Lancaster UniversityGraduate School
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

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DEMAND Seminar with Catherine Grandclement

Date: 25 June 2013 Time: 12.00-2.00 pm

Venue: FASS Meeting Room 3

Smarter and more transparent than you. Technicians and users scripting the user's role in smart grid experiments

Techno-futurists scenarios of "the smart grid" treasure the "active consumer", a consumer who will be able to "interact" with the electricity grid: get informed especially through price signals and manage its consumption but also production accordingly. In this presentation, Catherine will recount the story of two real-scale smart grids experiments and the role they gave to the end-user. Although these two experiments were quite different, both in their technical design and in their view of the end-user, both ended up in forgetting the active consumer along the way, forefronting the technical functioning of their devices instead. Technical members of the projects wanted to achieve "transparency" that is setting up devices whose functioning would go unnoticed by the user. Unnoticed or rather "unperturbed": project members indeed feared that the user would interfere with the experiment either by pressing the wrong button or by cheating with the rules. To put it differently, project members wanted to have their devices work despite the user which is quite typical of technically-driven projects. Interestingly, in the two experiments users subscribed to the "transparency script". They wanted to comply with the project and to make the experiment succeed. They mostly stood away from the devices that were installed in their homes and refrained to override the system. They thought that the good, skilled, knowledgeable technician would control their heating system better than they can. In a way, these users were very active indeed. The unintended result of their reflexivity and activeness was that they worked along with the technicians toward maintaining the technical transparency myth. This in turn raises the question of the value of such experiments.

Catherine Grandclément,Researcher at EDF R&D


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Sociology


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