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

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abstract 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 sociotechnical 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). Within the next months, 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 EASST Conference 2010 (Trento, Italy)
date of conference 3-9-2010
title of proceedings Practicing Science and Technology, Performing the Social
page(s) 14
publisher EASST European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (Swadlincote UK)
review double-blind review
   
citation Offenberger, U., & Nentwich, J. C. (2010). Intertwined practices of gender and technology: The case of home heating. In Practicing Science and Technology, Performing the Social, pp.14. Swadlincote UK: EASST European Association for the Study of Science and Technology.