Back to the futures: Retrospecting the prospects of smart grid technology
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonFutures : The journal of policy, planning and futures studies. 2014, 63 26-36. 10.1016/j.futures.2014.08.001
This paper analyzes a ten-year long technology debate, which dealt with the so-called advanced electricity meters in Norway (1998–2008). The debate circled around one central question: should the implementation of this technology be forced through with regulations or should the market decide on pace and character of implementation? In 2008 it was decided that it was best to regulate the implementation. Throughout these 10 years, the debate largely concerned how the future would look with or without regulation. This paper is inspired by “the sociology of expectation”, which assumes that futures are performative. This means that when the future is evoked or imagined, it influences present action and navigation. With this in mind, the paper analyzes future visions and expectations as they were formulated in the technology debate, and traces the role of these futures in the policy debate and for the policy outcome. The paper identifies two modes of future performativity: translative and transformative futures. Translative futures are often mobilized as spokespersons for desired technology or policy trajectories. Here, they work as (a) stagestting devices: sparking debate, enrolling new actors in the debate and generating interest. Further, they work as (b) regulative tools: establishing the need for political decisions, either to realize the content of future visions, or to avoid the contents of alternative futures. Transformative futures do more subtle and gradual work, shifting the practical, symbolic and cognitive meaning of “what” the technology in question might become in the future. As an example, the significance of the advanced electricity meters discussed in this paper changed from being a device filling the knowledge gaps of electricity consumers, to being a central hub in households delivering a range of potential services and being available for a number of different users. In this paper, I describe the gradual shift in understanding of what advanced electricity meters could be as a virtual domestication trajectory.