This course is discontinued

MILEN9020 – Technology and ethnographic methods, in the context of implementing new technology on household level.

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Rural areas in developing countries often have limited access to electricity. A very promising option for making electricity available to rural areas is through the construction of renewable energy-based mini-grids. Solar photovoltaic (PV) based power is particularly interesting as solar PV has become a viable technology for meeting rural electrical need.

This course has a multidisciplinary focus and covers both technical and socio-economical aspects of implementing decentralized solar-based mini-grid, i.e. external to the national grid, in a rural context in a developing country.

The purpose of the course is to increase the students understanding of the interdependencies between technological energy solutions and social, economic geographic and cultural dimensions related to energy distribution and use, by offering lecturers; - on the technology component of decentralized solar-based mini-grid, including energy production, storage, distribution, and on - ethnographic methods, in the context of accommodating mini-grids to local micro-economies and local practices.

The course is divided in two main parts, where the first part takes place in the classroom at UiO and the second part involves the students in a field work situation in (country/village in India, with the purpose of observing how solar energy systems are integrated in a minigrid. In the field, the students will participate with researchers in ethnographic research methods on technology scoping and implementation. The focus in the field will be implementation of technology on household level. The field work will help to identify challenges and success factors at the local level for the implementation of mini-grids

Learning outcome

The students will be introduced to multi-disciplinary research covering technical and socio-economic aspects of implementing decentralized solar-based mini-grids in a rural setting in a developing country. The students will learn about:

1. Various energy system components, e.g. the solar panels (production), batteries (storage), and some basic applications (usage), includ-ing how the components work, their advantages, but also limitations and critical issues.
2. How these components function in a complete stand-alone system, design and dimensioning, adaptation, control system, energy flow, monitoring and safety mechanisms;
3. Central concepts of ethnographic methods such as participant observation, observation, open-ended and semi-structured interview techniques
4. The students will introduced to the qualitative approach that is how critical categories and meanings emerge from the ethno-graphic encounter rather than imposing meanings from existing models.


The course is primarily intended for PhD students admitted to a program at a Norwegian University or University College, but note that master students may also apply for the course.

For registration please contact the MILEN administration, see contact information below.

PhD students from other Universities than UiO must in addition apply s a visiting PhD students. Priority is given to students involved in the MILEN research school.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

No obligatory prerequisites beyond the minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway.


This course covers one week of intensive lectures at UiO, and subsequently one week of field work (including days for travel).

At UiO, the course will cover the technology dimension by teaching basic knowledge of the various energy components; their function and usage, and there will be group work in an electronic lab. The ethnography dimension will be covered by lecturers on the epistemological tradition into which ethnography fits, and by teaching the main ethnographic methods including; participant observation, interviews: sample selection, types, preparation and techniques. Seminar colloquia will discuss the main methods lectured and inquire about the human-technology interaction.

The students will during the field work observe real examples of how mini grid energy systems can are integrated in a local society. As part of this , the students will be introduced to aspectes of organization, business models, responsibilities, awareness, managing expectations, handling incidents in the community where the field work will take place.

The students will form small project groups to work on selected assignments, linked to their field work. A written group project report has to be submitted a few weeks after the field trip. A supervisor will be made available for each group assignment.


Students are graded on their participation in group project assignments and the submitted group project report.

Students will on an individual basis present the completed assignment.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Facts about this course






Every spring


Every spring

Teaching language



UiO Energy