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The Advent of Practice Theories in Research on Sustainable Consumption: Past, Current and Future Directions of the Field



The application of practice theories in the domain of sustainability research in consumer studies is increasingly advocated based on the premise that this allows to analyse consumption as a social phenomenon. Consequently, the applications of social practice theories to this field are expanding geometrically and to date, little retrospective work on this evolution has been made. We conduct a bibliometric analysis of applications of practice theories in the domain of sustainability research in consumer studies. Our results show a temporal succession of research trends: ‘consumer identity’ dominated the field between 2009 and 2012, ‘business and governance’ between 2012 and 2014, ‘sustainable consumption and production’ between 2013 and 2014, ‘urban living and policy’ between 2014 and 2015 and ‘household energy’ from 2015 until the present. We see a high potential of future applications of practice theories in the fields of the sharing and circular economy, as well as in research on smart cities. We provide new insights into the evolution and future trends of applications of social practice theory to domains that are relevant for research on sustainability and consumer studies.
The Advent of Practice Theories in Research on
Sustainable Consumption: Past, Current and
Future Directions of the Field
Filippo Corsini 1, *, Rafael Laurenti 2, Franziska Meinherz 3, Francesco Paolo Appio 4
and Luca Mora 5
1Istituto di Management, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, 56127 Pisa, Italy
2ITM School of Industrial Engineering and Management, KTH Royal Institute of Technology,
SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden;
3Laboratory for Human-Environment Relations in Urban Systems, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de
Lausanne EPFL, Station 2, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland;
4Research Center, Léonard de Vinci Pôle Universitaire, 92916 Paris La Défense, France;
5The Business School, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh EH14 1DJ, UK;
Received: 7 December 2018; Accepted: 7 January 2019; Published: 11 January 2019
The application of practice theories in the domain of sustainability research in consumer
studies is increasingly advocated based on the premise that this allows to analyse consumption
as a social phenomenon. Consequently, the applications of social practice theories to this field are
expanding geometrically and to date, little retrospective work on this evolution has been made.
We conduct a bibliometric analysis of applications of practice theories in the domain of sustainability
research in consumer studies. Our results show a temporal succession of research trends: ‘consumer
identity’ dominated the field between 2009 and 2012, ‘business and governance’ between 2012 and
2014, ‘sustainable consumption and production’ between 2013 and 2014, ‘urban living and policy’
between 2014 and 2015 and ‘household energy’ from 2015 until the present. We see a high potential
of future applications of practice theories in the fields of the sharing and circular economy, as well
as in research on smart cities. We provide new insights into the evolution and future trends of
applications of social practice theory to domains that are relevant for research on sustainability and
consumer studies.
sustainability; sustainable consumption; bibliometric analysis; practice theory; circular
economy; sharing economy; smart city
1. Introduction
Several actors in society have acknowledged that we are facing a global sustainability crisis
that is likely to have major negative impacts on the natural, social and economic foundations of
society. The global demand for ecosystem services is beyond what the planet can provide, and human
activities in various domains are on the verge of profoundly altering the underlying earth systems [
These sustainability challenges emphasise the urgent need to better understand consumption patterns
as a means to shape the societal sustainability transition [57].
Consumer studies thus increasingly address unsustainable consumption patterns. Amongst the
many approaches that find application in the study of consumption, social practice theory seems to play
an increasingly important role and has inspired recently published research [
]. The application
of practice theories to the field of consumption has notably been advocated as a means to analyse
Sustainability 2019,11, 341; doi:10.3390/su11020341
Sustainability 2019,11, 341 2 of 19
consumption as a social phenomenon [
]. Unlike methodologies inspired by social psychology,
such as the theory of planned behaviour (TPB), which look at consumer behaviour as individual
decisions in a set context, approaches drawing on practice theories look at how elements such as norms,
values or material constraints coevolve with consumption practices. Practice theories have proven
useful to study the often observed path dependence and stickiness of consumption practices [1619].
Originally, practice theories have had a very conceptual focus and were aimed at overcoming the
structure–agency dichotomy [
]. They thus need to be operationalised for empirical work [
However, there is little knowledge on whether such efforts of operationalising practice theories have
also been made for domains others than consumer studies, but where lifestyles, behaviour or practices
also play an important role. Indeed, the question of the domains in which practice theories have found
empirical application remains, to date, unanswered. Such knowledge would, however, allow the
identification of potential grounds for synergies and cross-fertilisations across different streams of
research. Given the complexity of sustainability issues and their interdisciplinary character, exploring
these grounds seems essential.
Furthermore, there is currently no understanding as to how the field of practice theory
inspired approaches to consumer studies is evolving. So far, practice theories have found
application in numerous areas of consumer studies, such as mobility, hygiene, nutrition and energy
consumption [6,812,1517,2325].
However how far are these different applications draw on each
other or develop relatively independently of each other and whether there are transversal topics or
authors that connect all these different domains are still open questions.
With this article, we aim to bring some light into these questions. This should allow us to provide
not only insights on core research trends and the key publications in the different domains in which
practice theories have found application, but also to identify future directions that applications of
practice theories to consumer studies in the domain of sustainability research can take—based on the
insights already gained through research that has already been conducted and based on the emerging
fields in sustainability research.
To do so, we use a bibliometric mapping approach to analyse where theories of practice have
found application in research dealing with sustainability issues in consumer studies, whether and
how the focus of applications of practice theories to the domain of sustainable consumption has
evolved over time, the degree to which such applications of theories of practice are fragmented and
whether there are potential yet unexplored synergies across different fields of application. The resulting
overview of applications and operationalisations also provide a guideline for future work that draws
on theories of practice for its analysis.
This paper is structured as follows. In Section 2, we present practice theories and how they are
increasingly used as a counterpoint to theories inspired by social psychology. In Section 3, we present
the method by which we selected the papers for the bibliometric analysis, as well as how we conducted
this analysis. In Section 4, we present the results of our analysis, which we illustrate by means of
bibliometric maps. In Section 5, we discuss the implications of our findings regarding the evolution and
possible future developments of applications of practice theories to the field of sustainability research
in consumer studies. In Section 6, we briefly conclude and present the limitations of our research.
2. Theoretical Background: Practice Theories and Their Development
2.1. Practice Theories: Their Origin and Intellectual Legacy
Practice theories can be traced back to philosophers such as Wittgenstein, and more prominently
the interpretations of his work by Schatzki, as well as to sociologists Bourdieu and Giddens.
They are the result of the endeavour to overcome the structure–agency dualism, which for a long
time characterised and divided social theory. With this, practice theories marked a departure
from individualist, structuralist and poststructuralist approaches, as well as from the opposition
between constructivism and essentialism [
]. Practice theory overcomes this traditional duality of
Sustainability 2019,11, 341 3 of 19
individualism and structuralism in that it neither conceives of the social by placing the individual
and her agency at the centre, nor by superposing social structure onto individual agency. The human
is neither seen as an isolated, independent actor, nor as a passive entity subjugated to social forces
that she cannot comprehend. In practice theories, the human is active and reflexive, but it must not
be looked at as the centre object of social theory. Indeed, practice theory conceives of the social as
being built of practices. This makes the social a continuously changing composition of interconnected
human activities, and of what these activities embody [26,27].
