How will your own research build from, counter and compare with this text?


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Morgan Sarao's picture
August 11, 2021

Infrastructuring text:

This paper demonstrates how community support is often quintessential for populations experiencing routine disruptions to be resilient (e.g. LGBTQ individuals who created community over online forums). This community support is also essential for people in Philadelphia experiencing energy vulnerability during COVID-19. People who faced energy service disruptions such as having heating systems that stopped working, knew someone in their community who could come out and look at it as opposed to calling an unknown HVAC company. The elderly relied on community members/community organizations to help them stay connected during COVID. Community organizations offered Zoom tutorials, and community orgs bought prepaid cell phones for vulnerable community members. Additionally, NEC staff reached out to clients, especially vulnerable and elderly clients, to ensure that they were connected to resources during the pandemic. 

The fourth principle of infrastructuring practices that generated resilience is that it creates alternative pathways through people to manage disruptions. “People were building alternative infrastructures through which they and others could more successfully adapt to their disruptions. Beyond being able to adapt and manage their disruptions, we find that infrastructuring also led to innovations that may not have been possible otherwise” An example of this seen with our research is Hunting Park’s GofundMe for air conditioning units and fans for people dealing with extreme heat this summer. This use of information and communication technologies served as counter infrastructure for failing assistance programs/physical home infrastructure that is insufficient. Another example is the usage of space heaters when individuals experienced disruptions to their home heating system. They created an alternative technical infrastructure when their normative home infrastructure failed them. 

 Technology isn’t always accessible/easily usable for those experiencing energy vulnerability, so technology can’t always be a means of resilience. If technical infrastructures themselves (access to sustainable internet, having electricity in one’s home) is the infrastructure that is failing folks, it cannot be a means of resilience. Additionally because of utility inaffordability, the usage of technology as a means of resilience may further burden energy vulnerable households.

Maintenance text:

“The Restart Project has a slightly different ethos. This U.K.- based organization hosts parties and a podcast and collaborates with schools to teach people how to repair their devices. In a similar vein, some public libraries in the U.S. have opened “U-Fix-It” clinics and “repair cafes,” which are a natural extension of the recent proliferation of library makerspaces.” → These resources which embrace “salvage” and the possibilities of adaptation mirror energy conservation workshops where maintenance of home heating systems is mildly touched on, but could be expanded into an entire workshop of its own. The difference lies between the essentiality and mobility of the technologies being repaired- home heating systems may be deemed more essential than a television, and cannot be taken physically to a shop to be repaired. 

“We can perform various actions on broken objects — “mending, repairing, fixing, restoring, preserving, cleaning, recycling, up-keeping, and so on” — yet these objects, much like architectures, vary in their “openness and capacity to be taken care of.” → home heating systems often lack the openness and capacity for homeowners to take care of them. 

Slow emergencies text:

This text argues that governing through emergencies seeks to reconsolidate and restore the liberal order after disruption. Many policies put forth by the federal government during the emergency declaration during COVID-19 exemplify this, as one-time stimulus payments were made to maintain social order and restore the liberal status quo. More specifically relating to energy, energy assistance programs were not rethought as crisis ensued and more households were in need of energy assistance, and larger sums were necessary for households to avoid energy emergencies, but rather more funding was placed in preexisting pools for energy assistance to again restore the liberal status quo.



Andrew Rosenthal's picture
August 10, 2021

There is one section in this reading that has potential to aid in our framing. At one point, the author, Shannon Mattern,  discusses slow disasters and how the lack of repair can lead to this. It wasn’t large scale things like a bridge collapse, but small, nearly indiscernible domino effects. Mattern uses the example of a broken washing machine that can no longer filter out bacteria. Because of this, household members can get sick. There’s a nearly endless amount of examples we can use when discussing maintenance and repair. This article does not mention disruptions directly, but I am certain that we can use this framework of slow disasters due to disrepair and relate it to disruptions.

Andrew Rosenthal's picture
January 28, 2021

Using the models they used to create their four types of energy literacy, I will create my own titled assistance literacy. I will define it as a household's ability to judge what assistance programs are available to help with differing kinds of energy vulnerabilities and needs. I will use the findings of the survey to make conclusions about assistance literacy, and use their conclusion's suggestions on what should be done to improve it in the future.

Andrew Rosenthal's picture
January 26, 2021

There are numerous sections I will use to build upon this literature review. The first thing I will do is discuss. The section on Education: Literacy and Impacts on Academic Achievement specifically is was useful for my part of the essay. There is a quote that says "Education, as it relates to energy insecurity, also has implications for health. Lacking sufficient knowledge and ability to navigate bureaucracy of utility companies makes it difficult for less educated households to address and prevent energy insecurity." I build on this to create the terminology assistance literacy. There is also a section which talks about how poor housing conditions can make certain illnesses more likely, turning acute insecurity into chronic insecurity. Many of our results on how respondents would deal with an acute disruption during COVID involved leaving their house, putting them at risk to COVID.

