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Uncovering practices of making energy consumption accountable: A phenomenological inquiry

: Schwartz, T.; Stevens, G.; Ramirez, L.; Wulf, V.


ACM transactions on computer-human interaction : TOCHI 20 (2013), Nr.2, Art. 12
ISSN: 1073-0516
ISSN: 1557-7325
Fraunhofer FIT ()

Reacting to the discussion on global warming, the HCI community has started to explore the design of tools to support responsible energy consumption. An important part of this research focuses on motivating energy savings by providing feedback tools which present consumption metrics interactively. In this line of work, the configuration of feedback has been mainly discussed using cognitive or behavioral factors. This narrow focus, however, misses a highly relevant perspective for the design of technology that supports sustainable lifestyles: to investigate the multiplicity of forms in which individuals or collectives actually consume energy. In this article, we broaden this focus, by taking a phenomenological lens to study how people use off-theshelf eco-feedback systems in private households to make energy consumption accountable and explainable. By reconstructing accounting practices, we delineate several constitutive elements of the phenomenon of energy usage in dail y life. We complement these elements with a description of the sophisticated methods used by people to organize their energy practices and to give a meaning to their energy consumption. We describe these elements and methods, providing examples coming from the fieldwork and uncovering observed strategies to account for consumption. Based on our results, we provide a critical perspective on existing eco-feedback mechanisms and describe several elements for a design rationale for designing support for responsible energy consumption.We argue that interactive feedback systems should not simply be an end, but rather a resource for the construction of the artful practice of making energy consumption accountable.