Practice theoretic approaches inspired theoretical reflections in domains as diverse as social
theory, cultural theory, discourse theory and theory of science. They significantly contributed to the
contemporary understanding of social life and human activity, subjectivity, human rationality and
meaning. Corresponding to this multitude of fields that have integrated practice theories in their
reflections, and the wealth of concepts they have been applied to, it is no surprise that already at an
early stage, there was no unified practice theoretic approach [
]. Practice theories should therefore be
considered more of an analytical turn, rather than an agreed upon theory [
]. What all these different
reflections have in common is that practices embody the tacit understandings that motivate human
activities, the practical understanding that enables human activities, and the meanings that are attached
to these activities. Correspondingly, it is through practices that meanings and understandings are enacted
and have an existence in the world. It is through practices that social order manifests itself. This motivates
the assertion of practice theorists that the social has to be understood as a nexus of practices [21,26,28].
However, authors differ in how they conceive of practices, and of the interrelations between
practices. In Bourdieu’s perspective, practices are actions that are largely shared amongst individuals,
and which go largely unquestioned. They contain the tacit and collectively shared experience of what
is possible in a given context, and thus constitute a form of shared contextual rationality, which in
turn motivates the individual actions of which practices consist. Practices are thus the result of the
internalisation of the conditions of a given context, and are shared amongst the people who share these
experiences. For Bourdieu, these internalised experiences depend on people’s position in the social
structure—meaning on how people are embedded in power relations. These structures or relations
and a person’s position in them are thought to be shaped by the volume, structure, distribution and
evolution of economic, social, cultural and symbolic capital. People who occupy similar positions in the
social structure thus likely share the same internalised experiences [
], and it is these experiences
that shape practices. At the same time, it is through practices that these social structures are enacted
and order the social world [28].
In Giddens’ view, practices are constituted by practical knowledge, which is tacit and implicit,
and by discursive knowledge, of which people are aware [
]. Giddens emphasises the importance
of routines in the structure of everyday social activity, and in the continuous enactment of social
structure [
]. Just like Bourdieu, Giddens therefore also emphasises how structure is simultaneously
created through its enactment in practices, and at the same time constitutes these practices.
Giddens looks at social systems as structured insofar as the relationships of which they consist
are stabilised across time. He conceives of social structure as being constituted of rules and resources
which are mobilised in the reproduction of the structure. Resources can be both of an authoritative
nature, resulting from the coordination of human activity, and of an allocative nature, given by control
over the material world [
]. Routinised practices simultaneously hold this system of rules and
resources together, and are the means through which it is transformed. Practices, situated in this
structure, are concerted and thus reproduce the structure [27].
2.2. The Revival of Practice Theories in Consumer Studies
Practice theories have recently been operationalised for empirical field work related to consumer
studies in an attempt to overcome the lacunae found in the theoretical approaches which have
dominated the field. In consumer studies, just like in other fields of research looking at behaviour,
the most commonly used approaches to conceptualise human agency and decision-making build,
Sustainability 2019,11, 341 4 of 19
in one form or the other, on theories that focus on individual behaviour and personal responsibility.
Such individualistic approaches see individuals’ actions as goal-oriented, with people being perfectly
autonomous and free to set their goals and choose the means to pursue them. Translated into policy
measures, such approaches focus on individual agency and choice [
]. As Shove [
] notes, this
analytical frame prevails not only in policy documents, but also in academic research on behaviour.
One of the most commonly used approaches in the domain of individualistic approaches is the
rational choice theory. Rational choice theory assumes perfectly rational individuals, who strive to
maximise their individual wellbeing, and do so based on personal cost–benefit calculations. Rational
choice theory has however been criticised for not accounting for social dynamics, given that its key
assumption is ceteris paribus [
]. Furthermore, rational choice theory has proven weak to hold
up to empirical evidence, and consequently, a number of alternatives, although still individualistic,
approaches have developed [31].
The theory of bounded rationality is one of these alternative individualistic approaches. It starts
out from the observation that in the context of complex decisions, there are oftentimes too many factors
to take into consideration, and too high degrees of uncertainty, for a human to be able to process
rationally. Drawing heavily on experimental research on people’s decision-making patterns, the
theory of bounded rationality explores the simplifying heuristics which people apply in situations of
information overflow, uncertainty and urgency. Research inspired by the theory of bounded rationality
currently inspires most environmental policies, which consequently focus on changing the cost–benefit
structure of environmental problems, or on improving the availability and quality of information [
However, approaches inspired by the theory of bounded rationality have been criticised
for not considering the complexity that arises due to conflicting motivations and values that
individuals uphold. Approaches inspired by social psychology have been proposed as an alternative.
They explicitly include individual value systems, the complexity inherent to conflicting goals and
motivations, and perceived and actual loci of action in the analysis of individuals’ decision-making
processes [
]. The theory of planned behaviour, developed by Ajzen [
], stands out as one
example. In this view, for an individual to act pro-environmentally, it is necessary that she can
consolidate her individual motivations with the prevailing social norms, that she is aware of the need
for action, that she perceives her actions as impactful, and that she can act in her desired way given
the circumstances [
]. The theory of planned behaviour does however not provide any insights on
how individuals’ motivations, perceived or actual loci of action, and social norms are formed [
Indeed, just like other individualistic approaches, the theory of planned behaviour does not allow for
studying changes in the rules of the game, so to speak [10,23,25].
Theories of practice have been advocated as a response to these lacunae. They mark a departure
from individualistic approaches. By assuming the context in which practices are enacted and the
practice as mutually constitutive and constituting, practice theories focus on the mutual reproduction
of the practice and its context of enactment. Practice theories therefore provide insights into the
dynamics of social norms, motivations and perceptions, and how they are formed and transformed
through their continued enactment [10,15].
However, this originally purely conceptual focus of theories of practice means that to be applied
to the analysis of a specific case study, theories of practices need to be operationalised for empirical
work [
]. Furthermore, the very general nature of theories of practice implies that they could be
applied to a number of fields, with sustainability research being but one of them. To our knowledge,
there is however no work that provides an overview of the fields of application of theories of practice,
and that looks at how they have been operationalised in these different fields, and in how far its
operationalisations in different fields are coherent. Gram-Hanssen [
] provides an overview over four
different operationalisations of practices; her analysis is, however, confined to two conceptual works,
and two papers which apply theories of practice to sustainability.
