4 Cases “People-Centred Learning Cycles”
These are the case studies, implemented in the 1st PEOPLE Learning Cycle (2017/2018).
How can we use ethnography and other qualitative research methods to study IT solutions for energy efficiency in buildings? How to combine thick data with big data stored and analysed by an energy information system? How to plan and carry out a people-centred development and design process? These were some of the questions tackled by the students involved in the 1st PEOPLE project’s Learning Cycle in Slovenia.
Slovenian team's research starting point was MePIS Energy, Metronik’s energy information system for energy management, customised and designed for managing – monitoring, analysing, planning – energy consumption in industry, infrastructure facilities, and buildings. With guidance from both academic mentors (ZRC SAZU) and industry mentors (Metronik), our team of students (anthropology, history, philosophy, psychology, social informatics) combined qualitative and ethnographic research methods (participant observation, semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions) with quantitative research methods (questionnaires and analysis, data mining).
The team applied people-centred development approaches
- to analyse how the information system is used in one of the buildings of the University of Ljubljana;
- to analyse how MePIS Energy is influencing energy consumption and energy-related costs;
- to provide guidelines and suggest modifications of the existing system (interface, displays etc.); and
- to develop upgrades or innovative ideas for utilising the existing system for a more efficient, lesser use of energy.
UNITED KINGDOM CASE-STUDY:
In PEOPLE project’s first Learning Cycle in the UK, six taught postgraduate students addressed research questions relating to the design and operation of telecare products and services, mentored jointly by Durham Energy Institute (Durham University) and industry partner Kemuri.
The Kemuri smart sockets have the appearance of a standard double power socket. They function as a normal power socket, but are fitted with multiple sensors to measure motion, temperature, power usage and power supply. They are installed in the homes of elderly residents living independently in properties owned and managed by two housing associations. Sensor data is analysed by artificial intelligence algorithms that learn patterns of daily activity and alert families or carers if they detect significant changes in residents’ daily routines.
PEOPLE students in the UK studied how housing managers with a duty of care for their residents need and use the telecare service, provided by Kemuri.
In the Netherlands, our interdisciplinary team of four PEOPLE students (anthropology, sociology, and organisational studies) focused on a bottom-up, neighbourhood-oriented approach in the transition to natural gas-free living, mentored jointly by PEOPLE partner organisations the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and company Alliander.
Alliander, a Dutch monopolist Distribution System Operator, has initiated a ‘natural gas-transition program’ to address the challenges that this entails in multidisciplinary teams. PEOPLE students contributed by tackling concrete issues and tasks within these teams. For example, they mapped local dynamics at a neighbourhood level and translated this into visualisations and reports for Alliander employees and teams.
Analysing, identifying and applying local dynamics is still a missing link in the overall strategic environment management of energy companies such as Alliander. PEOPLE students helped to bridge this gap, and in doing so, made a significant contribution to a people-friendly transition to a natural gas-free future in the Netherlands.
In PEOPLE project’s 1st Learning Cycle, researchers at Charles University in Prague and their industry partner VÚPS launched a study on the efficiency of conservation interventions in administrative buildings.
The study had three objectives:
- to decrease energy consumption in administrative buildings;
- to employ the knowledge of social science about people’s behaviour in policies aiming at a higher efficiency of public buildings;
- and to engage students of social science in a practice-oriented research.
The intervention was designed to motivate city (and state) office workers to regulate temperature in their offices in order to conserve energy. The efficiency of the intervention that employed a combination of feedback and goal setting was be evaluated on the basis of real changes in energy consumption and also of changes in behavioural intention to conserve energy. Four master students of sociology and related fields participated in all the stages of intervention study. They prepared interventions and evaluation questionnaires, analysed data and drew conclusions with both practical and scientific relevance.