2013 volume 31(6) pages 1076 – 1090

Cite as:
Vannini P, Taggart J, 2013, "Domestic lighting and the off-grid quest for visual comfort" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 31(6) 1076 – 1090

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Domestic lighting and the off-grid quest for visual comfort

Phillip Vannini, Jonathan Taggart

Abstract. Drawing from ethnographic research in Canadian off-grid homes, this paper examines the notion of visual comfort. Like other types of comfort, visual comfort is an affective sensibility whose intensity and achievement are highly variable. Through their unique historical trajectories grid-connected homes have achieved and normalized visual comfort in particular ways, but—as the experiences of off-grid homes show—in no way is domestic visual comfort achievable only by flicking on an electric lightbulb powered by distant sociotechnical assemblages. Comfort is, in fact, not a uniform experience and off-gridders’ practices show vividly what it means to achieve it differently—in variable intensities and through alternative entanglements of nature and culture. In particular, we argue that off-gridders’ comfort is a direct reflection of their involvement in its production, ensuing from their participation in electricity generation.
Keywords: comfort, energy, light, off-grid, visual ethnography, consumption

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