The aim of this paper is to overcome this gap, and to complement the existing theoretical and
conceptual work on theories of practice with an overview of their application to different research
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fields and foci. It is analysed in which fields of research theories of practice find application, and how
the theoretical notions are translated into operationalised concepts in these different fields. With this,
the paper aims to explore to which degree applications of theories of practice are fragmented, and
whether there are potential yet unexplored synergies across different fields of application. The resulting
overview of applications and operationalisations should also provide a guideline for future work
that draws on theories of practice for its analysis. For this purpose, the following research questions
are explored.
To which fields of research have theories of practice been applied, and how have they been
operationalised in these different fields? And is sustainability one of a main focus of social
practice research?
2. Are there interlinkages between how theories of practice are operationalised in different fields?
3. How has the application of theories of practice evolved over time?
In particular, the paper aims at helping scholars and practitioners in understanding the main
areas of interest and the knowledge produced by social practice theory research.
3. Methodology
The methodological approach we used in order to answer to the before mentioned research
questions is represented by a bibliometric mapping technique.
A bibliometric mapping technique considers scientific literature in order to build maps that are
able to visualise the relationships among diverse items of interest [
] and can be quite useful for
supporting a systematic literature review. This approach has been applied in several fields to explore
static and dynamic structures of the academic research. Bibliometric mapping techniques deliver a
visual delineation of the state of the art in a field of research, but can also be used to provide orientation
for scientists in developing their area of interest on a certain topic, potentially representing inspiration
for future theoretical and practical approaches to expand a certain field of the literature [3741].
3.1. Data Collection
To carefully select the publications to include in our analysis we used a straight forward multistep
procedure. The first step concerned the identification of a robust academic citation indexing service.
Scopus, which is widely acknowledged as solid and appropriate [
], was adopted for the identification
of the dataset of literature.
As many authors underline [
], practice theory was recently reintroduced in consumer studies
inspired by earlier work of Schatzki [
], further developed based on his later work [
] and discussed
and expanded by Reckwitz [
] and Warde [
]. We used these four references for conducting the
research of the academic literature limiting the dataset to papers matching at least two of the four
references we identified as fundamental for the examination of practice theory in consumer studies.
By doing so, we aimed at excluding those research papers that are too generic for our aims (i.e., not
exactly dealing with practice theory in consumer studies). This decision excluded, for example, a paper
like the one written by McFarlane and Silver [
] dealing with the dialectics of everyday urbanism and
that is thus only marginally related to our research aims.
Then, we decided to exclude the grey literature on the topic (i.e., report, working paper, etc.)
relying only on manuscripts accepted in peer review journals and papers presented and discussed
in conferences. By doing so, as suggested by Light and Pillemer [
], we improved consistently the
quality of the analysis.
In order to ground our analysis on consistent data we finally performed a systematic review of
the titles of the papers to remove those too generic. This final check allowed confirming the goodness
of the selection procedure.
This procedure found a total of 1519 articles in peer-reviewed journals matching the
keyword criteria.
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3.2. Term Maps of the Research Domain
After having prepared the dataset of scientific publications we performed the bibliometric map
analysis in order to generate a visual representation of noun phrases occurring multiple times in titles
and abstracts. The VOS algorithm mapping technique implemented in the software VOSviewer [
was then used to produce the term maps. Once we produced and analysed the first map we refined it
by using a thesaurus file to iteratively exclude terms that are too generic such as “methods”, “aims”,
“results ”, “conclusions”, etc. The map generation process requires VOSviewer to (1) identify the
noun phrases by performing part-of-speech tagging through the use of the Apache OpenNLP toolkit
( [
], (2) assess the Kullback–Leibler distance [
] and select the most
relevant noun phases, (3) map and cluster the terms by using the unified framework [
] and (4)
visualise the results of the mapping and clustering exercise.
The resulting maps illustrate the relations between relevant terms. In particular, the map makes it
possible to capture the following features.
1. Clusters: words belonging to the same cluster are depicted in the same colour.
Dimension of the words: words in larger fonts are those occurring most frequently across the
sample of publications, while those in smaller fonts are those occurring less frequently.
Distances: between words: the higher is the distance between two terms and the smallest is their
co-occurrence, while the smaller is the distance between two terms the higher their co-occurrence.
Linkages: connections between words show the bonds between words mostly occurring together
in the database of scientific publication.
3.3. Co-Citation Analysis of the Research Domain
In order to obtain a deeper understanding of how interlinkages between theories of practice are
operationalised in different knowledge fields, a document co-citation analysis is conducted. Co-citation
analysis is an effective method for discovering the intellectual structure of research domains and
its deployment makes it possible to measure similarities between documents by means of citation
relationships [
]. Co-citation was firstly defined by Small [
] as the “frequency with which two
documents are cited together by other documents”. A co-citation exists when two references appear
together in the same publication and the more co-citations two documents have, the higher the degree
of similarity between them [54,55].
The data collected were elaborated with BibExcel [
]. BibExcel assist in the analysis of
bibliographic data by generating ad hoc files which can be uploaded onto any software program
that takes tabbed data records for further processing. Then, we decided to use the VOS algorithm
mapping technique implemented in the software VOSviewer to produce the maps [
]. VOSviewer’s
algorithm aims at locating the items in a low-dimensional space so that the distance between two
items is an accurate indicator of their relatedness. Take two items iand j, the input for VOS is a
non-negative similarity s
(treated on a ratio scale). These similarities s
are calculated using the
following equation [57,58].
ASij =cij
VOSviewer determines the position of the items in the map by minimising the weighted sum of
the squared distances between all pairs of items:
V(x1, ..., xn) =
sij kxixjk2
where the squared distance between item pairs is weighted by their similarity, a constraint is imposed
in order to avoid the trivial solutions in which all items have the same location:
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The resulting co-citation map illustrates the relations between the relevant literature cited in this
field. In more detail, the map captures the following features.
1. Clusters: authors belonging to the same cluster are depicted in the same colour.
Dimension of the references: references in larger fonts are those occurring most frequently across
the identified publications, while those in smaller fonts are those occurring less frequently.
Linkages: connections between references show the bonds between references co-occurring
together in the database of scientific publication; the size of the linkage is larger when the number
of co-citations is large while is smaller when the number of co-citations is small.
3.4. Overlay Representation of Journals in a Global Map of Science
In addition, in order to further explore the interrelation in the field of research, we used the
Leydesdorff et al. [
] overlay framework. Such framework allows plotting the journals containing the
1519 academic papers on a global map of science based on 20,554 academic journals. In more detail,
such process allows to counts the number of occurrences of each journal title in the dataset composed
by the 1519 academic papers matching the journal titles with the positional information of the base
map [59]. The resulting journals map is as follows.
The journal names under investigation are highlighted with colour in the map; on the contrary
all other nodes are depicted in grey.
2. The size of each journal as a node is depicted proportionally to the number of occurrences.
Finally, we used also the Rao–Stirling diversity index as a measure of interdisciplinarity in the
sets under investigation [6062].