James Adams's picture
January 25, 2021

Jessel et al. review the vast literature on energy insecurity from 1990-2018 and they do a great job identifying both its strengths and weaknesses. Thus, this article is useful in providing a base of what aspects, dimensions, or dynamics of energy have been covered and how. Furthermore, their article can also serve as a useful "cheat sheet" of the socio-cultural factors to pay attention to when studying energy insecurity or other energy related phenomena.

After reading, I am curious about the relationship between energy in/security and energy il/literacy: i.e. are there any patterns or correlations between levels of security and frequencies in the type (van den Broek) or level (Blyth and Sovacool) of energy literacy? Can an improvement in energy literacy help populations become more energy secure?

Briana Leone's picture
January 21, 2021

Reading this article I thought a lot about the parallels to our own potential findings and how we could discuss them through an energy literacy framework. That said, the survey instrument could be used to make inferences on three of the four literacy typologies discussed in the article: 1) device energy literacy, 2)action energy literacy, 3) financial energy literacy. The authors state, with regards to device energy literacy, that education level wasn't necessarily tied to knowledge of consumption, which is verifiable across our survey sample. There is also room for discussions on household energy literacy, particularly from our survey sample (even interviews if we wish to use) and perhaps make an intervention into the literature on education levels and comparable knowledge of household energy consumption. The article also discusses how the majority of people do not purchase energy-efficient appliances and this could be reflected from both the survey and interviews; we could also comment on the fact that the purchase of energy-efficient appliances is correlated to SES and compare the two respondent samples.  Additionally, the article's discussions of financial energy literacy and energy saving behaviors could be discussed alongside some of the survey responses collected. Overall, I found the following quotes particularly relevant to concepts we have come across in our surveying/interviewing:

"Studies have found that people do not currently save energy efficiently in their home, nor do they choose to purchase the most energy-efficient (or cost-effective) (van der Broek 1)."

"people tend to overestimate the energy consumption of devices that are more visible in the household such as lights and entertainment, and underestimate the use of less visible items such as home heating system (van der Broek 2)."

Briana Leone's picture
January 20, 2021

The text talks a lot about the adverse health effects that can come from frozen pipes, broken electrical systems, etc. Here there are latent discussions of maintenance and, as we talk about energy literacy, household maintenance falls within it. Discussions could be made as to why workshops and education resources on household maintenance are needed. We should really consider Jessel et al. (2019)'s discussion of primary and secondary sources of energy vulnerability as directly linked to energy literacy. I think it could be useful to have a section in which energy literacy is discussed as a right and how, currently, lacking energy literacy contributes or is at the basis of many of the factors shown on page 4. Of course, one assertion we should make clear in our discussion is that qualitative research is valid and captures the details that cannot be reflected in non-ethnographic surveying.

James Adams's picture
January 7, 2021

I appreciate how van den Broek takes energy literacy as an object, rather than a mere domain of inquiry. The author uses a literature review to develop a typology of the concept. This a useful starting point, but could use a similar approach that is conducted empirically.

I also think that the concept of energy literacy would benefit by simply finding out what people know about their relationship to energy/energy culture/energy infrastructures, rather than what they know in respect to sustainability in particular. Perhaps the energy ecology concept could be a resource for broadening the concept of energy literacy, while keeping it constrained enough to be useful. For instance, would knowing that nearby fracking sites/natural gas wells are having detrimental impacts on public health count as energy literacy? Or how about knowing that a local neighborhood interprets the plethora of incoming EV charging stations as a form of displacement or of gentrification? I think so.

Alison Kenner's picture
January 5, 2021
It's sounds to me, based on this article that the literature on energy literacy has not examined systems literacy or what the authors would call "indirect energy use". But the way van den Broek describes it, this is really about energy needs for the production of goods and services. this is a bit different than what I'm thinking of, in terms of energy systems, energy culture, or energy ecology maybe. Like, do people know about competitor utilities; energy co-ops and energy assistance programs? Do they know about energy star or energy efficiency policies at the state level? Beyond-the-home energy system effect what's happening in the home; could be useful for in the home energy consumption. This matters not just for "normal" energy consumption, but energy use and needs at the extremes -- during a winter storm or a heat wave, or a pandemic.
In short: Three ways our own article would build from this text -->
  1. Introduce and define "energy systems literacy" as understanding of energy infrastructures beyond-the-home
  2. Build an argument for how different parts of U.S. energy culture relates to home energy use but isn't counted in the energy literacy paradigm: energy assistance programs; energy co-ops and renewable energy; energy policy.
  3. Build an argument for how emergency preparedness should be considered a facet of energy literacy