Consuming technologies – developing routines

Consuming technologies – developing routines

Available online at Journal of Cleaner Production 16 (2008) 1181e1189 Consuming technologies e...

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Available online at

Journal of Cleaner Production 16 (2008) 1181e1189

Consuming technologies e developing routines* Kirsten Gram-Hanssen* Danish Building Research Institute, Department of Housing and Urban Renewal, Dr. Neergaards Vej 15, DK-2970 Hørsholm, Denmark Received 1 April 2006; received in revised form 1 August 2007; accepted 13 August 2007 Available online 23 October 2007

Abstract Routines in daily life are crucial for consumption of energy and water in households and therefore, knowledge of how routines develop and change is extremely relevant from a sustainable consumption perspective. Routines emerge, develop and change in close relation with different kinds of everyday technologies. In this article, these processes are investigated from three different perspectives: an historical perspective of how new technologies have entered homes, a consumer perspective of how both houses and new technologies are purchased and finally, as the primary part of the article, a user perspective of how routines develop while these technologies are being used. In the conclusion these insights are discussed in relation to possible ways of influencing routines. Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Routines; Consumption; Practices; Household technology; Everyday life

1. Introduction Routines are an important aspect of energy and water consumption in households. Therefore, we have witnessed numerous campaigns over the years to make us switch off the light when leaving a room, keep a lower indoor temperature and turn off the tap while brushing our teeth. However, it is also commonly agreed that it is difficult to make people change their routines. Nevertheless, the argument presented in this paper is that history shows that we change our routines all the time. However, this is not a result of concern for the environment or the result of campaigns to save energy; it is rather due to changes in the social organisation of everyday life combined with the introduction of new technologies.

In this paper the author first briefly introduces social theories of consumption and how the question of routines is treated in this context. Next the author takes an historical approach to how technologies entered households in the last century, and how they have influenced the routines of everyday life. The main part of the paper discusses consumption and routines in contemporary everyday life. First with a shorter intermezzo focusing on how conspicuous consumption is a part of setting up a home and thus, part of setting the stage for the everyday routines. Secondly, and more elaborated, focusing on how routines develop and change during the use and reinterpretation of different types of appliances. The paper concludes with a discussion on the extent to which routines are influenced by norms and ethics learned in our childhood, by conscious reasoning of economic or ecological aspects, by the design of new technologies or by changes in social relations.


Previous versions of this paper were presented at ‘Changes to sustainable consumption, 20e21 April 2006, Copenhagen, Denmark; Workshop of the sustainable consumption research exchange (SCORE!) Network’, at ‘Sustainable consumption and society. An International working conference for social scientists University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, 2e3 June 2006’, and at ‘ESA sociology of consumption network workshop in Durham, 29 Auguste1 September 2006’. * Tel.: þ45 4574 2291; fax: þ45 4586 7535. E-mail address: [email protected] 0959-6526/$ - see front matter Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2007.08.006

2. Consumption theory and routines During the 1990s there was a growing body of research on consumption from different social sciences (for introductions see Miller [1] and Corrigan [2]). Not that consumption was a new thing, but the importance that it was assigned changed