4. Results
4.1. Static Analysis
The visual representation based on the overall set of 1519 academic publications (Figure 1) presents
the connections between different research areas.
1. Clusters:authorsbelongingtothesameclusteraredepictedinthesamecolour.
2. Dimensionofthereferences:referencesinlargerfontsarethoseoccurringmostfrequentlyacross
3. Linkages:connectionsbetweenreferencesshowthebondsbetweenreferencescooccurring
Figure 1. Term map of the research field.
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The term analysis identified seven clusters, represented by colours in Figure 1. The pink colour
cluster group keywords relate to the use of social practice theory in the energy field. Most of those
studies deal with household practices. An example of a study conducted in this field is represented by
the work by Shove & Walker [
]. The authors contrapose the common understanding of energy as a
resource base, of which the management and organisation depends on various interconnected systems
(i.e., economic, political and technological) to a different perspective viewing energy supply and energy
demand as part of the continuous reproduction of bundles and complexes of social practice.
The yellow colour cluster groups keywords related to sustainable behavioural change in general
terms and policy interventions needed to fully address the transition to more sustainable lifestyles.
An example of published research in this field is represented by the work of Hargreaves [
]. Making use
of social practice theory, the author provides insights into pro-environmental behaviour adoption
using an ethnographic case study of a behaviour change initiative. The article enlightens the barriers
encountered in attempts changing practices and underlining issues to be addressed to overcome
those barriers.
The green colour cluster groups consumer and consumption studies using a social practice theory
approach; it is worth noting that one of the aspects related to consumption is connected with food.
In this case, one representative example is the work conducted by Delormier et al. [
]. The authors
illustrate a framework for the analysis of eating patterns as a social phenomenon trying to understand
how food choice practices are routinised by families, showing how family rules and resources act as a
driver or a limit condition under which family members develop food choices.
The light blue cluster groups keywords of studies in the field of education and learning. In this
case, one representative example is the work conducted by Keller & Ruus [
]. In their research the
authors examine the co-shopping practices of children and parents in supermarkets providing several
implications for consumer education.
Finally, the blue cluster groups keywords related to pure business aspects (e.g., accounting,
value creation and marketing). A relevant study in this area is represented by the work of
Echeverri & Skålén
]. In this case, the authors using a practice–theory perspective analyse the
interactive value formation at the provider-customer interface. In particular, with their analysis the
authors [
] characterise four types of interactive value formation cases corresponding with four
subject positions which practitioners’ step into when engaging in interactive value formation.
The red cluster groups several keywords that are widely used in different research areas and
which are consequently difficult to categorise properly.
As for more a general overview, two patterns seem evident. First, a significant share of research
has focused on change, interactions between practices, agency and strategy and on the domains of
household practices, food and energy, relating to consumers and policies. Second, many applications
of SPT tackle sustainability related issues. Some of the sustainability issues have been close and related
to education research as well as food consumption.
4.2. Dynamic Analysis
Figure 2shows how the application of SPT in research domains has varied over time. The first
applications appear to be in domains related to pure business-related aspects, in blue colour, in 2012.
More in detail, social practice theory research in this period contributes mainly to the discussion on the
relationship between identity and consumption [
] and the dynamics and transitions of practices
in everyday life [
]. Then, in 2013, SPT was stated to be applied to innovation issues, marketing
research and business strategy. There are several studies dealing with strategic and innovation
management theories and applications [
] and applied marketing research [
]. Consumption
studies related to change, behaviour, consumer and sustainability seem to be predominant topics
around the years 2013 and 2014. The application of SPT to policy, food and travel use dominated the
years 2015 and 2016. The energy related field of research seems actually the hot spot of current research
related to SPT.
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Figure 2. Temporal term map of the research field.
4.3. Co-Citation Analysis
To analyse the application of SPT to consumer studies in more detail, we also produced a
co-citation map grouping the 50 most cited academic publications in the field of analysis (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Co-citation map of the research field.
In this case there are four main clusters of interest. The green cluster, which represents one of the
biggest in the figure, groups several studies related to sustainable consumption patterns and energy
related issues. The work conducted by Shove & Walker [
] and Røpke [
] are clear examples of
the kind of researches related to sustainable consumption and energy related issues. The red cluster
groups general literature on practice theory. It is worth noting that three out of four references used for
Sustainability 2019,11, 341 10 of 19
conducting the research of the academic literature [
] belong to this cluster. The blue cluster
groups the third largest area of research. Literature listed in this cluster deals also with general aspects
on practice theory but more on a theoretical and methodological perspective in comparison to the
previous one. For instance, Halkier [
], grounding his argumentation on practice theory, contributes
to the discussions about generalising, by way of exemplifying some of the methodological practicalities
in analytical generalisation.
The yellow cluster, which is the smallest one in comparison to the others, groups just five studies
dealing mostly with consumer and marketing research issues [
]. This cluster is located in a complete
opposite position with respect to the green one and very few linkages are depicted between the
two clusters.
4.4. Overlay Representation
Moreover, in order to further explore the interrelation in this field of research we produced a map
showing the journals containing the 1519 academic papers plotted on a global map of science (Figure 4).
As presented in the map, most of academic researches related to social practice theory were made in
journals dealing with psychology and social science, economic and management and environmental
sciences. Only a smaller number of publications were made in journals related to human health-related
journals. The scarce interdisciplinarity of the area of research is also confirmed by the Rao–Stirling
diversity index [6062] of 0.11.
Figure 4. Overlay representation of journals.
5. Discussion
From a theoretical perspective, it is evident from the term map how practice theoretic approaches
in consumer studies have bridged to other theoretical frameworks. There are, indeed, several references
to technology and innovation (respectively on the central and lower part of the maps). This shows how
some scholars link practice theories to different aspects of sociotechnological transitions [
], or
study how interconnected practices play into sociotechnological change [
]. In this domain, links
have also been created between theories of practice and transition theories, which study transitions
in sociotechnological systems [
]. Other authors also focus on technology, but emphasise the
agentive aspects of technology in the reproduction of practices, and on how technologies are embedded
in practices [
]. However, still under this theoretical perspective, surprisingly both in the
term maps (Figures 1and 2) and in the co-citation map (Figure 3) only very few links could be found
Sustainability 2019,11, 341 11 of 19
to the theory of reasoned action [
] or the theory of planned behaviour [
] that are often used as
framework to analyse sustainable behaviours related to consumption.
Several other considerations can be taken into account when analysing past and current research
trends; indeed, building on the static analysis that identified five main streams of research topics
(Figure 1), the dynamic analysis on the evolution of the fields in which SPT found application
(Figure 2) and the co-citation analysis which allowed us to identify influential publications in each
field (Figure 3), a framework of potential near-future directions in the application of social practice
theories in sustainability research is proposed and shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5. Framework linking past and current to future application areas of social practice theories.
