A practice approach to experimental governance: Experiences from the intersection of everyday life and local experimentation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


This dissertation examines local experimentation from a practice theoretical perspective. By doing this, the dissertation bridges the gap between two fields of research: one relating to the governance of experiments and the other to the dynamics of practices. In this way the dissertation contributes to the timely issue of steering consumption in a more sustainable direction by utilising experiments and interventions at multiple societal levels – an issue attracting wide interest within both research and policy communities.

The dissertation focuses on the role of participants in accommodating novel technologies and services into their everyday lives, and the role of social interplay between individuals and their collectives in supporting or opposing the change and diffusion of practices. These factors – how everyday practices are linked together, how change in one practice affects other surrounding practices, and how individuals adjust and evaluate their performances with respect to social norms, expectations, standards and rules – are fundamental to both stability and change in practices.

The dissertation comprises of five articles that illustrate, firstly, what can be expected from a local experiment and what the role of each experiment is and, secondly, what can be learnt from an everyday practice perspective on experiments and how the experiments are accommodated into the system of everyday practices. The study draws on a meta-study on 25 papers on climate governance experiments and on three empirical case studies on local experiments in Jyväskylä, Finland.

This dissertation asserts that a practice approach and a participant perspective can provide new opportunities for experimental governance by illustrating the complexities of everyday practices and how to acknowledge them in experimentation. Although sustainability transitions require changes in practices as entities, a focus on the performances of practices is crucial for any intervention, as it sheds light on individual learning and experiences.

The findings highlight the interdependencies and path dependencies of practices, as well as the collective perceptions of normality steering understandings of acceptable or unacceptable actions. The results also demonstrate that the participants are active contributors in experimentation, adjusting the new configurations of elements and practices in the prevailing system and reflecting on their performances in relation to others. Addressing the dynamics between individual performers of practice and their communities in (re)producing practices, and then targeting the interventions at the collective underpinnings preventing (or accelerating) change might be the key to stabilising emerging, sustainable practices.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-951-51-3251-2
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-3252-9
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 1172 Environmental sciences

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