Routines, reflexivity and change in adolescents' energy consumption related to electronic media usage in times of scarcity

Routines, reflexivity and change in adolescents' energy consumption related to electronic media usage in times of scarcity

Young people have a growing relevance as consumers and active agents in households and society. Although there is a considerable body of evidence showing the relevance and consequences of their socialization processes, attention given to their energy consumption is still scarce. Moreover, as adolescents reproduce in their daily lives society's dominant values, such as those of consumer culture, as well as cutting-edge social and cultural transformations [9], the analysis of their practices gives valuable insights into the emergence of changes in energy consumption.
A type of energy consumption that has grown significantly and is estimated that it will become a substantial part of the electricity used in households relates to the use of electronic media [3] [4]. Although it has been observed that changes in daily practices related to these technologies can considerably increase the energy consumed, the energy impact of their use in everyday life has not been adequately studied [5] [6]. Since young people tend to be responsible for a significant portion of households' energy consumption, largely due to their intensive use of information technologies and communication [7] [8], this project aims at analyzing the current trends of evolution of young people's everyday practices related to electronic media in a context of economic scarcity. Due to the relevance that the consumption practices assume as an expression of identity during adolescence [9], as well as the centrality these technologies acquire in the daily lives of adolescents, the project focuses on this particular group.
It is proposed to adopt an innovative approach, based on theories of practice, which have advantages compared to other analytical approaches by allowing to link individual's actions of everyday life with socio-technical systems and infrastructures in order to better understand the complexity of processes of change and continuity. In this perspective, the practices of energy consumption through the use of electronic media are analyzed as entities historically constructed, shaped by material infrastructures and institutional arrangements and daily appropriated by individuals according to their interpretations of what is normal and appropriate. The proposed methodology has a qualitative character, including in-depth interviews with young people and interviews with their group of friends.
The results of the project will contribute to the development of knowledge about the consumption practices of adolescents, especially in contexts of economic scarcity. At the end of the project the return of results to the population studied may contribute to their reflexivity about energy consumption and to any changes in their practices - that necessarily co-evolve with changes in socio-technical systems -, towards energy saving or efficiency. The results can also inform the design of public policies aiming at the promotion of low energy intensive practices.

 

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
Yes
Entidades: 
Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
Keywords: 

Energy consumption
Electronic media
Practices
Youth

Young people have a growing relevance as consumers and active agents in households and society. Although there is a considerable body of evidence showing the relevance and consequences of their socialization processes, attention given to their energy consumption is still scarce. Moreover, as adolescents reproduce in their daily lives society's dominant values, such as those of consumer culture, as well as cutting-edge social and cultural transformations [9], the analysis of their practices gives valuable insights into the emergence of changes in energy consumption.
A type of energy consumption that has grown significantly and is estimated that it will become a substantial part of the electricity used in households relates to the use of electronic media [3] [4]. Although it has been observed that changes in daily practices related to these technologies can considerably increase the energy consumed, the energy impact of their use in everyday life has not been adequately studied [5] [6]. Since young people tend to be responsible for a significant portion of households' energy consumption, largely due to their intensive use of information technologies and communication [7] [8], this project aims at analyzing the current trends of evolution of young people's everyday practices related to electronic media in a context of economic scarcity. Due to the relevance that the consumption practices assume as an expression of identity during adolescence [9], as well as the centrality these technologies acquire in the daily lives of adolescents, the project focuses on this particular group.
It is proposed to adopt an innovative approach, based on theories of practice, which have advantages compared to other analytical approaches by allowing to link individual's actions of everyday life with socio-technical systems and infrastructures in order to better understand the complexity of processes of change and continuity. In this perspective, the practices of energy consumption through the use of electronic media are analyzed as entities historically constructed, shaped by material infrastructures and institutional arrangements and daily appropriated by individuals according to their interpretations of what is normal and appropriate. The proposed methodology has a qualitative character, including in-depth interviews with young people and interviews with their group of friends.
The results of the project will contribute to the development of knowledge about the consumption practices of adolescents, especially in contexts of economic scarcity. At the end of the project the return of results to the population studied may contribute to their reflexivity about energy consumption and to any changes in their practices - that necessarily co-evolve with changes in socio-technical systems -, towards energy saving or efficiency. The results can also inform the design of public policies aiming at the promotion of low energy intensive practices.

