Research

My research focuses on the relationships between technology use, social organization, and environmental concern. I am interested in how technologies interact with relations of power to shape individual perceptions and social practices, and how groups that adopt alternative technologies may relate differently to modern relations of power, the natural environment, and forms of community identity and organization. In the broadest sense, my research interests are centered on the ways in which technologies can be used to enhance self-sufficiency and community resiliency while promoting environmental sustainability. Some of my current and past research projects include:

 

 

 

 

CURRENT RESEARCH: ALTERNATIVE COMMUNITIES

Much of my current interest is in alternative communities, places in America where people are already living with alternative forms of technological organization to provide electricity, water, heat, food, transportation, and myriad other supports for residential life. In current research, I am examining intentional communities in America as social worlds in which alternative technology use intersects with social organization and practices. This research draws upon my experiences as a participant-observer to understand how individuals choose to participate in these communities and what this participation means to them in terms of technology adoption, individual action and practice, and their relationship to structures of power, the natural world, and community identity. Some of this research was conducted as part of my dissertation research, while some of the case studies have been conducted more recently. These alternative communities are described in some of my published articles and book chapters, and are also the subject of my forthcoming book, Dwelling in Resistance: Living with Alternative Technologies in America, with Rutgers University Press (in press).

                 Some examples of communities I write about include:                                                                      

                  EARTHSHIPS

P1010390Earthships are a particular model of off-grid home. Part business, part social movement, and part subculture, architect Michael Reynolds developed the Earthship concept in the 1970s and has spent the past four decades constructing Earthships with his company, Earthship Biotecture. I am interested in how Earthships can be used to understand the politics of technologies used for residential dwelling considered historically, lifestyle choices and social values of those living in Earthships, and the organizational dynamics of Earthship Biotecture. Photo by author.

                 TWIN OAKS

Twin Oaks is a labor sharing, income sharing, egalitarian community. Every                                 member is required to work the same number of hours per week and is provided                     the same material resources in exchange, although there are a lot more options for                 work than most Americans experience! Twin Oaks is interesting to me because                         they have decades of success in offering an alternative economic model in an                             efficient, walkable village where they grow much of their own food, manage their                     own water system, and treat their own waste. Most importantly, people who live at                Twin Oaks do not talk about their lives as requiring sacrifice – rather, they see their                  systems of sharing as a source of abundance!

               THE FARM

The Farm is most well known for midwifery, but the community provides a vibrant                   mix of alternative technology, alternative education, permaculture and organic                       food production, and spiritual communion and care, all in a very large natural                           setting protected as community land and preserve. For decades, community                             members have been caring for the land, the processes of birth and death, and one                 another, with a commitment to simplicity and connection. It’s a wonderful place to               visit, and a model for what rural communities could be!

               DANCING RABBIT ECOVILLAGE 

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is the most newly formed intentional community I’ve                       studied, located in rural northeastern Missouri since 1997. Community members                   abide by a series of covenants meant to represent the most environmentally                               sustainable practices and technologies, and the community operates through a                       system of voluntary cooperatives so that people can choose to share access to                         materially and economically intensive resources like kitchens, bathrooms, tools,                     and gardens. The community emphasizes the importance of social connection and                 interpersonal growth as key to sustainability, is ever evolving and has big plans to                   grow!

These are certainly not the only examples of vibrant, successful alternatives for                       living in more sustainable and connected communities in America – there are more                 possibilities than most of us ever know!

 

 

CURRENT RESEARCH: HOUSEHOLD CONSUMPTION 

With colleagues and collaborators at Michigan Tech and several other US and international institutions, I am beginning a new research project looking at household energy consumption across the nexus of food, energy, and water resources. This is part of a large, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary project that was recently funded by NSF-INFEWS, titled “Reducing Household Food, Energy and Water Consumption: A Quantitative Analysis of Interventions and Impacts of Conservation.” This project will be ongoing for the next 5 years – we’ve got a lot to learn! You can learn more here and here!

