SCI weekly research round-up 8 February

Weekly research round up 3
Weekly research round up 3

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Dale Southerton and Alan Warde have just published an essay on sustainable consumption in a collection of papers in honour of Hal Wilhite. Hal was a social anthropologist working on issues of consumption and sustainability with a special interest in energy. The whole book is open access and the link is below. It has sections on: Energy, technology and everyday consumption; Mobility; Well-being; and Making consumption more sustainable.

The essay is entitled ’Towards sustainable consumption: reflections on the concepts of social loading, excess, and idle capacity’ and was published in in Arve Hansen and Kenneth Bo Nielsen’s Consumption, Sustainability and Everyday Life: Essays in honour of Hal Wilhite. You can read it here.

Filippo Oncini has published the paper "Hunger bonds: Boundaries and Bridges in the Charitable Food Provision Field" in Sociology. The paper is available open access here.

Building on a field perspective, this article adopts a relational approach that lets us make sense of food charities’ interconnections, relationships and social positioning. I analyse how food charities working with different models of provision do boundary work and resolve the cognitive dissonance arising from simultaneously competing and collaborating. Making use of several semi-structured interviews, I illustrate how Trussell Trust food banks, independent food banks and pantries’ directors mark symbolic boundaries when illustrating their models of provision vis-a-vis other models (e.g. pantries vs food banks) but build symbolic bridges when discussing the ultimate ends of charitable food provision. This strategy lets them resolve the tension arising from two contradictory stances and is representative of what I call ’hunger bonds’: relationships of cooperation and mutual help that also permit positional returns to be obtained and strategically advance a specific vision of the field order.

Ali Browne co-published the journal article ’Smartening up: User experience with smart water metering infrastructure in an African city’ with Godfred Amankwaa and Richard Heeks in Utilities Policy.

Worldwide, smart metering is becoming increasingly prevalent in the utility sector, sometimes as part of extensive smart grid projects or within strategies aimed at the digital transformation of utilities. In the water sector, smart water metering infrastructure has been positioned to alleviate key water management and water access challenges. To date, there has been little empirical investigation into how it is deployed, implemented and experienced by end-users in urban Global South contexts. This study uses a socio-technical lens to address this evidence gap with a mixed-method empirical case study from urban Ghana. Results show smart meters as a utility-centric socio-technical infrastructure, with the water utility having designed the customer out of its current rollout approach. The utility’s approach is an incremental one that is responsive to the existing context yet provides limited upgrades and impacts to existing systems and actors. We demonstrate how smart meters are much more than neutral, often shaped through everyday realities but have also become new junctions of friction, mistrust and scepticism between the utility and users. In exploring these issues, we raise questions about the smart metering agenda and related digital transformation policies of utilities, highlighting directions towards more customer-centric design and implementation in the design and deployment of digital water infrastructure.