Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

Helsingin yliopisto, Helsinki 2006

Keskeytyksestä kritiikkeihin: sähkönjakelun häiriöiden kokemuksia ja kohtaamisia

Antti Silvast

Pro gradu, helmikuu 2006.
Helsingin yliopisto, valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, sosiologian laitos.

The degree of electrification is often connected with high standard of living, welfare, industry's structure and environmental factors. All of these have been thought to determine that Finland uses a lot of electricity. In this master's thesis, I take a different approach to electric power. The focus of research is the interruptions of electricity delivery, which are also called power outages. Power outages may last from couple of minutes to several months and in a country like Finland they have several consequences.

In this thesis power outage is regarded as a cultural risk, interpreted as part of cultural practices and beliefs. The starting point is that ruptures make the electric power networks a novel subject of speech and action. Different groups' conceptions of nature, institutions and social bonds are supposed to underlie the conception of outages. Main research theory of the thesis are the technology studies of Ulrich Beck, Charles Perrow, and Bruno Latour and the grid/group-theory formulated by Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky. Data analysis is done using the structural semiotic models of A. J. Greimas. Framing these happenings is the changed economic situation through the liberalization of Finnish energy markets that happened in the late 1990's, and recent weather conditions that have been connected with global warming.

Outages are dealt with concerning people's homes in one hand and the experts from power companies on the other hand. The data of thesis consists of three separate corpuses. Both Finnish lay electricity users (9 persons) and experts at Finnish power utilities (7 persons) were interviewed. These interviews were analysed to compare views on power outages. Additionally, 115 lay persons from Southern and Eastern Finland answered a survey part of the thesis. The survey sought to gain a larger picture of outages' effects in homes. This data was interpreted by dividing it according to variables such as gender, age, number of experienced outages and geographical area.

According to the data analysis, power outage is not a completely uncontrollable situation. Rather it evokes differing and sometimes contrasting types of action and representations. The electricity users tend to belittle the trouble of so-called easy outages. An easy outage is something that is manageable, causes egalitarian help from one's neighbours and even brings one closer to nature. But once the outage starts to cause trouble demanding active reactions, the users demanded certainty from the utilities. The line between an easy and difficult outage is relative and depends on for instance how much trouble power outages have caused for the user in the past. The experts, on the other hand, used hierarchist representations, hoping that users would think about their electricity use and be prepared for the chance of an outage. According to the experts the power network is very reliable, but power outages are still quite normal accidents. This is due to natural processes like storms and multiple faults at the same time, either of which can be prevented entirely.

The title page of the publication

Julkaisu on tekijänoikeussäännösten alainen. Teosta voi lukea ja tulostaa henkilökohtaista käyttöä varten. Käyttö kaupallisiin tarkoituksiin on kielletty.

© Helsingin yliopisto 2006

Viimeksi päivitetty 26.05.2006

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