About the author

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I am an interdisciplinary researcher who is interested in how sociotechnical systems emerge, evolve, function and distribute resources (wealth, work, time, access, agency, power etc.) within society. Specifically I want to know whether and how these systems can be managed to transition to a low-carbon, high wellbeing economy. I love the history of sociotechnical transitions because it’s just so interesting, but also looking back  helps us understand where we are, how things work, where we went wrong and where we want to go. Historical research also has the potential to challenge received wisdom – wisdom passed down, but never questioned. This is especially important for the ‘super wicked problem‘ (very complex, very interdependent, very persistent) of climate change and environmental sustainability more broadly.

A sociotechnical system is the complex interactions of economic, cultural, technological, ecological and institutional subsystems. In other words, it takes a constructivist view that ‘gadgets and gizmos’, like an internal combustion engine, coevolve with society, shape and are shaped by the world we live in.

Understanding technology within a sociotechnical system is at the heart of ‘why the magic bullet misses’ thesis. Our ability to foresee why technologies (I use this term loosely to include gadgets, gizmos, policy interventions, business models, financial mechanisms) often result in unintended consequences, good and bad, can only be enhanced by considering the social, political, cultural and economic context within which they occur. But this isn’t just about context, it is about understanding the dynamic relationship between these factors. The elements that make up a sociotechnical system are never static, although as a whole, the system may appear to be so. The sociotechnical system perspective can also help understand technological lock-in and why some incumbents are so resistant to change.

From my research, it is clear that there is no one solution to the challenges we face today. Social innovation is just as, if not more important than the quick technological fix. I don’t dismiss technological innovation per se. But I believe that understanding how a sociotechnical system distributes resources to society and who in society is central to our appraisal of it. This systemic approach is also probably one of the few tools we have help guide and manage a transition to a low carbon economy without the enormous and long-lasting social fallout of past energy transitions.

I started out as an Atmospheric Physicists completing a PhD at Imperial College, London in 2007. I then worked as a ‘think-tanker’ at nef (the new economics foundation), where I led research for the Climate Change and Energy team for six years. In February 2013 I moved to Cardiff University to pursue research into historical energy transitions, and give myself the chance to finally try and tackle my growing stack of notebooks filled with questions that I gathered whilst working at nef but never had  time to really think about. As of September 2014, I moved to Manchester to work with leading scholar of sociotechincal transitions, Professor Frank Geels at the Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester.

My notebooks keep growing, and I now have more questions than ever before. But what keeps me going is that the economy is broken, and I want to know how to fix it and support a transition to a low carbon, high well-being economy for all before we fry.

I live in Manchester, am a keen cellist, pilates addict and love running, windsurfing and sailing big boats.

The views expressed in the blog are my own.

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