Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Geosciences

Postgraduate Course: Energy & Society II; Methods and Applications (GESC11009)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis is a core course for the MSc in Energy, Society and Sustainability, and is intended to provide a methodological foundation for the dissertation.

To provide a suite of methods, both practical and conceptual, that will enable students to construct and analyse a real world fieldsite which develops Energy, Society, and Sustainability issues. Students will collaborate together, and with a low-carbon community, to create projects that enact these methods in practice.

The course is a collaboration with local communities and organisations in the Orkney islands, who have their different energy and sustainability concerns. It will immediately immerse students in real world problems and questions, providing support for experimentation and exploration of practical methods, in a living context.

The course is based on a social and technical approach to understanding energy and sustainability as both relations and infrastructures. How can energy infrastructures, such as the electricity grid, be understood as social, technical, and environmental, and how does that create particular questions and insights? How are low-carbon worlds being made, for whom, and in what places, drawing on which relations and invisible labours? How can methods be made to both understand and intervene in these energy infrastructures and sustainability issues? Drawing on case studies and methods from Geography to Science & Technology Studies to Anthropology, with a foundation provided by the first semester, this course will be structured around the development of a collaborative project, which will then be enacted in Orkney during the fieldtrip.

Orkney, an archipelago off the northeast coast of mainland Scotland, generates over 120% of its electricity from renewable energy. This comes from local-owned wind turbines, including over seven hundred micro wind turbines, as well as wave and tide energy (they are the site of the European Marine Energy Centre). The islands have had a smart grid for a decade, and are also generating hydrogen fuel. They call themselves a 'living laboratory' for energy futures, yet they also have severe problems with fuel poverty and an electricity grid which is at capacity. Students will have the opportunity to collaborate with a number of local organisations and communities in the islands, to address their very real issues and concerns, particularly around the digitisation of energy.

Course description The course comprises two parts:

Part 1 Methods
Drawing on interdisciplinary resources, and a series of exemplar case studies, students will develop a methodological toolkit. For example: how to develop a research question and construct a field site; the role and effects of different qualitative data; mixed media fieldsite recording and engagement; writing as research (e.g. different writing methods for community and policy engagement).

Part 2 Fieldtrip
With the project developed in Part 1, students will travel to Orkney (subject to any Covid restrictions), to enact their projects in collaboration with energy communities there, gather data, and gain direct feedback from those they are working with.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements This course is only available to students studying the MSc in Energy, Society and Sustainability
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Six initial workshops will establish and explore the methods toolkit. As part of these, students will prepare group projects and initiate contact with the island community through poster submission (formative assessment). During the Orkney fieldwork experience students will enact these projects in collaboration with the local community to support the development of future energy scenarios. Student groups will give an initial presentation back to their island collaborators (formative assessment). Students will individually write their own fieldtrip report, which analyses the data gathered and forms a conclusion (assessed coursework)."

Group Poster (Formative) Due by 12:00 noon Friday 5th April 2024.
Group Presentation (Formative) Due by 09:00 Friday 12th April 2024.

Fieldtrip Report - Due by 12:00 noon, Friday 3rd May.
Feedback Ongoing sustained feedback is provided on project work during interactive workshops, and throughout the fieldwork.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Gain a shared methodological basis for the master¿s programme, appreciative of the important contributions that different disciplines and methods can provide
  2. An understanding of renewable energy as a social, technical and environmental infrastructure in the landscape
  3. Experience in enacting a variety of qualitative methods including interviews and participant observation
  4. Frame a research problem, gather and analyse qualitative data, and draw a cogent conclusion to that problem
  5. Conduct effective communication and collaboration with a local community, using self-directed fieldwork, along with public and citizen science engagement
Reading List
Law J. After method: an introduction. In: After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. London; New York: Routledge; 2004.

2Marcus G, Marcus G (correspondence author). Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology. 1995;24:95-117.

Juris JS. Introduction: The cultural logic of networking. In: Networking Futures: the Movements Against Corporate Globalization. Durham, [N.C.]; London: Duke University Press; 2008.

