Climate and energy in popular culture and geopolitics


I attended two very different seminars yesterday and today

Yesterday Studiefrämjandet together with Sverok (The Swedish Gaming Federation) organised an evening seminar about climate change, climate angst and climate apocalypse in role playing games, in game culture and in other media (science fiction literature, television etc.). The evening consisted of an invited talk by Leo Calandrella Rudberg, environmental activist and vice chairman at Fältbiologerna (Nature and Youth Sweden/the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation) and a panel about how environmental catastrophes are depicted and processed in gaming culture.

While it was really interesting to listen to an environmental activist who advocated civil disobedience, Leo’s talk was unfortunately not adapted to the theme of the evening so it felt a bit like I attended two separate events. It was however certainly very entertaining to hear about:

  • The role playing game ”Werewolf: The Apocalpyse” where werewolfs (players) hunt down and tear up corporate leaders who  actively pursue environmental apocalypse or who unwittingly contribute to it.
  • The roleplaying game ”Ur varselklotet” and the expansion ”Flodskörden” that builds on Simon Stålenhags retrofuturistic art.
  • The consumerist perspective of many role-playing games (and computer games) where you start with little and then work your way up by acquiring LOOT and better GEAR. How do you plant or propagate sustainability tropes when game mechanics seldom go beyond rewarding individual profit in most role-playing games?
  • The priceless comment that role-playing is a low-carbon hobby since you just sit around a table and talk.


Today Utrikespolitiska Institutet (The Swedish Institute for International Affairs) together with the Norwegian embassy organised a breakfast seminar about ”The geopolitics of the energy transformation” (to renewable energy sources). I bumped in to my colleague Leif Dahlberg at the seminar and my CESC ex-colleague Dag Lundén from TeliaSonera was also there.

The topic of the seminar was the just-released 2019 report ”A New World. The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation” by the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation (in cooperation with IRENA, The International Renewable Energy Agency.

I picked up a printed copy of the report and it looks really really interesting, but I also learned that some things were left out of the report (like the fact we are not on track to fulfil the Paris agreement, global population growth, the dilemma of phasing out fossil fuels for exporters like Saudi Arabia or who will bear the costs of closing down coal-fired power stations early (before their economic expiration date)). It’s unclear to me if such topics are untouchable for political reasons or if they were just outside of scope of the commission and the report. Some other things I learned at the seminar was:

  • One of the speakers, André Månberger, (Lund University) seemed like an interesting person to keep track of.
  • There is a Mistra Geopolitics research program (André is part of it). I’m sure that the research output from that program is of interest to me.
  • US president and environmentalist(?) Jimmy Carter said (in response to the oil crises of the 1970’s) that ”you can’t embargo the sun”.

This was not a Great Thunberg-approved event. The basic set-up was ”with the Paris agreement as a backdrop, here are some thoughts about the geopolitical consequences of a global transition from non-renewable to renewable energy”. While those thoughts were in fact really interesting, the elephant in the room is that we aren’t really on track to transition to renewables nor to fulfil the Paris agreement. According to Johan Rockström and colleagues and their ”Global Carbon Law”, we need to reduce global CO2 emissions by 50% per decade between 2020 and 2050 to fulfil the Paris agreement. That is equivalent to annual reductions of 7% per year for the next 30 years. So what currently actually happens (besides verbal promises) is very far away from what needs to happen.



Paper Accepted: A Systematic Review of Digital Behaviour Change Interventions for More Sustainable Food Consumption

After one year of reading fantastic titles of (in our eyes) crazy research, skimming abstracts and keywords, reading papers, discussing quality of research, and writing, our systematic literature review on digital behaviour change interventions for more sustainable food consumption is finally published!

Hedin, B.; Katzeff, C.; Eriksson, E.; Pargman, D. A Systematic Review of Digital Behaviour Change Interventions for More Sustainable Food Consumption. Sustainability 2019, 11, 2638.



