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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Investigating Energy Consumption and Policy (PGSP11473)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will provide students with an understanding of some of the key debates surrounding contemporary consumption, and how a variety of theoretical perspectives can contribute to our understandings of this. Policy strategies in a range of sectors are underpinned by ambitions to achieve low-carbon and sustainable futures. However, existing attempts to influence consumption have struggled to achieve the reductions required. Consequently, the course will introduce students to perspectives from Behavioural Economics, Social Psychology, and Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies that offer more contextually sensitive ways to consider how we consume and how this relates to policy strategies. The exploration of consumption will primarily focus on the use of energy services, particularly in the home (for example, heat, light, and small appliances). This course will equip students with the analytical tools necessary to critically evaluate key debates around energy policy and consumption in the UK, and further afield.
Course description This course will provide students with an understanding of some of the key debates around energy consumption. It will discuss relevant policies and the ideas that underpin the policy-making process. The course will introduce students to a range of theoretical perspectives, providing the analytical tools necessary to critically evaluate these debates and related policies.

Ideas from behavioural economics and social psychology will be introduced to help students think about how consumption might be influenced, before exploring more contextually sensitive ways to consider this. Relevant concepts from Science, Technology & Innovation Studies will be used to unpack some of the complexities of contemporary consumption. These will help to interrogate the ways in which configurations of technologies and infrastructures shape the way in which people consume, but also how people can interpret technologies and their use in different and sometimes unexpected ways. Through these new perspectives, the course will present students with deeper understandings of the interactions between users and technologies, that might be fruitfully used in moving towards a more sustainable future.

In the first half of the course, students will be introduced to the consumption of energy services in the home, how they are currently being shaped by energy policy, and how these strategies might be developed using a range of theoretical perspectives. The second half of the course will look in detail at some more varied types of consumption, including automobility, food, and work.

Example topics to be covered in the lectures include:
- Why consumption matters: challenges for energy policy
- Thinking about consumption from psychological and behavioural perspectives.
- Do smart technologies allow space for social practices?
- The scripting and standardisation of thermal comfort

Students will be asked to engage in a range of learning activities throughout the course, including: discussing key readings; orally presenting material during class and providing peer-to-peer feedback; critically reflecting on different theoretical perspectives through an essay and; conducting a short research project considering an aspect of consumption.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand and critically evaluate different types of consumption, policies that seek to influence this, and a variety of theoretical contributions to understanding this.
  2. Find information and arguments about current energy policy and consumption, and be able to critically evaluate these.
  3. Apply their knowledge of specified theoretical concepts to interpret, and argue about, consumption and associated energy policy.
  4. Plan and execute a short research project including: thinking creatively, collecting data and analysing this through the application of different theoretical perspectives.
  5. Be able to detail theories relevant to energy policy and communicate using about these using different written styles as appropriate to different audiences.
Reading List
Akrich, M., 1992. The De-Scription of Technical Objects. In W. Bijker & J. Law, eds. Shaping technology/ building society: Studies in sociotechnical change. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Chatterton, T., 2011. An introduction to thinking about 'Energy Behaviour': a Multi Model Approach. Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Lie, M. and Sørensen, K.H. (1996) Making technology our own? Domesticating technology into everyday life, in Lie, M. and Sørensen, K.H. (eds.) Making Technology Our Own? Domesticating Technology into Everyday Life. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press, pp.1-30.

Shove, E. (2010). Beyond the ABC: climate change policy and theories of social change. Environment and Planning A, 42, 1273-1285.

Wilhite, H., Nakagami, H., Masuda, T., Yamaga, Y., & Haneda, H. (1996). A cross-cultural analysis of household energy use behaviour in Japan and Norway. Energy Policy, 24(9), 795-803.

Woolgar, S., 1991. Configuring the User: the case of usability trials. In J. Law, ed. A Sociology of Monsters. London : Routledge, pp. 57-102.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Students will gain skills in writing for different audiences. In particular, they will be supported in developing skills for writing formal reports using academic evidence to create convincing arguments, and for writing in language suitable for policy-makers.
- Oral communication skills will be developed through asking students to deliver presentations to class. Peer-to-peer feedback will contribute to the development of skills in evaluation.
- Students will gain skills in working with others through facilitated discussion groups and activities.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Faye Wade
Course secretaryMiss Morag Wilson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122
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