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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
[here is a placeholder for the link to Daniel’s blog post that will probably come]
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.
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)!
Thanks to Hanna, Philipp, and Nicolas for joining and Daniel for bringing the game. Congrats to Nicolas who won!