SoCS: Theoretical Frameworks and Socio-Technical Systems for Fostering Smart Communities in Smart Grid Environments



Energy sustainability is a theme of national and worldwide importance. Smart-Grid environments are focused on creating and using information and communication technologies to support new and potentially more sustainable ways of producing, transmitting, distributing, and consuming electricity. This project focuses on creating a socio-computational system that enables citizens to make informed choices about their energy consumption, share their decisions with others and visualize the consequences of their own actions.

New social-computational systems are needed to facilitate this sort of citizen engagement with the energy economy because (1) most citizens are unaware of these new technological developments; (2) information presentation is poorly designed; and (3) the social context of individual energy use is ignored resulting in few social interactions and collaborations. All of these challenges lie at the intersection of human behavior (both individual and social levels) and technology.

Intellectual Merit: The two overarching goals of this project are (a) the creation of transformative theoretical frameworks for understanding social-computational foundations for these settings, making our methodologies, components, architectures, requirements, and guidelines applicable to a large number of other social-computational systems (for example, smart cities and health-care) and (b) the development of human-centered systems for fostering smart communities in Smart-Grid environments that will turn passive consumers of energy into informed, active decision makers.

Broader Impacts: The project will lead to new tools and strategies to increase the use of Smart-Grid technologies, thereby reducing overall national energy usage and dependence on foreign energy sources. In addition, the project will make strides in including and supporting the ability of marginal and underrepresented populations to use these technologies, thereby avoiding a digital-energy divide. The Principle Investigators are working with the El Pueblo Mágico after-school effort at Sanchez Elementary School in Lafayette, Colorado, to engage students and their families in fostering energy awareness and responsibility, providing broader views on end-user energy concerns.