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from being primarily viewed as an appendage of production to be seen as an important societal factor in itself (Featherstone [3]). It is interesting to note that in a parallel, but independent process, consumption also became an issue in environmental policy and in environmental research, areas which had previously focused solely on the production process [4]. The new focus of consumption theories was on the communicative and cultural aspects of consumption and one of the main discussions was on the extent to which consumption should be interpreted in light of modern or late-modern understanding of identity formation (Gronow and Warde [5]). Work by Bourdieu interpreted consumption from a class-based perspective, where norms and values are learned and internalised in childhood and unconsciously reproduced in adulthood, for instance in our consumption practices [6]. However, late-modern theories from Giddens and others question the strength of the class-based structures in more recent society and emphasise the individual’s ability and need to reflect and construct his or her own identity.[7] A common feature of most of these consumption theories is that they focus strongly on the communicative aspects of conspicuous consumption, but a recent body of research from among others Allan Warde and Elisabeth Shove has opposed this, stating that a major part of our consumption is mundane, ordinary and is based upon routine [5,8]. The work presented in this paper follows this line, focusing on how routines of everyday consumption emerge, develop and change, and focusing on the role that routines have in establishing a secure and livable everyday life, where we are not compelled to do the overwhelming task of reflecting on every single act [9]. Sociology has only superficially engaged in the description of routines; however, both Giddens and Bourdieu have worked with routines in their endeavours to exceed the structure-actor dualism [10]. Regardless of some significant differences between the two theorists, it may be argued that their understandings of practices and of routines resemble each other [10,11]. Giddens calls the way actors and structures mutually form each other, the recurrent nature of social life; he sees actions as processes rather than as distinct phenomena, each with their own cause. Thus, based on a practical consciousness, we continually carry out our daily tasks, at the same time reproducing the social structures of society. Even though the agent, in Giddens view, is knowledgeable and competent, the acts also have to have both unintended consequences and unrecognised conditions. In his understanding of routines, Giddens is inspired by psychology and he explains the repetition and recognition of routines as a way of creating safety and security; thus routines help to reduce ontological insecurity. Bourdieu’s understanding of practices is closely related to the notion of habitus, which is a practical sense of how to view and divide the world. It is a sense which we are brought up with and which determines our habits and our tastes, dreams and wishes. An important aspect of the notion of habitus is how our parents’ possessions of cultural and economic capital are decisive for the constitution of habitus. In this way, the notion of class becomes an important aspect of how social structures are reshaped in the physical surroundings through the things we posses [6] and this is why it has been argued

that Bourdieu, with his notion of a class society, has too static an understanding of western societies and their mechanisms of distinction. However, the notion of habitus and its understanding of how the world is unconsciously embedded in our bodily actions from early childhood is an important contribution to the understanding of routines. Recent practice researchers, who draw on Giddens as well as Bourdieu in their descriptions of the routines of everyday life, emphasise that both body and things (or technologies) are important for understanding practice, though mind, knowledge, structure and agency should also be included (Reckwitz [11,12]). In this understanding of practice the actor is viewed more as a carrier of routines than as an independent individual and this has importance for understanding how to make individuals change their routines. The technologies are also given a much more prominent role in the theory. The most complete recent practice theory is described by Schatzki [13,14] and here we find not just a theory of practice, but also a new theoretical direction in social science [15]. According to Schatzki the understanding of the social should be based on concrete practices rather than in abstract structures, as we saw, for instance, in the theories from Bourdieu and Giddens [16]. Schatzki gives a very detailed description of how to conceptualise practices. Basically a practice is a set of doings and sayings that are organized on different levels. The practice of washing clothes for instance consists of different projects like sorting the clothes, washing them and drying them; each consisting of many possible different doings and sayings. The doings and sayings of a practice are held together by: practical understanding, rules, teleoaffective (compound of teleological and affective) structures and general understandings; and practices are social in the sense that many different people share the same practice even though they do not necessarily know each other. For instance most people in western countries take part in the same washing practice. Understanding the individual activity, Schatzki furthermore, introduces the notion of practical intelligibility, which is what directly guides the single person in his or her activities, and which of course is influenced by what holds together social practices, though this is not necessarily the same. Schatzki thus, provides a much broader vocabulary to describe practices compared to Bourdieu and Giddens. From an empirical point of view the question is whether this broader vocabulary can give us a better insight into how routines emerge, develop and change. To answer this, first of all, we have to recognise that Schatzki does not actually use the word routine himself; however, it is not difficult to interpret routines as part of projects, doings and sayings which comprise the practices. In my opinion perhaps most important in respect to an empirical understanding is the way Schatzki distinguishes between what guides the social practices and what guides the individual actions. This can provide a useful tool in analysing qualitative interviews where individuals give their own reasons for their actions and the research method thus, has to seek for the more general structures holding the social practices together. This theoretical introduction has given insight into how routines, being the often repeated, in-bodied, unconscious

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doings and sayings that are part of social practices, can be understood. From Bourdieu, Giddens and Schatzki, we understand that routines are both structured by and contribute to the maintenance of the social and cultural structures of society, and with Reckwitz we can add the importance of the technological structures as well.

