363.2 Domestic ‘sustainable' technology use: Tensions between governing and performing practice

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 2:45 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Ritsuko OZAKI , Business School, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
Isabel SHAW , Business School, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
The UK Government launched the Code for Sustainable Homes (2006), requiring housing-developers to incorporate technologies intended to reduce carbon and create energy renewal. This encourages a technologically deterministic approach to the reduction of energy consumption, and positions ‘end-users’’ behaviour as pivotal. Some researchers (e.g. Guy, 2006; Shove, 2004; Southerton et al., 2004; Spaargaren, 2011; Wilhite, 2004, 2008) advocate a shift from the analysis of technological efficiency to that of ‘socio-technological’ relations and practices. This strand of research suggests that energy consumption does not occur in a vacuum: users’ practices are not isolated from the activities of other actors (e.g. state agencies). Furthermore, energy consumption is influenced by embedded socio-technical practices. The emphasis here is less upon the provision of consumer ‘choice’, than an understanding of how practices and energy consumption co-develop. In line with this latter effort, we investigate how the consumption of energy is affected by embedded socio-technological practices of residents who live in a social housing scheme with heat recovery ventilation and solar water heating installed. We examine how such government-recommended technologies embody assumptions about normative use; this allows us to examine the tensions between actual and intended use. The study is longitudinal with repeated resident interviews over 18 months, and interviews with professionals from a social housing association who worked to develop and manage the scheme. Our analysis sheds light upon factors influencing professional actors’ approaches to shape intended use. We contrast this with an analysis of how socio-technological practices are performed to manage daily life (e.g. cooking and time-management), including an engagement with sustainable technologies. Our study shows how residents creatively incorporate and adapt to technologies within the home to accomplish everyday activities. In certain cases, sustainable technologies are made obsolete, thus challenging the notion that state actors could ‘edit’ consumer choices to enact environmental change.