Hosted by the Communication Institute at the University of Utah, the summer symposium is themed “Energy Democracy: Creating a Research Agenda.” This symposium will develop a new interdisciplinary research program on energy democracy, which refers to an emerging movement among members of the public, local government entities, and non-governmental organizations that re-imagines energy consumers as prosumers, or innovators, designers and analysts who are involved in decisions at every stage of energy production and consumption.The goal of the symposium is to chart out a new research agenda in energy democracy that:
1) fosters collaboration between scholars in Communication, STS, and interdisciplinary energy studies;
2) results in a white paper that identifies research streams in energy democracy; and
3) and prioritizes transdisciplinary scholarship that seeks to bridge divides between academia, local energy practitioners, and publics.
The research agenda that will be developed in this workshop brings together scholarship
in energy communication, democratic theory, interdisciplinary energy studies, and
publicly-engaged STS research to discover ways to encourage more participatory democracy
in relation to energy policy in the United States. The primary intellectual merit
of this project is to forge a new line of research that empirically examines energy
democracy practitioners and develops practical theory that advances democratic decision-making
in relation to energy policy. This research program highlights the crucial contribution
that social scientific and humanities research has on understanding energy democracy,
and more broadly the sociopolitical dimensions of energy policy. It will create new
networks between communication, STS, and interdisciplinary energy scholarship, particularly
as related to energy decision-making, the relationship between technology and democracy,
and the sociopolitical aspects of energy in the context of broader environmental trends.
The broader impact of this project is to create a research program that addresses
energy, which is one of the most profound sustainability challenges facing society.
The workshop will initiate a research program that can help people to better understand
the linkages between energy development and democratic process.
Expanding social demands on energy systems beyond access, reliability, and affordability to include a suite of environmental and economic benefits, along with technological innovation, has fundamentally altered the configuration of citizens who can directly influence shifts in energy systems. Amidst these sometimes chaotic changes, democratic ideals, including the importance of public engagement in energy decisions, have contributed to an emerging movement for energy democracy. Yet, research on the empirical and theoretical development of energy democracy lags behind this growing movement among publics and energy practitioners. This workshop will develop a sustained research program that investigates the broad range of actors, democratic values, democratic functions, and governance sites that are involved in the practice of energy democracy. By bringing together a range of scholars, local energy practitioners, and publics, the workshop will initiate a lively conversation about energy democracy and its potential as an academic area of study. Specifically, this workshop will: 1) foster better collaboration between STS, communication, and interdisciplinary energy scholars; 2) result in a white paper and special issue in an open-source journal; and 3) prioritize transdisciplinary scholarship that seeks to bridge divides between academia, local energy practitioners, and publics. The products of this workshop will be broadly disseminated to both academic and public audiences through a symposium website, and will be incorporated into ongoing programs of teaching and mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students in research on energy related topics. The workshop will also broaden participation of women and underrepresented groups in this research area.
The symposium is also being supported by funding from the College of Humanities and the National Communication Association.
Learn more about the upcoming Energy Democracy Symposium here.