Slower academic travel

So this is the second blog post that stems from my (Elina’s) trip to Lancaster, where I was the external examiner at Kelly Widdicks dissertation, the first blog post is more of  a travel journal, and you can find it here. In this blog post, I want to pen down some thoughts on slower academic travel and how you can make an academic visit more valuable.

My first reflection is that when the trip takes so long, I naturally felt that I wanted to stay longer. Had I been flying, I guess I could easily have come over the day, or maybe stayed only one night. And staying for a few more days made me want to fill the days with meaning.

So what is then meaningfulness? This is a hard question. One thing I reflected on is that I wanted to be with the people at Lancaster. My host Mike Hazas had kindly booked a room for me to sit in, on my own, and work, which of course would make my work more efficient. But I wanted to socialise with the people at InfoLab, even if only meant sitting in the same room! But sitting in the same room meant that I was invited for coffee breaks and lunch more easily.

Another thing to make the trip more meaningful is that I offered to give a talk, either concerning research or our teaching, an offer that was readily accepted and which led to the Tuesday lunch seminar. I also did two workshops in related to the FLIGHT project, discussing academic flying. When planning, I also looked at what other universities would be ”nearby” and that I could visit. Hence my trip to Edinburgh over the day, because it was only 2 hours away by train. What I did not do, and partly regret, was to offer to give a talk to either university I visited in Edinburgh. With some more time for planning, this might have been a valuable thing, because more people could have engaged with me and my research.

Edinburgh
Edinburgh, a place I probably wouldn’t have visited, had I flown to Lancaster. After taking the train for 2 days to get to Lancaster, 2 hours to Edinburgh felt like nothing in comparison.

To plan my stay, I had started an open google-document, where anyone with a link could edit or comment. This meant that as the detailed planning of my trip was unfolding, different people interested in meeting me could see whether there were spots open for meeting up with me. I haven’t asked my hosts what they thought about it, but for me it reduced the amount of emails sent around. I could also note down addresses and phone numbers and have it all in one page for later reference, when I was trying to find my way.

My last reflection concerns something I did not suggest, but that I have been considering after the trip. People at school of Computing and Communication at Lancaster got to know (some) of me when I gave a talk, but I never really got to know them, at least not what they did in terms of research. So here is a suggestion, maybe something we can implement next time we have a guest: to do a research speed-dating. The way I see this, is that all researchers (including phd-students) prepare a pecha-kucha presentation about themselves and their research. If the presentations are 9 slides long, 20 seconds each, this would mean 3 minutes per person. If the division one is visting isn’t too large, this could be feasible for a short presentation of the group. After this it will be easier to strike up spontaneous conversations regarding research.

To summarise, here is a list of things one can think of, when travelling or receiving a visitor to a research group:

  • Make an open document where people can se your plans and make suggestions
  • Suggest to give a talk regarding something you are working with
  • Look at neighbouring universities, can you visit them as well?
  • Try to borrow a desk among everyone else, or to sit in a place where many pass by
  • Ask to get an overview of what people work with (for example through pecha-kucha)
  • Make sure there are some social events
  • Make sure you have some free time for more spontaneous meet-ups

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I believe this is a practice we need to develop, slower travel means perhaps more meaningful travel. Personally I am so pleased with how this trip turned out, even though it was a very long ride.

 

By train to Lancaster

This is the first of two blog posts about my (Elina’s) trip to Lancaster in February 2020. This first blog post will mostly be a recount of the trip, but the next blog post will be a reflection on how academic travel might change when we fly less, and some lessons learned from doing this trip.

The background for this trip is that I was invited to be the external examiner at Kelly Widdicks’ Viva Voce. Since I have become more and more reluctant to travel by air plane, I decided to go there by train, but that entailed also to do some research in Lancaster, since I then could pay for the (probably considerably more expensive) trip through a research project. Travelling by train means longer travel time, and I then wanted to stay for a few days longer than just for the viva.

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Train stations, you get to see many of them if you are travelling through Europe, London Euston on the top and Köln in the bottom.

