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A TEDDI is not just for Christmas…

by on November 8, 2013

…but is hopefully for life, or at least my working life.

This week I took a wee jaunt to a chilly Edinburgh for Image courtesy of [Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net the first meeting of TEDDInet. TEDDInet is a new networking initiative, part of the UK Research Councils Digital Economy and Energy programmes, which will, over a 4 year period, run a range of activities to improve communication and knowledge exchange between research and stakeholder communities (industry sectors and policy makers), on the topic of reducing (and shifting) energy demand. TEDDInet brings together 22 interdisciplinary research projects under two related calls; ‘Transforming Energy Demand through Digital Innovation’ (TEDDI, 2009) and ‘Transforming Energy Demand in Buildings through Digital Innovation’ (BuildTEDDI, 2011). No fewer than 29 universities and over 70 high-profile commercial and government organisations are involved in the (Build)TEDDI programme.

This is an immense network, linking a variety of projects, all of which are individually fascinating. The potential to achieve something even more meaningful by bringing these projects together is very exciting. I was particularly pleased to be invited along as although I am not TEDDI funded, Smarter Homes is closely linked to the work of many TEDDI projects. Moreover, one of the key tasks for me (and an aspiration of the ESRC future leaders scheme) is to extend my network in order to ensure that not only can I learn from existing projects, but that I can communicate with and engage others in my own research. I couldn’t have asked for more fortuitous timing, as TEDDInet will run for the entire duration of my fellowship.

The projects cover a variety of topics, from tariff switching to developing more sophisticated in home displays for smart meters.Image courtesy of [franky242] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net Links to these projects will shortly be available on the TEDDInet website. Reflecting on the nature of the projects, a few things struck me throughout the day. Firstly, all of these projects have some kind of innovative digital technology, which means that not only are the data social (i.e. and self report data) but many rely on real-time data collected through sensors, thermometers and the like. This type of approach offers an interesting way to explore the difference between data collected by digital/technological means, and those which rely on human accounts of experience. I am aware that my own project is entirely reliant on self-reporting by participants, so hearing how these TEDDI projects are synchronising digital and participant data opened my eyes to alternatives.

Secondly, I was aware that almost all of the presentations and discussions focused around the methodologies or emerging results of the projects, specifically reporting on the success of the digital technologies, and that there was no real discussion about how this advanced conceptual and theoretical debates. Perhaps this was a consequence of the point in the research process for many of the projects, but this is something that I hope TEDDInet (and I) will be able to discuss more fully at a subsequent event [indeed, this was added to a list of themes for future TEDDInet workshops]. Thirdly, and related to this, many of the presenters talked about generating impact beyond their project and in most cases, this impact was of a commercial (i.e. spin-off) nature, or political/practical nature rather than a social nature. Food for thought here about how we understand and encourage other forms of impact.

Fourthly, apart from one or two, all of the projects are exclusively focused on domestic energy demand, and not business, industry, government energy demand. The emphasis on domestic consumption reveals, perhaps, a focus (either of the funders or researchers) on individuals. I wonder how representative this is of the relative share of energy use across different sectors [see recent overview by Ben Willers for the Guardian]. Perhaps we are missing something here? UK energy consumption. Source: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/apr/27/uk-energy-sources-graphic

Finally, there were many discussions about the ethics of projects which collected data about individuals. Namely, how data are collected, the difficulties of getting access to data fuelled by participants concerns in light of recent Snowden revelations, how these data are to be used, if/how they could be shared (and with whom). This last point was something I considered at the time of my Smarter Homes application, and is something I will definitely need to think through a bit more carefully.

In all, though, the event was one of the most useful and productive workshops I have attended in recent years. I had some incredibly interesting conversations which will inform the way I do my own research, and how I collaborate with others in the future. I can’t wait until the next one.

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One Comment
  1. Great write-up, thanks for coming!

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