Doctoral Dissertation Research: Imagining community renewable electricity Treviso Italy and Flagstaff Arizona

Project: Research project

Description

Jen Fuller_ NSF DDRIG_Project Summary Draft Windmills spring up from the grassy plain as if flowers unfolding to the sun, oversized bushes flank homes topped with solar panels, a man works in the soil while children play, a lone bus makes its way down the road. Illustrations such as this pastoral scene circulating in Italy reflect changing ideas about energy as global production shifts from fossil fuels to renewable sources. It beckons the viewer to slow down. During this transitional process ideas about renewable energys place in communities are being discussed and debated. It is within this movement where ideas infiltrate everyday life through advertisements, informational campaigns, policy mechanisms, the availability of energy technologies, and in daily conversations. Researching this unique space is crucial for understanding how publics, policy actors, NGOs, industry, and media interact to create a shared public understanding about social and technological change in this case, renewable energy. The research proposed analyzes how these organizations influence citizens views of renewable energy in Treviso, Italy and Flagstaff, Arizona two places where solar power systems are becoming increasingly common. Qualitative mixed methods of: 1) semi-structured interviews with the energy industry, nongovernmental organizations, and governments; 2) primary materials analysis of images, texts, and objects; and 3) focus groups with communities will be employed to answer: What is the process by which governments, NGOs, energy industries, and the media in Flagstaff, Arizona and Treviso, Italy seek to influence a public imagination surrounding community values within local renewable energy projects and how are citizens involved? Subsidiary questions ask: How do these ideas portray technological and social change as co-produced in the context these projects? What role do images play in the creation and journey of these ideas? How are the images constructed and delivered? What do the images indicate about subjectivity surrounding community values? How do citizens contribute to and reflect upon such ideas? Are some of these ideas beginning to stabilize thus trending towards the creation of an imaginary? How is community defined by the developers and affected citizens? These actors are not simply interested in the public imagination, but rather, how such an imagination enables their goals of shaping the energy system whether for their own benefit or to empower citizens. Im interested in a cultural saturation about renewable energy. What are the messages and mechanisms through which these ideas are presented? Are ideas converging on a narrow discourse or is the discursive field still open? Intellectual Merit: The proposed research will contribute to public understanding of science and sociotechnical imaginaries theory in science, technology, and society studies in addition to community renewable energy research in human geography. Sociotechnical imaginaries and the broader theory of social imaginaries are not yet tightly linked. This research investigates how technological advances and social changes can inform each other and the way that people imagine both energy and community. Ultimately, Im interested in how ideas become embedded into everyday thinking and practices and achieve this through an empirical case study drawing on ethnographic and visual analysis methods. Broader Impacts: Energy remains our worlds most complex, pervasive sociotechnological system and is embedded in virtually all other systems. Despite this pervasiveness, the concept of energy production and how it is delivered is often made invisible to consumers. This research engages those directly involved in educating publics about community renewable energy initiatives. The results of this study will be disseminated not only through academic journals, but also through popular media outlets (like the Community Power Report to which I am a contributor) and outreach to Italian and Arizonan schools including those with populations underrepresented in STEM fields. Finally, this dissertation research advances the STEM career of a female, first generation college student, the Co-PI.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date3/15/142/28/15

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $14,883.00

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earning a doctorate
electricity
Italy
renewable energy
community
citizen
non-governmental organization
energy industry
energy
social change
technological change
energy technology
energy production
first generation
subjectivity
everyday life
Values
conversation
public policy
campaign