3S WP 2012-14 Hargreaves – Opening the black box of the household: Understanding how householders interact with feedback from smart energy monitors

Current models of the role of energy feedback in helping to reduce energy use, assume it fills an information deficit in individual energy consumers’ knowledge and thus encourages them, rationally, to reduce their consumption levels either to save money or the environment. Based on 15 semi? structured interviews with participants trialling a range of smart energy monitors with real?time displays in the ‘Visible Energy Trial’ conducted in Eastern England throughout 2008?9, this paper seeks to develop these models in two parallel, but potentially complementary, conceptual directions. First, building on the key finding from the interviews that the monitors in the trial were interpreted and used in very different and often unique ways in differently households, the paper explores ideas about the domestication of technologies within household moral economies as offering a more thorough explanation of the processes through which smart energy monitors come to be used (or not) in specific households. Second, based on the key finding that the monitors were in fact used by whole households collectively, rather than by individual energy consumers alone, the paper explores ideas about communities of practice as offering potentially helpful ways of understanding the social learning and negotiation processes provoked by energy feedback.

Hargreaves, T. (2012) Opening the black box of the household: Understanding how householders interact with feedback from smart energy monitors 3S Working Paper 2012-14 (Norwich: Science, Society and Sustainability Research Group)

3S WP 2012-14 Hargreaves

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