As mentioned in the results section, sustainability emerged as a predominant topic around the
years 2013 and 2014. In this time period, social practice theory research was used mainly to study
what plays into the emergence of sustainable consumption and production practices or what keeps
unsustainable modes of consumption and production in place [
]; as well as to shed light on
how practices are intertwined in different contexts of consumption [15,8789].
With time, applications of social practice theory to consumer studies increasingly focused on
analysing the potential for achieving a shift to more sustainable practices in the context of urban living
and policy development (2014–2015). Such applications include work on sustainable eating [
community, infrastructure, technology [
] and how practices play into the interface between
consumption and sustainable policy [99107].
Finally, the application of social practice theory from 2015 to date has been largely in the context
of household energy use and demand; more specifically related to electricity consumption and
usage [108119] and thermal comfort [120129].
Based on these insights, we identify some fields in which social practice theory could be applied
in future research.
Circular economy and sharing economy are fertile and promising areas for future applications of
social practice theory. Indeed, the commonly used linear production model has been recently contested
by developments in the field of circular economy, a concept that conceives of production systems by
extending the useful life of goods, materials and resources beyond their use as consumer goods (e.g.,
by means of reusing and sharing practices [
]) and waste management conscious behaviour [
(e.g., such as waste prevention behaviours [
]). Within this field of research, a significant body
of research related to sharing, repair and reuse behaviour seems to be emerging from the streams
‘business and governance’, ‘sustainable consumption and production’ and ‘urban living’ (Figure 4).
More in detail, we envisage a significant stream of emerging research dealing with the diffusion of
access-based consumption and business models, and examination of its dynamics in the context of the
Sustainability 2019,11, 341 12 of 19
sharing economy as represented by the few recent publications already available [
]. Moreover,
investigation of behavioural practices and circular business models related to replacement, repair and
reuse in the context of the circular economy could also represent a future trend supported, also in this
case, by few recent publications already showing such tendency [136141].
Another promising area for the application of social practice theory is represented by smart
cities. The concept behind making a city smarter has been widely explored by researchers during
the recent years [
]. Within this context, as a derivation of the more recent research focused
on the streams ‘urban living and policy’ and ‘household energy’, it appears that the application of
social practice theory is heading to the direction of reframing the challenges and potentials of orienting
citizens’ behaviour in the context of energy consumption and production in smart cities [
During the last decade, we assisted also to a wider interest in promoting sustainable decentralised
energy production fostered by citizen participation is a number of local projects implemented in
smart cities contexts [
]. Such projects comprehend a wide range of activities ranging from
energy generation projects to energy conservation projects (e.g., renewable energy generation from
locally-owned infrastructures, refurbishment of community building, programs fostering behavioural
change, etc.) which take the appellative of energy communities [
]. Within this filed of research,
practice theory could represent the theoretical approach, in the future, to analyse how community
engagement programs can change over time the response to the rapid deployment and adoption of
locally-owned renewable energy systems.
6. Conclusions
With this research we have mapped the emerging trend of applications of practice theories
to consumer studies, and put these applications in relation with applications of practice theories
in other domains. We found that sustainability research represents one of the main foci of social
practice studies. In particular, there is extensive literature dealing with sustainable behaviour change
and a recently also an increasing application of practice theory to research on energy consumption.
Our results revealed that sustainability issues in practice theory started to be predominant topics
around the years 2013 and 2014 and that the energy related field of research represent the newest
field of research related to practice theory. Over time, consumer identity (2009–2012), business and
governance (2012–2014), sustainable consumption and production (2013–2014), urban living and policy
(2014–2015) and household energy (2015-present) were the areas in which the social practice theory
has been extensively applied to.
This analysis has allowed us to identify synergies that could be explored between different
fields of application of practice theories to open up possible future fields where an application of
practice theories could be promising. This notably concerns two emerging fields in the domain of
sustainability research—the sharing economy and circular economy, as well as smart cities—both
fields where applications of practice theories could usefully contribute to already ongoing work and
fruitfully draw on previous applications of practice theories to different but closely related fields of
research. Such applications could, in the case of the sharing and circular economy, focus for instance
on replacement, reusing and repairing practices, and in the case of smart cities, on the practices related
to the deployment and adoption of locally-owned renewable energy systems.
Some limitations need to be taken into consideration in the interpretation of our results.
Those notably concern the data. The produced sample depends on the assumptions which guided
the paper selection process, and which we have documented in the methods section. Lastly, since
they constitute a simplified depiction of the bibliometric analysis, the produced maps might create
some distortions.
Finally, knowledge about which are the major field of analysis of the practice theory research could
be helpful in complementing and confronting the findings of the presented paper. More specifically,
how the findings from the application of the competing practice theory differ from those concerning
sustainable behaviours is a salient gap needing attention. Bridging the gaps between these research
Sustainability 2019,11, 341 13 of 19
fields would represent an important contribution in the pursue of addressing (un)sustainable
consumption patterns in consumer studies.
Author Contributions:
Writing—original draft, F.C., R.L., F.M., F.P.A. and L.M.; Writing—review & editing, F.C.,
R.L., F.M., F.P.A. and L.M.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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... The titles and abstracts for these 148 documents were individually analyzed, with 14 documents found to be specifically written to review the SCR knowledge base (Appendix A shows all 14 SCR reviews, along with how their analytics were used in the present research). These 14 documents include three reviews [80][81][82], eight systematic reviews [10,27,[83][84][85][86][87][88] and three bibliometric studies [25,28,89]. ...
... Since 2015, journal articles and reviews on sustainable consumption have doubled, expanding and modifying the research knowledge base, necessitating a new and updated analysis. Similarly, Corsini et al., (2019) performed a bibliometrics review [28] of SCR, analyzing publications that use practice theories as the main theoretical framework. They found that SCR was becoming a dominant topic for academics investigating social practice theories, and highlighted trends since 2009. ...
... By taking methodological inspiration from previous research and updating and extending their findings [10,25,27,28], this study takes a holistic review of the sustainable consumption literature using bibliometric analysis [59] and integrative review methods [60,61]. The review section will then present a categorization of the literature using three interdependent levels of analysis (micro, meso, and macro) applied by researchers to understand consumption behaviors. ...
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There is a causal relationship between existential dangers to our biosphere and our unsustainable consumption practices. For more than three decades, academics and researchers have explored ideas to make consumption practices sustainable. Still, a practical and widely accepted solution to the problem is missing. This review aims for a theoretical and structural understanding of the literature to identify future avenues for marketing, to explore and increase its contribution to consumption sustainability research. The review used bibliometric and integrative review methods to synthesize knowledge. The review found that sustainable consumption research has proliferated since 2015, indicating a heightened interest in the field. There are four major schools of thought in sustainable consumption research, employing three interdependent micro, meso, and macro levels of analysis to understand consumption practices. By focusing on individual consumption behaviors, this review recommends that consumption sustainability be repositioned as a means of attaining a better quality of life for consumers. It involves reforming the consumer mindset toward progress based on pro-social and pro-ecological choices, training consumers in mindful consumption practices, and providing them with an infrastructure for consuming with a mindful mindset. It is recommended that marketing should refine itself as a pro-social discipline, with consumer well-being as its primary goal, and to become a leader in reshaping quality of life in terms of non-financial standards.
