Smart publics? Mediation and public engagement with science and technology seminar

poster_seminarA4webSmart publics? Mediation and public engagement with science and technology

Thursday 5 December, 11:00 until 14:30
Silverstone Lecture Theatre 309, University of Sussex
Speakers: Jenn Barth, Aristea Fotopoulou, Tobie Kerridge

Part of the Travelling Seminars Series of the Publics then, now and beyond network, co-hosted by Centre for Material Digital Culture, Attenborough Centre for the Arts and Public Culture Hub, University of Sussex.

This research event focuses on the publics and public issues relating to emerging technologies, such as smart energy grids, wearable devices and the Cloud, and co-design for sustainable energy. Bringing together the work of three different research teams: EPINET (Sussex), CAST (Goldsmiths) and ECDC (Goldsmiths), the talks explore the imaginaries and mediation of emerging technologies; public engagement with behavioural tracking and the Human Cloud; and speculative design with energy communities respectively. In their own distinct way, the papers seek to address a range of questions: the different modes of making publics, the different kinds of knowledge and expertise, and the public issues that emerge in this field.

This second Travelling Seminar of the Publics then, now and beyond network is positioned within wider research questions posed by the stream Making/Doing/Being Publics. This research stream of the network focuses on the practices, infrastructures and forms of mediation through which publics are brought into being and through which things are made public.

The event is co-organised by two members of the Publics then, now and beyond network, Aristea Fotopoulou (Sussex) and Tobie Kerridge (Goldsmiths).

Programme

11.00 – 11.30 Introductions: Nick Mahony about the Publics then, now and beyond network, Hilde Stephansen & Aristea Fotopoulou on the Making/doing/being publics stream, David Hendy about the Public Culture Hub.

11.30 – 1.30 Talks. Chair: Sally-Jane Norman Discussant: Kate Lacey

  • Aristea Fotopoulou (University of Sussex) “Imaginaries of Smart Grids: Public Issues, Contradiction and Controversy”
  • Jenn Barth (Goldsmiths, University of London) “Digital Devices, Research and Social Experience”
  • Tobie Kerridge (Goldsmiths, University of London) “Energy Babble: Prototyping with energy demand reduction communities”

1.30-2.30 Lunch & Networking

All welcome. To register, please email A.Fotopoulou@sussex.ac.uk

The Publics, then now and beyond network is an international and interdisciplinary network supported by the Creating Publics project, the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance and the Faculty of Social Science at the Open University. For more information see publicsnetwork.wordpress.com.

Abstracts

Aristea Fotopoulou ‘Imaginaries of Smart Grids: Public Issues, Contradiction and Controversy’

Smart grids are communicated in the public sphere in stories about the coming together of utilities and communications (gas, electricity/monitoring of data) into a network that can be managed for optimum use of resources. Imaginaries of smart grids address certain public issues, such as efficiency in responding to energy demand; environmental concerns, by integrating renewable forms of energy; and the empowerment of consumers. However, these imaginaries also point to possible controversies in the role of the public. The user is either largely invisible in large-scale images of the grid, or rendered very central within domestic settings. So where exactly is the public, as user or consumer, in these contradictory narratives of smart grids which circulate in the media? This paper traces the range of publicity and media images of smart grids and identifies the dominant and alternative visions and contradictions within these images. It draws from contemporary stories being told by diverse actors, across multiple media forms: energy policy research, distribution power operators, power companies, businesses and government, and shows how the public is constructed, and often absent, in visions of the future. The controversies and resistance of the smart grid are indicative of the levels of public engagement.

Bio

Aristea Fotopoulou (Sussex) is a postoc researching technological assessment of new emerging technologies, with a focus on media and digital culture. She currently also examines practices of data sharing and algorithmic living (Project Tracking biodata: sharing and ownership, RCUK Digital Economy NEMODE). Her work is at the intersections of media & cultural studies with science & technologies studies, and she has written about digital networks and feminism, and recently, on information politics, knowledge production, and digital engagement. The research leading to this talk has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under the grant EPINET (See:http://www.epinet.no ).

Jenn Barth ‘Digital Devices, Research and Social Experience’

The flow of technology is fast and furious – the realm of the ‘digital’ and various digital devices change quickly and individuals experience the change sometimes without comment or without a chance to reflect. We asked individuals to become experimental subjects in The Human Cloud, that is, to wear and use behavioural tracking devices and always on wearable technologies and to blog about their experiences. This offers the research participants an opportunity to demonstrate their experience and to have a voice on the subject. Through these enterprising activities, they are shaping their environments, organisations and their everyday lives in terms of how they want to interact with what’s on offer. Drawing on this example as well previous research projects this talk details how we can harness human potential through research and work to shape our lives through knowledge and incremental change.

Bio

Jennifer Barth is a Lecturer in the Department of Computing and the Centre for Creative and Social Technologies (CAST) at Goldsmiths, University of London. After completing her DPhil at the University of Oxford in 2010 on coffee markets, she has been teaching and researching in the areas of digital research methods and digital sociology and how we might become hybrid social researchers moving across the physical and digital world.

Tobie Kerridge ‘Energy Babble: Prototyping with energy demand reduction communities’

The Energy Babble was designed as a tool to support research with energy demand reduction communities, where a batch of 30 technology prototypes are being deployed to practitioner groups across the UK. The prototypes are part of a system where software algorithms collect and process a variety of content including voicemail messages, SMS and tweets from practitioners, along with information published by a range of organizations including policy announcements from DECC and energy demand news form NGOs. This information is transformed into synthesized spoken audio files, which are pushed over a network to each device where the audio is played over a speaker. I offer an overview of the design and an initial account of the deployment, and discuss the forms of publicity that emerge there.

Bio

Tobie Kerridge is based at the Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths. This practice based research group led by William Gaver provides a product and interaction design lens for HCI. His PhD thesis explores the mixing of speculative design and public engagement with science and technology in two public engagement projects; Biojewellery and Material Beliefs. Kerridge has helped develop an innovative mixed method approach to design research, with a recent focus on community and energy reduction. Energy and Co-Designing Communities (ECDC), is a three-year RCUK project based in the Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, University of London. The RCUK Energy Communities call was a response to government support for groups undertaking energy demand reduction measures. ECDC comprises of Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, Jennifer Gabrys, Bill Gaver,Tobie Kerridge, Noortje Marres, Mike Michael, Liliana Ovalle and Alex Wilkie.

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