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Publication Detail
Transdisciplinarity in the sociology of energy use
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Shipworth M
  • Publication date:
  • Name of conference:
    37th World Congress of the International Institute of Sociology
  • Conference place:
    Stockholm, Sweden
  • Conference start date:
  • Conference finish date:
  • Keywords:
    home energy use sociology transdisciplinary transdisciplinarity reflexivity policy modelling
This paper proposes that, in a transdisciplinary environment, sociological theory is not just a resource for disciplinary duels. Genuine transdisciplinarity entails the possibility of sociological theory being transformed by dialogue between disciplines. Sociological theories are useful for problematising the framing of problems. They can help open up concepts that may be taken for granted in other disciplines and generate new areas of potentially transdisciplinary research. Some sociologists exploring energy use have done exactly this. They have problematised the ムphysical-technical-economic modelメ used by energy policy makers and physical scientists modelling energy use. These sociologists have suggested that energy use modellers and policy makers who want to influence consumers should not try to impose their own language and understanding of energy on consumers. They recommend that the modellers and policy makers work with consumersメ own language and understandings of energy when communicating with them rather than trying to discredit the consumersメ lay language and understandings. The sociologists suggest that this approach could result in consumers creatively saving even more energy than engineering models predict. These sociologists can be said to be engaged in transdisciplinary research insofar as they challenge physical scientists and policy makers to use sociological insights to transform their research and policies. Unfortunately, these sociologists have failed to practise what they preach – they have not been reflexive. These sociologists, who want to influence energy use modellers and policy makers, often try to impose their own language and understanding of consumers and social change. They frequently fail to work with modellersメ and policy makersメ own language and understandings of consumers and social change when communicating with them. Instead they discredit the modellersメ and policy-makersメ lay understandings of social change. This antagonistic approach could be partly to blame for modellers and policy makers largely ignoring the important and revolutionary insights these sociologists have offered. In this respect these sociologists are not engaged in transdisciplinary research – they do not countenance the possibility of using modellersメ or policy-makersメ insights to transform their sociological research or theories. Transdisciplinary research entails engaging with the language and understandings of other disciplines. Sociologists must move beyond critique of other disciplinesメ framing of problems and concepts and be prepared to engage in dialogue with other disciplines. This dialogue may entail a critique of sociological approaches to framing problems and concepts and this critique could transform sociological research or theories.
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