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Intertwined practices of gender and technology : The case of home heating

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abstract largest energy end-use in households in the EU-15 (EEA, 2005, p. 33). The further development, market diffusion, and use of technologies based on renewable resources and the home production of heat and electricity in private households, such as pellet heating, solar plants, and the cogeneration of heat and power, are becoming increasingly important for EU's current strategy aiming at sustainable development (European Commission, 2006). However, energy consumption and energy efficiency are not merely an issue of technological fixes, but of how technologies are used on an everyday basis (Shove, 2003). This paper focuses on the everyday practices of technology acquisition. Acquisition decisions not only have a large and long-term
impact on the structural possibilities for sustainability as an everyday practice and have so far been mainly ignored by research on everyday consumption, also interpretative flexibility (Bijker, Hughes & Pinch, 1987) is especially visible here.Our research focuses on the question how heat energy technologies based on renewable resources become part of people´s everyday life. We argue that the use of technologies can be analyzed as a socio-technical system in which the social construction of technology is intertwined with practices of doing gender. We apply a double perspective on gender as a social and
discursive practice (Bruni, Gherardi, & Poggio, 2005; Gherardi, 1994) as well as a symbolic resource inscribed and re-inscribed into the materiality of the technology (Akrich, 1992). Analyzing gender as shifting, fluid, and multiple in practice (Martin, 2003) and at the same time re-inscribing a symbolic binary into the materiality (Faulkner, 2000), our analysis shows how gender, sustainability and technology are "done". The empirical data consist of marketing material and ethnographic observations collected at trade fairs for building and living exhibiting home heating technologies as well as interviews with couples conducted within a reasonable time after their buying decision for a new home heating technology. So far, our analysis focused on the design of the oven and its placement in a family home and how gender is done here as a binary
symbolic resource (Offenberger & Nentwich, 2009). In our conference presentation, we will broaden our analytical scope and further investigate the discursive construction of subject-technology interactions in the context of the buying process. Our analysis will show how gendered symbolic repertoires are used by different users when accounting for a specific acquisition decision. The research contributes to an understanding of how the symbolic and interactive gender order is made relevant in the context of sustainable energy technology.
   
type conference paper (English)
   
keywords
   
project Soziale, ökologische und ökonomische Dimensionen eines nachhaltigen Energiekonsums in Wohngebäuden
name of conference Sustainable Consumption Conference 2011 (Hamburg)
date of conference 6-11-2011
title of proceedings Towards Action and Impact
publisher International Scientific Conference (Hamburg)
review blind review
   
citation Offenberger, U., & Nentwich, J. C. (2011). Intertwined practices of gender and technology: The case of home heating. In Towards Action and Impact. Hamburg: International Scientific Conference.