Freja Friis visits 3S from Aalborg

3S is delighted to welcome Freja Friis as a visiting PhD research scholar from March to May 2015. Freja is completing her PhD at the Danish Building Research Institute, a part of Aalborg University in Copenhagen, with Kirsten Gram-Hanssen as her supervisor. Freja’s PhD is a sociological study about how to integrate smart grid technologies…

What’s the meaning of smart? Sociotechnical report

‘What’s the meaning of smart? A study of smart grids’ is  a report from a multidisciplinary study conducted by Nigel Hargreaves, Jason Chilvers and Tom Hargreaves. The report contends that to be smart, electricity grids have to not only be consistent with current infrastructures and other technologies in a technical sense, but also encourage engagement and adoption by end-users. A…

Recovery and adaptation of local communities following volcanic eruption.

This project looks at the recovery process and adaptation strategies of local communities affected by a volcanic eruption. Noting a large gap in the understanding of post-disaster period, I aim to understand the different stages and strategies which lead the recovery process and the adaptation choices, especially in terms of sustainable development and reduction of…

3S WP 2014-26 Chilvers and Longhurst – Co-production and emergence of diverse public engagements in energy transitions

The field of sustainability transitions research has a strong theoretical emphasis on the sites and modes of intervention in socio‐technical systems, with the intention of informing the purposive ‘steering’ of the system. For critics, questions of power and politics are often obscured in what, it is argued, are optimistic and technocratic transition mechanisms. In addition,…

3S WP 2014-24 Rozema – Inference in social science research

Abduction is a very promising mode of inference, particularly when researchers aim to simultaneously build and test theoretical propositions. Yet the application of abduction in social science research is marginal in comparison with induction and deduction. It is likely that this is due so to limited understanding of what abduction does and how it works…

3S WP 2013-23 Wilson et al – Using Smart Homes

Published research on smart homes and their users is growing exponentially, yet a clear understanding of who these users are and how they might use smart home technologies is missing from a field being overwhelmingly pushed by technology developers. Drawing on a systematic literature review of peer-reviewed literature on smart homes and their users, this…

3S WP 2013-22 Jensen – Social practices in energy-related transitions?

Reducing energy consumption from lighting is, in policy making, largely treated as a matter ofoptimizing the individual lighting product. However, this paper argues that since lighting is a highly cultural, historical and socio-material phenomenon, energy efficient (or intensive) lighting patterns evolve from something more and something else than what the individual lighting product provides. This is an…

3S WP 2013-21 Seyfang et al – A Grassroots Sustainable Energy Niche? Reflections on community energy case studies

System-changing innovations for sustainability transitions are proposed to emerge in radical innovative niches. ‘Strategic Niche Management’ theory predicts that niche-level actors and networks will aggregate learning from local projects, distilling and disseminating best practice. This should lower the bar for new projects to form and establish, thereby encouraging the innovation to diffuse through replication. Within…

3S WP 2013-20 Foulds et al – Investigating the performance of everyday domestic practices using building monitoring

Building monitoring can enhance our understanding of everyday life, yet has sparsely been used in social practices research. Monitoring usually provides context (e.g. differences in performing practices) for more prominent qualitative inquiry, and is rarely centrally integrated methodologically. This paper aims to investigate the potential usefulness of utilising, and integrating more centrally, building monitoring to…

3S WP 2013-19 Hauxwell-Baldwin – The Politics and Practice of ‘Community’ in UK Government Funded Climate Change Initiatives

Academics and policy-makers have claimed that community has a potentially useful role to play in encouraging pro-environmental behaviour change. Yet despite a growing literature on the role of community in doing so, a critical examination of the policy context in which it is being employed towards that goal is currently lacking. This paper addresses that…

3S WP 2013-18 Borie Hulme – The authority of expertise in Global Environmental Assessments

Fifty years ago, Michael Polanyi wrote his classic essay in defence of the autonomy of scientific enquiry: The Republic of Science: its political and economic theory. Contrasting with this vision, the past 30 years have seen the proliferation of Global Environmental Assessments (GEAs) which are explicitly associated with societal goals. The most recent example is…

3S WP 2012-17 Chilvers – Expertise, Technologies and Ecologies of Participation

In the turn to a more critical and reflexive mode of research on public participation with science- related issues limited attention has been given to ‘public participation expertise’, the rise of mediators as a new category of expert, and the ‘technologies of participation’ that they assemble. Drawing on an in-depth study involving mediators of public…

3S WP 2012-16 Macrorie – The dynamics and governance of thermal comfort practices in low carbon housing

Ambitious government targets set an agenda to reduce domestic energy demand, however the leverage of policies in this domain is poorly understood. Considering a social housing development recently constructed in the east of England, designed to be operationally carbon neutral, this research focuses upon the role of low-carbon technologies in delivering a reduction in residential…

3S WP 2012-15 Hulme – What sorts of knowledge for what sort of politics? Science climate change and the challenges of democracy

There are two propositions about knowledge society and policy-making which – if true – are troubling in the context of climate change. First policy-making seems ever more reliant on knowledge and yet science seems to deliver knowledge (at least in this context) with ever less certainty or authority. And second and here I quote Dan…

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…

3S WP 2012-13 Sharp et al – Governance of Resource Efficiency: Insights from Cultural Theory

