Design Informatics and Learning Energy Systems

start new job

For the last few months I have been writing up my phd thesis, and while that may be pushing what can acceptably be described as a ‘few’, the end appears to be in sight. I’ll post more about that when the time is right, but for now there is other news. On the 6th of January I received the above notification, touched ‘OK’, and dragged myself out of the black hole to start a new job.

I am very happy to have joined the Centre for Design Informatics at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. It’s an exciting department, with some very original and refreshing ideas about the opportunities that can come from designing with data and physical things. For the next 18 months or so I’ll be working as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow on the Learning Energy Systems research project. There’ll be lots more information on the project website in due course, but for now here’s a short explanation:

This project will develop a collective ‘Learning Energy System’ involving people, objects, data and machines. Central to this is a digital system designed to align human needs and comfort with building energy systems, with the aim of to reducing overall energy demand. This project differs from many energy reduction projects. The building user; as a sensor of conditions; as a driver of energy demand; as an individual; and as a collective, is at the heart of the ‘Learning Energy System’.

The project is situated in a couple of schools in Scotland. The Building Management Services that run these school buildings collect energy use data, but the students, teachers and staff that ‘use’ the school building, and the energy, have no real access to that data or any engagement with the ways that the energy is used. We are interested in learning about the reality of how energy is used in those schools; how energy is tied into the social and educational lives of the schools’ inhabitants, and the value(s) placed on its use in such a context. Through a process of design-led research we hope to reveal the complexities and messy-ness of this energy system at the centre of which are the building users. Then, turning the schools into ‘Living Labs’ we will use co-design methods to develop what a Learning Energy System might be, and to find ways that energy systems might fit meaningfully into such complex settings to better support and engage the communities within them. This is a really exciting project for me to be a part of. Though I’ve worked with similar themes and processes before, this represents a big step and I’m really looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone to learn about new kinds of design practice, new communities of  people, and new ways of thinking about technology. Of course, this also means that I have moved to Edinburgh. I love getting to know a new place,  and am having a great time exploring this beautiful and intriguing city.

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