Laura Watts

Laura Watts is a poet, writer, ethnographer of futures, and Interdisciplinary Senior Lecturer in Energy and Society at the Institute of Geography at the University of Edinburgh. As a science and technology studies scholar she has explored the effect of “edge” landscapes on how the future is imagined and made. She is coauthor of Ebban an' Flowan, the world's first poetic primer for marine renewable energy, and in 2017 she won the International Cultural Innovation Prize with the Reconstrained Design Group for a community-built energy storage device designed from scrap.

  • Energy at the End of the World

    Energy at the End of the World

    An Orkney Islands Saga

    Laura Watts

    Making local energy futures, from marine energy to hydrogen fuel, at the edge of the world.

    The islands of Orkney, off the northern coast of Scotland, are closer to the Arctic Circle than to London. Surrounded by fierce seas and shrouded by clouds and mist, the islands seem to mark the edge of the known world. And yet they are a center for energy technology innovation, from marine energy to hydrogen fuel networks, attracting the interest of venture capitalists and local communities. In this book, Laura Watts tells a story of making energy futures at the edge of the world.

    Orkney, Watts tells us, has been making technology for six thousand years, from arrowheads and stone circles to wave and tide energy prototypes. Artifacts and traces of all the ages—Stone, Bronze, Iron, Viking, Silicon—are visible everywhere. The islanders turned to energy innovation when forced to contend with an energy infrastructure they had outgrown. Today, Orkney is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, established in 2003. There are about forty open-sea marine energy test facilities in the world, many of which draw on Orkney expertise. The islands generate more renewable energy than they use, are growing hydrogen fuel and electric car networks, and have hundreds of locally owned micro wind turbines and a decade-old smart grid. Mixing storytelling and ethnography, empiricism and lyricism, Watts tells an Orkney energy saga—an account of how the islands are creating their own low-carbon future in the face of the seemingly impossible. The Orkney Islands, Watts shows, are playing a long game, making energy futures for another six thousand years.

    • Hardcover $35.00 £27.00

Contributor

  • Making Futures

    Making Futures

    Marginal Notes on Innovation, Design, and Democracy

    Pelle Ehn, Elisabet M. Nilsson, and Richard Topgaard

    Experiments in innovation, design, and democracy that search not for a killer app but for a collaboratively created sustainable future.

    Innovation and design need not be about the search for a killer app. Innovation and design can start in people's everyday activities. They can encompass local services, cultural production, arenas for public discourse, or technological platforms. The approach is participatory, collaborative, and engaging, with users and consumers acting as producers and creators. It is concerned less with making new things than with making a socially sustainable future. This book describes experiments in innovation, design, and democracy, undertaken largely by grassroots organizations, non-governmental organizations, and multi-ethnic working-class neighborhoods.

    These stories challenge the dominant perception of what constitutes successful innovations. They recount efforts at social innovation, opening the production process, challenging the creative class, and expanding the public sphere. The wide range of cases considered include a collective of immigrant women who perform collaborative services, the development of an open-hardware movement, grassroots journalism, and hip-hop performances on city buses. They point to the possibility of democratized innovation that goes beyond solo entrepreneurship and crowdsourcing in the service of corporations to include multiple futures imagined and made locally by often-marginalized publics.

    Contributors Måns Adler, Erling Björgvinsson, Karin Book, David Cuartielles, Pelle Ehn, Anders Emilson, Per-Anders Hillgren, Mads Hobye, Michael Krona, Per Linde, Kristina Lindström, Sanna Marttila, Elisabet M. Nilsson, Anna Seravalli, Pernilla Severson, Åsa Ståhl, Lucy Suchman, Richard Topgaard, Laura Watts

    • Hardcover $42.00 £33.00
    • Paperback $35.00 £18.00
  • Subversion, Conversion, Development

    Subversion, Conversion, Development

    Cross-Cultural Knowledge Exchange and the Politics of Design

    James Leach and Lee Wilson

    Explorations of design, use, and reuse of information technology in diverse historical and cultural contexts.

    This book explores alternative cultural encounters with and around information technologies. These encounters are alternative because they counter dominant, Western-oriented notions of media consumption; they include media practices as forms of cultural resistance and subversion, “DIY cultures,” and other nonmainstream models of technology production. The contributors—leading thinkers in science and technology studies, anthropology, and software design—pay special attention to the specific inflections that different cultures and communities give to the value of knowledge. The richly detailed accounts presented here challenge the dominant view of knowledge as a neutral good—information available for representation and encoding but separated from all social relations.

    The chapters examine specific cases in which the forms of knowledge and cross-cultural encounters are shaping technology use and development. They consider design, use, and reuse of technological tools, including databases, GPS devices, books, and computers, in locations that range from Australia and New Guinea to Germany and the United States.

    Contributors Poline Bala, Alan Blackwell, Wade Chambers, Michael Christie, Hildegard Diemberger, Stephen Hugh-Jones, James Leach, Jerome Lewis, Dawn Nafus, Gregers Petersen, Marilyn Strathern, David Turnbull, Helen Verran, Laura Watts, Lee Wilson

    • Hardcover $64.00 £50.00
    • Paperback $32.00 £25.00