Boyd D, Crawford K. CRITICAL QUESTIONS FOR BIG DATA: Provocations for a cultural, technological, and scholarly phenomenon. Information, Communication & Society. 2012;15(5):662-679. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2012.678878

David W. Kritt LTW. Pinboards and books: Juxtaposing, learning, and materiality. In: Education and Technology: Critical Perspectives, Possible Futures. Lexington Books; 5200:296.

Haraway D. Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies. 1988;14(3):575-599. doi:10.2307/3178066

May T. Interviewing: Methods and Processes. In: Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process. Fourth edition.. Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education; 2011.

Gilbert GN, Stoneman P. Qualitative Interviewing / Thematic Analysis and Narrative Analysis. In: Researching Social Life. Fourth edition / edited by Nigel Gilbert, Paul Stoneman.. Los Angeles: SAGE; 2016.

Cass N, Walker G. Emotion and rationality: The characterisation and evaluation of opposition to renewable energy projects. Emotion, Space and Society. 2009;2(1):62-69. doi:10.1016/j.emospa.2009.05.006

Star SL, Griesemer JR. Institutional Ecology, `Translations and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39. Social Studies of Science. 1989;19(3):387-420. doi:10.1177/030631289019003001

Waterton C, Norton L, Morris J. Understanding Loweswater: Interdisciplinary Research in Practice. Journal of Agricultural Economics. 2006;57(2):277-293. doi:10.1111/j.1477-9552.2006.00052.x

Noortje Marres MG, Wilkie AM. Designing and doing: Enacting energy-and-community. In: Inventing the Social. Mattering Press.

Haraway DJ. Playing String Figures with Companion Spexies. In: Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press; 2016.

Laura Watts. Monuments make a community, Wind turbines make a community. In: Energy at the End of the World. The MIT Press.

Jasanoff S, Kim S-H. Containing the Atom: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and Nuclear Power in the United States and South Korea. Minerva. 2009;47(2):119-146. doi:10.1007/s11024-009-9124-4

Vesnic-Alujevic L, Breitegger M, Pereira ÂG. What smart grids tell about innovation narratives in the European Union: Hopes, imaginaries and policy. Energy Research & Social Science. 2016;12:16-26. doi:10.1016/j.erss.2015.11.011

Gabrys J. A Cosmopolitics of Energy: Diverging Materialities and Hesitating Practices. Environment and Planning A. 2014;46(9):2095-2109. doi:10.1068/a468

Moss T, Becker S, Naumann M. Whose energy transition is it, anyway? Organisation and ownership of the Energiewende in villages, cities and regions. Local Environment. 2014;20(12):1-17. doi:10.1080/13549839.2014.915799

Kerr S, Colton J, Johnson K, Wright G. Rights and ownership in sea country: implications of marine renewable energy for indigenous and local communities. Marine Policy. 2015;52(C):108-115. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2014.11.002

Silvast A, Virtanen MJ. Keeping systems at work: Electricity infrastructure from control rooms to household practices. Science and Technology Studies. 2014;27(2):93-114.

Vannini P, Taggart J. Grids. In: Off the Grid: Re-Assembling Domestic Life. New York: Routledge; 2015.

Callon M, Law J, Rip A. The sociology of an actor-network: the case of the electric vehicle. In: Mapping the Dynamics of Science and Technology. Basingstoke: Macmillan; 1986.

Okely J. Fieldwork embodied. In: Anthropological Practice: Fieldwork and the Ethnographic Method. English edition.. London; New York: Berg; 2012.

Tsing AL. The Art of Noticing. In: The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2015.

Laura Watts. Taking a boat to the Eday test site, Use more power (drive an electric car), Take the power off in another fuel. In: Energy at the End of the World. The MIT Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsMethods,Living labs,Sustainable consumption,co-production of knowledge,Collaborative monitoring
Course organiserDr Kirsten Jenkins
Course secretaryMrs Lynn Taylor
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information