... Although sufficiency is a behavior-based approach having found a stand in the sustainability discourse and SPT offering a comprehensive framework for the analysis of consumer behavior, the combination of both approaches seems to gain foothold only slowly. Several scholars have emphasized the usefulness of applying SPT to behavioral approaches to sustainability (Corsini et al., 2019) and the studies explored in this paper show that there is more to sufficiency-oriented consumption practices than just an underlying "green attitude". ...
Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement requires absolute reductions of consumption levels, which implies changing consumption behavior toward more sufficiency-oriented practices. So far, these practices have mostly been researched in the areas of mobility and household-related activities. Therefore, this paper reviews sufficiency-oriented practices in other areas of consumption. A configurative literature review rendered eight relevant studies investigating nine different sufficiency-oriented consumption practices, seven of which related to clothing consumption. By aggregating and structuring the practices’ elements, insights into the materials, competences, meanings, and rules connected to sufficiency-oriented lifestyles could be made. In the area of clothing especially, high quality, durable, and repairable products as well as the ability to reflect critically on one’s consumption behavior are the basis for engaging in sufficiency-oriented practices. Tools and shared spaces as well as community events facilitate practices that encourage modal shifts of consumption or contribute to product longevity. The meanings behind these practices stretch from altruistic, environmentally conscious motivations such as a great concern for the environment to more egoistic or economic-related motives such as saving money. First implications of using social practice theory as a heuristic to research consumption behavior indicate that sufficiency-oriented practices offer various angles and opportunities, not only through consumer education but also by providing the right materials, spaces, and skills, to support more environmentally friendly “Lifestyles of Enough”.
... In the bibliometric analysis of "Sustainability in the collaborative economy" by Ertz and Leblanc-Proulx (2018) added the terms "collaborative consumption," "ethical consumption," and "collaborative economy" covering the viewpoint of both marketeer and consumer. These keywords were similarly represented in the research (Corsini et al., 2019). ...
This comprehensive analysis of 1121 research and review articles published in 462 journals listed in the Scopus and Web of Science databases during 1990–2021 provides measurable and meaningful insights into research trends in sustainable consumption and green marketing innovation. Results confirm that the literature on the above field has been on the rise, particularly since 2015. The average publication per year is 4.11 and the average citation per document is 32. So far, 2628 authors from 66 countries have been contributing to the sustainable consumption and green marketing innovation research. China is the leader with 214 publications followed by Spain (76), and USA (62). Our analysis shows aspects like eco-tourism, sustainable and innovative marketing techniques, and green labelling are increasingly getting importance. Further, areas that require future research include waste material disposal, green product certification, and aggregating sustainable purchases across product categories. Therefore, international cooperation and collaboration among nations and research institutions should be advanced with a special focus on designing innovative green marketing techniques to foster sustainable consumerism.
... Consumers have to become actively involved in the business model and thus also in sufficiency-promoting marketing ( Kropfeld and Reichel, 2021 ). This perspective has so far remained under-explored in empirical studies ( Parekh and Klintman, 2021 ), although it has long been agreed that patterns of consumption are embedded within social practices ( Warde, 2005 ), and practice theory has been suggested as being useful for studying sustainable consumption and production, e.g., in the circular economy ( Corsini et al., 2019 ). Our study contributes to this body of research by applying SPT to a business context and by attempting a holistic view of business and consumer practices. ...
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The outdoor industry is highly exposed to the impacts of climate change and resource scarcity since its business models generally rely on an intact ecosystem. Companies in the outdoor apparel and gear industry actively implement sustainability strategies based on efficiency, consistency, and more recently also sufficiency. Sufficiency aims at an absolute reduction of consumption levels and entails strategies such as decreasing purchases, modal shifts, product longevity, and sharing practices. Outdoor companies increasingly use marketing to advocate sufficiency-oriented consumption. This exploratory study investigates outdoor companies’ sufficiency-promoting marketing strategies and activities. The study includes primary and secondary data of six outdoor companies. The analysis focuses on the companies’ sustainability visions, their marketing objectives and channels, and their marketing mixes. Following a social practice theory approach, we found evidence that our case companies supported all forms of sufficiency-oriented consumption practices with a strong focus on product longevity. Another central finding of our study is the emphasis placed on product and promotion policies to foster sufficiency-oriented consumption practices. Solely relying on these strategies will not suffice, however, to change unsustainable consumption practices. Achieving that change requires at least two further steps. First, companies will have to find an answer to the conflict between promoting sufficiency-oriented practices and economic growth. Second, the companies should start understanding consumption as a social practice, which would open new opportunities to create and steer their communities of practices. By changing elements or links of practices and attracting new members to their communities, companies in the outdoor industry can be drivers towards more sufficiency-oriented consumption practices. Further research should assess the impact of sufficiency-promoting marketing on consumer practices to estimate its potential for sustainable change.
... The aim of such approach is producing a visual representation of the academic research on a certain topic with maps capable to visualise the relationships among diverse items of interest. The bibliometric approach has been widely applied with different goals, such as: identify main areas of research, understand the current state of development in a certain filed or even suggest research trajectories [33]. As first step we decided to analyse only research articles published in peer review scientific journals excluding the grey literature (e.g. company reports, public bodies assessment, etc.) but also conference papers, book chapter etc. ...
Conference Paper
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The sudden and exponential increase of projects for the production of energy from renewable sources has drastically increased in the last decade, by also triggering a widespread citizens’ disapproval towards such initiatives worldwide. Consequently, research on public acceptance of renewable energy initiatives has become an important and well-established topic in energy research, too. Social research mostly investigated the phenomenon via case-based approach. Our research departs it and adopts a bibliometric perspective on existing contributions to draw general insights on public acceptance for diverse renewable energy technologies. Results show a significant difference in the motivations of public opposition towards the implementation and realisation of technological infrastructures and processes for the exploitation of different renewable energy.
... One theory most used and widely recognised is the social practice theory. Social practice theory focuses on circular economic solutions, especially for people in urban areas, and other studies suggest that social practice is shifting its focus on more environmental concerning behaviors [31]. ...
