – films about everyday energy futures
  8. 8. Ambivalence about convenience (Groves et al 2016) ‘We don’t think about it twice I mean putting the microwave on or the kettle on or the cooker on […] do I really need to do this? You just kind of do it and then even if you don’t drink the cup of tea or you change your mind later the kettle has boiled’ Monica (RFH) ‘Even if all the electricity was coming from renewable, Green sources I think it would still bug me a little bit because it’s the heedlessness of it and the lack of mindfulness and the […] just that, that kind of carelessness of it all. Jonathan (Peterston) ‘Like the fridge that re-orders […] I still think it sort of dumbs us down as a kind of society and replaces our you know ingenuity and our thinking, free thinking with controlled you know thinking and you know computerisation of everything.’ Dennis (RFH) ‘And the heat pump we are getting is a smart heat pump which it can activate, it can close the windows for you; it can turn the microwave on. It’s got that whole thing. We can’t imagine using any of those facilities at all … In that sense the dream is not really sold to me any more […] it’s well documented that convenience has not really brought more wellbeing. So modern life, for all its convenience, we now see more people working longer hours and all that stuff. .’ Rachel (Ely)
  9. 9. Smart living, fragility and control ‘[talking about Ch4 film] all the gadgets I mean that was you know similar to the bloody [Monsanto] house you know you’re hungry and the electricity is down and you can’t, you know you can’t have a shower because you can’t turn on the tap you know!’ Vanessa (Lammas) ‘a log fire’s is quite homely but obviously they didn’t picture that in the future because its hard work making a log fire whereas they just press a button and they’ve got warmth or coolness or you know whatever they needed.’ Sarah (RFH) ‘Yeah but I don’t like [gas central heating]. I look back and I think actually I see for me how I had no connection with it […] whereas when the wood’s there and you see the fire going you think maybe I’ll just turn the fire down cos the pile of wood is shrinking. [With central heating] there’s no connection with the fuel that is actually being burned to produce this heat. Emmanuelle (Lammas)
  10. 10. Energy biographies and smart futures – key points • Technologies and social practices interact – sometimes in very unexpected ways • People’s personal and interpersonal attachments shape how they interact – sometimes subversively – with technologies • Qualitative narrative interviews can help explore these potential interactions • By linking biographical pasts and anticipated futures they create opportunities for people to reflect on how energy matters to them • This offers opportunities for them to reflect on desirability and viability of potential futures (like a ‘smart society’)
  11. 11. Sunday 5th February 2017 Kabir Dhawan, resident of New Capital Quay, London (heating managed by e.on) [© Guardian Media Group 2017] “Any company – including the property developer – can set itself up as a District Heating supplier without a licence, and a full list of those in operation is not yet publicly available.” “Using e.on’s own estimates of consumption for a one-bed flat, he reckons that he is paying twice what he should for heat and hot water.” “Dhawan fears that he will struggle to sell or let his flat because of the high costs and the service is a monopoly.”
  12. 12. From Energy Biographies to FLEXIS • Engineering-social science research consortium in Wales • Revisiting “stories of change” to understand potential social impacts of energy system transitions • Socio-technical focus – expert imaginaries and effects of interventions in everyday homes, plus siting/risk controversies • Planned work around district heating in Caerau and TATA steel
  13. 13. Key references • Shove, E., and Dale Southerton. 2000. “Defrosting the Freezer: From Novelty to Convenience: A Narrative of Normalization.” Journal of Material Culture 5 (3): 301–19. • Groves, C., K. Henwood, F. Shirani, C. Butler, K. Parkhill, and N. Pidgeon. 2016. “The Grit in the Oyster: Using Energy Biographies to Question Socio- Technical Imaginaries of ‘smartness.’” Journal of Responsible Innovation 3(1) 4–25. • Groves, C., K. Henwood, C. Butler, K. A. Parkhill, F. Shirani, and N. Pidgeon (2015). “Energy Biographies: Narrative Genres, Lifecourse Transitions and Practice Change.” Science, Technology & Human Values 41 (3): 483–508. • Groves, C., K. Henwood, C. Butler, K. A. Parkhill, F. Shirani, and N. Pidgeon (2016). “Invested in Unsustainability? On the Psychosocial Patterning of Engagement in Practices.” Environmental Values 25 (3): 309–328. • Energy Biographies Research Report – online at http://energybiographies.org/our-work/our-findings/reports/

Editor's Notes

  • The energy trilemma provides a major motivation for research on smart homes – energy demand reduction
    Smart, it is hoped, will provide opportunities to change how people use energy and overcome obstacles to change at the level of consumer behaviour
    Two strategies – providing people with lots of real time information on the costs of their energy use, so they act to use less, or automating demand management within the home.
