Digital methods and household sustainability workshop

Event Date: 19-Oct-2016 Venue: Arts Building Cost:
Duration: Expected Seats: Sponsor:

Seminar 1: Exploring new digital methodologies to understand domestic energy practices

This exciting event will provide a forum in which researchers can collectively reflect on new digital/virtual/online methodological approaches in social science, specifically in relation to energy prosumption practices. By bringing into one network researchers engaged in this area, the seminar will share experiences of working in innovative ways to understand the performative character of everyday domestic social life.

We hope to discuss a range of different theoretical, methodological and technical characteristics across what might be considered: ‘online methods’; ‘netnography’; ‘digital ethnography/methods’; and ‘virtual ethnography’. In essence, we are interested in hearing about a broad range of approaches which may seek either to: a) investigate practices using virtual techniques (observation of chat rooms, email interviews, gaming); and/or, b) focus on the study of new forms of digital living (e.g. ‘smart’ home technologies), broadly conceived. Given the nascent nature of the field, the purpose of the event is to encourage reflexive discussion on what are likely to be relatively experimental, immersive, and hybridised approaches, in order to identify and develop the strengths of these to understand domestic prosumption practices.

The event, to be held at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, on the 19th & 20th of October 2016 aims to establish a small, international network of academics who, through their research, seek to contribute to the development of online methodologies for the study of practice. By focusing on practice, we hope that the group will report on approaches which privilege the performative nature of mundane and ‘hidden’ everyday domestic activity and its representations (e.g. doings and sayings). To that end, we recognise the diversity of theoretical approaches to the study of practice and are not prescriptive about a particular approach, rather, we welcome academics interested in domestic practices, whether those be cooking, cleaning, laundry, entertaining, mending, caring or heating; to name but a few.


In the workshop, participants will share their experiences on the use, strengths and challenges of online methods/e-fieldwork (broadly understood) to study domestic prosumption practices, and begin to collectively outline a new agenda for future activities. The workshop will take place in St Andrews and span two days and one overnight, starting mid-afternoon on day 1 (19th October) and finishing late-afternoon on day 2 (20th October). During the workshop, each participant will give a short talk about their work and participate in workshop activities. The idea is not just to share approaches, but to work collectively towards the development of short accessible outputs. In the first instance, the group will develop and work towards a list of topics on which teams of co-authors will write short think-pieces (2000-3000 words). These essays will be written following the workshop and published as a blog on the Smarter Homes website in January 2017. Accommodation (for 1 night) and food/drinks are included, as are travel expenses (within reason). Funding is provided via the ESRC’s Smarter Homes Project.