Below is what was my planned itinerary:

Starting on Friday January 31st:
Stockholm (08:21) – Copenhagen (13:13)
Copenhagen (15:26) – Hamburg (20:20)
Hotel night booked close by the train station
Hamburg (05:46) – Köln (09:49)
Köln (10:32) – Bruxelles Midi (13:35)
Bruxelles Midi Eurostar (14:52) – London St. Pancras (16:05)
London Euston (16:30) – Lancaster (18:55) (booked by myself)

Starting on Friday February 7th:
Lancaster (08:38) – London Euston (11:10) (booked by myself)
London St. Pancras (12:58) – Bruxelles Midi Eurostar (16:08)
Bruxelles Midi (16:22) – Köln (18:15)
Köln (19:09) – Hamburg (23:16)
Hotel night booked close by the train station
Hamburg (08:53) – Copenhagen (13:33)
Copenhagen (14:10) – Stockholm (19:38)

The train travel

The train travel, despite spanning four days, went for the most part smoothly and I hade quite some productive hours on the train, as well as a few really interesting conversations with fellow travellers. The largest mishap happened when I arrived at Brussels, and my 14:52 Eurostar train to London was cancelled. I (and all other passengers) were rebooked to the 17:00 train to London, which meant a 2 hour wait, as well as two long and complicated phone conversations with trainline to book a new ticket to Lancaster. This ticket became considerably more expensive, and the train did not go the whole way, so I had a replacement bus ride in northern England to enjoy. But, I still arrived the same day as intended. Just much later.

The trip (except for the UK trains) were booked through our travel agency Egencia, and it was an 5 day interrail pass and seat bookings. This meant I had to remember to fill in the interrail travel plan through out the trip, but it also meant that I felt less stressed about any potential delays. I could have potentially been able to take a later train. Having a stop over in Hamburg also gave some leeway for delays.

Working wise, the travel days were long, so even though I might have napped a few times, I could still spend some quality hours working. The Wifi on board the trains worked better than expected, except for the Eurostar. And, the train between Köln and Hamburg did not have a wifi (it was not an ICE (InterCity Express) but a EC (EuroCity)). On the way back through Sweden, the electric sockets in my carriage stopped working half way through the trip, but at that time I was so tired I just packed away my computer.

Lancaster
Beautiful Lancaster, the castle on the top left was a real prison until 2011.

The Stay

I arrived late Saturday evening, and just went directly to bed. The Sunday was spent mostly exploring, first by a sightseeing jog in the morning, then a guided tour through the castle in Lancaster, and lastly a long ramble through the town. In the evening I was invited to dinner by Mike and Simone (Mike being Kelly’s supervisor).

Monday 3rd of February, the viva was planned for early afternoon, I went to the campus by bus mid-morning and then spent some time with Mike, and then the internal examiner Gordon Blair. 14-16 Kelly did splendidly in the viva, and afterwards there was home baked cake! in her office. The evening was spent in celebration, with a dinner with Kelly and colleagues and a few beers.

Kelly_Gordon_Elina
The Viva people, Gordon Blair, Kelly Widdicks and yours truly.

Tuesday, after working a for an hour in my bed with a great view, I went to the campus to give a presentation on how to integrate sustainability in computing education. Despite this being planned quite late, I was happy to have a fairly large audience. I managed to squeeze in some work as well, borrowing a desk in Kelly’s office. There were also some socialising over lunch, as well as a high tea with Adrian Friday (which basically was a long and cordial chat over tea, drawing up plans for future collaborations). Tuesday evening was spent rambling through Lancaster again, and then a few hours work from bed.

On Wednesday I took the opportunity to walk towards the campus along the canal that ran through Lancaster. It was almost painfully beautiful, but halfway there the walking path took me up to the well trafficked road, so then I took the bus the rest of the way. On Wednesday, two workshops were planned, one at the school of Computing and Communication and one at the Lancaster Environmental Centre (LEC). The workshops covered academic flying (and will inform our FLIGHT project), and I am really happy these were able to be planned and executed. A warm thanks to Mike who organised and made sure people showed up! In the evening I hanged out with Oliver Bates and friend, a real English pub experience.