 

CURRENT RESEARCH: RESIDENTIAL SOLAR TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION AND POLICY

P1010500This research, originally part of my dissertation research and funded by an Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (EPA-STAR) fellowship, examines the motivations for residential solar technology adoption and the experiences living with solar technology systems by interviewing homeowners in Wisconsin and Colorado. This project began as part of my dissertation research, which examines the relationship between alternative technology adoption, environmental attitudes, and daily practice.

See:

Schelly, C. (2015). What’s Political about Solar Electric Technology? The User’s Perspective. Engaging Science, Technology & Society 1: 25-46.

Schelly, C. (2015). Frameworks for Understanding and Promoting Solar Energy Technology Development. Resources 4, 55-69.

Schelly, C. (2014). Implementing Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in a Two State Comparison. Energy Policy 67, 543-551.

Schelly, C. (2014). Residential Solar Electricity Adoption: What Motivates, and What Matters? A Case Study of Early Adopters. Energy Research and Social Science 2, 183-191.

Schelly, C. (2014). Transitioning to Renewable Sources of Electricity: Motivations, Policy, and Potential. Pages 62-72 in Controversies in Science and Technology, Volume 4. Edited by Daniel Lee Kleinman, Karen Cloud-Hansen, and Jo Handelsman. New York: Oxford University Press.

CURRENT RESEARCH: ENERGY CONSUMPTION AND SOCIAL PRACTICES

Theories of social practices are one way of understanding how consumption patterns are shaped by social context, suggesting that social practices can be the analytical unit of analysis for understanding the challenges and possibilities for changing habits of consumption. Some of my recent work contributes to this emerging body of scholarship. See, for example:

 Schelly, C. and Banerjee, A. (2016). Revisiting Soft Energy Paths: Politics and Practice in Energy Technology Transitions. Challenges 7, 16, doi:10.3390/challe7020016

Schelly, C. (2016) Understanding Energy Practices: A Case for Qualitative Research. Society & Natural Resources 29(6): 744-749. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2015.1089613

Schelly, C. (2016). Everyday Household Practice in Alternative Residential Dwellings: The Non-Environmental Motivations for Environmental Behavior. Pages 265-280 in The Greening of Everyday Life: Challenging Practices, Imagining Possibilities. Edited by John Meyer and Jens Kersten. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schelly, C. (2016). How Policy Frameworks Shape Environmental Practice: Three Cases of Alternative Dwelling. Pages 185-203 in Putting Sustainability into Practice: Advances and Applications of Social Practice Theories, edited by Emily Huddart Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen, and Naomi Krogman. Cheltanham, UK: Edward Elgar.

CURRENT RESEARCH: OTHER ENERGY TECHNOLOGY AND POLICY 

I have a wide range of interests in energy technology, energy use, and energy policy, and how all of these relate to environmental sustainability, community wellbeing, and social relations of power. I have worked with past mentors and continue to work with current students on tackling these related issues. A couple examples of this include:

Kreuze, A. Schelly, C, and Norman, E.S. (2016). To Frack or not to Frack: Perceptions of the Risks and Opportunities of High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States. Energy Research and Social Sciences 20: 45-54http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2016.05.010

Schelly, C. (2016). Unconventional oil and gas: Influence of politics and proximity on perceptions. Nature Energy. Invited News & Views contribution. October 6: 1-2.

Alatout, S. & Schelly, C. (2010). Bioterritorial ‘power’: the U.S. electric grid as a technology of government. Radical History Review 107, 127-138.

 

CURRENT RESEARCH: DISTRIBUTIVE MANUFACTURING

At Michigan Tech, one of my recent collaborations, in the early stages, focuses on open-source 3-D printing technologies and their potential as socially transformative tools for reorganizing production and material provisioning. Working with Dr. Joshua Pearce and his research group, I am interested in the social implications of distributive manufacturing. This research currently focuses on the potential and application of 3-D printing technologies in educational settings.  You can read about the work on 3D printing and my perspective on 3-D printing technologies here:

Schelly, C., Anzalone, G., Wijnen, B., and Pearce, J. (2015). Open-Source 3-D Printing Technologies for Empowered and Transformative Education: Bringing Additive Manufacturing to the Classroom. Journal of Visual Languages and Computing. 28 226-237.

