Researching air-conditioning addiction and ways of puncturing practice: professional office workers and the decision to go outside
Though many people around the world now spend much of their time surrounded by bodies of controlled ambient air indoors, we still know relatively little about the subjectivities involved. Some have deployed the idea of air-conditioning addiction. Others emphasise the enjoyable sensations associated with temporary escape. The research described in this paper sought to add some empirical depth to these discussions by combining theories of social practice with a programme of serial interviews to examine how a sample of city professionals felt about the long periods they spent inside air-conditioned offices. The rationale was that, through these means, it should be possible to identify ways of disrupting otherwise habitual indoor existences and thereby discourage people from becoming increasingly reliant upon ambient conditions that are environmentally costly to supply. Describing their passage through a typical working day, this paper focuses on the moments when it might have occurred to them to spend time outside and how certain mental and material elements combined to impede the arrival of this decision. This exercise is used to draw out suggestions about how a better relationship between professional office workers and the everyday outdoors could be encouraged. The broader conclusion is that contextual studies which examine how places and practices produce decisions, instead of assuming individual people merely make them, have their part to play in fostering positive social futures.
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