Food production and consumption present major sustainability challenges, and finding ways to reduce the environmental impact of food, for example through behavioural changes by consumers, is becoming increasingly important. In recent years, digital interventions have become important tools to change behaviours in many areas. In this review, we evaluate the status of current scientific knowledge of digital behaviour change interventions for sustainable food consumption practices. Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) checklist for how to conduct systematic reviews, we searched multiple databases for papers containing terms related to food, sustainability and digital behaviour change interventions. Only studies where the digital interventions were actually implemented and evaluated from a behaviour change perspective were included, resulting in 15 primary studies in the final review. The quality of the studies was evaluated from a behaviour change perspective, and the approaches used were categorised using two intervention frameworks, the Behaviour Change Wheel and the Behaviour Change Technique Taxonomy v1. The results show that all of the included studies had major quality issues when evaluated from a behaviour change perspective. This means that we could not find any evidence regarding whether the digital behaviour change interventions examined worked or not. Most studies further lacked theoretical grounding or a clear approach to how or why they should be effective for behaviour change for more sustainable food consumption practices. Our main recommendation for future research in the field is to expand from the current exploratory phase to conducting scientifically rigorous studies of higher quality, more thoroughly grounded in behaviour change theory and methods. Furthermore, based on our study, we suggest changes to the Behaviour Change Technique Taxonomy v1.

Lunch presentation at Accedo

During January – March 2019, the course Sustainable ICT in Practice were taught for the third time by me, Elina. This year there was low number of students taking the course, but the engagement was high. Besides the regular lectures and seminars, the students did a project work where they investigate how an (ICT/Media) organisation today works with sustainability in their core business. This year we had two student groups and two volunteer organisations, Wikimedia (which Aleyda Rocha Sepulveda and Nahida Islam interviewed) and Accedo (which Akash Menon, Kauã Melo, and Silvan Zeller interviewed). 

As a result of that project work, the student group and I, were kindly invited to give a lunch presentation at Accedo today, the 4th of April. I gave a short introduction to Sustainability and ICT, and the students (Akash and Silvan) presented results from their project work. The presentations were well received and were followed by a Q&A session. There were many things that was interesting in the students’ work, and they presented recommendations to Accedo. The role of Accedo as a developer of video streaming services, which are used by some of the leading video service providers worldwide is both an opportunity (for example as a form of dematerialisation) but also a risk – since new services can lead to increased need for infrastructure (as discussed in Daniel’s recent blogpost). I am happy that Accedo invited us and showed such interest in the students’ work. Hopefully we can keep in touch and continue to learn together.

Akash and Silvan presenting results from their study.

It is always a bit sad when the course has ended, I think I learn almost as much as the students during the course. Exactly how IT/media organisations can work with sustainability in their core business is still an open question – hence the students have to creatively explore this topic.  From my point of view I feel gratitude for being able to teach the course, and I extend a warm thanks to the organisations volunteering to be scrutinised, the guest lecturers who have come to the course, and my brilliant students!



Swedish outreach

This is a blog post with some time lag – but you can listen to two of the team’s researchers  in Swedish!

Elina did a guest lecture in December 2018 in the lecture series Öppna Föreläsningar (given to the first year student’s at Södertörns Högskola). The subject of the lecture was ICT and sustainability, and it was (after some initial mishaps) video recorded and is available on the web:

IT och ett hållbart samhälle del 1 and IT och ett hållbart samhälle del 2

Elina was also interviewed in a student pod cast series, but it seems not to be published.

Daniel participated in the Swedish Public Radio show Klotet on the 28th of February, discussing the energy used by the Internet. Here is a link to his longer blog-post (in English) about it and here is a link to the play version of the radioshow.




Beyond GDP Growth

Last Wednesday I attended the final conference of the research programme Beyond GDP growth: Scenarios for sustainable building and planning (Bortom BNP-tillväxt). Beyond GDP Growth is a multidisciplinary strong research environment funded by Formas, which has run 2014-2018. In total about 17 researchers from 5 different universities and research institutes, 3 municipalities and a large number of reference groups participated in the programme.

The programme’s aim has been to explore key issues and conditions for planning for a sustainable future beyond GDP growth. The key premise is that it is important to not assume continued economic growth but also plan for other futures, that in turn are futures within a safe and just operating space for humanity within planetary boundaries.

The conference started with a presentation of the final report. After a coffee break it continued with 20 ConverStations where researchers presented their work. Us conference participants could choose to attend 3 different ConverStations. The conference ended with a discussion where the final report was discussed four panel members. The panel members were Sofia Arkelsten (Moderate Party), Pär Holmgren (Länsförsäkringar), Carl Schlyter (Green Party) and Charlotta Szczepanowski (Coop).