Resource demand management initiatives are designed based upon implicit understandings of power and knowledge distribution between formal institutions and resource users. Employing an interpretive account of cultural theory, resource governance modes are developed in order to explore the differing assumptions held by, and means of action employed by, a set of three consecutive domestic resource…

3S WP 2012-12 Hargreaves et al Exploring the role of intermediaries in UK community energy: grassroots innovations and niche development

Multiple sustainability challenges are increasingly seen as demanding a fundamental transition in the energy system. In this context, community energy projects attract interest as sources for radical innovations. Studies of such bottom-up, civil society-led ‘grassroots innovations’, however, frequently highlight the profound challenges they face in growing, diffusing or even simply surviving. Strategic niche management SNM)…

3S WP 2012-11 Seyfang et al – Community energy in the UK

Community energy has been proposed as a new policy tool to help achieve the transition to a low- carbon energy system, but the evidence base for this strategy is partial and fragmented. We therefore present new empirical evidence from the first independent UK-wide survey of community energy projects. Our survey investigates the objectives, origins and…

3S WP 2012-10 Seyfang Longhurst – Grassroots innovation for sustainability: A niche analysis of community currencies

Over the last decade, the nascent field of Sustainability Transitions has sought to explain the conditions under which technological innovations can diffuse and disrupt existing socio-technical systems through the successful scaling up of experimental ‘niches’. Building on this pioneering work, recent research on ‘grassroots innovations’ argues that civil society is a promising but under- researched…

3S WP 2012-09 Foulds et al – A domestic practices perspective on Passivhaus living

This paper uses social practice theory to explore the implications of new low carbon dwellings upon energy consuming practices. The handover period for a small to medium sized UK Passivhaus development was investigated, predominantly using interviews as well as informal observation and participation at key events (e.g. move-in day technology tours, information sessions, post-move-in landlord…

3S WP 2012-08 Bucio et al – Energy densities: why do they matter for sustainability?

Immoderate institutional focus on CO2 emissions tends to obscure the energy-density challenge implied by the low-carbon economy transition. Such an attention deficit is often apparent in the sustainability transitions literature in general and in the multi-level perspective (MLP) in particular. The latter characterises the comparatively “benign” conditions of industrial societies which, riding the upside of…

3S WP 2012-07 North Longhurst – Beyond the rural idyll: political strategies of urban ‘Transition’ initiatives

This paper engages with the progressive politics of climate change and resource constraint developed in the UK and elsewhere by the Transition initiatives ‘movement’ which looks to develop a positive local politics of the transition to a low carbon economy and society. The paper argues firstly that Transitions strengths are in raising issues and developing…

3S WP 2012-05 Groomes and Seyfang – Secondhand Spaces and Sustainable Consumption: Examining Freecycle’s Environmental Impacts and User Motivations

Sustainable consumption demands that greater attention is paid to the causes and consequences of a materialistic consumer society, in particular the issue of ever-increasing post-consumer waste. Current research suggests that secondhand disposition and acquisition are motivated by generosity, economic necessity and personal fulfilment. Despite the recent growth of online secondhand spaces, including Freecycle (an online…

3S WP 2012-03 Hargreaves et al – Understanding Sustainability Innovations: Points of Intersection between the Multi-Level Perspective and Social Practice Theory

This paper seeks to demonstrate the utility of using two different approaches to sustainability system innovation in parallel, arguing that doing so provides valuable insights that would be lost if only one theoretical lens is used. The Multi-Level Perspective and Social Practice Theory have emerged as competing approaches for understanding the complexity of socio-technical change.…

3S WP 2012-02 Seyfang and Longhurst – Money, Money, Money? A Scoping Study of Grassroots Complementary Currencies for Sustainability

As a response to the unsustainability of current global financial systems, parallel sustainable monetary systems are being developed by civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), informed by ecological economics perspectives on development, value, economic scale and growth. These parallel systems of exchange (or grassroots complementary currencies) are designed to promote sustainable development, by localising…

3S WP 2012-01 Hargreaves – Governing Energy Use at Home: Smart Meters, Governmentality and Resistance

This paper examines attempts to reduce household energy consumption through the introduction of real time display monitors (RTDs) that enable householders to ‘see’ their energy use (and its associated carbon emissions) and thus take steps to reduce it. Drawing on repeat semi-structured interviews, conducted 12-months apart, with 10 householders participating in a ‘Visible Energy Trial’…

New MSc Environmental Sciences (Science, Society and Sustainability)

3S leads a new postgraduate MSc pathway in Science, Society and Sustainability. Each Pathway offers a different mix of modules to develop specific skills in our students, while maintaining an interdisciplinary approach that draws on the school’s outstanding research strengths. Pathway overview The Science, Society and Sustainability Pathway gives students the knowledge and skills to…

Science, Society and Sustainability (postgraduate module)

This is 3S’s signature module. Advances in science and technology have transformed the world we live in and have increasing potential to disrupt environment and society for good and bad. This situation is particularly problematic in addressing pressing sustainability challenges. Science remains one of the main means of understanding environmental problems and technology can offer…

Sustainable Consumption (postgraduate module)

This 3S-led postgraduate module investigates the impacts of consumption on social and environmental systems, and how these might be reduced. It presents the key theories and debates around sustainable consumption, and critically examines a range of strategies for achieving it, covering governmental, business, community and individual actors. A mainstream ‘green growth’ policy approach to sustainable…