Today the Herald Sun ran a story proclaiming that smart meters are here to stay and invited their readers to comment on whether the government should scrap the smart meter program. I am not going to comment here on the journalistic quality of the article but concentrate on comments section which gives stakeholders some valuable insight into the zeitgeist of smart metering in the Garden State.
By applying an unstructured text mining application I have extracted the key themes from the comments on this story. When analysed in conjunction with the structure and content of the story, we get some interesting insights into public perception.
To start with I excluded the words “smart”, “meter” and “meters” in order not to be distracted by the subject under discussion. This is what I got.
Word clouds often seem to point to a collective meaning that is independent of individual attitudes. If this is the case then the strong message here which we could interpret as a collective rejection of what is seen as government control being favoured over the wishes of the “people”. This may be more of a reflection of the Herald Sun readership rather than a general community concern however.
If I remove “government” and “power” we get a closer look at the next level of the word cloud.
An aside of note is that we see that Herald Sun readers like to refer to the premier by his first name which is perhaps a sign that he still has popularity with this demographic.
One interesting observation to me is that despite its prominent mention article, the myth of radio frequency radiation from smart meters is not a major concern to the community, so we are unlikely to see a repeat of the tin foil hats fiasco in California.
Once we get into some of the word cloud detail, we see the common themes relating to “cost of living”, namely the additional costs to the electricity bill of the roll out and potential costs associated with time of use pricing. The article does mention that time of use pricing is an opportunities for households to save money. Time of use pricing is also a fairer pricing regime than flat tariffs.
The other important theme that I see is that the smart meter rollout is linked to the other controversial big technology projects of the previous Victorian government – Myki and the Wonthaggi Desalination Plant. But the good news is that the new government still has some cache with the public (even in criticism readers often refer to the premier by his first name). The objective now should be to leverage this and start building programs which smart meter initiatives which demonstrate the value of the technology directly to consumers. This in part requires unlocking the value of the data for consumers. I’ll speak more about this in future posts.
UPDATE: For interpretation of word clouds I suggest reading up on concept of collective consciousness.