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Department of Geography

Current Postgraduate Students

Mr Gerald Aiken

Research Postgraduate (PhD) in the Department of Geography
Telephone: 41815 / 41817
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 41801
Room number: 601

Contact Mr Gerald Aiken (email at


Invited talk given at the 4th ESRC Seminar Series on: Sustainability Transitions: The Politics of Everyday Transition. The talk can be viewed here.


2001 - 2005: BSc Geography and Economics, University of St Andrews.
2005 - 2006: PGCE Secondary Education (Geography), University College, Durham University.
2007 - 2008: MSc Human Ecology, Centre for Human Ecology.
2008 - 2012: PhD Geography, St John's College, Durham University.

In 2011, I was the Manfred Heindler research fellow at the IAS-STS, Graz, Austria.

Currently, I am the Research Associate for the IAS project 'New Storylines for Environmental Change: Citizens' Perspectives'

Governing Urban Transitions from the Ground Up: Energy Provision and Use in UK Cities

The aim of this PhD is to examine the ways in which community-based climate change experiments in the UK energy system are shaping urban transitions to low carbon futures.

The first objective of this PhD is to survey community-based climate change niches or ‘experiments’ in the system of energy provision in the UK. For example, such experiments might include new forms of embedded generation or the use of smart meters to encourage energy efficient behaviour. They may be community driven, that is instantiated and governed by community sector organisations (Walker et al. 2007), or governed through partnership arrangements involving various actors seeking to mobilise the community as a site of urban transition, such as ‘Transition Towns’. The success, or otherwise, of such experiments in making a material difference to energy production and consumption rests not only on how such experiments are designed and governed, but also on how they shape practice (Dobbyn and Thomas 2005; Guy and Shove 2000; Lovell 2005; Shove 2003; Van Vilet et al. 2005). The second objective is therefore to examine how energy production and consumption is practiced within the domestic and commercial spaces of climate change experiments, in order to understand the implications for achieving urban transitions to low carbon futures.

The third objective of this studentship is to examine how and with what effects the notion of community is being constructed and mobilised in order to achieve transitions in urban energy systems. The reworking and reconfiguration of ‘community’ around the imperative of low carbon energy futures has significant implications for the allocation and acceptance of responsibility for addressing climate change (Hinchliffe 1996; Hobson 2003, 2007; Slocum 2004). Research has indicated that citizens expressions of responsibility – or alternatively ‘irresponsibility’ – for responding to a range of environmental risk problems are relationally constructed and intimately shaped by perceptions of the responsibilities of the state and of other institutional actors (Bickerstaff et al. 2007:3). In this context, attempts to confer responsibility on to citizens without acknowledging the relational causes of ambivalence towards such injunctions may undermine “people’s sense of agency and of their ability to assume active responsibility where that might be seen to be socially desirable” (Bickerstaff et al. 2007:16). The fourth objective of this studentship is therefore to consider how responsibility is being allocated and negotiated through community-based climate change experiments, and the consequent implications for the involvement of citizens in transitions to low carbon urban futures.

Gerald is also a Resident Tutor at St John's College, Durham and an Associate Member of the Iona Community.

Research Groups


Chapter in book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article