Ask any English major. Post-modernism is one of the most complex, frustrating theories to learn. Traditional literary theory posits a linear narrative plot marked by exposition, development, climax and conclusion, but post-modernists embrace the unfathomable complexity of storytelling. Plots can be circular, parallel, intersecting or even absent. Climaxes can occur anytime and multiple times – or not at all. Temporal progression needn’t follow a straight line. Characters and settings are subversively dislocated from commonly understood norms. There is no central organizing principle. As young literary critics learn more about post-modernism, however, their frustration yields to an expansion of their narrative understanding. It provides exhilaration alongside the complexity.
The same is happening in the energy industry, which became evident to me during several sessions at SXSW Eco. The energy industry – one of the most traditional, centralized, linear industries on the planet – is rapidly entering its own post-modern era, perhaps never to look back.
In this new world, power generation is no longer driven by primary characters (utilities) with a single climax (power plant) providing the source of all narrative action. Power generation is now being owned by multiple parties – utilities, companies, and even consumers themselves.
The conventional understanding of industrial progress – a linear narrative – is giving way to the circular economy – a circular narrative, obviously. Assets are consistently re- and up-cycled such that they never become waste. Commonly perceived enemies, such as environmental toxins, are being redefined subversively by people like renowned architect Bill McDonough, who said that toxins are simply materials in the wrong places. He believes they should be storied in soil – more on that below.
I experienced several moments during SXSW Eco which suggested the concept of post-modern energy, below are a few insights:
Joey Marquart is a senior vice president in the Energy sector.