torsdag 9 juni 2022

Feel the energy! (approved research project)


We just found out our application for a two-year research project was approved! The money comes from The Swedish Energy Agency's call "Design for an energy efficient everyday life" (Design för energieffektiv vardag). 

It is my colleague Björn Hedin's application "Feel the energy! Tactile learning about everyday energy use" that got 4.7 MSEK in funding and the project itself will run between October 2022 to December 2024. 

While Björn unfortunately does not work at our department any longer (but rather at the Department of Learning in Engineering Science), we continue to do research together and this application is an example of that. The project money will be used for hiring a phd student who will work in the project, but it will also pay for 5% of my time and ≈ 25% of current phd project Arjun Menon's time. Arjun works at my department but Björn (who thus works elsewhere) is his advisor. Besides Björn himself an additional three persons are also part of the project and I expect I will meet them for the first time during the mid-September project kick-off:

- Daniel Rosqvist is "Science Center Manager" at the Technical Museum and has many years of experience in designing museum-based learning activities. Daniel also attended Björn's phd course on "Learning behavior" (about creating engaging learning experiences).

- Malin Lindstaf works as a project leader at the municipal energy and climate advisors (Energi- och klimatrådgivning, EKR) in the City of Stockholm. EKR are in close contact with citizens and can help the project identify knowledge gaps. EKR also has mobile energy-related exhibitions where the concepts developed in this project could be integrated and tested.

- Anders Blomqvist works at the same institution as Björn (Department of Learning in Engineering Science) but at another division, "House of Science" (Vetenskapens Hus). House of Science has 80 000 visitors per year and is another venue/platform where we can test concepts that are developed in the project. 

So this is a very strong team, but what then are we actually going to do in the project? The English-language project abstract states:

The public’s understanding regarding their own role in the energy system and how they themselves can influence their situation is very low - so-called “Energy literacy”. Energy issues are perceived as boring, abstract and complicated, and research shows that traditional learning about energy consumption quickly falls into oblivion and has little effect on individuals' choices and behaviors.

In this project, we want to explore how people's knowledge and engagement to everyday energy issues are affected if they actually get to “feel” the energy physically. We will develop a flexible concept for portable “exhibitions” with associated pedagogical instructions that can be used in classrooms, exhibitions, foyers and at festivals. With the help of these, participants can playfully interact with models of real objects and situations, where abstract quantities such as energy, power and carbon footprint are represented by the weight and and volume of physical objects.

Previous generations often had a direct physical relationship to their energy use (Borgmann 1987). They cut and carried firewood, dug ditches and used their legs to move around. Modern campaigns such as "two holes in the wall" (e.g. you don't need to know or care where the electricity comes from) have deliberately encouraged people not to worry or care about developing a mature conception of energy and energy use. The energy is instead available wherever and whenever you need it - as if it has sprung forth from a cornucopia of eternal and endless energy. We have become accustomed to energy being inexpensive, abundantly available and ready to be used at the slightest whim ("at the flick of the switch"). This has also led to low levels of "energy literacy" among the general population. An important objective of the project is thus to design and explore the possibility of helping people regain a more direct, physical connection to energy. The hope is that participants can gain a greater understanding of the large (but various) amounts of energy that different everyday chores require, an increased understanding of the importance of managing their energy use as well as knowledge that will help them "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel".

I will work 5% in the project and mostly as an observer/pollinator between this project and my own art + science + communication project "From Homo Sapiens to Homo Colossus: Visualising our energy footprint". I expect I will also be helpful primarily in writing articles, in supervising bachelor's and master's theses and of course also by designing and testing workshop contents and formats (these are three of the project deliverables). I will surely want to apply my evolving Art of Hosting skills to the design of new workshop formats! My previous blog post is about using Art of Hosting methods for designing a workshop format for the Homo Colossus project and it's also very good that also Arjun who will work in the project took the same three-day intensive Art of Hosting course half a year ago!

Last but not least, the project has budgeted money to buy a 3D printer and I look forward to see how it will come to use in the project!


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