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Domesticating publics, de-domesticating technologies: sustainable living and the experimentalisation of socio-technical change? Noortje Marres, Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, Oxford Said Business School

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Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

Domesticating publics, de-domesticating technologies:

sustainable living and the experimentalisation of socio-technical change?

Noortje Marres, Institute for Science, Innovation and Society,

Oxford Said Business School

Science Studies Meet Climate Change, Department of Sociology, Copenhagen University, 23-24 April 2009


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

Introduction

“Sustainable living” as a site for the grounding of climate governmentality

(Oels, 2005; Scolum, 2004; Agrawal, 2005)

Resulted in the articulation of ‘material publics’ and their problematization

(the dis-invested public)

Focus on “sustainable living” as a publicity format:

enabling more constructive, sociological accounts of what material publics

“might be capable of”?


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

“Statements of the willingness to take action to reduce emissions contrast strongly with the trends in what people actually do. In a poll for the BBC in March 2006, 54 per cent of respondents said they would not be prepared to pay a £2.50 offset on a flight to Spain (ICM2006). The Energy Saving Trust’s Green Barometer survey shows a similar contrast between a widespread desire to be seen to be green and majority opposition to carbon rationing (EST 2007).

IPPR, “Engagement and political space for policies on climate

change,” January 2008


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

Sustainable Living Experiments

Green-as-a-Thistle: “Hopelessly fridgeless (Day 78)”

Camden Carbon Rationing Action Group, 2008

The Guardian, Green your home campaign, 2009

Green Guy,’living with smart meters’, 2007


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

The domestication of climate publics: a home game for STS?

The multiple roles of public experiments:

an instrument for social domestication of technology (Latour,1988; Collins, 1988)

with special affordances for participation (embodied, affective forms of play) (Barry, 1998)

the home as experimental machine for sensing the environment (Murphy, 2006)

But living experiments also open up questions about the convergence between the domestication of technologies, issues, and publics:

what kind of “re-scaling” of these entities is being performed here?

(the shrinking of climate change to carbon accounts, the making of myopic publics?)


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

Sustainable living as a collective experiment on socio-technical change?

Living experiments enact adaptations of habits and habitats according to a protocol of disruption (unplugging a fridge)

performing socio-technical upheaval in miniature in public?

not just innovation, but socio-technical change here figures as an object of demonstration?

They equip everyday settings for participation in socio-technical change?

formatting socio-material practices as forms of public engagement


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

Re-scaling climate change?

Tag cloud, categories on green home blogs, generated by Digital Methods Initiative, 2008


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

And the sustainable home?


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

Experimentalisation: sustainable living does half the work?

Sustainable living experiments enact the materialization of environmental

change in everyday life:

- some subjects rather than others perform the domestic work of engagement

- domestication of technology brings with it hidden costs (money, household deviance, loss of a sense of proportion)

- the everyday cannot be grasped in isolation from the infrastructural (green tarrif scandals, lack of public transport)

These effects are recorded but rarely noted?

Socio-material effects are coded as “constraints” on public participation

Research on sustainable living initiatives focuses on behaviourial and attitudinal change (Fawcett, 2007; Prescott, 2009)


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

STS/sociology should take up the other half?

Rather than participate in reductionist interpretations of sustainable living

(the down-scaling of everyday publics of climate change)…

…Develop conceptual and methodological approaches to collective

experiments in socio-technical change:

- document the making of “object-centred” publics in these experiments

- explore the capacities of “sustainable living” to shift the scales

of socio-technical change, and of its publics?


Domesticating publics de domesticating technologies

“Although the perspectives of the world people vary in space and in time, every human

concern falls somewhere on the space time graph. The majority of the world’s people are

concerned with matters that affect only family or friends over a short period of time. Others

look farther ahead in time or over a larger area – a city or a nation. Only a very few people

have a global perspective that extends far into the future.” Limits to Growth, 1972


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