Negotiating everyday life: the role of energy and water consumption feedback

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Trials and evaluations of energy and water consumption feedback are premised on understandings of consumption as a rational and individual decision-making process. This article draws on two alternative conceptualizations of consumption to understand the role and effectiveness of consumption feedback delivered through an in-home display (IHD). The first considers how consumption is mediated by socio-technical systems of energy and water provision, and the second views it as part of social practices such as laundering, eating and heating. The article draws on these conceptualizations to analyse a qualitative dataset of interviews and tours with 28 Australian households participating in three separate IHD feedback programmes. The article finds that IHDs are an important visualization tool that illuminate otherwise invisible systems of energy and water provision. However, they have the potential to legitimize particular practices and to overlook those considered non-negotiable. The article concludes that IHDs can play a role in making socio-technical systems of energy and water provision more relevant to householders' everyday lives, and in questioning and debating non-negotiable practices. This will necessitate repositioning and blurring the roles and responsibilities of resource providers and consumers. As a mediating device with the ability to extend both inside and outside the home, the IHD provides a unique platform for reorienting its role towards these ends.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-338
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • consumption feedback
  • demand management
  • everyday life
  • smart metering
  • social practices

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