Conceptualising connections: energy demand, infrastructures and social practices

open access version here

In this paper we focus on the task of understanding and analysing car dependence, using this as a case through which to introduce and explore what we take to be central but underdeveloped questions about how infrastructures and complexes of social practice connect across space and time. I co-authored it with Elizabeth Shove and with Nicola Spurling and it was published in the European Journal of Social Theoryin 2015

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Shove, E, M. Watson, N. Spurling (2015) ‘Conceptualising connections: energy demand, infrastructures and social practices’ special issue on Climate Change and Social Theory, of the European Journal of Social Theory 18 (3): 274-287

ABSTRACT  Problems of climate change present new challenges for social theory. In this paper we focus on the task of understanding and analysing car dependence, using this as a case through which to introduce and explore what we take to be central but underdeveloped questions about how infrastructures and complexes of social practice connect across space and time. In taking this approach we work with the proposition that forms of energy consumption, including those associated with automobility, are usefully understood as outcomes of interconnected patterns of social practices, including working, shopping, visiting friends and family, going to school and so forth. We also acknowledge that social practices are partly constituted by, and always embedded in material arrangements. Linking these two features together we suggest that forms of car-dependence emerge through the intersection of infrastructural arrangements that are integral to the conduct of many practices at once. We consequently explore the significance of professional – and not only ‘ordinary’ – practices, especially those of planners and designers who are involved in reconfiguring infrastructures of different scales, and in the practice dynamics that follow

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Author: Matt Watson

A Human Geographer at the University of Sheffield, interested in how everyday human action and social orders make each other, with implications for sustainability and wellbeing. Currently looking at energy including how to tackle demand for it.

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