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Streetlighting in England and Wales: New Technologies and Uncertainty in the Assemblage of Streetlighting Infrastructure

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Robert Shaw

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Abstract

To dim or not to dim? That is the choice that streetlighting engineers across the world are currently having to make. In the context of austerity politics, increased local-scale responsibility for climate-change mitigation and the emergence of technological developments, this choice of how to provide streetlighting has become newly politicised. In particular, new opportunities for streetlighting practice, including the use of efficient LED lighting and ‘computer management systems’ for controlling smart urban lighting, have emerged. This research paper draws from the concept of assemblage in order to argue that the practices of developing policy knowledge in this area of technological change need to be connected with understandings of lived experiences of infrastructure. Through interviews conducted with lighting engineers at local authorities in England, I explore the techniques and practices involved in generating the knowledge required to make choices with regards to new technologies and innovative practices. In particular, I argue that, while drawing on experiments and trials allows local authority lighting engineers to measure and understand certain features of an assemblage, it also leaves a significant gap with regards to the more tacit and experiential ways in which people engage with infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. This results in a number of uncertainties which local authority staff are aware of, but which they struggle to overcome. As such, this research comments on the difficulties inherent to understanding assemblages, and the ways in which choices are made at the intersection of energy policy, social governance, and technological innovation. This research paper draws from the concept of assemblage in order to argue that the practices of developing policy knowledge in this area of technological change need to be connected with understandings of lived experiences of infrastructure. Through interviews conducted with lighting-engineers at local authorities in England, I explore the techniques and practices involved in generating the knowledge required to make choices with regards to new technologies and innovative practices. In particular, I argue that while drawing on experiments and trials allows local authority lighting engineers to measure and understand certain features of an assemblage, it also leaves a significant gap with regards to the more tacit and experiential ways in which people engage with infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. This results in a number of uncertainties which local authority staff are aware of, but which they struggle to overcome. As such, this research comments on the difficulties inherent to understanding assemblages, and the ways in which choices are made at the intersection of energy policy, social governance and technological innovation.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Shaw R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning A

Year: 2014

Volume: 46

Issue: 9

Pages: 2228-2242

Print publication date: 01/09/2014

Acceptance date: 10/04/2014

Date deposited: 07/09/2015

ISSN (print): 0308-518X

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3409

Publisher: Pion Ltd

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1068/a130313p

DOI: 10.1068/a130313p


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