Go back to article: Visualising electricity demand: use and users of a 3D chart from the 1950s

Abstract

Showing electricity demand by the hour, day, month and year, this 3D chart offers a rich visualisation of energy data in the UK from the years 1951–54. Acquired by the Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester, the object is significant as a tangible record of past practice, both of the electricity supply industry and its consumers. In this paper, we offer a close inspection of the object, and following its clues, we generate ideas about the chart’s use and users. In addition to commenting on the rhythmic patterning of daily and seasonal loads, we reflect on the role of the object at the time of its construction, in terms of forecasting, price-setting and load-shifting, and lobbying and demonstration. The object literally materialises electricity demand, providing a distinctive 3D representation, and in so doing prompting questions about how demand changes over time, and in time, and how our practices of everyday life constitute this demand. We conclude by offering a new interpretation of the object as a tool, as well as historical data.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/180905/001