Applying the lens of sensory ethnography to sustainable HCI

Sociological appropriations of practice theory as applied to sustainable design have successfully problematized overly simplistic and individualistic models of consumer choice and behavior change. By taking everyday practices as the principal units of analysis, they have moved towards acknowledging the socially and materially structured nature of human activity. However, to inform sustainable HCI we also need to understand how practices are part of wider experiential environments and flows of practical activity. In this article, we develop an approach rooted in phenomenological anthropology and sensory ethnography. This approach builds on theories of place, perception and movement and enables us to situate practices, and understand practical activity, as emplaced within complex and shifting ecologies of things. Drawing an ongoing interdisciplinary study of domestic energy consumption and digital media use we discuss ethnographic and design practice examples. We demonstrate how this theoretical and methodological framework can be aligned with the 3rd paradigm of HCI.