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Yolande Strengers is a vice chancellor’s
senior research fellow in the Centre for Urban
Research at RMI T University, Melbourne,
Australia, where she co-leads the Beyond
Behaviour Change research program.
technology-savvy home energy manager
who is interested in, and capable of
making, efficient resource-management
decisions. This vision hides as much as it
reveals and potentially hinders progress
toward a low-carbon and less peaky
I do not wish to suggest that this
vision is somehow wrong or without
some merit, but rather that it is
productive in ways that may serve to
undermine efforts to achieve longer-term changes in energy consumption
and its impacts. If we continually invest
our time, attention, and money into
understanding, realizing, and designing
for Resource Man, then we may produce
a version of this reality at the expense
of other, perhaps more inclusive and
fruitful, visions of the future.
The challenge I pose here to HCI
scholars and practitioners is to imagine
and design for possible futures that
don’t focus on smart energy. This
means moving beyond Resource Man’s
interest in energy as a commodity (cost),
resource (kilowatt hour), or impact
(greenhouse gas emissions) enabled
by data and technology. Instead, it
means engaging seriously with topics
like laundry and heating and cooling;
and looking, for example, at how
energy is experienced through these
practices within the dynamic site of
the home. This represents a significant
opportunity for the HCI community
to do what the discipline does best:
interrogate, reimagine, and design for
low-carbon and less peaky human (and
This article is based on content from
Yolande Strengers’ recent book, Smart
Energy Technologies in Everyday Life
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). The author
thanks Ron Wakkary, Phoebe Sengers,
and James Pierce for their constructive
comments on this article.
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give 15 million households tools to shrink