Pokermarker
These poker markers were not used in the pub, but were rather material in the flight workshops. The picture shows one divison at KTH, with 30 employees, and their flights. Green = Nordic flights, Red = European flights, Black = Intercontinental flights

Lastly, on Thursday, I made a trip to Edinburgh (it was only 2 hours away with train!), to visit Callum Egan and the Lion’s gate permaculture garden at Edinburgh Napier University. It was a very inspiring visit, including maybe the best vegetarian sandwich I’ve eaten. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Siôn Pickering at the department of Social Responsibility and Sustainability to discuss ways to work with carbon emissions from academic flying. Siôn and colleagues have a public available reporting tool covering their carbon emissions from travel, which I found really inspiring. I also presented our research project, and promised to get back when we had more results.

Friday, I started my travel back to Sweden, with a slightly sore heart. I really enjoyed my stay, and could easily have stayed longer if I had had the opportunity. But, there are some new collaborations brewing from this visit. I hope I will se many of the people I met at the ICT4S conference in Bristol in June.

Presentations of Advanced Projects

Today, (Friday!) 13th of December, the students in the DM2799 Advanced project course presented their projects. The presentations were held in the cathedral of science, the reactor hall R1, and the presentations were brilliant!

MID4S handed in many project proposal, and a whopping 10 projects got chosen by the students and where hence supervised by MID4S researchers. During the presentations, sustainability projects took all the presentations slots in one of the two sessions in parallel, and one in the other session. Below is a short summary of the different projects that I (Elina) listened to.

Not Flightminder

The project group has developed an interface for a very small user group, that is four researchers in the FLIGHT project, so that these researchers can explore data about the flying by academics in KTH.

Homo Colossus

This project has explored and user tested a augmented reality app for presenting how BIG we would be, if we had actually eaten all the energy we use in our everyday life. The user tests showed that users thought the concept was interesting and provoking, but that they also wanted to see their own size.

An average Swede, if eating the energy we use, would be 12 meters tall!

CERO Challenge

This project was based on an already existed app, developed by the company CERO, where the users can challenge each other to change their commuting habits. The project group made a total redesign

Carbon budgets for municipalities

The project group has worked with carbon budgets and made an interface that displays the cumulative and time dependent aspects of carbon budgets. The interface makes it abundantly clear that we have to cut our carbon emission fast.

Habitwise

Based on a already existing system, the project group did a redesign and user tests of a new prototype. The group had focused the app to work with one habit, or area at the time and guide the user through levels of engagement.

Human Powered Interaction

The student group has explored how one could make it more apparent what energy we use when we use the internet. In this project they made prototype for powering the sending of an email through use of human power, in this instance a crank. We learnt that it takes 1 minute 27 seconds to send a short audio hello!

Imagine to have to crank with one hand, in order to send a short message – it makes the energy tangible.

Wasty

This project group have been working with the issue of food waste, and how to help people with behaviour change in relation to food waste through a physical device. They have focused on expiration date behaviour, through working with planning, data and cues.

Meat-o-meter

Meat has enormous environmental impact but does not give us that much calories, and this project group have developed a prototype that can help others to explore these facts. They chose a medical metaphor for their design, in order to show how sick earth is, because of the meat consumption.

Earth is sick, it is an emergency, and this prototype shows the impact of meat on earth.

Make Hippo Hipp Again

The students in this project has made a redesign of an inventory system for food developed in one of MID4S’ kitchen related projects. They had used the personas from Målgruppsarenan in their design work.

In the other room there was also one MID4S related project, and Miriam gives a summary of it:

Sharing preference-based adjustments of online recipes

This group designed and developed a web-plugin (or similar solution) that recognises the ingredients on the recipe sites Tasteline.se, and allows users to in a user-friendly and structured way suggest replacing one or more ingredients by other ingredients.

Overall, the research and designs that the students had done over a short period of time (one period of 7 weeks) was impressive, and thought provoking! Great work everyone!

Eventful Friday 29th of November

Updating the blog have been kind of low on our list of priorities, although some of us (cough cough Björn) could perhaps have mentioned a few projects starting. But here is a blog post of events taking place on the 29th of November that yours truly were part of.

