Keep Your Dirty Lights On


Electricity has been defined by American society as a modern and clean form of energy since it came into practical use at the end of the nineteenth century, yet no comprehensive study exists which examines the roots of these definitions. This ebook considers the social meanings of electricity as an energy technology that became adopted between the midnineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries. Arguing that both technical and cultural factors played a role, this study shows how electricity became an abstracted form of energy in the minds of Americans. As technological advancements allowed for an increasing physical distance between power generation and power consumption, the commodity of electricity became consciously detached from the steam and coal that produced it. This factor, along with cultural factors led the public to define electricity as mysterious, utopian, and an alternative to proximal fire-based energy sources. With its adoption occurring simultaneously with Progressivism and consumerism, electricity use was encouraged and seen as a integral part of improvement and modernity which led Americans to culturally construct electricity as unlimited and environmentally inconsequential.

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Dan French Ph.D.