3. Historic development, household technology and every day life With the introduction of new technologies, routines changed dramatically in all aspects of everyday life in the last century. In the following the author describes the outline of these historical developments with a focus on how and when the technologies entered (Danish) homes as well as on how routines in households were changed by them.1 As early as 1878, Edison announced his invention of the electric light system and his ambition that it should be available for everybody. Less than 20 years later the first households in Copenhagen had electric lights installed. This was however, only for the very few. The price of one kWh was DKK 1, which was more than double the ordinary hourly wage, and remarkably close to today’s price of DKK 1.5. In spite of the advantages of clean and safe light (compared with the dangers of open fire), it was not until after World War I that electric lights became more common than gas lights in Danish homes. However, the price was not the only obstacle; competition with the gas distributors was also part of the explanation [17]. Thus, in the first decades of the history of electric lights, people primarily encountered it (and got used to it) in public places and in production in factories, where it was effective in allowing production to continue after dark [18]. When electricity entered homes for lighting, for many years it did not change a lot in the routines of everyday life or in the physical arrangement of the lighting. Normal electric lighting would be one lamp in the middle of the room, and in the evening all family members would gather around this e like they used to do around the paraffin lamp. The need for thrift did not change together with the change of energy supply: one room and one lamp would be sufficient, and modern lighting culture with lamps as part of the indoor decoration and cosy light setting was not seen until after the 1950s [18e20]. Electricity for lighting would only become common in Danish households with a synchronous infrastructure development of grids and power stations, and soon the newly established electricity companies were interested in expanding the market for electricity by introducing household appliances. Vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and irons were available in stores in the 1920s but not in common use, so the companies launched campaigns to promote the new technologies. Display rooms, renting possibilities and demonstrations of electric 1

This historic description of how household technology entered Danish homes and how it affected the routines is available in a more detailed version in [43].


household appliances in local housewife organisations became common and popular; however the iron was the only real sales success until World War II. Scepticism from housewives concerning the advantages of the new technologies, combined with the price, was an obstacle. In this period new authorities were also established to promote and help households to use the new household appliances. Statens Husholdsningsra˚d (Danish household authorities), for instance, was established with the purpose of promoting nutrition, hygiene, economy and the technical aspect of housework [21]. The first decades after World War II were a period of collective solutions for household appliances. Cold stores often organized as cooperatives, where households had individual space in a shared freezer, became widespread in Denmark and in the 1950s, 70% of the households in the countryside had access to a shared freezer, and also shared laundry facilities with semi-automatic washing machines were quite normal [21]. In these ways housewives slowly became convinced that, for instance, meat from a freezer was not unhealthy or that a washing machine was able to clean clothes in a hygienic way. In the 1960s and 1970s, following broader changes in social as well as physical structures, the use of refrigerators, freezers and washing machines became widespread and normal in Danish households. The changes in the social structure that are of relevance here are economic growth and women’s entry into the labour market, while the relevant changes in physical infrastructures include changes in housing and urban infrastructure, like new houses being built without a larder in the basement and new suburbs with no shops nearby. In the last 20 years tumble dryers, dishwashers and microwave ovens have also come to be considered by many families as necessary to survive stressful everyday life. The new appliances undoubtedly lightened the burden of household work; however, as feminist researchers have shown, [22,23] they also made it possible to increase the norms, for instance the frequency clothes are washed and separate dishes for individual family members. The way everyday life routines changed with the introduction of the household appliances can be read in 30 qualitative interviews with women born in the 1920s and 1930s on how they experienced changes in their life with appliances [21]. Most of the women describe how their washing routines almost immediately changed when they got their first washing machine. From collecting clothes for a monthly washing day of hard work, most of them tell that they began to wash more often and to wash much more. For the refrigerator, the routines that changed related to the daily shopping. However, many women report that they did not change immediately after having the fridge. For many of the women it was the combination of both having a fridge and moving from the city-centre to a suburb with fewer shopping possibilities that together caused the change, or the fact that deliveries of milk and other foodstuffs became rare. The latest development in energy consumption in households is seen within information and communication technology (ICT). The radio was established in Denmark in the 1920s and already before World War II about 80% of Danish households had a radio. Television followed with its official


