Open Source Visualisations

As part of our attempt to visualise infrastructures for living off the grid in comparative global contexts we have used our ESRC Off the Grid grant to contribute to the development of a new open source tool that will enable academic researchers across the social sciences to build and publish interactive stories or narratives online. Continue reading

Mapping Eigg

Eigg Thomas Leslie 1826In collaboration with The Bothy Project we are sponsoring an art/social science residency on the Isle of Eigg to explore the significance and value of maps as tools of way finding, instruments of government, material artefacts of exchange and repositories of meaning. In November Edinburgh-based artist David Lemm will spend two weeks on Eigg working with residents to explore the history of maps on the island and to experiment with the making of maps that meet the current needs, interests and concerns of those who live there.

Maps have been a central and contentious part of the history of the Isle of Eigg. Continue reading

Off grid living: More thoughts on the ‘How to’ literature

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In my previous post, I discussed some of the peculiarities within the ‘how to’ literature on off grid living. Here, I continue my ruminations…

I noted before how the concept of being architecturally ‘off grid’ seems to speak to an individualised ideal, as opposed to living in community. This ideal rings true in both strands of the literature, in the ‘down and dirty’ self-sustenance literature, and the works that promote high-modern sustainability. The self-contained lifestyle advocated throughout both strands of off grid living is romanticised, and perhaps understandably as the books are essentially attempting to sell a particular view. It would, after all, be much harder to promote self-sustenance if these books were to focus on the trials and tribulations of living off grid. Continue reading

Off The Grid literature – some thoughts (part 1)

For the past fortnight or so, I’ve been delving into the literature that grapples with ‘off grid’ features. The literature covers a whole gamut of things that could conceivably fall under the rubric of ‘sustainability’ – detailing the attributes of ‘passive house’ construction, why the footprint of buildings matters, how to integrate small-scale energy harvesting technologies into the home, and tips on retrofitting existing buildings with energy efficiency measures. Three things have really struck me about this literature: first, the books themselves, which seem to fall into two distinct camps. Second, the concept of ‘off grid’ is somewhat romanticised. And third, that literature on ‘off grid’ architecture (particularly in Western contexts) appeals to an individualised ideal, rather than a community enterprise. I will discuss the first point in this post, and the other two in a future blog post.
And so, to the books. Continue reading

Technology Designed for Sparse Environments

We want to use this opportunity to think through some ideas about technologies that are designed for sparse environments. These are technologies that – by conception and design – imagine contexts in which institutions, systems, technologies and people are un-co-ordinated; but which, we argue, produce this context as an effect. (Extracts from a presentation given at the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, University of Edinburgh, May 2013.) Continue reading