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.
Geographical research be going with practice theory? And how? Thinking on that
was the challenge I set myself for an invited keynote talk in Halle yesterday.
The Summer School was organised by the Practice Theory and Space Group, funded by Germany’s national research council and led by Jonathan Everts, professor of Anthropogeography at Martin Luther University, Halle-Salle.
It’s the second time I’ve taken the train to Germany rather than fly. The first time it was for an invited talk at a meeting at the Cultural Politics of Sustainable Mobility international network – the irony of flying for that was too great, after a few years of building guilt as hopped on planes around Europe to examine PhD or evaluate grant proposals on themes of sustainability. Finding then that Germany by train is a pleasure, and increasingly motivated to contest the flight dependence of academia, it was easy to say I’d only take on this invitation if I could get the train. So, an enjoyable journey to Halle-Salle and back to deliver a keynote talk at the Practice and Space summer school.
It was a surprise to be invited to speak at a knowledge exchange event on communication and behaviour change to reduce energy use. My work and that of others, not least in the DEMAND centre on which I was co-investigator, challenges the emphasis on communication, and behaviour change as conventionally framed, to effect change in what people do. But the event was part of a follow on project from the excellent Material Cultures of Energy project led by Frank Trentmann at Birkbeck, and seemed an opportunity to deliver the same messages again to a diverse audience of academics and policy professionals at the Science Museum.
Good to dig out that chapter on power and practice and remember what I wrote, and all I didn’t get round to writing. That was in getting ready for the delight of being guest for the very first Practice Theory Podcast. A friendly but critical conversation with Elizabeth Shove and Stan Blue. It was a bit like a PhD viva, with two scholars reading what I wrote and asking questions, some of them testingly tough. But with nothing riding on it (apart from the judgement of anyone that listens to the podcast…) it was a lot more fun.
I’m part of the very interdisciplinary team on a new £1m project announced today. Together we’re going to be Redefining Single Use Plastics to help tackle the scourge of plastic waste. I’ll be working on understanding the social changes that got us where we are, and that need to happen to get us somewhere better.