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‘Energy goes where attention flows’ – Cultural meanings and representations of electricity


Tokyo Metro Way 2011 (Tokyo Stories/Fumiko Ichakawa)


• How is the system changing and why? Why communication and representations? • Metaphors • Social semiotics • Technology and culture


Smart Grid - drivers 1) Peak Shaving 2) Liberalisation 3) Renewables System change: Demanddriven – productiondriven. Closed technological – open communicating system.


Liberalisation and sustainability • Liberalisation does not necessarily create sustainability • Sustainability does not necessarily demand liberalisation. • Does the two processes interact or collide? • Users vs. consumers • Different motivations and communication strategies. • Home vs market spheres. Public/private. • Both processes create a need for communication about electricity.


Language and concepts • ”Electricity has no cultural iconography” (Barnabas Wetton) • Is this really true? • Cultural history is inherent in our concepts and language.


Adrian Forty: Objects of Desire The image of electricity • Fear of electricity: Putting plugs in the sockets to prevent electricity from leaking out. • Replacing the image of electricity. • Dark, invisible, lethal – miracoulous, helpful • Modernity as the all-electrical age


Metaphors • Understanding something through something else. • Strange/foreign – ordinary lifeworld • Comparisons, pictoral language • Immaterial – material representation. • Metaphors structure the way we think and act (Lakoff/Johnson) • Basic metaphors structure a whole set of metaphors and actions.


EDA 1927

(Adrian Forty: Objects of Desire)


Development of the radio


Poul Henningsen on the Radio Masts at Gisseløre • ”I picture them build on the flat grassgrown Piece of Land like delicate Lace Patterns high against the Sky, like an almost invisible Cobweb, constructed by Human Hands and Human Brains – and far behind them colorful and with red Roofs in a close Cluster the old Church like a heavy Crown over the City.” Politiken 6/9 1926 (My translation)


Energy as metaphor • • • • •

Power, lifeforce Culture as second nature Society as organism. Vitalism Is energy a technical or an organic metaphor?


Light drop wall lamp (Rafael Morgan)


Energy Plant • http://www.tii.se/projects/energyplant


Coding orientations – how do you represent reality?


Modality (Kress/van Leeuwen)


Existing Smart Meters


Technology and culture • Not technology and culture – technology is culture. • National/regional vs. professional cultures. • Professional cultures develop specific forms of representation. • Sustainability might change the technological culture as well as everyday culture.


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