Opening the electrome : redefining home for energy studies through design practice

Karthikeya Acharya

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


This design thesis presents a field-based practice as inquiry, for prototyping, and as a form of discrete activism. It builds on four prior approaches from design, art and architecture: Empathic Design, Interrogative Design, Relational Aesthetics and Critical Regionalism. Positioning the thesis as an issue-based design study, it is presented as a piece of practice-based energy research. It approaches domestic energy use measures as information and conceptualizes such measures as holding both an ecological and an informational concern. This coupling within domestic energy use measures becomes the subject for design practice. Based on this coupling, referring to on-going changes within domestic energy systems and viewing the home from three different theoretical positions, the thesis presents a hypothetical construct of the home, referring to it as the Electrome. Against this background, the study introduces its first field-based research within the Indian domestic context. Using interviews and design exercises with Indian apartment residents, the study demonstrates that as dwellers give meanings to their domestic appliances, artefacts and electro-home, these artefacts contain and hold a number of social relations. In this context, the flow of energy into domestic appliances, artefacts and the home allows energy use to be seen as information. When such information is combined with the social relations inferred from domestic artefacts, a conception of dwelling with data emerges. This is presented as a characteristic of the Electrome. Proceeding with two further field studies, the design practice prototypes a series of domestic services based on energy information, resulting in making people’s private energy use information public. By “opening” the private energy use measures of appliances, artefacts and the home by design, the practice firstly infers and presents the social relations and orders contained within the homes and their inherent intertwining with everyday energy practices. Secondly, the opening of energy use measures as design practice presents how otherwise latent larger social concerns that go beyond the walls of the home emerge. Then, calling for a difference at the scale of the electro as a universal technology, in order to negotiate control of the material agency within everyday dwelling, the design practice demonstrates a design tactic termed the de-electrofication of data. With these results from the design practice as inquiry, for prototyping, and as activism, the thesis demonstrates that practicing design can generate multiple agendas as coherent action.
Translated title of the contributionOpening the electrome : redefining home for energy studies through design practice
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Keinonen, Turkka, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6399-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6400-0
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • energy studies
  • design studies
  • domestic energy use
  • measurement

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