“After Oil: Explorations and Experiments in the Future of Energy, Culture and Society” is a collaborative, interdisciplinary research partnership designed to explore, critically and creatively, the social, cultural and political changes necessary to facilitate a full-scale transition from fossil fuels to new forms of energy. A foundational premise underpins the research and research-creation envisioned in “After Oil”: that energy is crucial in determining how we live. The energy forms in any one era fundamentally shape the attributes and capabilities of societies in that era. Accordingly, a genuine and comprehensive shift in energy today demands, in addition to the adoption of renewable, ecologically sustainable energy sources, a wholesale transformation in contemporary petroculture: those political structures, built environments, social dynamics, educational systems, discursive modes, values, practices, habits, beliefs and affects that, seeming unrelated to energy, exist as they do because of the shaping force of oil.
Two linked commitments run through “After Oil” as a research partnership:
- to explore and comprehend the enormous demands and complex possibilities involved in the global passage from oil-based to post-oil societies; and
- to embrace the challenge of devising new modes through which to communicate such new knowledge.
Concepts of energy impasse and energy transition inform these commitments and animate the project as a whole, from the sites of our critical analysis of existing practices to the forms of knowledge mobilization which we will carry out. “Impasse” names the problem, and “transition” the urgency: modern societies remain deeply reluctant to venture the monumental re-conception and re-fashioning of core modes, practices and values that must occur to allow genuine energy transition in the contemporary moment. What’s more, the quantification of the dire consequences of continued fossil fuel use—as the primary method of communicating crisis—has not managed, by itself, to produce the dramatic shift in understanding and action needed to break through impasse and achieve energy transition. Hence the importance in “After Oil” of qualitative research methods and practices from the humanities, social sciences, and arts—forms of critical and creative analysis and speculation that offer not just new knowledge, but new ways of knowing about energy impasse so as to create, concretely, some conditions of possibility for energy transition.