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Malaysia is not shielded from the issues of food insecurity. Despite economic progression over the past few years, food insecurity is continuing to affect several vulnerable groups (Orang Asli, elderly, students, B40). It is a growing concern that should not be taken lightly, especially with the recent rise in food prices coupled with low income among vulnerable groups and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As cities develop and expand, they stretch out and occupy former farmlands forcing farms to stop operating or move further off from the city centre. New trends like urban farming are slowly emerging, which have the potential to be a solution to the developing crises of food insecurity. This research aims to determine how relevant each of the factors, ‘confidence,’ (CF) ‘societal,’ (SC) ‘pleasantness,’ (PL) and ‘naturalness,’ (NT) are towards adopting (AD) the idea of urban farming and, if relevant, among which has the most positive impact. A mixed-method approach was used to obtain quantitative and qualitative data. One hundred and thirty-three responses were recorded and used (a significant sample size according to the G-power software). The validity and reliability of the data were also tested to affirm their quality and relevance according to the factors. The main findings revealed that ‘pleasantness’ and ‘confidence’ were strong factors for adopting urban farming, in line with Cohen’s R Square of more than 32%, which signifies a high impact toward influencing adoption. In addition, qualitative analysis shows that while positive outcomes complemented the quantitative study, practical constraints were highlighted. These constraints were space, time, supply chain, resources, tools, community and government support. Hence, this study provides two significant contributions to regulators and policymakers on urban farming (further explained in the discussions section).
The imposition of premium prices is one of the most influential barriers to sustainable food consumption. Yet studies of alternative food networks and sustainable consumption have paid sparse attention to how and why some customers overcome the price barrier. This article addresses this issue, posing the question: How do alternative foods become affordable to the customers purchasing them? The article draws on an extensive qualitative dataset that shows how the participants – suppliers, administrators, and customers – in Swedish REKO-rings, a direct-to-customer food market arrangement, co-construct alternative foods as affordable to customers. The study uses the sociology of markets and valuation studies to analyse how these market participants enable some economic comparisons but disqualify others. The findings suggest that they co-construct a distinct economic practice for their customers, called ‘affordacity’. This practice treats liberal spending on alternative foods as the prudent use of money, while deeming spending on conventional foods as imprudent regardless of their prices. These findings complement existing scholarship on sustainable food consumption and alternative food networks.
Purpose: Collaborative consumption (CC), a unique business model, provides several monetary and non-monetary benefits to customers. Several adapted Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) based models were developed and tested to understand this consumption behaviour with the findings inconsistent and fragmented. Thus, this study aims to develop a general and consistent TPB model using a meta-analytic path analysis to better understand customers’ CC adoption behaviour. Design/Methodology/Approach: Using 37 studies, a meta-analysis was performed adopting several analytical methods; bivariate analysis, moderation analysis, and path analysis. Findings: Our universal TPB model shows that factors, i.e., trust, attitude, perceived environmental responsibility and communication facilities drive both perceived usefulness and collaborative consumption. However, subjective norms, perceived behavioural control and emotional value drive only perceived usefulness. Moderation analysis shows that the relationships between variables used in the proposed TPB model tends to vary depending on five moderators, i.e., countries’ economic development level, type of collaborative consumption, sample size, sample type and survey administration method. Research Limitations: The consideration of only quantitative papers and papers written in English language in this meta-analysis may bias the study’s findings. Originality/Value: By developing the universal TPB model, our study theoretically contributes to the TPB model and by conducting the moderation test, the study contextually contributes to the TPB literature in the CC context. Practical implication: Based on the findings regarding important factors that consumers consider when adopting CC, this study provides insightful recommendations to companies facilitating collaborative consumption.
Responding to the increased interest in addressing organisational sustainability issues using behaviour change strategies, this paper aims to propose a methodology for doing so from a different perspective – namely, sociology and social practice theory. Firstly, the background of behaviour change approaches and practice theory are discussed. Then a methodology for conducting a pro-environmental organisational change project is proposed. The methodology involves five key elements: detailed analysis of context, outlining a theoretical framework, establishing project boundaries, acknowledging connectivity of practices and choosing data collection methods. We illustrate the application of methodology by using examples of everyday consumables, energy and waste in a hospital trust in the South East of England. This approach has been effective for analysing routine and inconspicuous consumption within an organisation, as it considers individual attitudes and motivations as well as the structural and habitual nature of communities of practices. It allows researchers and managers to understand workplace consumption issues from several perspectives and identify the best angle from which to approach potential resolutions.
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This article found that personal history, formed by the accumulated experience of practitioners, affected the present level of energy consumption for space heating and hot water. Moreover, the paper demonstrates how quantitative analyses may provide new insights into studies of energy consumption practices. By following a cohort in two periods of their life; childhood (ages 10–15 in 1981) and early adulthood (ages 29–34 in 2000), I investigated how embodied experience affects how the cohorts consume energy today (2010–2015). Personal history is measured by household characteristics (household income and education level of the household), and house characteristics (house construction year and main heating source). The results indicated that growing up in a household with more economic means correlated with higher energy consumption today regardless of the present economic situation. Moreover, the results indicated that having lived in recently built houses or houses with district heating, compared with for example a stove or a heater, leads to a tendency to consume more energy today. The article concludes by arguing that there is a need to turn attention towards social differences in the competences of individual practitioners, which will result in practices differently performed.
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This paper contributes to the ongoing debate on the role of the social sciences in influencing energy and environmental policy. It presents the views of research professionals inside government on the apparent stand-off between proponents of behavioural economics and adopters of social practice theory in academic energy research. Drawing on auto-ethnographic insights and interviews with government social researchers (GSRs) working on energy and climate change, we chart the rise of behavioural economics within the UK government, discussing the reasons behind its success, and its limitations. GSRs’ perspectives on energy research using practice theory are presented, juxtaposed with arguments which help to explain why policy engagement is not a ubiquitous ambition for all energy researchers. We find that government social researchers actively engage with a range of theoretical approaches and social scientific methods. They express enthusiastic interest in research using practice theory, but point to a need for applicable evidence if they are to use it in their own practice. Applying insights from the two theories themselves, we tentatively suggest ways in which GSRs could help, and be helped, to incorporate practice theory into mainstream policy discourse.
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Smart Cities initiatives are spreading all around the globe at a phenomenal pace. Their bold ambition is to increase the competitiveness of local communities through innovation while increasing the quality of life for its citizens through better public services and a cleaner environment. Prior research has shown contrasting views and a multitude of dimensions and approaches to look at this phenomenon. In spite of the fact that this can stimulate the debate, it lacks a systematic assessment and an integrative view. The papers in the special issue on “Understanding Smart Cities: Innovation Ecosystems, Technological Advancements, and Societal Challenges” take stock of the past work and provide new insights through the lenses of a hybrid framework. Moving from these premises, we offer an overview of the topic by featuring possible linkages and thematic clusters. Then, we sketch a novel research agenda for scholars, practitioners, and policy makers who wish to engage in – and build – a critical, constructive, and conducive discourse on Smart Cities.
