Home energy use sheds light on family relationships

A recent doctoral study has indicated that it is possible to study households from a new angle using new home energy use technology.

Karthikeya Acharya, who carried out his doctoral work in the Aalto University School of Arts, Design, and Architecture, has investigated the informational content of household energy consumption data.

'Energy efficiency, home automation, the internet of things and machine learning are beginning to have an effect on the formation of relationships at home', Mr Acharya explains.

Each household under study is referred to in English as an elektrome. Mr Acharya presents a new kind of planning model, the implementation of which involves three parts: a survey, the creation of a prototype or test concept for certain ideas, and a particular kind of individual activism. The field research was carried out in the family homes of middle and upper class Indian families.

Residents were interviewed and different kinds of planning exercises were carried out together with them. If became clear that when residents give meaning to their home appliances as a practical comprehensive whole, the appliances reveal a number of different social relationships.

Dwelling with data is a present reality

When information related to energy use is combined with the social relationships derived from the home appliances, the concept of 'dwelling with data' is formed.

'Externally introduced general measurement systems and procedures are closer to our home lives than ever before. My work shows how these measures have an effect on the social relationships between individuals within the home.'

The planning model, which opens up energy consumption measurements, also highlights where wider social concerns begin, problems which extend well beyond the walls of the home and which otherwise remain hidden. These concerns include economic inequality, gender-related issues, and the individual's wider connection with their own culture.

Energy research is carried out in a number of different fields, ranging from economics, sociology and anthropology to physics and engineering. Mr Acharya's research brings a new perspective into domestic energy use with its problem-based planning research approach. The planning model developed can be applied in any country and culture where energy consumption is measured in common units such as kilowatt hours (kWh).

Public examination of the thesis

The public examination of the doctoral dissertation of Karthikeya Acharya, M.A., Opening the Electrome: Redefining Home for Energy Studies through Design Practice will take place on Friday 8 April 2016 at 12 noon in Lecture Hall 822 of the Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture, Hämeentie 135 C, Helsinki. Acting as opponent will be John Vines, PhD, from Newcastle University.

Orders for the dissertation can be placed with the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture’s online bookshop shop.aalto.fi/. Inquiries should be sent to [email protected].

More information:

Karthikeya Acharya
tel. +358 45 8418901
[email protected]

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