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opening in 1951 and ten years later a majority of Danish households had television ( In the 1980s the first personal computers were introduced on the market and ten years later they started becoming normal in Danish households. Thus it seems that the arrival of ICT in Danish homes went much smoother than that of household appliances, the reason being either that they arrived at a later stage, when people were more ready for new technology in both an economic and a cultural sense, or that the services they offered were new and interesting and not just more convenient. Like household appliances, the arrival of ICT in homes was also both strongly marketed by private companies and supported by the authorities. We see this with computers that were promoted by tax incentives for companies who gave their employees home computers, and with policies of digitalising the communication between authorities and citizens. Even more than other technologies, ICT has brought social and cultural changes. It not only made communication easier, it also fundamentally changed it [24,25]. All of the technologies in our homes have gone through phases when they were new and fascinating and when they could be used to show status and wealth. However, all of the technologies mentioned are now in a phase when they have become normal and necessary, and something which it is difficult to choose not to have. History shows that commercial interest shown by production and infrastructure companies has played an important role in the introduction of technologies, but it also shows that the authorities promoted the development. In some cases the households resisted the new technologies and were not convinced of their advantages; in other cases they were much more interested. The description above suggest that technologies offering totally new features, like ICT, are viewed both with greater interest and with less resistance from consumers, than technologies like the washing machine, which interfere directly with an old well established practice of washing clothes and with the strong cultural norms that surrounds this. In this article I am interested in how routines change, develop and stabilize together with changes in social, cultural and physical structures. This short review of technology history indicates that there is not one, but several answers to this. The routines of when, why and how much to light a room, for instance, did not change in the first many years after electric light came into households. Compared to the introduction of the washing machine, when routines changed almost immediately with the new technology, with the refrigerator it was often the combination of the new technology and changes in the urban setting that caused the changes in routines. For ICT we cannot really talk of a change in routines as here we see more development of new routines. In these changes, cultural norms often influenced how new routines developed and in this way we might see how similar norms guide very different routines, as for instance with the washing practices, norms linking the pride of the housewife with her laundry were present long after the introduction of the fully automatic washing machine. In this understanding one might interpret the social and technical structures as those

that entail the changes whereas the cultural structures (including norms) stand for the stability. However, I want to emphasise that all three aspects have to be seen as co-developing, and this is also described in much literature on socio-technical change [26,8]. 4. Intermezzo: conspicuous consumption in making a home Even though this article focuses on and highlight the routines and inconspicuous aspects of consumption, in the following I will give room for a short presentation of how making a home and buying appliances to a high degree are influenced by conspicuous consumption. The reason for this is that I find it important to note that setting the stage for everyday life routines in many ways is influenced by conspicuous consumption, even though the routines themselves have to be understood differently. The most important durable we consume, both emotionally and economically, is our home and this holds true whether it is a rented or an owned residence or whether it is an apartment or a detached house. I have elsewhere described how social class in the understanding of Bourdieu is very appropriate for understanding who lives where and in what type of house [27]. Here it is also shown how the house is something to work on, change, decorate and furnish and that this process is an important aspect in the process of appropriation, i.e. transforming the house into a home. In the process of renovating and appropriating the home, energy conditions of the house may be improved or the opposite. An analysis of how house owners use energy labels and the mandatory energy reports one gets when buying a house in Denmark, focuses on how house owners use this information [28]. From an economic and environmental perspective the most reasonable thing to do with the house would often be to improve the insulation, however, very often the first thing people do is to rebuild kitchen and bathroom. The reason for this can best be explained by the fact that one can dream of kitchens, talk about them and show them to others. Insulation of the roof has none of these qualities. So the reason not to insulate the house can indirectly be explained by conspicuous consumption theory. Through renovating the kitchen new appliances are often bought, and thereby the energy consumption from kitchen routines is strongly influenced. Buying A labels, however, does not seem to be in contradiction with other priorities, for instance for conspicuous consumption, and the A labels on the white goods may thus be considered as one of the success of greening the Danish energy consumer [4]. Furthermore it is also relevant to mention that when choosing a residence it also follows that a specific type of heating system usually attaches to the residence, depending on whether the area is heated by district heating or whether there is natural gas infrastructure, for example. In this way people in Denmark seldom really decide which type of heating they want, it just follows from their choice of residence and district. In this intermezzo I have showed with a few examples how the physical and technological staging of everyday life in the

