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Ethnographic study of energy use in an office setting: Exploring the interactional role of energy

Centre for Social Change Research, School of Humanities and Human Services, QUT
Publication Date
  • 160805 Social Change
  • Energy
  • Use
  • Ethnography
  • Everyday Workplace Practice
  • Human
  • Technology Interactions


Energy, or electricity, plays a significant role in everyday human and technology interactions. Yet to date, research has not considered the interactional nature of energy, with studies either taking energy for granted or viewing energy as a static resource simply 'used' by humans. There is a need, therefore, to recognise energy's role as an interactional participant by investigating how energy operates in everyday human and technology interactions. Understanding how energy is present in everyday practices can give energy a 'voice' and provide new insight into the area of energy-use. As energy-use is embedded in routine practices, an ethnographic approach is considered necessary to explore the interactional role of energy. This study uses ethnographic observation in an office setting to examine routine interactions between humans, technology and energy in a workplace context. Observing these everyday workplace practices reveals four different states energy assumes as operational, idle, reserved or absent. Human interactions with technology can influence the presence of energy, while energy working in a coalition with technology can influence human actions through its presence.

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