Opening up Pandora’s Box: Energy Biographies, everyday practices and the psychosocial


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  • For the second activity, which took place between interviews 2 and 3, we sent text messages to all our participants on the same days and times asking them to take a picture of what they were doing at the time and send it back to us. The aim of this was to get an idea of everyday routines and to provide a point of comparison between the case sites.Participants were advised that they were not expected to take any pictures with people in or of anything personal but something to represent the activity they were currently engaged in e.g. if bathing a child when the text message was received could send a picture of the empty bath afterwardsThis slide shows some examples of the pictures we received.
  • From our previous research, and as we found in the first interviews, we know that asking people to talk about the future can be challenging. In order to facilitate discussion of the future – which forms a large part of our third interviews – we have included videos of two visions of the future. Firstly, participants are shown clips of a house constructed in the 1950s by Monsanto plastics company, which formed part of the Disneyland exhibit ‘tomorrowland’. The clip includes developments which are now taken for granted (e.g. electric toothbrushes and razors) and those which are quite different from how we live today (e.g. everything in the house made of plastic). The second set of clips come from a channel 4 programme ‘the home of the future’ which renovates a family’s home to include many future technologies (e.g. an electric car and an ‘indoor garden’ to grow plants without soil and using little water). By asking participants to reflect on the clips we get insights into how they imagine their futures (e.g. if they do not like the depicted reliance on technology, what would they like as an alternative?)
  • Opening up Pandora’s Box: Energy Biographies, everyday practices and the psychosocial

    1. 1. Opening up Pandora’s Box: Energy Biographies, everyday practices and the psychosocial Prof. Karen Henwood Project Collaborators: Dr Catherine Butler , Dr Karen Parkhill , Prof. Nick Pidgeon, Dr Fiona Shirani “How we talk…Implicit connection between discourse, affect & conversational practice – Energy Behaviour & Individual Complexity ” UKERC event 5-6th September, 2013, Oxford
    2. 2. Researching Energy in the Everyday • Energy Use/Consumption and low carbon transitions - making the problem researchable • Gaining perspective - Lessons from extant research • Modern societies face intractable problems - Climate change, environmental degradation, natural resource depletion, fuel shortages… • Interdisciplinary fields of study - Risk, Science and Technology Studies (STS), psychosocial … • Pandora’s Box – misfortune & optimism
    3. 3. Interdisciplinary Fields of Study… • Risk - possible harm/uncertainty/future orientation; Epistemological tensions; Subjective perceptions & affect (e.g. dread, fear, anxiety); (Un)fathomable complexity for policy & practice. (see e.g. Pidgeon et al 1992) • STS - Onto-formative effects of discourse; Soci0- technical (and human) assemblages; Promissory narratives, imaginaries; Future ethics. • Psycho-Social - Complex understanding of subjectivity (versus empty or unitary subject); Discursively produced; Affective depths.