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home may be influenced by consumer choices based on conspicuous consumption. For many of these consumer choices the consumer will have no consideration of energy or the environment, however, the choices may indirectly influence the routines and by that the amount of consumed energy in the household. 5. Using technologies e developing routines In the previous sections we have looked at the historical background for the use of technology in our homes and we have looked at how and why appliances in contemporary everyday life normally enter homes. In this section I will elaborate on how people use their different types of technology and how they develop routines while doing this. My input for this is 40 qualitative interviews with people concerning their energy consumption and everyday life. These interviews were conducted in four different research projects over the last six years and published in different ways, though none of them with specific focus on routines [29e34]. The main question to answer in the following is to what extent routines are influenced by the social or cultural structures of society, including both norms unconsciously carried from childhood, as well as influences from present technology or individual reflection, which may develop into questions like: e Do norms from childhood unconsciously influence the use of new technologies in adulthood? e Do other people influence it? e To what extent and in which situations do people reflect on their routines, and is this reflection based on input from campaigns and public policy, from economic reasoning, peer groups or something else? e To what extent do the technology and the infrastructure determine routines?

6. Comfort e heating and lighting the home In a study of 1000 identical houses with very different energy consumption it was found that one of the main explanations for the difference in heating consumption is related to the indoor temperature [32]. Thus a relevant question is why some people maintain a higher temperature than others. From the interviews we learned that people associate high or low temperatures with very different things. Some people, for instance, who like low indoor temperatures, explained that they think it is much healthier to keep temperatures low and they associate it with their active outdoor life; when you come back from a long walk you do not need a high temperature in the room as it only makes you feel lazy. On the other hand some who liked high temperatures, explained that it is much nicer and cosier with a higher temperature and they talk about some of their acquaintances who are not very good at relaxing or enjoying life: ‘If he would just turn up the heating, it would be much nicer’. Interpretations of these and other families’ statements show that the difference


primarily relates to different ideas of what a good life is and people do not take a very reflective approach to the temperature in their home, it is only in the interview situation that they start reflecting. Using Schatzki to interpret this we hear that the individual action of maintaining the temperature is guided by something that makes sense to the individual. This understanding leaves room to interpret individual differences within the same social practice of heating the house. As the houses and the heating system in the above examples are completely similar, this example also shows that even though the heating technology may influence the routines of how to heat the house, it is also open for some significant individual interpretation. The answer to the question of whether campaigns to keep low indoor temperatures have influenced the temperature level is that those who prefer to have a lower temperature also use energy consumption as an argument. Many of those interviewed refer to experiences back in the energy crisis in the early 1970s, where they recall making a conscious choice to lower the indoor temperature. Those liking a higher temperature, however, in the interview situation may feel that they have to defend that they go against the recommendations, though in their everyday life this does not seem to influence their behaviour. Another aspect of energy consumption related to heating is connected with the routines of how to regulate the valve of the radiator. Here technology plays a more direct role, as the logic of district heating and thermostat valves prompts households to a specific routine which is to leave the valves in the same position all the time, only closing them when airing. In some families they tell that they do this because the caretaker tells them to do so, in other families the husband is in charge of this and decides to do it this way. Other families, however, do not understand the logic of the technology or do not think it works well, so they often turn radiators up or down and sometimes man and wife do not agree so one turns the radiator up and the other turns it down. The thermostat valve is an example of how automatic technologies that were supposed to replace daily routines can work for some people and not for others. The practice of lighting is strongly influenced by cultural norms of cosiness and interior decoration style as shown in a comparative study between Norway and Japan [35]. Lighting might, however, also be one of the cases where norms from childhood can be seen to influence the routines of adulthood. Three generations ago electricity was very expensive and one had to be careful in turning off the light when it was not needed. Before that, the technology for lighting was based on burning flames and the fire hazard together with the need for thrift required a practice of never leaving the light on when leaving a room. In most of the interviews I have done on energy consumption, people reflected very much on whether they thought they are good or bad at turning off the light, even if I never really asked this question. Most people seem to reflect more on lighting than on all the other aspects of their electricity consumption, which is not very rational as lighting on average accounts for less than 15% of the total electricity consumption in Danish households [34]. A reason


