Working Paper 3: Categories, Concepts and Units: Representing energy demand in and through time

Working Paper 3: Theme 1, Jillian Anable, Ben Anderson, Elizabeth Shove, Jacopo Torriti, July 2014.

Methods of data collection are unavoidably rooted in some sort of theoretical paradigm, and are inextricably tied to an implicit agenda or broad problem framing. These prior orientations are not always explicit, but they matter for what data is collected and how it is used. They also structure opportunities for asking new questions, for linking or bridging between existing data sets and they matter even more when data is re-purposed for uses not initially anticipated.  In this paper we provide an historical and comparative review of the changing categories used in organising and collecting data on mobility/travel and time use as part of ongoing work to understand, conceptualise and describe the changing patterns of domestic and mobility related energy demand within UK society.

This exercise reveals systematic differences of method and approach, for instance in units of measurement, in how issues of time/duration and periodicity are handled, and how these strategies relate to the questions such data is routinely used to address. It also points to more fundamental differences in how traditions of research into mobility, domestic energy and time use have developed. We end with a discussion of the practical implications of these diverse histories for understanding and analysing changing patterns of energy/mobility demand at different scales.


Anable, J., Anderson, B., Shove, E. and Torriti, J. (2014) Categories, Concepts and Units: Representing energy demand in and through time. Working Paper 3, Lancaster: DEMAND Centre


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