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The main objective of this exploratory study is to identify the social, economic, environmental and cultural factors related to the sustainable care of both environment and public health that most concern Twitter users. With 336 million active users as of 2018, Twitter is a social network that is increasingly used in research to get information and to understand public opinion as exemplified by Twitter users. In order to identify the factors related to the sustainable care of environment and public health, we have downloaded n = 5873 tweets that used the hashtag #WorldEnvironmentDay on the respective day. As the next step, sentiment analysis with an algorithm developed in Python and trained with data mining was applied to the sample of tweets to group them according to the expressed feelings. Thereafter, a textual analysis was used to group the tweets according to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), identifying the key factors about environment and public health that most concern Twitter users. To this end, we used the qualitative analysis software NVivo Pro 12. The results of the analysis enabled us to establish the key factors that most concern users about the environment and public health such as climate change, global warming, extreme weather, water pollution, deforestation, climate risks, acid rain or massive industrialization. The conclusions of the present study can be useful to companies and institutions that have initiatives related to the environment and they also facilitate decision-making regarding the environment in non-profit organizations. Our findings will also serve the United Nations that will thoroughly review the
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The agro-food system needs a genuine sustainability transition to achieve sustainable food and nutrition security in the face of climate change, population growth, ecosystem degradation and increasing resource scarcity. Agro-food sustainability transitions refer to transformation processes needed to move towards sustainable agriculture and food systems. There is a broad range of theoretical and conceptual frameworks that have been used to understand and promote transition towards sustainability. These include the multi-level perspective (MLP) on socio-technical transitions, transition management (TM), strategic niche management (SNM), technological innovation system (TIS) and social practice approach (SPA). The paper analyses the use of these heuristic frameworks in research on agro-food sustainability transitions. A search carried out in March 2018 on Scopus yielded 791 documents, and 127 research articles underwent a systematic review. Results show that more than three-fifths of research papers dealing with sustainability transitions in agriculture, food processing, distribution and consumption use at least one of the five heuristic frameworks (MLP, TM, SNM, TIS and SPA). The MLP is the most prominent framework in research on agro-food sustainability transitions, followed by TM, SPA, SNM and then TIS. Nevertheless, MLP is increasingly complemented with frameworks that focus on human-related and social factors (SPA), management and governance (TM, SNM) or agency and interactions between actors (TIS) in sustainability transitions processes. Therefore, the paper makes the case for more integration of transition frameworks in order to better nurture and foster transitions towards sustainable agro-food systems.
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Overcoming the dichotomous nature of smart city research is fundamental to provide cities with a clear understanding of how smart city development should be approached. This paper introduces a research methodology for conducting the multiple-case study analyses neces-sary to meet this challenge. After being presented, the practical feasibility, effectiveness and logistics of such a methodology are tested by examining the activities that Vienna has imple-mented to deliver its smart city development strategy. The results of this pilot study show how the application of the proposed methodology can help smart city researchers codify the knowledge produced from multiple smart city experiences using a common protocol. This in turn allows them to: (1) coordinate efforts when investigating the strategic principles that drive smart city development and test the divergent hypotheses emerging from the scientific litera-ture; (2) share the results of this investigation and hypothesis testing by conducting exten-sive cross-case analyses among multiple studies able to capture the generic qualities of the findings; (3) gain consensus on the way to think about, conceptualize and standardize the analysis of smart city developments; and (4) develop innovative monitoring and evaluation systems for smart city development strategies by reflecting upon the lessons learned from current practices.
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Smart metering is advancing rapidly and consumption feedback from smart meters is expected to help residents to reduce their energy and water consumption. In recent years, more critical views have been expressed based on theories of social practice, arguing that smart meter feedback ignores the role of various mundane practices where energy and water are consumed and instead targets individuals as active decision-makers. We present a review of qualitative studies on smart meter feedback and results of a survey to European smart metering projects. We argue that theories of social practice can be used to reframe the challenges and potentials of smart meter feedback that have been identified in the literature and our survey. This presents challenges of smart meter feedback as resulting from normalised resource intensive practices rather than from uninterested and comfort-loving individuals. Potentials of improving the effectiveness of smart meter feedback relate to supporting communities and peer-learning and combining smart meter feedback with micro-generation of renewable energy. This has implications for how domestic energy and water consumption is targeted by policy.
The intensive use of information and communication technology (ICT) results in increasing levels of consumption of energy and materials. The use of ICT is widespread among young people, and this paper investigates the everyday practices related to their use of ICT (mainly smart phones and laptops). Based on qualitative studies in the Netherlands and Denmark, we find that energy-intensive use of ICT is encouraged through mutually reinforcing social norms, social-institutional embeddedness and scripts regarding their everyday practices. In addition to a lack of awareness of the environmental impact of ICT, this explains why young people in general find it hard to imagine using ICT less to save energy. It is discussed how the material design (scripts) of ICT, e.g. visual/audio message notifications, supports increased use, but also sometimes are opposed by young people through counter script strategies. More generally, young people often have experiences of (social media) communication as being burdensome due to its extent and social expectations of always being accessible. Future policies should target the social-institutional and material context, instead of the individual user, if the aim is to reduce energy consumption from ICT use. The paper combines a practice theoretical approach with STS concepts that foreground the role of materials in shaping practices.
In this article we demonstrate how existing scenario-planning and forecasting methods employed in the energy sector envision, prioritise and limit possible futures. We propose that ‘social practice imaginaries’ can be mobilised to develop alternative future scenarios grounded in changing everyday life. To undertake this we critically interrogate the sociotechnical imaginary given rise through an Australian smart technology scenario-planning exercise, which asked: ‘what might Australia’s electricity sector look like in 2050?’ Proposing that this question needs to be reframed to account for the question of ‘what might everyday practices look like in 2050?’ we experiment with a ‘stay-at-home pets’ scenario. We draw on secondary data on pet care trends and a decade of ethnographic research with Australian households. Through this example, we demonstrate how viewing futures through pet care and entertainment practices shifts the conceptualisation of the energy problems that the sector seeks to address through smart technology deployments. We conclude by emphasising how this social practice imaginary expands opportunities and pathways for understanding and intervening in possible futures, and call for further analysis through this conceptual lens.
Collaborative consumption indicates the emergence and rapid spread of a new set of consumption practices. Originally praised as an antidote to an unsustainable market economy, there is growing concern that collaborative consumption increasingly follows a conventional market rationality of payments and profits, thereby undermining its initial social and ‘civil society’ aspects. This article investigates the future of collaborative consumption through case studies of the Peerby and MyWheels platforms, which represent new social practices of borrowing and renting. We use the sociological theories of Theodore Schatzki and Randall Collins to analyse the key factors that determine the present and future trajectories of these practices. We show how human agency and emotions in a dynamic between companies, practices, and practitioners are crucial in shaping the future of collaborative consumption. The findings suggest two diverging trajectories: one that sticks to the social aspects of connecting people through sharing things, and another that heads towards impersonal forms of collaborative consumption. The latter is primarily organized by companies, which introduce new rules (payments and insurances) and technologies (drones and autonomous vehicles) to make the shared use of things more fast, efficient, and profitable.