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might of course be that lighting is the most visible part of electricity consumption, however, based on my interviews I think this explanation has to be combined with the explanation that norms related to turning off the light have been passed on from one generation to the next. 7. Hygiene e washing clothes and drying Washing clothes is still primarily a female domain, not that women necessarily do all the laundry, but in the sense that their norms often rule the standards of how to launder [36,37]. Women’s washing practices may be influenced by norms inherited from their mothers on the importance of cleanliness, but the routines of how the laundering is actually done will often have changed, because of new technologies in washing machines, in washing powder and in types of fabric [8]. However the washing machine might also be reinterpreted and used for other purposes than for cleaning dirty clothes. A mother of three teenagers explained how she washes three to four full loads every day, the reason being that it is the easiest way to handle the clothes of her children and husband, who all do a lot of sport and every day carry home sports bags with wet towels and track suits used only once and not really dirty. However she finds it easier to put everything into the washing machine and the dryer afterwards than finding a place in the bathroom to dry the towels and remembering which belongs to whom. She even explained that they have thought of buying one more washing machine to increase their washing capacity. Also other families explained that once clothes are out of the wardrobe, the only way back is through the washing machine, regardless of whether they are dirty or not. These are examples of how new routines emerge while reinterpreting technologies. As this frequent washing actually requires quite a lot of work, it is interesting that very few of the mothers question the amount and necessity of the washing. Also it is noteworthy that very few consider the environmental cost of the washing, even if the family in other domains reflects on their environmental performance. If the family links washing and the environment, they do so in line with the public campaigns which have focused on ‘filling the machine’ and ‘keeping a lower temperature’. However no public campaign has ever focused on questioning how often clothes need to be washed. Having a washing machine or not seldom really comes into question. However, the tumble dryer is a much more debatable technology, which some think is indispensable and others find unnecessary. Some have one and use it for all their clothes, others explain that they only use it for beddings and towels because it softens them, while they dry the rest on a line; others again do not use it for their nice clothes because it spoils them, but use it for the rest because they find it easier. Those without a tumble dryer state that having no dryer does not present a problem, and some of them find that it is a waste of energy and money. Some also explained that clothes dried outside in the open air smell much better. As we can hear, the tumble dryer can be interpreted and used in many different ways and, as described by the understanding of practical intelligibility from Schatzki, individuals give quite different explanations

