Flexibility Reading Rooms
We are organising a series of three online ‘reading rooms’:  These are on the topics of Conceptualising Flexibility (July); Seasonality (October) and Contingency (December).  Around 15 participants will be invited to discuss a paper,  shorter notes and/or snippets of data – on the topic in hand.  These discussions will be recorded and made available as podcasts online.


Conceptualising Flexibility 28th July 2020, 12:30-14:00 UK time
The Flexibility team was joined by an interdisciplinary group (engineers, physicists, social scientists) from around the world (Norway, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Japan) to discuss a recently published article by Stanley Blue, Elizabeth Shove, and Peter Forman in Time and Society  Conceptualising Flexibility: Challenging Representations of Time and Society in the Energy Sector.

You can listen to the recording here:

The discussion explored different ideas arising from the article.

One theme was the relational status of the concepts of fixity and flexibility, and how the meaning of these terms changes depending on what is being described, and from what point of view. For example, while meal times might appear more flexible that they were 50 years ago, the sequences of activities in which they are set has remained relatively fixed. While a given practice appears flexible when compared to a given time-slot, its position can be quite fixed within one or more sequences of practices.

We also discussed the possibility of capturing, describing, and measuring flexibility in society when it is described in emergent and complex terms. Is this a hopeless task or not? Opinions differed.

Related to this we talked about what methods might be used to capture aspects of sequencing, synchronisation, and therefore of flexibility, for example with time-use data, by or by somehow measuring the strengthening and weakening of ties and links between practices. What could be captured described by measuring variation, change over time, extended sequences, and the effects of repetition?

The paper by Blue et al. ends by challenging experts in the energy sector to engage with more fundamental insights from social scientific studies of time – and especially with ideas about the temporal constitution of society and energy demand. The editor for Time and Society, Michelle Bastian, who also joined the session, invited people working on time and temporality to engage with issues relating to the energy sector and the environment more generally.

Seasonality, 1st October 2020. 12:30-14:00 UK time.
This event will be organised around four short presentations  designed to inspire and inform a discussion of seasonality in energy demand and in society.  These introductory talks (5-10 minutes each) will include contributions from Mikko Jalas; Dale Southerton; Jacopo Torriti and Elizabeth Shove. The participants in this reading room will then get the chance to discuss the ideas presented and think about the challenges and lines of enquiry that they open up.

A podcast of the discussion will be available after the event.  If you would like more details, contact Elizabeth Shove:

Previous Events

Journal of Energy History: Special issue on Flexibility meeting
9th-10th January 2020, Lancaster University:here you can find the results of an exercise in Picturing Flexibility

CREDS Whole Centre Workshop on Time and Flexibility
16th – 17th September 2019, Lancaster University.
Inspiring document/Background paper

A summary in the form of a collection of postcards  
More pictures from the  workshop

Flexibility Team Meetings

Flexibility team meeting: Abingdon, December 2019

Pictures from Oxford and Abingdon 

Flexibility team meeting: Matlock, April 2019
Summary of Readings


Pictures from Matlock

DEMAND/Flexibility theme workshop


Time and Flexibility: Workshop September 2018