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NordiCHI 2018 from an environmentalist’s perspective

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As already alluded to in a published blog post here on the blog, I attended the 10th Nordic conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI2018) and organized a workshop on Saturday the 29th of September. The conference did not end there for me, but I stayed for 4 more days. And here are my most personal musings on this experience.

The 30th of October, I attended another workshop, to which I had been drafted by one of the organisers – and I could attend despite not having submitted a position paper on the topic of Design Fiction in Participatory Design processes. This is however close to things I have done, for example in the Empowering Energy Futures project where we created the energy fiction Vitiden. The workshop had a hint of a sustainability theme, where we worked with the fiction of moving a future city to Greenland due to climate change issues. The workshop was fun, although somewhat challenging, and made me realise that I have a potential project proposal in my back pocket, we’ll see if I can come back to that.

Workshoppy thingies going on at NordiCHI 2019

A large part of what you discuss on a conference is keynotes! On Monday 1st of September, the proper conference started, with a keynote by Carly Cloge from (Google) X. She presented X’s work on moonshot ideas and great technological breakthroughs. In a sense it was good to hear that we can and should sometimes fail, in order to find the best solutions. The keynote was really slick, with amazing projects and beautiful pictures – however, I was left with feeling that if they had almost unlimited resources – why concentrate on these particular problems? On Tuesday 2nd of October, Jeanette Blomberg reminisced on her 30 years of anthropological HCI studies within companies such as IBM. Her work resonated better with me, mirroring what I did myself in my PhD-work – working to enhance the user-centerdness in public authorities, and also mirroring my own (and probably your) everyday work situation with all these ICT systems we have to wrestle down for unclear reasons. On Wednesday 3rd of October, Steven Jackson presented the keynote I had the highest hope for, ”Sustainability Beyond Design: HCI Meets the Anthropocene”. But it turned out, this was the keynote that made me the most disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the keynote in itself was great and interesting, but Steven invited others into not taking it seriously by saying that it could be argued whether this ever would be central to HCI. And just so, the first to get the microphone did say that he did not think this ever would become central in HCI. But if we don’t fit our own field within the planetary boundaries, do we have any right to be part of forming the future?

My sketch notes of the keynote by Steven Jackson. Much of his talk touch upon the materiality of our ICT society, and how it will be here long after we are gone.

The rest of the days went by in a blur, and the conference committee’s decision to blend full papers, design cases, future scenarios and work-in-progress papers in the sessions made the sessions diversified and interesting. Hanna admirably presented our paper ”Designing for Diverse Stakeholder Engagement in Resource-Intensive Practices” on Wednesday, in the only dedicated sustainability session. That there were only one session on sustainability (and smartness) might be considered a weakness from my (our) point of view, especially with a conference with the theme ”Revisiting the Life Cycle”. However, I do believe that efforts to address sustainability were visible in other parts of the conference. One of the lunches were completely vegan, to many peoples’ surprise, others included at least low carbon meat such as chicken. The conference dinner was held at a restaurant that serve fish – with salvaged vegetables. There was a goodie bag – but you didn’t get it automatically and the gift from the conference were a water bottle that you can use forever.

I was invited to sit in the panel on the last day of the conference, debating what is Nordic about NordiCHI. Before the panel I was wondering how radically I should push the sustainability agenda. The conference had been as many other conferences I have visited. With a few exceptions, I often sit in the audience and wonder why. Why do you do this research and what is the aim, what will change in the world if this research was widely spread and is that a change we want? Sometimes I hear the voice a dear friend, that often say when we are discussing the state of the world: ”Why? For the worst possible reason – cause we can”. In the end, I did push sustainability a bit, openly by arguing that we need NordiCHI since we will have to travel less by airplane in the future, and implicitly by suggesting that we should have a court jester (a nod to Daniel) at the conference that makes fun of us, and perhaps sometimes tell us that we are on the wrong track. Personally, I am too polite (or afraid of conflicts?) to question the papers as they are presented, but somewhere I am beginning to think that we have to, I am just not sure how. How do we change the culture and norm of what is good HCI research, so that it becomes more relevant in the age of Anthropocene, help us adapt to coming climate change, and keep us within the planetary boundaries? Not by being silent at least.

(And yes, I took the train to Oslo)

//Elina

 

Annonser

The Futures of Computing and Wisdom

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On October 29th, team members (Daniel, Elina and Rob) co-organised a workshop together with Ben Kirman and Oliver Bates at NordiCHI2018 on the modest topic of computing and wisdom!