    4. 4. The Field of Energy Research • Sociological study of mundane/routine & embedded practices - energy in the everyday; practices as socio-technical assemblages of meaning, skills and materials; consumption studies. • Psychological study of behaviour change – values & frames plus emotions and identity; universal psychological processes as explanation for change (spillover, rebound). • Community energy studies – social norms, networks & capital; contested definitions of space and place; social cohesion & common fate; branding (consumption & identity). • Our own energy biographies framework…
    5. 5. The Energy Biographies Study – Why Biographies? Practice • Connections between wider social processes and personal lives Change • Continuities and changes in and through time • Perceptions and accounts; Sense making; personal and cultural narratives Temporal • Transitions in time (lifecourse, generation, history) • Multiple lenses – temporal perspectives and temporalities
    6. 6. Project details • 4 case site areas across the UK • 3 waves of interviews over a 1 year period • 74 participants in initial interviews • 36 in the longer term (18 men and 18 women) aged 18-70 • Photograph tasks between interviews
    7. 7. Interview Themes/Approach 2. Daily routine • Talk through in detail to get an understanding of energy use and practices • Discuss how this varies for atypical times/events e.g. Christmas, weekends 3. Life transitions • What have been the key events/turning points that have resulted in a lifestyle change? • How might lifestyles and transitions differ for future generations? 1. Community and Context • Talk through how they came to live in their current home/area, how they characterise their community(s) • Connections – e.g. who they live with/is in their family • Discussion points specific to the particular case area
    8. 8. Qualitative Longitudinal Methods 1. Initial interview – establishing energy biographies through a focus on three themes: • Community and context • Daily routine • Life transitions 2. Second interview – a detailed focus on everyday energy use • Discussion of important life changes since interview 1 • Exploring everyday energy use through participant generated photographs • Following up emerging themes from interview 1: waste, frugality and guilt 3. Life transitions • Discussion of important life changes since interview 2 • Exploring everyday routines through text-prompted photographs • Expanded talk about the future (both personal and social), facilitated through video clips
    9. 9. Multi-modal Methods (activity 1) 1. Participant-generated photos • Participants were asked to take photographs of things they felt related to energy use in relation to four themes • Two week period for each theme. Participants were sent texts to remind them of the theme • Pictures then formed the basis for discussion in interview 2 ‘I found it quite useful having the groups you know the focuses I think cos otherwise I would have yeah I think I’d have kind of tailed off’ Emmanuelle
    10. 10. Multi-modal Methods (Activity 2) 2. Text-prompted photos • Text messages sent to participants at 10 intervals between August-November 2012 asking them to take a picture of what they were doing at the time • From these pictures we created photo narratives, to be discussed with participants in interview 3
    11. 11. Multi-modal Methods (Interview 3) 3. Video clips • During interview 3 participants are shown clips from a 1950s and 2010s version of what a home of the future might look like • The clips facilitate talk about the future, which can otherwise be difficult to discuss Monsanto house of the future 1957 Channel 4 home of the future 2012
    12. 12. Energy Biographies - Techniques for materialising everyday energy Right more gadgets. TV, PVR, video player, digi box, daughter using laptop whilst watching television. Yeah just the penetration of electronics into our lives which kind of we all know but when you actually put the spotlight on and take some photographs it just brings the impact up. (Jeremy, 62, Cardiff) “
    13. 13. Energy Biographies - Techniques for materialising everyday energy ….it gives this sense that you’re in an open space so its airy, its well lit and you can see outside, it feels bigger so I think this is great. And it saves them a lot of energy consumption as well because they, I noticed that they do have artificial lights but they’d need to use a lot more if instead of glass panels they had brick walls. But on the other side I don’t know how they keep the insulation with the glass, I don’t know how good all these windows are for insulation so it might be that they’re saving on one side but spending a lot on the other side. (Suzanna, 34, London) “
    14. 14. Energy Biographies - Techniques for materialising everyday energy Yes well it’s my work, it’s on 24/7 pretty much. Everything about it is energy… so computers generate heat … that always reminds me the heat of the screen reminds me that it’s using energy.… heat is a big thing that reminds me about energy and that comes from being young I suppose when we lived in a house that had no central heating and it was very costly to heat and so heat, I was very aware of heat at a very young age and aware that actually it was quite precious. (Jack, 48, Cardiff-Ely) “
    15. 15. The Energy Biographies Study • Conversation/communicative practice - Qualitative research – avoiding imposition of researcher frames (Henwood et al, 2008; 2010) - Reflexive/discourse practice approach to participation, involvement, deliberation, collaboration - Opening up spaces for perception- avoiding narrowing energy demand reduction frame - Exploring sense-making & accountability, not moral opprobrium - Talk (about images) as countering the invisibility of energy to people in everyday life
    16. 16. Analysis/Findings in Progress • Making ethical connections to future generations – the role of different temporalities (Shirani et al, 2013, Local Environment) • The dynamics of continuity & change in everyday energy use – case biography narratives and socio-cultural theory (Butler et al, in press, Nature and Culture) • Low carbon transitions/sustainable living – the significance of perceptions of normative change (in preparation)
    17. 17. Project website •
    18. 18. Thank you Professor Karen Henwood Cardiff University, School of Social Sciences & Understanding Risk Group