 

Objectivos: 
The main aims of this research project are the understanding of adolescents' consumption of energy related to electronic media usage, their reflexivity about it and processes of change and continuity in these practices during times of scarcity.<br />The research plan will aim at: <br />(1) identifying teenagers' daily routines of information and communication technologies use and how these are connected with and interdependent of other activities, together with their know-how on energy consumption; <br />(2) determining teenagers' knowledge on these technologies' energy consumption and related issues; <br />(3) identifying teenagers' engagements with electronic media; <br />(4) characterizing the configurations and arrangements of teenagers' energy consuming technologies; <br />and (5) identifying teenagers' social interactions related to these technologies.
State of the art: 
Few sociological studies have analyzed young people as energy consumers. Yet, young people have increased their energy consumption significantly over the past decades due to their use of energy intensive devices, such as information and communication technologies (ICT) and motorized transportation, and their washing and cleaning practices. According to research carried out by members of the team, both teenagers' energy spending at home and their strong engagement with entertainment equipments and mobile communication are acknowledged by Portuguese families. The use of electronic media by young people does play a significant role in their lives, due to wide access to these technologies, the time daily spent using it and what it means in terms of social connections, entertainment, information, education and even status or prestige among peer groups [11] [12]. Regarding these technologies' implications on energy consumption, very few studies have approached their daily use in households. Some exceptions are a study by [4] in which material structures such as design and marketing of consumer electronics, and also the services which support them, are found to encourage practices of intensive consumption of energy. Another study by [6] found that to prevent the predictable rise in electricity consumption due to ICT use, there is a need for much more user involvement in energy-saving strategies. Furthermore, [13] observed that engagement towards reducing standby energy consumption emerges out of social relationships and the motivation can be related to economic or environmental concerns.</p><p>Most studies on youth and energy draw from environmental education research, focusing on individual attitudes and energy literacy. In such perspective, young people's environmental awareness and knowledge on energy issues tend to be considered levers for the development of a capacity for agency towards energy saving [10]. Yet, despite exhibiting high levels of concern about environmental issues, young people increasingly show a 'paralysis of action and sense of powerlessness' regarding their agency towards environmental change [14]. As [15] states, this gap between environmental attitudes and behaviors represents a failure in most current policies and models of social change, which are based on the assumption that the adoption of pro-environmental behaviors depends on individuals' attitudes and rational choices. A valuable contribute from sociology to help to overcome this focus on individual attitudes may be a focus on social practices, as it shifts attention from the individuals' agency and choice to the processes whereby structural elements such as materials (things, technologies, physical entities), competences (skills, know-how, techniques), and meanings (symbolic, ideas, aspirations) are connected and enacted in the form of patterns of practices, allowing to explain the dynamics of reproduction and transformation of social practices [16]. This is an emerging fruitful approach to the study of consumption and pro-environmental behavior change, as it tries to overcome the duality between agency and structure, avoiding individualistic accounts, and giving wider insights into the complexities of the collective organization of everyday life than other approaches [17] [18] [19] [20]. < Theories of practice are based in the work of [21], [22] and others, which was recently revived with the contributions of [23], [24], [17] and [25]. In this perspective, practices are routinised behaviors composed of several elements interconnected and interwoven with objects, which are carried out by individuals in the course of their normal everyday life [24] [16]. By capturing inconspicuous routines, theories of practice are useful for the analysis of energy consumption in households, as energy is consumed as a mean to accomplishing social practices, and not as a practice itself [17]. Thus, despite the invisibility of energy consumption [26], theories of practice shed light to several structural conditions that contribute to promoting practices, which unwittingly consume too much energy. That is the case of marketing appeals to buying new equipments, often suggesting their energy efficiency disregarding the rebound effects of technology use [27]. These theories also give insights into competences. For instance, as it was observed by members of the team, there are significant gender differences in knowledge on energy issues and know-how on energy saving practices [28]. Regarding the analysis of engagements, youth culture, together with peer pressure and families' support, contribute to attract young people to consumption, as observed in a study on children's food consumption practices [29]. Thus, teenagers' emotional needs and concerns over identity, status and belonging to peer groups may conflict with practices of energy saving, particularly if these deviate from the peer group's norms. Special attention will be given to social interactions around practices related to electronic media. Although social interactions have not been given much attention in theories of practice, recently some authors have underlined the influence of mediators in practices changes, and thus the relevance of adding this component to the analysis of practices [30] [19].
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Susana Fonseca
Augusta Correia
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/04/2014
End Date: 
31/03/2015
Duração: 
15 meses
Closed