STIRring the grid: engaging energy systems design and planning in the context of urban sociotechnical imaginaries

Jennifer Richter, Abraham S D Tidwell, Erik Fisher, Thaddeus Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Since the first electrification systems were established in the United States between 1910 and 1930, energy systems governance at the municipal level has included competing visions for how engineering design and energy policy-making should foster particular social outcomes. Using Phoenix as a representative metropolitan area, and the cases of distributed generation and in-home power management devices as examples, this paper explores how the norms and values embedded in energy systems design and planning shape how residents experience change in the energy grid. Through these case studies, the authors argue that such “sociotechnical imaginaries”–collectively formed visions of social life related to science and technology development–are a crucial, yet overlooked, pathway for social science to engage in fostering socially reflexive mechanisms in energy development. To conclude, the authors outline a research program for applying the established methodology of socio-technical integration research (STIR) in order to develop socially reflexive capacities in municipal energy producing, regulating, and planning institutions. Such a program has the ability to produce a deeper intellectual understanding of how energy development occurs, and in doing so generate new pathways for fostering cultural and material changes in the structure of contemporary energy systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-384
Number of pages20
JournalInnovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017


  • electricity
  • energy
  • governance
  • imaginaries
  • integration
  • policy
  • renewables
  • smart grid
  • sociotechnical
  • urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'STIRring the grid: engaging energy systems design and planning in the context of urban sociotechnical imaginaries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this