See also: http://phys.org/news/2013-10-3d-printers-economy.html. This story was originally published by MTU and was picked up by multiple websites. I was also interviewed by the Dutch paper Weekendavisen about the social implications of 3-D printing in November, 2013. I am happy to share a pdf of the article and the Google translation, just contact me!

 

 

 

PAST PROJECT: RAINBOW GATHERINGS

Rainbow Gatherings are a temporary ritual experience that take place in National Forests across America. Based on participant-observation, my book explores the annual National Rainbow Gathering as both material and cultural ritual. The work examines how the material systems of a Rainbow Gathering (which are free, participatory, and based on the principles of leave-no-trace camping) interact with and reinforce the cultural and symbolic experiences of those who gather, and what this unique social world can teach us about the relationship between technological systems, cultural systems, and bodily practice. THIS PROJECT ABOUT RAINBOW GATHERINGS IS PUBLISHED:

Schelly, C. 2014. Crafting Collectivity: American Rainbow Gatherings and Alternative Forms of Community. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.  This book was reprinted by Routledge in 2016. The book is available from the Publishers and from Amazon.

 

PAST PROJECT: ENERGY CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

While completing my master’s degree, I was involved in a research project examining energy conservation and organizational culture within one public school district. Poudre School District, located in Fort Collins, CO, asked researchers from Colorado State University to examine why one of the high schools in the district was able to decrease its electricity consumption by 50% over just a few years in order to find a model that could be utilized in other schools throughout the district. This research involved conducting focus groups and interviews in two public high schools to understand the relationship between school culture, environmental education, and energy conservation.

To read more about this project, see:

Schelly, C., Cross, J.E., Franzen, W.S., Hall, P., & Reeve, S. (2012). How to Go Green: Creating a Conservation Culture in a Public High School through Education, Modeling, and Communication. Journal of Environmental Education. 43(3), 143-161.

Schelly, C., Cross, J.E., Franzen, W.S., Hall, P., & Reeve, S. (2011). Reducing energy consumption and creating a conservation culture in organizations: A case study of one public school district. Environment and Behavior. 43(3), 316-343.

This project in the news:

http://www.today.colostate.edu/story.aspx?id=4445

http://www.9news.com/seenon9news/article.aspx?storyid=153164&catid=509

http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20100918/NEWS01/9180377

 

PAST PROJECT: QUANTITATIVE ANALYSES OF SOLAR ADOPTION AND POLICY

During my master’s program, I worked with Dr. Sammy Zahran on a project to map, model and attempt to explain residential solar technology adoption in America. Using data on solar thermal technology adoption (the only residential solar technology data collected by the U.S. Census), we mapped adoption by county and looked at how both structural and value-related factors correspond to and help predict solar technology use. To read more about this project, see:

Schelly, C. (2010). Testing residential solar thermal adoption. Environment and Behavior. 42(2), 151-170.

Zahran, S., Brody, S.D., Vedlitz, A., Lacy, M.G., & Schelly, C. (2008). Greening energy: Explaining the geographic distribution of household solar use in the United States. Journal of the American Planning Association, 74(4), 419-434.

More recently, a collaborator and I looked at the relationship between RPS policies intended to promote renewable energy technology and actual renewable energy production, using GIS spatial techniques. To read more about this project, see:

Schelly, C., and Price, J. (2014). Utilizing GIS to Examine the Relationship Between State Renewable Portfolio Standards and the Adoption of Renewable Energy Technologies. International Journal of Geo-Information 3(1): 1-17.

 

PAST PROJECT: CITIZEN INITIATED DEMOCRACY AS COUNTER-HEGEMONY:  PROMOTING ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN THE COLORADO UTILITIES INDUSTRY (Master’s Thesis)

My MA thesis explored two means of promoting environmental sustainability through renewable energy adoption and sustainable energy practices within the Colorado utilities industry. The first, a 2004 ballot initiative, approved the first renewable energy standard (RPS) to be passed by direct vote. The second, a form of citizen mobilization, is emerging within one of the three types of Colorado electric utilities. This study explores both in detail and then compares them in order to explore the relationship between democracy and the promotion of environmental sustainability.