for their actions, even though we still might be able to recognise these variations as belonging to a common social practice of laundering. From an environmental perspective these differences in the practice of drying clothes might be very relevant, as the use of a tumble dryer consumes quite a lot of energy. On the basis of the interviews, the main explanation for why some people use more energy than others on tumble dryers seems to relate to norms of consumption (if they like to save or to spend) and norms of what is easy and what is necessary. In this case the norms may be based on reflection, come from childhood, or more likely a mixture of both. 8. Cooking e storing food and preparing meals On the one hand, cooking is ruled by norms from childhood concerning what and how to eat, including the norm that one should have a ‘proper’ hot meal in the evening. On the other hand, the supply of new exotic foods and so-called convenience foods, combined with changed everyday lives following women’s entry on the labour market, have entailed big changes in food culture [38]. This also means that only some of the norms and routines of contemporary everyday life come from the childhood of todays adult. As an example of different routines related to food, the use of microwave ovens and freezers may be illustrative. Historically, the freezer has been seen in rather different ways. First as a utility for preserving home products, then as a link in the industry of the frozen food market, and lastly as a tool for the convenient food market [39]. In line with this, contemporary use of the freezer shows large variations. In my interviews an old couple told how they primarily use the freezer to extend the season when they can use fruit from their garden. A couple, who had taken early retirement because of illness and who had a very poor financial situation, told how they use the freezer to hunt for the cheapest offers. A young career woman alone with a small child and a tight time schedule explained that the freezer allows her to shop only once a week, and still get proper food. Families with older children told how their freezer was primarily used for ice-cream and pizzas for the children to eat when they came home from school. Finally, one family told how they just got rid of their old big freezer and only now had a quite small one. They told how they used to buy half a pig. At the time it was the ’in thing’ in their circle, but nowadays, they explained, nobody does that anymore, as everybody now prefers fresh food. It seems that very different parameters such as economy and time pressure, stages in life cycle and peer group opinions affect how people use a freezer. Feminist studies of the microwave oven have shown how it allowed the mother to prepare individual dishes for different family members, [22] and other studies have shown how the freezer and the microwave oven together constitute the home technology link of convenient food [39,40]. My interviews can add to this that people may buy the microwave oven with one purpose, but once installed in the house routines develop differently. A woman told how her husband wanted the microwave oven as a popcorn machine, which she thought was

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rather useless, but after he bought it, she started to use it for heating leftovers and sometimes also for defrosting food, which she had a bad conscience about doing, however, as she was concerned about the environment. 9. ICT e communication and entertainment Routines with regard to computers are certainly not something people carry with them from their childhood. Adults have often learned to use the computer in their job, and bring this knowledge with them to their everyday life, whereas children have normally learned how to use their computer through playing on it. Studies among teenagers show that there are greater variations in the ways teenagers use their ICT than there is in their possession of ICT [31]. Thus being a ‘normal’ teenager in Denmark implies having a mobile phone, television, hi-fi, and often also a personal computer. However the interviews show that there is great variation in the use of this ICT, from having everything turned on almost all the time to not really finding it interesting [31]. In the same study families explained how they use and place their computers. Some have an office-like place for one or two computers where those using the computers can be separated from other activities in the house. Other families have computers in the living room or in the kitchen because they want the use of computers to be an integrated part of family life, regardless of whether they are used for entertainment or for information seeking. Furthermore some have personal computers, some have only one or two shared by the whole family, but there are also families where they have as many computers as family members but do not have them or place them as personal computers. One reason for this was that the computers had different ages, and consequently different capacities, the logic being that the best computer should not be reserved for one person, but for the activities that require the most capacity. Studying ICT we see that routines change very fast. Families tell that for instance videos and consoles (Play station, etc.) were used frequently some years ago when they were new and interesting, but now the interest and fashion have faded, and often the sets are just left standing and are very seldom used, if at all. Thus much ICT consumes more than 90% of its energy while in standby mode and only a minor percentage of electricity consumption derives from actual use [33]. A study of how families react to information on standby consumption, and to technical devices that automatically turn off standby, shows that for some families and for some types of standby consumption it is very easy for people to change their daily routines on turning appliances on and off. This is typically the case if reflections on the new information merge with previous norms of consuming and saving, and if the technological design of the appliances makes it easy to do [33]. Thus if reflection, norms and technology point towards the same changes, they are more likely to happen than if only one of the factors is present. Even though much ICT is new, the use of it might be regulated partly on norms relating to the parents’ childhood. The ways to discuss and regulate children’s use of computers may


