Socio-technical transitions and dynamics in everyday consumption practice

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Understanding how social change has intersected with transformations in key resource-intensive domestic consumption practices that comprise part of the fabric and experience of daily living is of central relevance to questions of sustainable development. Despite recent advances in contextual approaches to consumption, little is known about how wider socio-technical transitions have been experienced in the context of lived lives and everyday performances. As a result, sustainable development policies have been largely removed from the lived challenges and experiences people face in their daily lives. This paper explores the value of a human-centred, contextual approach to energy transitions research for revealing the intersections of lives, practices and contexts in energy systems change. Investigating the question of how everyday practices have intersected with processes of social-technical change, it reports on findings from a recent Irish-based qualitative biographic investigation of dynamics in domestic consumption. Analysis reveals that a complex web of contextual processes, including technological change, economic transitions and planning policies, have shaped consumption in the home. Furthermore, social differentiation in the lived experience of socio-technical change along dimensions of gender, social class and geography was observed. The paper concludes with reflections on the international relevance and implications of these findings for sustainable development policy, suggesting sustainable consumption requires a much more fundamental challenge to social contexts than is recognised by dominant approaches. Here it is argued that human-centred, contextual approaches to sustainability transitions that consider social differentiation in complex lived experiences are necessary to design more integrated and resilient energy futures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Biography
  • Domestic
  • Energy
  • Everyday life
  • Social practice
  • Socio-technical transitions
  • Sustainable consumption


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