Women’s imagined energy futures: Methodological revision

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationAcademic


When academics and policy makers achieved to include gender in energy research and policies, they mostly relied on traditional qualitative methods such as interviews and observations to gain insights into imagined futures. However, as important as these are to collect the voices of women, men and non-binary people to transform our current energy systems, they seem insufficient when it comes to uncovering people’s imagined worlds rather than solely isolated elements pre-determined by policy desires or research funding calls.

In my PhD I used concepts such as socio-technical imaginaries, futures, energy justice, energy sovereignty and intersectionality. I also used a storytelling method to place the voices and visions of vendors at the center of the future of Mexico City’s public markets and their energy systems. Vendors were invited to collectively produce a fictional story of a market in 2050, using messaging apps to collect pieces of the stories as the COVID-19 pandemic was critical at that moment. The stories opened by detailing the imagined story world and the energy systems that powered it. Then, they moved to events that could change those worlds and provided a description of who participated and how. Finally, the storytelling method closed with a short face-to-face conversation about the created visions of the future, acquiring a deeper understanding of the participants’ sense-making.

I found that vendors envisioned strong female characters who work at the markets and who collaborate with other vendors to make markets better places in the future. Vendors imagined themselves as agents of their own futures and envisioned more equal relations between women and men. Next to the plot of the story, characteristics of the marketplaces and their energy systems in the future were narrated. Many stories envisioned off-grid and decentralized renewable energy systems that power commercial activities and activities such as care work. I also found the processes that vendors envisioned which could be considered when energy projects in marketplaces are discussed and agreed on.

What was found in the process of using storytelling as a method, is that people do not need to ‘speak energy’ in order to express complex ideas about energy futures. On the contrary, it was confirmed that everybody has a story to tell, especially when it is their own story.

During the international symposium ”Digital Energy Futures. Energy, Automation, Anticipation” at Monash University, I would present my method and to examine the pros and cons of such an approach. Furthermore, I will take time to discuss some of the results obtained by using storytelling in energy research. Doing this, I am hopeful that the storytelling method used could be employed to support energy transitions research and planning across local and regional scales. Not just that, but I also hope to connect with and learn from other researchers who are employing non-traditional research methods in future-focused energy social science.
Period21 Feb 2023
Event titleDigital Energy Futures International Symposium: Energy, Automation, Anticipation
Event typeConference
LocationMelbourne, AustraliaShow on map