The main outcome of the research programme are the four scenarios that were developed; Collaborative Economy, Local Self-Sufficiency, Automation for Quality of Life and Circular Economy in the Welfare State.

From a sustainable HCI perspective the four scenarios are highly interesting and relevant as digital technologies play an integral and explicit role in them.

The final report (in Swedish) can be found here.



Hooray and congratulations doctor Hasselqvist!

On the 20th of November, team member Hanna Hasselqvist successfully defended her PhD thesis. A warm and heartfelt congratulations to Hanna from the whole team!

Hanna discussing lively with the opponent Mike Hazas.

In the morning we had to interesting talks, one by Mike Hazas, Lancaster University, UK: ”Watching futures:  Trajectories of online video streaming” the other by Eli Blevis, Indiana University Bloomington, USA: ”Seeing What Is and What Can Be: On Sustainability, Respect for Work, and Design for Respect”

And in the afternoon Hanna did a great job defending her thesis ”Designing for shared energy responsibility” (see abstract at the end of the post)

Reader Mike Hazas, Lancaster University, UK was the opponent, and the grading committee consisted of Professor Inge Røpke, Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark, Professor Eli Blevis, Indiana University Bloomington, USA and Senior Researcher Annelise De Jong, RISE Interactive, Stockholm, Sweden

Designing for shared energy responsibility

A significant part of the world’s carbon emissions is related to energy use for housing and personal transport, and there are many efforts to make this energy use more sustainable. In the field of Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction, there has been a great interest in exploring how interactive systems can be used to influence people’s energy use, often with a focus on providing information and encouraging energy users to change their behaviours. Similar ideas have been implemented in commercial products aiming to raise households’ awareness of their energy use. This approach suggests that energy use is a matter of individual choice, and that it is the energy user’s responsibility to change energy-related practices such as driving, cooking and heating the home. The effectiveness of the approach has, however, been questioned and it has been proposed to extend the focus beyond the individual – to the communities, corporations and governments that influence people’s energy practices.

With my research, I have aimed to contribute to an understanding of how various stakeholders can share responsibility for energy use and of how to take shared responsibility into account in design. The research has a starting point in studies of sustainable mobility and energy management in housing cooperatives. For these two cases, I have used design interventions to explore energy-intensive practices and more sustainable alternatives from the perspectives of both energy users and other stakeholders. I have identified ways that stakeholders influence, or could influence, energy use in terms of adoption of more sustainable practices and maintenance of these practices over time. Building on this, I present opportunities for interactive systems to amplify stakeholder initiatives and support shared responsibility for energy use, for example by contributing to transparency and trust between households and more powerful stakeholders.

Master theses presented in 2018

Also this year I have supervised a number of interesting master thesis projects on various sustainability related topics. Find a brief description of each thesis below and links to Diva for the final reports.


Analyzing Function and Potential in Cuba’s El Paquete: A Postcolonial Approach
Jonathan Adam
Design explorations of internet connectivity within an ICT4D and computing within limits context.

The (un)Sustainable Business of Business
Julia Creutz, in collaboration with Cybercom
Analysis of how an IT consultancy firm apply frameworks such as the SDGs and NetPositive to integrate sustainability into their core business.

Identifying Opportunities for Digital Tools to Support Energy Advisors Working with Housing Cooperatives
David Samuelsson, in collaboration with the research project Brf Energi
Development of design concepts supporting municipal energy advisors.

Evaluations of how carbon dioxide calculations can be integrated into 3D models at an early design stage for more efficient Life Cycle Assessments on buildings
Frida Haugsbakk, in collaboration with Tyréns
Analysis of how the environmental impact of building materials can be integrated into digital tools for building modelling.

Designing the Publikvitto, a system to make government expenditure tangible
Tomás Rothfuchs Albrecht, in collaboration with RISE Interactive
Design exploration of how to support public debate around the environmental impact of flying in relation to politics and government subsidies.

Exploring Concerns and Expectations of Future Smart Systems for Managing Domestic Water Services
Lon Hansson, in collaboration with Stockholm Water and Waste
People’s concerns and expectations of future smart water services explored through cultural probes and conceptual scenarios.

Facilitating communication for marginalised communities in Mexico
Amanda Lindén Guinez, in collaboration with Rhizomatica
Design and development of an application enabling low cost phone calls through open source mobile networks. Minor Field Studies project carried out in Mexico.