Applying the lens of sensory ethnography to sustainable HCI

Sarah Pink, Kerstin Leder Mackley, Val Mitchell, Marcus Hanratty, Carolina Escobar-Tello, Tracy Bhamra, Roxana Morosanu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Sociological appropriations of practice theory as applied to sustainable design have successfully problematized overly simplistic and individualistic models of consumer choice and behavior change. By taking everyday practices as the principal units of analysis, they move towards acknowledging the socially and materially structured nature of human activity. However, to inform sustainable HCI we also need to understand how practices are part of wider experiential environments and flows of practical activity. In this article, we develop an approach rooted in phenomenological anthropology and sensory ethnography. This approach builds on theories of place, perception and movement and enables us to situate practices, and understand practical activity, as emplaced within complex and shifting ecologies of things. Drawing on an interdisciplinary study of domestic energy consumption and digital media use, we discuss ethnographic and design practice examples. We demonstrate how this theoretical and methodological framework can be aligned with the 3rd paradigm of HCI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
Number of pages18
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavior change
  • Design
  • Digital media
  • Energy use
  • Practice theory
  • Sensory ethnography
  • Sustainability
  • Third paradigm HCI

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