Everyday life activities are vital for societal change

My research is about how people adapt their everyday life to the various sociotechnical systems embedded in society and which influence the resource use as well as the development of the society as a whole. It is important that the results from the studies offer opportunities for people to recognize themselves so they can make use of them. The results should also be useful for decision makers deciding about the development of sociotechnical systems. My research is based in the time-geographic approach in which differences at individual level also are recognizable at aggregate levels.

Peoples’ daily activities might seem of limited importance for the resource use in society as a whole and its impact on the environment, but taken together their influence is significant. However, we cannot pretend that there is no relation between the global environmental problems and the many individuals’ use of fossil fuels for heating buildings, cooking and transportation.

Societal structures and systems: support or constraints?

My research interest is based on knowledge “from below” about peoples’ everyday life and I also study the aggregate activity patterns that are revealed when many individuals’ activities are looked upon. Special interest is paid to activities with big environmental consequences. Such a research interest might be mistaken for placing the responsibility for living environmentally sound and with a limited use of energy on the individuals. This is not the case. Instead I regard knowledge about how people de facto live their lives as inevitable for the understanding of how societal structures and systems constrain people to live a more socially and ecologically sustainable way. What role does the organization of and responsibility for recycling, energy supply, transports, investment in appliances in dwellings, localization of dwellings, work places and service, play for sustainability in its various meanings? To answer such questions knowledge is needed about how people in their everyday life can navigate in time and space between the various places they need to visit in order to pursue their many daily activities aiming at a good life. 

Studies of energy use – point of departure

 My research currently concerns energy use at household level and the aggregate level activity pattern of energy consuming activities. Then it is of vital importance to know who performs what activities. It is always individual persons who perform activities, but the outcome of the activities performed might of course be important for other household members too, for example, if one household member cooks for all household members in a multi-person household. Therefore, concepts and methods are needed that make a difference between the household members as individuals and the household as a unit, and I develop concepts and methods for that purpose.

Previous studies

Previously, I have studied work organization in automobile industry and dairies, teachers’ work activities in the context of their everyday life as a whole, and division of labor in households.

All my studies are inspired by the time-geographic approach, which leans on the assumption that each human being is an indivisible individual which calls for reconsidering some traditional socio-economic categorizations. I have developed time-geographic concepts and methods, not least a time-geographic diary method. The point of departure of this method is that the activities performed by an individual in some way are meaningful for this individual and in which the sequential order in which the activities are performed are important for the opportunities for the individual to fulfill his or her projects.

The time-geographic diary method developed is used in occupational therapy, social work and energy use research. It gives a picture of everyday life that the diarists recognize themselves and it can be used for reflection and change efforts both for individuals and organizations.

The New art of making a car. Volvo Uddevalla Plant.

Documentary film.

Publications
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2019

2018

2017

Software Daily Life 2011
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The software visualizes individuals’ daily activities, geographical movements and social companionship. It also gives the average time-use for the various activities, visits and social togetherness.

The software Daily Life 2011 can be used for describing and analyzing everyday life as it appears from an individual’s time-diary. The diaries collected contain information about at what time the activities start, where the individual is located geographically, movements between the locations and who the individual is together with. The visualizations are grounded in the time-geographical notation system and shows an activity oriented individual path (the full activity sequence of the individual, also called the everyday activity context), the geographical context and the social context. Other factors of interest for the study can be included, like what technologies are used for performing the activities, what the person is thinking about and how he or she feels mentally or in the body. The contents of the time-diaries, then, can be adjusted for the purpose of the study. The software included an activity categorization scheme with codes. It is possible to include new codes depending on the aim of the study.

The software was developed during the 1990’s by Kajsa Ellegård and Kersti Nordell. It is since then further developed and the latest version is Daily Life 2011. This development is done in collaboration with the occupational scientists Lena-Karin Erlandsson, Lund University, and Gunilla Liedberg, Linköping University. The software is utilized by researchers in different scientific disciplines, among them human geography, technology and social change, social work and occupational science.

The basic version of the software visualizes everyday activities, geographic mobility and social contexts and it can be used for calculating the average time used for activities, visits on various places and social companionship. A related software is used in studies of work life activities, for example the planning of the Volvo car facroty in Uddevalla, Sweden.


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Time-Geography Network
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