resemble discussions on the use of televisions in their parents’ childhood, and also the regulation of children’s use of mobile phones may resemble earlier use of the traditional telephone. And this holds true even though studies show how the mobile phone has been reinterpreted by users and today the mobile should be viewed as something very different from the ordinary telephone [41,42]. 10. Conclusion In this article, on the one hand, I have focused on how social practices are collectively shared and develop in a society together with social, cultural and physical structures. On the other hand, I have also showed how within these social practices there is space for individual differences in the routines making up these practices. Small daily routines like shutting of standby consumption, drying clothes on a clothes line rather that in the dryer and keeping a lower indoor temperature may actually be decisive for the size of energy consumption in a household and thus for the household’s CO2 emissions. Analyses show that similar households in similar houses can have energy consumptions that differ by 100% for this type of routine [29,32]. In the theoretical background I have described that routines are the often repeated, in-bodied, unconscious doings and sayings, which are part of broader social practices, including cooking, lighting and washing. As these routines and practices are developed together with social, cultural and physical infrastructures, changes in routines follow from broader structural changes. However, as we see individual differences in routines within the same structures, from an environmental perspective a relevant question is how we can promote these variations in the most sustainable direction and whether, for instance, public campaigns have an influence. Based on the interviews presented in this article the answer is that campaigns may have an influence and especially if technological design, cultural norms or social organisations do not pull in opposite directions. There are thus examples on how people through conscious decisions change their routines in a more sustainable direction, for instance by shutting of standby power. In the article it has been shown how norms from childhood concerning for instance cleanliness or attitudes towards being a saver or a spender, may influence today’s behaviour. These norms carried from childhood may thus be part of today’s cultural structures and thus part of an explanation of how today’s routines are constructed. It is, however, important to emphasise that it is not the routines per se that are carried over from childhood, as there have been pronounced changes within technology and social as well as other aspects of cultural structures which have also had a vast impact on today’s routines. Technologies are often the cause of the change of routines. Not as technological determinism, as development of technology is in itself a social construction, but as the direct reason for the inertia of the routines being overcome. New technologies always demand a change in routines, as routines often involve daily practical handling of the material things


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that surround us, and if the material things change, the routines also have to change. Therefore, it is also obvious to think of the users’ routines already in the design of technologies. However, we also see that users often rethink and reshape the technologies in ways that were not predicted by the designers. The social relations in which routines develop also have significance for the development of the routines. We have, for example, seen that primarily the norms of women concerning cleanliness and food are important for these routines, whereas it is more often the norms of men or caretakers that influence the routines for regulating heating. Finally, the whole organisation of everyday life is most important for the construction of routines, as routines are the smallest parts of the social organisation of everyday life. This kind of understanding might thus be relevant from a sustainable consumption and production perspective as it indicates the importance of social and cultural aspects in the consumption and use phases of technologies. In designing and disseminating sustainable technology and in preparing information campaigns, this has to be taken into account, however, at the same time this also means that social engineering of peoples’ behaviour is not possible (or desirable). What is possible is to investigate what parts of social, cultural and technological structures draw daily practices and routines in a more or less sustainable direction, and thus work on policies, education, information, and new technologies which enable us to move towards a more sustainable society. References [1] Miller D, editor. Acknowledging consumption: a review of new studies. London: Routledge; 1995. [2] Corrigan P. The sociology of consumption. London: Sage; 1997. [3] Featherstone M. Consumer, culture and post-modernism. London: Sage; 1991. [4] Haunstrup Christensen T, Godskesen M, Gram-Hanssen K, Quitzau M-B, Røpke I. Greening the danes? experience with consumption and environment policies. Journal of Consumer Policy. Available from: http://; 2007 [accessed 13.04.2007]. [5] Gronow J, Warde A, editors. Ordinary consumption. Berkshire, UK: Harwood Academic Publishers; 2001. [6] Bourdieu P. Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste. Cambridge: Polity Press; 1984. [7] Giddens A. The consequences of modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press; 1990. [8] Shove E. Comfort, cleanliness and convenience. The social organization of normality. Oxford and New York: Berg; 2003. [9] Ilmonen K. Sociology, consumption and routine. In: Gronow J, Warde A, editors. Ordinary consumption. Berkshire, UK: Harwood Academic Publishers; 2001. [10] Warde A. Consumption and theories of practice. Journal of Consumer Culture 2005;5(2):131e53. [11] Reckwitz A. Toward a theory of social practices. European Journal of Social Theory 2002;5(2):243e63. [12] Reckwitz A. The status of the ‘material’ in theories of culture. From ‘social structure’ to ‘artefact’. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 2002;32:195e217. [13] Schatzki TR. Social practices. A Wittgensteinian approach to human activity and the social. Cambridge: University Press; 1996.

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