The people attending had all sent in a fictional abstract (an abstract of a research paper that potentially could be presented in the future) – on some aspect of computing and wisdom in 2068. The year 2068 was chosen with inspiration of a special issue of the journal Futures – which is turning 50 this year – where the guest editors are looking for ”structured reports of dialogues” of what wisdom might be in 2068 (50 years from now).

What is wAIsdom? AIs showed up in many of the fictional abstracts

As workshops go, this workshop went well (despite, to be honest, the fact that we spent a bit too little time planning it). Many participants actually agreed that time flew, and that we realised, with some surprise, that 1.5 hours had just passed without us feeling it. The fictional abstracts played their part, they instigated discussions on possible futures and discussions about our fear and hopes in relation to computing. The one hour given to discussing wisdom, after having spent the morning exploring various futures through the fictional abstract, passed quickly and with some intense discussions. It even felt as if we could have spent even more time discussing this topic together.

Is this the recipy for wisdom?

The goals of the workshops were high, but we feel that it met them, and that there are two possible publications brewing based on results from the workshop – one being a structured report on a dialogue about the futures of wisdom from an HCI point of view, and the other being a paper about fictional abstracts as a method.

A great thanks to my fellow organisers and to all the participants – honestly, this was probably the best workshop I have attended/organised.

//Elina

LIMITS + ICT4S2018 + WS

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This will be a fully loaded blog post. Yours truly, and several team members and team hang arounds, have just attended the triple event of Computing within Limits workshop (LIMITS 2018), ICT4S 2018 conference and adjoining workshop on Computing + Sustainability + Education. The events stretched from Sunday the 13th of May to Friday the 18th of May 2018, followed by a Hackathon that we unfortunately did not attend.

Eeyore_small
Samuel Mann and Oliver Bates presented their paper on delimiting hope at LIMITS with these nice hand drawn slides. All of the ICT4S conference was also visualised, by everyone interested, in hand drawn pictures, and there will be an alternative proceedings with all the illustrations.

Putting LIMITS and ICT4S back to back made sure that both events received attendees that probably would not have attended (both) and that for at least some of us, travel was reduced. Personally I really appreciated this and hope for more synergies in the future.

Besides the pleasure of networking with colleagues of the same persuasion, the list of key note speakers and papers presented were wildly interesting. At LIMITS Peter Victor kicked the workshop off with a keynote on Ecological Economics and a Steady State Economy. This was followed by interesting papers and discussions, with the program allowing break out sessions and mingling. The second day started with Alan Borning presenting SEED – Solutions for Environment, Economy and Democracy.

The ICT4S conference was yet again facilitated by Peter Woodward who made us laugh, cringe and to the fullest connect and communicate with each other. Also this conference had brilliant keynote speakers, William Rees (the father of the ecological footprint), Lisa Nathan (whose talk on privilege made an impact on many) and John Robinson (who talked about how to interact with buildings). Personally, I was touched most by Sanjay Khanna, a futurologist who seemed to be well connected to his own feelings, letting it show how deeply emotionally affected he was in light of the future we are facing.

HorseShoeWaterfall
Since this became a long blog post, here’s a picture to rest your eyes on before reading on. Niagara Falls, imagine going over the edge in a barrel.

Finally, despite being relatively unplanned, the workshop om Computing + Sustainability + Education became a great success with interesting exchanges on how we teach sustainability within computing (HCI, Software Engineering, Computer Science etc). Steve Easterbrook also led us through an exercise on Systems Thinking. We have already drawn up plans on how to continue the energy from this group at the next ICT4S conference – in the form of another workshop and a tutorial. More to follow.

And happy news for us! Next ICT4S conference will be held in Lappeenranta in June 2019. See you all there!

ICT4S2019
The metropolis of Lappeenranta will host the ICT4S conference next year. Jari Porras and Samuel Mann will be conference chairs.

[here is a placeholder for the link to Daniel’s blog post that will probably come]

//Elina

Peak oil – only a game

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Imagine a dungeon, well, not a real dungeon, but a gaming basement, the Dragon’s lair, filled with odd chairs and tables. Imagine among the groups of hardened board gamers, card gamers, and role playing members a small contingent of researchers. In front of them, a mint version of the Peak Oil game, a kickstarter artefact, hand delivered in Spain to our team member Daniel. Now imagine the feeling of competition, strategy and intensive concentration, as the researchers try to gain the largest share of new energy technologies before the inevitable peak oil hits. All while trying to avoid PR disasters and losing barrels of oil. This all took place, a Tuesday in April, and all left with their nerd levels restored.

