Composing for Energy Engagement – studies in sm/art infrastructures – PhD Dissertation by Lea Schick
For more information about Lea Schick at Copenhagen University
Rising energy consumption, access to fossil fuels, and not least climate issues have put energy infrastructures on the agenda in many parts of the world. How to redesign electricity infrastructures in ways that ensure stable, affordable and ‘clean’ energy production? Denmark has set the ambitious goal to show the world that it is possible to replace all fossil fuels (including for transport and heating) with renewable energy, primarily wind, and thus become CO2–neutral before 2050. An integral part of a ‘green transition’ in Demark, and in many other countries, is a so-called smart grid, which can handle distributed energy production and ensure ‘flexible electricity consumption’. The smart energy infrastructure should ensure that electricity is consumed as the wind blows and it thus designates new forms of involvement of end users. Whereas the current electricity infrastructure has been carefully designed to be invisible, unnoticed, and un-engaging, a green transition will most likely make energy more visible and one of the major challenges proves to be how to re-design for more and for ‘the right’ kinds of energy engagement. This challenge is not only taken up by engineers and policy planers, but also by artists and designers.
This thesis investigates different experimental cases within Danish smart grid planning and within art and design. Each case raises the issue of engagement differently. Grounded in science and technology studies (STS) energy engagement is here taken to be a dynamic and changeable ‘thing’ emerging through socio-technical relations and infrastructural environments. As the different cases ‘compose’ relations between people, energy, infrastructures, and environmental issues differently, they make possible specific kinds of engagement and not others. It is the specific compositions of energy engagement and their potentiality that is central to this dissertation.
In concert with a growing body of literature within social science and humanities the dissertation seeks to expand approaches to energy that mainly focus on its technological and economic aspects. Instead, passing through the notion of engagement the dissertation is concerned with broadening our analytical and practical understanding of energy. Taking seriously the urgent need for radical energy transitions the main contribution of the dissertation is to describe and analyze and to move between various attempts to ‘speed up’ and ‘slow down’ reasoning in cases of composing energy infrastructures. The dissertation highlights how energy can engage both engineers and artists, and illustrates the importance of keeping very different actors in the picture if the goal is to stay open and experimental with regards to which kinds of future energy engagements and sm/art infrastructures are possible and desirable.
Thank you to Patrick Devine-Wright Professor of Human geography at University of Exeter for this link.