TERP was originally designed to support the NSF grant, “Indexing Energy Vulnerability.” And as I say below, I think I was cautiously hopeful that the platform could have a public user community -- collaborators in the nonprofit world; other energy experts in Philadelphia; and even community members who participate in the research. But I had mostly imagined it as, prioritized, its identity as a research archive (read: storage) with potential for collaborative analysis and publication. Part of me wouldn’t allow the rest of me to hope for more than storage. I’ve worked on enough digital projects over the last eighteen years to know that making a digital space is its own separate project. TERP as platform was always secondary to “Indexing Energy Vulnerability” as social science study. This is my project manager part speaking.
But, in December 2019, as we began surveying community members, they began to ask what this work (the survey) was good for. Like, really coming after the research team members during the surveys themselves (Philadelphia is overstudied so people are sharp on research ethics). So, we thought, we’ve got to spend more time making TERP public and accessible to community members. So that’s become a priority for us the last three months -- its public useability. So, people who participated in the survey can see the data visualizations from individual questions and excerpts from the survey. People we interview can point people to their transcripts (like the Executive Director of a CDC we recently interviewed, who really wants us to make our work and his work visible by curating an essay around the transcript). In other words, the more research we do, the more opportunity there is to make TERP the platform public and useable to a wider community of energy rights stakeholders. But we weren’t prioritizing this until we began the survey and people expressed interest in it.
Had you asked me six months ago, or eighteen months ago, if I could see myself making a PECE essay that would serve as a public resource going into a public hearing on water affordability, I would have said, maybe but it depends on doing a significant amount of design work --- things we should have done long ago maybe (About page, research bios, etc.)
In sum, the project’s identity has evolved from “Indexing Energy Vulnerability” NSF grant and housingenergy.info as the URL, to “The Energy Vulnerability Project”, a name I was never happy with (nor the housingenergy.info -- but it was a placeholder until the project could figure itself out) to “The Energy Rights Project” and related URL, a revision in our identity that was fueled by our desire to have a public interface that had a social justice platform -- energy rights -- which is more forward thinking that documenting energy vulnerability. So, by my account, there has been a sizeable shift in the social and discursive context that the platform is situated in: the pandemic, our increased collaboration with nonprofits and community organizations through the research over the last six months, and from our desire to push this idea of energy rights.