    Today, with reference to qualitative social science research on smart homes and in particular to our work on the Energy Biographies project at Cardiff university, I’ll explore two potential problems with developing smart homes that derive from complexities in how people use energy – first, relating to the constraining effect of social practices on how energy is used, and second, drawing on Energy Biographies data, how people become attached to using energy in particular ways because of their own life histories
  • A wealth of social science information on smart metering – suggests some energy use reduction can be driven by providing information alone, but there are caveats.
    One significant recent example – report for DECC drawing on survey (4000), interview (169) and focus group (12) research
    Supports extant research, i.e. some potential for change, so long as people (particularly vulnerable groups) are provided with close support to help them use meters and understand outputs.
    Also, some styles of use have greater effects than others – using meters to monitor one’s energy use over time and look at trends and anomalies is more effective than just using them for information on how much energy individual appliances use
  • But even if such techs make some reduction possible, there are wider social complexities that create obstacles to further significant change.
    Practice theory in social science explains why – people engage in shared social practices that link together, and are supported by particular infrastructure and devices, and bring with them shared meanings that shape people’s sense of why these practices are important.
    For example, freezing food was made possible by the introduction of affordable freezers post war; this made frozen food possible; the convenience of frozen food was enhanced by microwaves and the cooking practices they made possible These in turn made ready meals possible. Overall, people began to value convenience embodied in these linked practices, which themselves are made possible by devices and retail infrastructures. But then the knock on effects of energy consumption are significant.
    Will smart homes require social practices that – like the connected practices of freezing, microwaving and ready meals – link up to become more energy intensive?
    Take-home: individual behaviour always happens within a broader socio-technical context that constrains what people can do by making it easier or necessary to do things a certain way.
  • But the fact that social practices constrain how people act is not the end of this additional complexity. Qualitative research helps us to make sense of how people themselves understand the ways they use energy in their homes, and the ways in which they might tinker with the devices and systems they rely on.
    These are often complex, and can produce unexpected results. people do not necessarily use sustainable technologies and infrastructure as designers intended, producing unexpected outcomes.
    For example, Ozaki and Shaw show how culturally diverse cooking practices, can result in ventilation systems designed for energy efficient homes not working as intended. This and similar research shows there is no universal home and no universal user; one size fits all designs will encounter many whom they do not fit, with potentially negative consequences for the goals of efficiency/decarbonisation.
    Here’s a related example from our Energy Biographies study at Cardiff, which I’ll turn to in more details with the next few slides – two interviewees, a couple, describing how they prefer to ‘be comfortable’ in short sleeves and spend more on heating rather than put on jumpers.
    Wanting to not feel ‘bunged up’ here refers to preferences for thermal comfort but also for feeling ‘free’ in their home that have biographical sources and are related to the couple’s relationship too. The ways in which they (over)use heating are not shaped by wider social practices, but by their own preferences for particular values.
  • In addition to looking at past lifecourse transitions and particular perspectives on convenience, we looked at emerging aspects of the smart agenda, using films to stimulate reflections on automation and the internet of things.
  • People talked appreciatively about certain aspects of the convenience afforded by some technologies – like central heating, for example – which had been a lifechanging experience for older interviewees. Many, however, drew unfavourable contrasts in our third round interviews between the ways of life depicted in the films we showed and ways of life that featured what people saw as more ‘focal’ practices, practices that engaged body, imagination, emotion and other capacities – whereas ‘smart’ ways of living threatened to thin out or erase these kinds of ways of life, with negative consequences. A smart life, says one interviewees, is a heedless life.
  • Where convenience becomes an end in itself, and automation becomes a design value, information is a thin means of engaging people with their energy use. There is something unsatisfactory about this, a number of people thought.
    Some people reflected at length on the value people get from more engaging and exacting ways of using energy, like wood fires, as opposed to electric heating or gas central heating.
    Control is not necessarily experienced as granted by pushing buttons – this thin form of engagement removes people from their energy infrastructure, renders it less visible and tangible. Some saw control and convenience as coming from being more directly related to how their energy was produced.
    Further, the smart lifestyle was associated by some with fragility – the possibility of security breaches or hacking, or just system failures in the fabric of the house brought on by power cuts.
  • Emerging energy futures may be surrounded by controversies – district heating provides recent examples – important to understand why people may distrust or trust new technological arrangements – relates to the social contexts in wchih
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