Composing for Energy Engagement: - studies in sm/art infrastructures

Lea Schick

Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


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.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherIT-Universitetet i København
Number of pages211
ISBN (Print)978-87-7949-331-5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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