Book Review: Midden, Kaiser, McCalley (2007)

January 31, 2008

Midden, C.J. H., Kaiser, F., and McCalley, T. (2007). Technology's Four Roles in Understanding Individuals' Conservation of Natural Resources. Journal of Social Issues 63 (1): 155-174

The article points to four ways in which humans and technology interact that are important for resource conservation. Technology acts as an intermediary when more or less resource-conserving technologies are used for the same kinds of activities. Technology serves as an amplifier when it augments humans' possibilities to consume more natural resources by enabling new or more activities. Technology serves as a "determinant" when system designs afford or constrains certain kinds of behaviour. Technologies can also promote resource-conserving consumption patterns by, for example, providing feedback on behaviour (e.g. "smart metering"). The authors argue that the trend has been for humans to increasingly allocate control to self-regulatory technological systems, but that the right balance should be found between autonomy and control allocation. They argue that an intergrative, multidisciplinary approach is needed for designing policy interventions that help to conserve natural resources.

The arguments in this article are not very novel, but they are presented in a systematic manner. The overall conclusion supports the aims of the Changing Behaviour project.