The circulate project aims to explore the design of digital service platforms for resource communities. Digital technologies, however, are not politically and ideologically neutral. They present affordances that could challenge existing value sets and raise questions about ethics, privacy, and the sociopolitical implications of new forms of distributed authority.
In order to explore which values should be given a role and made explicit within the design of these platforms, and explore the empirical situation within resource communities we have, alongside literary and field research, designed several probes. The Ener-geyser is one such probe.
The Ener-geyser (or Schoonschip Geyser) is a data-driven (floating) fountain that visualises peak times: times when there is a high demand for energy on the communal energy smart-grid of an Amsterdam-based resource community called Schoonschip.
By visualising energy levels in real-time, the Geyser helps the community make decisions about when to turn on appliances, in order to achieve their agreed sustainability goals. By looking out the window, one can quickly observe the otherwise invisible state of the smart-grid.
When the fountain sprays high, there is an abundance of energy, so it is optimal to turn on appliances. A low to medium spray indicates caution, as demand is headed toward a peak. When the fountain is off, there is a peak – thus it is not optimal to use energy.
In emerging energy communities, peak times can deviate from normal peak times on the larger power-net. These neighbourhoods are often made up of freelancers working from home, and residents are aware (and perhaps willing to adjust) their energy behaviour for the sake of sustainability.
The data used to run the geyser is already being collected by Spectral, the designers of this smart grid. The geyser simply makes the data visible for residents, using the natural resources available on location. This empowers people to make choices about when (or not) to access energy from the shared system.
Ener-geyser is a pilot designed to test the effectiveness of providing insight into energy levels in real-time; and explore if based on this information, residents are willing to adjust their behaviours to help meet collective sustainability goals.