Daniel setting up the game and explaining the rules.
Endgame, Nicolas drew the last barrel of oil.

The game was engaging and fun, but difficult to master immediately. Even though we left out some game mechanics it still took some time to get started. The game itself took almost 1,5 hours, but never felt boring. It was highly enjoyable and I would love to play it again (and to get revenge)!

New technologies might not always be clean and renewable.

Thanks to Hanna, Philipp, and Nicolas for joining and Daniel for bringing the game. Congrats to Nicolas who won!

/Elina

Vitiden – an energy fiction

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This Thursday the 7th of December, 2017, Green Leap (which includes team members and previous team members),  launched the book Vitiden – an energy fiction. The event started with a short presentation of the book from several of the members of the project team, followed by a panel discussion with three invited guests; Pella Thiel (transition movement), Staffan Laestadius (professor emeritus from KTH) and Carlos Lopes (the Swedish Energy Agency).

Mingel_vitiden
The book is not only beautiful, it is also easy to recycle and is printed on recycle paper.

There was some forty participants mingling the afternoon and early evening away, and lots of interesting discussions on energy, the energy system and a transition to a more sustainable society.

The book can be downloaded as a PDF from KTH DiVA.

/Elina

80 glorious percent

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Today our team member Hanna Hasselqvist had her 80% seminar, which for those unfamiliar with the concept, like a general repetition and milestone one year before the dissertation. Rob Comber was the opponent at the seminar, and he did an excellent work on giving feedback to Hanna. Congratulations Hanna!

Hanna80percent
Rob and Hanna, and lots of presentation tech. 

/Elina

KTH Water Centre

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attended a workshop at the KTH Water Center (or WaterCentre@KTH) earlier this week. The topic of the workshop was ”Can the Internet of Things make water systems more efficient and sustainable?”

The main starting point was that Stockholm Water know what they put into the pipes and they know what comes out (the charge for the water that we use) but there’s a lot they don’t know about everything in-between, including exactly where the 23% difference between input and output is ”lost”. Leaking pipes? Stolen? Substandard measurements? Something else?

Also, it seems that some losses are acceptable, say about 10% or so. Also, Stockholm Water haven’t really cared about losses since Sweden/Stockholm has had plenty of water and it’s inexpensive too. But if people use more water and Stockholm keeps growing, then there will be limits and building new infrastructure is expesive. So, how would new technologies (sensors, data, APIs, digitalization) help us understand and manage water better? Just the task of detecting and localizing a leak in an underground network is a non-trivial task today and we also raised the question of what exactly a ”leak” is – how big (in liters/second) has to be lost for something to be ”leak” that you would want to fix?

During the workshop, all participants emphasized something our Stockholm Water guest mentioned but that wasn’t really a big part of the invitation to the workshop, namely the fact that we don’t really know a lot about how water is used by households/consumers. Perhaps the (future, expected) pressure on the water system could be decreased by trying to push for ”better” habits concerning water. I found this interesting since I was one of less technically oriented persons but even the other workshop participants recurrently raised this point.

So from having thought that my role in future Water Center activities would be peripheral, it could equally well be argued that methods and ways of thinking from Human-Computer Interaction could be central, for example:

  • Our tradition of working with the interface inbetween technology and ”users”, including our mixed computer science/social science backgrounds, interests and methods. I could for example see me and Elina representing ”user-centered design” perspectives. This goes for Cecilia too who could also bring ”practice theory” into the loop.
  • Mine and Cecilia’s SPOC project emphasizes collecting ”actionable data” from another context (grocery stores) to increase sales of organic produce. The data part (collecting, visualizing existing data or figuring out what new (actionable) data sensors could generate and finding ways to leverage this data to the shop owner, to shop assistantants and to customers seem to be very relevant to Stockholm Water’s problems.
  • When it comes to (big) data and quantified self, Björn’s skills would also seem to be very relevant.

To summarize, I think that several people in our MID4S group as well as other people I know at CESC/ABE school could contribute to Water Center projects.

I also thought the workshop was well organized by the Water Center Director David Nilsson and would gladly take part in another workshop organized by him/them. I would also be interested in participating in a more directed workshop that aimed at brainstorming ideas that would be geared towards a specific project/research grant application.

/Daniel