Homes are useful units for energy demand research and intervention because they have been studied extensively in the social sciences. This does not mean that home is a simple concept, or that it can be reduced to a house or any other solid entity. Yet by thinking through the concept of the ‘home’ we can start to understand the social, affective, sensory material, intangible and infrastructural elements through which energy is actually consumed, and for which it is ‘needed’ by people as they live their everyday lives.
Everyday life is often thought of as a ‘flow‘. We live in a world where the present is immediately becoming the past, and we are continuously slipping over the edge of the present into our futures. Designing for everyday life means acknowledging this temporality – that is not about the now of the then but about an uncertain future – something that is ever-present and exists in its continually changing forms, in our and other people’s imaginations, but that we actually cannot know.
Design is on the one hand the practice of Designers, people who seek to make change happen, to some extent to direct it. We do not want to generalize about design or designers as this is a complex field of practice: there are different approaches to design and designers who have very different approaches to working with people, materials and ideas. Here we draw on our ethnography to emphasise the role of ‘ordinary people’ (in this case people who are not Designers) as everyday designers. That is as people who are ongoingly improvising in their everyday worlds, as they (like us) slip over the edge of the present in to futures that they usually know enough about to be able to feel that their lives are continuing, and not ongoingly changing. Here then we can see that ordinary people are also change-makers, they are ongoingly seeing their own lives through their imagined futures. Indeed the future is an ever-present part of our present.
Often we think of the future as something that can be forecast or projected. However in our ethnographic research we account for the future differently: as the future is always uncertain, imagined and contingent. This makes it a complex terrain to research and in fact, we should always be very wary of the assumptions we make or the things we believe to be true: the future is fragile – it might ‘dissolve’, feel as if it has been ‘taken away’ or not be what we had expected.
In the social sciences and humanities, scholars are increasingly interested in the future and are studying it in fields of research that could be referred to as: geographies of anticipation; sociology of expectation; and anthropology of the future. However these and other disciplines have different ways of understanding and dealing with the uncertainties of the future: some try to create abstractions through which to model the future; some seek to harness uncertainty for creativity; some try to prevent undesirable things from happening in the future through regulations and guidelines.
In our research we seek to understand the future in the following ways: 1) how do our participants imagine their futures, and how indeed are these imaginings part of the ways that they live their everyday lives and ‘feel’ and understand themselves and their environments?; 2) how can the creativity and improvisation that our participants already engage in be seen as sites of possibilities – that is sites for possible future-making activities and co-design?