The final report from the ‘Making Energy Publics’ workshop hosted by the 3S group last year is released today. The workshop brought together leading voices from Science and Technology Studies, Human Geography and Sociology to discuss the future of academic research into and engagement with the making of energy publics. The central argument of the report is that there is a pressing need for more systemic, comparative and symmetrical studies of energy publics and their making, to transcend the tendency in different approaches in the interpretive social sciences to focus on very particular kinds of publics in one particular part of the energy system. The report suggests that attempting to study energy users in the home or participants in formal public participation processes in the same way that researchers might study social movements or protesters, for example, would potentially generate new conceptual and empirical insights. This move would also require further methodological and conceptual innovation, as well as attempts to anticipate and account for the potential effects of academic theorisations of and engagements with diverse energy publics.
The report, written by Helen Pallett and Jason Chilvers, recaps the initial rationale for the workshop, laying out the diversity of conceptual and methodological approaches within the interpretive social sciences for understanding the making of energy publics, and the implications of these different approaches for academic practice and the processes and publics studied. The main body of the report then summarises the talks given by the workshop’s speakers Andrew Barry, Alison Mohr, Linda Soneryd, Tom Hargreaves and Noel Longhurst, as well as the contributions of the two discussants Noortje Marres and Nick Mahony. The final part of the report draws out some key themes from the talks and plenary discussions at the workshop, including the diversity of energy publics, the preponderance of ‘theory in the wild’, and the difficult questions these perspective raise about the role of academics and attempts to collaborate outside of the academy.
The event was jointly funded by the EPSRC’s Realising Transition Pathways project and the Open University’s Publics Then, Now and Beyond network.
The report can be downloaded here Making energy publics workshop report final.