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In response to widespread power outages, rolling blackouts, and ubiquitous energy debates, this essay considers our relation to energy and the grid that produces it. First, we investigate California's multimedia Flex Your Power campaign, which defines consumers as nodes of the grid to emphasize their responsibility to maintain a stable energy supply. Second, we examine state and national responses to the 2003 blackout in the Northeastern United States, attending to three strategies through which grid administrators sought to impose order, enact hierarchy, and deindividuate power. We propose that the grid invokes personalization at the "local" level and abstraction at the national level. These contradictory (but overlapping) narratives show a complex, nuanced set of relations between human society and mechanized processes of power distribution.


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Atlantic Journal of Communication, Volume 14, Issue 4, 2006 [copyright Taylor & Francis], available online at:

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