Extracting Users: Regimes of Engagement in Norwegian Smart Electricity Transition
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScience, Technology and Human Values. 2021. 10.1177/01622439211052867
Recent efforts to involve digital technologies and renewables in the electricity grid have placed users at center stage in the legitimation of energy transitions. This move has been paralleled by an emphasis on users and energy practices in social studies of energy related to science and technology studies. This article builds on an eighteen-month Living Lab exploration of energy practices with smart electricity users in Bergen, Norway. We make two interrelated arguments. First, energy production and distribution in Norway and elsewhere is shifting toward greater automation of tasks, possibly bypassing the “active user” concept. Energy sector practices are evolving from simply extracting natural resources (Extraction 1.0) toward extraction of users’ behavioral data (Extraction 2.0), and privacy thus emerges as a key component in the stabilization of energy systems. Second, we reflect on displacements of the roles and possibilities of users (or “energy citizens”) thereby enabled, especially their normative (political and regulatory) aspects. We propose that conceptualization of energy practices be supported by the concept of regimes of engagement from pragmatist sociology. Relatedly, we argue that market, civic, ecological, and industrial regimes are being actively merged through digital innovation and what we call the techno-epistemic network of smart electricity.