My research has two main strands, digitalisation processes and energy humanities. I combine these by investigating the twin transition of digitisation and low carbon energy transitions. It is in particular the digitisation of energy production and transmission that I'm interested in, analysing in EnergieDigital who is digitising the energy infrastructure and what drives decision-making? How do digital technology, new actors and existing electricity grid infrastructures and path dependencies influence equity effects of infrastructural changes? How does digitalisation affect the perception and lived experience of human interactions with electricity and how does it change the value we place on it?
In other words: What do we gain and what do we lose by moving away from fossil energy and its infrastructure and towards a hybrid, digitalised energy system? What are the opportunities and risks of the energy transition if we understand it as a transformation from coal production to data generation?

Within digital anthropology and internet studies I have been focussing on cultural heritage, investigating contexts and practices of digitization processes in ethnographic collections and archives of Indian cultural heritage. I demonstrate how postcolonial expectations and online realities intertwine or collide. By analysing programming, access creation, data generation, curation and online usage of digital collections and archives, I show how conventional concepts of power and order are scrutinized and renewed, how new actors of cultural production enter the field and realign memory making in through online environments. The online circulation of (Indian) cultural heritage representations, I argue in two books and several articles, provides less for decolonial digital connections in an international realm, but provides Indian cultural actors with powerful means to challenges national colonial continuities.
I analysed the sociopolitical and sociocultural effects of digitization projects on the basis of case studies in India and in Europe between 2015 and 2022. I worked with conventional museums and archives as well as with communinity-based, online-only archives, to understand how they deal with the prospects of new forms of archival knowledge transfer, how re-circulated images get entangled with dominant knowledge claims, and how emerging forms of knowledge are negotiated or visualised in post-ethnographic moments.
Digital archives and collections hence emerge as extended social areas of action. They offer access to cultural heritage and cultural production, as well as possibilities to scrutinize existing hierarchies and visual economies.
My other research strand is energy and environmental humanities. Between 2018 and 2023 it centred around the project “Decarbonising Electricity: a Comparison in Socio-ecological Relations”, which was based at the University of Technology Sydney. Here we investigate how legitimacy for renewable energy can be won or lost, focusing on regions in Germany, India and Australia undergoing ‘energy transitions’. The project uses ethnography combined with social and political analysis to understand what can be done to enhance the transition to renewable energy.
The project website provides further information.

The current project is the successor of our "The Coal Rush and Beyond" research, where the same team looked into coal reliance, climate change and contested futures. As coal extraction and burning has been booming in the last decade, this inter-disciplinary project analysed the 'coal rush' in sociopolitical terms, asking how coal reliance emerges, and whether it might be superseded. We seeked explanations of why new coal mines and coal-fired power stations are constructed, investigated social conflicts centred on new coal facilities, and analysed what social factors may enable transition from coal. Again, Australia, Germany and India served as three national contexts, compared to develop a nuanced understanding of coal.
For more information visit the project website

back home