About

Preface

The purpose of “Untapped Energy” is to design and explore concepts and ideas to challenge existing preconceptions of energy production, and to suggest the direction of the development. The perspective is from an end users vantage. The result is presented as untappedEnergy.org and is a post to a debate on how we can relate to electricity. The blog behind.untappedEnergy.org is the documentation of the project. The book “intro.untappedEnergy” is a printed introduction to the project.

The project was developed during 2009 at the Institute for Industrial Design at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

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Summary

Structure

This blog, which is named “behind.untappedEnergy.org” is the documentation of my diploma. Together with the printed document named “intro.untappedEnergy” (PDF) and the result presented as the community blog “untappedEnergy.org” provide the main body of work.

I have used the publishing platform provided by WordPress.org to manage the two blogs on my server. The choice of platform is based on the wide popularity of it and that I have found it to be a good content management system (CMS) for this project. The overall visual layout for the two blogs are themes that are available from WordPress. The themes that are used works best with the latest edition of Firefox.

As this is a diploma that have a set of traditions regarding the linearity of the text, I have had challenges with the non-linear format of a blog. On the right side of this page there is a list of categories that contains the various sections of the diploma. When clicked you will get all of the content per category on one page listed in the chronologically reverse order which is the standard for blogs.

Each post have number that refers to: Digit 1 – what section it is contained within, digit 2 – which category it is filed under and digit 3 – the order in each category. This convention is used to ease the transition from the linear tradition to the non-linear blog format. The PDF contains the linear introduction to the diploma with active links to each post.

Format

The diploma was written in English to reach a wider audience through the blog online. Blogging and micro blogging is the way of creating discourse outside of mainstream media these days. Instant micro blogs
like Twitter puts the soap box at the feet of the average Joe as well as US presidents. Using the blog as a tool to enter the discourse feels natural and creates opportunities to present ideas and concepts to an interested audience. Being unproven as a format in the context of a master thesis is more challenging. Important to note is that the visual design of the two web sites, although selected by me, are not designed by me. They are slightly adapted from freely available designs to aid the presentation
of the content.

Intent

The diploma researches and explores design opportunities related to renewable energy in the context of the family home. Concepts related to local production and/or conservation of energy are investigated. The diploma’s aim is to challenge existing preconceptions of current energy production/conservation and to try to provide insights into how this field can develop. What it does not is to deliver a ready made product or service at a level where it can be industrialized.

Background

Ever since Thomas Alva Edison and Nikola Tesla developed the base for our present electrical infrastructure in the final decades of the nineteenth century electricity has been part of our daily lives. As electricity is potentially dangerous to interact with and its infrastructure is complex, most of the development and services built around the electrical infrastructure has been initiated by businesses with an engineer’s perspective. As a medium for energy transfer on a scale that directly affects nations, electricity is regulated and traded in complex systems. This opaque and vertical top-down structure has worked well, but left consumers more or less unconscious to how we use, produce and distribute the energy.

As electricity is one of the prime energy carriers of a modern society it has, on a global scale, a great influence on economics, politics and the environment. To elevate public awareness and to motivate end consumers to participate in energy production are two strategies to approach a sustainable rate of consumption, and potentially deeply affect policy-making and global economics.

Process

Through research of the state of the art, the latest developments, in consumer products that have energy production capabilities and relevant technologies I discover that my opportunity for design does not lie in the gadgets and gizmos that can directly produce energy or reduce consumption. Most of the current design effort on a larger scale revolves around awareness in form of visualizing consumption. The idea is that awareness reduces consumption. Some studies suggest that if you produce some energy yourself, you are even more likely to reduce your consumption.

The research also discovered that there is substantial amount of effort invested in this field by government agencies and business organisations. They do however take on their own perspective and regard the customer or end users as a small node in their maps. This tradition creates a framework that I as a designer through my result will challenge.

Result

Through the use of fictional evidences in the community blog “untappedenergy.org” I suggest how the public can be motivated to produce electricity in their own homes. This is done by giving the consumer full control over production and consumption of their own electricity, and by exploiting the coming intelligent electricity infrastructure this control can be shared amongst a group of people or everyone in a flat structure.