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Making “sustainable consumption” matter: the indoor microclimate as contested cultural artifact

Henrike, Rau
Grégoire, Wallenborn
Published in Cultural Sociology. 2020
Abstract This article demonstrates how a cultural reading of consumption that focuses on the meaning and materiality of domestic indoor microclimates can contribute to conceptual developments in the field of practice theory that refocus attention on cultural patterns, including prevailing norms and prescriptions regarding indoor temperature and thermal comfort. Drawing on evidence collected during a research-led change initiative that encouraged people to reduce energy use in the home by lowering indoor temperature to 18°C, we deploy the heuristic device of “indoor microclimate as artifact” to show how the manifestation of this new artifact initiated significant changes in everyday practices that revolve around heating. We observe that these changes may also spill over into the public sphere – from home to workplace. By making the microclimate a tangible and visible thing, we describe how people appropriate and appreciate this new object of consumption, what it says about different bodies in diverse and bounded spaces, and what the artifact as a commodity reveals about broader systems of heating and energy provision, and associated actors. Due to the increasing spread of central heating and the growing importance of complex technological devices to monitor and control indoor temperature, heating is no longer a practice in and of itself for many urban dwellers in Europe. However, when people appropriate the indoor microclimate, new heating-related practices emerge that can lead to energy sufficiency. We thus argue that by deliberately “materializing” domestic indoor microclimate as part of a change initiative, more sustainable forms of energy use can be made to matter.
Keywords EnergyHouseholdsMaterial cultureMicroclimatePractice theorySwitzerland
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SAHAKIAN, Marlyne, HENRIKE, Rau, GRÉGOIRE, Wallenborn. Making “sustainable consumption” matter: the indoor microclimate as contested cultural artifact. In: Cultural Sociology, 2020. doi: 10.1177/1749975520932439 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:138373

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Deposited on : 2020-07-13

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