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Walking with Energy: increasing energy visibility through research participation

Panel: 1. The dynamics of limiting (energy) consumption

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Aimee Ambrose, Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom


Cities face challenges to rapidly decarbonise and the engagement of citizens is critical to this. Yet, our relationship with our domestic energy consumption has been said to suffer from a ‘double invisibility’ in the sense that energy is now rarely tangible and seen and is so embedded in our lives that we no longer appreciate the connections between it and our everyday actions (Hargreaves et al, 2010). This invisibility distances us from our consumption and its consequences- a problem in the context of urgent pressure to be more conscientious resource consumers.

Goodchild et al (2017) found that those that had experienced the transition from open fires to gas central heating felt that their own heuristic experience of household heating (handling and rationing fuel such as coal and building fires) was far removed from that of their children who are detached from practices of warming the home. Therein lies a set of risks associated with the disconnect between several generations and their energy consumption at a time when energy is more scarce than ever.

'Walking with Energy' considers the existence of energy invisibility within the home, its consequences and possible means of reconnecting households and their energy consumption that extends beyond the technological realm. The project employs participative methods to help understand contemporary relationships with energy and to reconnect us with energy (specifically heat) production through research participation itself.

We report findings from a study which involved walking with members of the public along the pipelines of a district heating system to their source at an incineration plant. The aims were twofold;

1) to gather-whilst walking and thus being embedded in the energy landscape- an oral history of how participants' relationship with energy has changed over time and

2) to reconnect them with the environmental and ethical debates around heat production.


Download this paper as pdf: 1-172-19_Ambrose.pdf

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