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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Undergraduate Course: Investigating Energy Consumption & Policy (STIS10011)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will provide students with a grasp 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 a range of perspectives that might usefully 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), while also looking at national and global levels. 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 first be discussed to help students think about how consumption might be influenced. From here, the course will turn to exploring more contextually sensitive ways to consider consumption using relevant concepts from Science, Technology & Innovation Studies. These will help to interrogate the ways in which configurations of technologies and infrastructures shape how 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. Have developed a critical understanding of contemporary consumption and policy designed to influence this.
  2. Be able to engage critically with the concepts from behavioural economics, social psychology and science, technology and innovation studies, and evaluate the arguments made by these fields.
  3. Have developed their ability to present - in written form - coherent arguments about theoretical perspectives that reveal different aspects of consumption.
  4. Be able to use a range of research skills to plan and execute a brief investigative project on an aspect of consumption.
  5. Have learnt to communicate information about theoretical concepts and their relevance to consumption, for: policy-makers, peers, and academic purposes.
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 Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Faye Wade
Course secretaryMiss Katarzyna Pietrzak
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