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Communicating Material Cultures of Energy: Five Challenges for Energy Communication


This project aims to contribute to sustainable energy use by addressing communication-related challenges in the energy and culture sector through multidisciplinary discussions and activities.


This is a follow-on project from the AHRC-funded ‘Material Cultures of Energy’ project (MCE, 2014–2017), which examined how modern energy consumption transformed daily life during the 20th century.

It will engage with the process of communicating energy-related knowledge and information by collaborating with energy communicators in energy companies, government offices, community energy groups, museums and research organisations.


October 2018

The project organised an ‘Energy Quiz’ event as part of the ‘Power: Late’ at the Museum of Science & Industry. This event combined a quiz with the following short talks on how energy has been promoted through the twentieth century through various communication media:

  • Rebecca Wright (University of Northumbria) talked about ‘the music of electricity’ taking the example of Woody Guthrie’s Roll on Columbia.
  • Jan Hicks (Museum of Science & Industry) presented on the Manchester Corporation’s all-electric demonstration houses in the 1920s.
  • Hiroki Shin’s talk introduced the ‘Battle for Fuel’ exhibition during the Second World War.

December 2018

  • The project will host a study event for Saijo High School (Japan).
  • The project will hold the first knowledge exchange session on ‘object-based’ energy communication.


  • Power, Energy and International Cooperation: A History of the World Energy Council, 1923–2018 (with Rebecca Wright and Frank Trentmann) (Oekom, forthcoming in 2019).
  • ‘Energy/Culture: A Reading Guide for Historical Literature’, Science Museum Group Journal, 9, Special Issue ‘Cultures of Energy’ (2018).
  • 'Making Material and Cultural Connections: The Fluid Meaning of "Living Electrically" in Japan and Canada 1920-1960’ (with Heather Chappells), Science Museum Group Journal 9, Special Issue ‘Cultures of Energy’ (2018).
  • ‘At the Edge of the Network of Power in Japan, c.1910s–1960s’, in Simone Abram, Tom Yarrow and Brit Ross Wintherik (eds.), Electrifying Anthropology (Bloomsbury, forthcoming in 2019).
  • ‘Living with Energy Shortages: Distributional Conflict and the Politics of Time between the Second World War and the First Oil Crisis, 1973’, (with Frank Trentmann), in J. Brewer, N. Fromer and F. Trentmann (eds.), Scarcity in the Modern World: History, Politics, Society and Sustainability, 1800–2075 (Bloomsbury, 2018).

  • Birkbeck College, University of London
  • EDF Energy
  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem)
  • The Behavioural Insights Team
  • Community Energy England
  • Carbon Co-op
  • University of Salford