The morning began with a breakfast seminar at Stockholm School of Economics, Reducing Academic Flying, were Daniel and I (Elina) presented our research project Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations: from data to practice. It was a diverse set of people in the audience, students and researchers, from among other places KTH, EECS, Stockholm university and Karolinska Institutet. Despite us saving half the time for questions, we could have easily spent more time discussing this topic. We were also invited to come back when we have come further in the project.

At the end of the seminar, when we throw the questions back to the audience. Foto by Cecilia Katzeff

In the afternoon, we hosted a Repairing and mending event in Middla, our division’s maker space, as a response to Black Friday (here’s an article in Landets Fria regarding the event). The event was originally inspired by a Facebook event called ”Mellandagslagning” and we had an open invitation to bring something that needed fixing, and then perhaps we could together, and with the tools at hand in Middla, figure out how to fix it. And it was a success, here are some of the things that got fixed: two pair of pants, a bag, a knitted sweater, socks, a trainer, two pairs of sandals, un umbrella and earphones. There were also some upcycling, where a soda can got turned into a Christmas decoration. Even those who couldn’t for some reason fix their thing (for example because there were something missing), enjoyed it anyway, because they had started to fix it. There was also a consensus that it was enjoyable to hang around talking while fixing things, and that we will do it again in the spring. A warm thank you to Judith and Jonathan that fixed the event with me and to everyone that showed up! Hope to see you there next time!

Some things getting fixed or upcycled. Or someone that mended something forward! Foto: Elina

FLIGHT – Decreased CO2-emissions in Flight Intensive Organisations: From Data to Practice

Today we had the official kick-off of our newly funded project Decreased CO2-emissions in Flight Intensive Organisations: From Data to Practice, internally named FLIGHT for short, which is funded by the Swedish Energy Agency. The project will run from now until 2022, and our aim is to work with departments at KTH in order to fulfil our Climate target of reducing our CO2 emissions with 20% until 2020.

Of course, Daniel had read some papers over the summer concerning this project.

Project members are Daniel Pargman (project manager), Elina Eriksson, Jarmo Laaksolahti, Björn Hedin (from MID) and Marcus Robèrt (from the ABE school). Abstract of the application pasted below.

In flight-intensive organizations, many employees travel both frequently and far – resulting in large CO2 emissions. At management level, there is often an awareness and a willingness to change, as expressed for example through internal climate goals. But at those levels in the organization where concrete decisions are made about when, where and how to travel, there is a lack of awareness and tools to manage these challenges. In this project, we will create and test practical tools to reduce travel-related CO2 emissions, thereby moving from words to action. By using a structured method in combination with analog and digital tools, the project will take stock, visualize, design, plan and mediate negotiations about departmental and individual CO2 emissions and the results will be followed up regularly. The project aims to give flight-intensive organizations greater opportunities to reach or exceed climate targets, thereby contributing to an energy-efficient and sustainable future.

Paper Accepted: Vitiden: Transforming a policy-orienting scenario to a practice- oriented energy fiction

This summer we got a paper accepted in the journal Futures, based on our MID4S (and Green Leap) project  Empowering Energy Futures, financed by the Swedish Energy Agency. The paper is available, open access, until September 7, 2019 at the Futures webpage.

Vitiden: Transforming a policy-orienting scenario to a practice- oriented energy fiction

Josefin Wangel, Mia Hesselgren, Elina Eriksson, Loove Broms, Gabriel Kanulf, Andrejs Ljunggren

 

Abstract
There is a lack of futures studies addressing consumption and lifestyles at the level of everyday life. This article reports on the transformation of the policy-orienting scenario “Legato”, developed by the Swedish Energy Agency in 2016, to a practice-oriented design speculation. The article describes the process of transformation and the resulting energy fiction “Vitiden”. The transformation involved three acts of translation. First, the scope of the transition was explored in-depth, both quantitatively and qualitatively, providing a more detailed understanding of the gap between the ‘sustainable’ 2050 and today. Second, the scenario Legato was analysed for practices and elements of practices that could be elaborated to descriptions of how everyday life could play out in this future. The third step involved re-presenting the practice-oriented scenario as a design speculation. The design speculation was given the form of a book named “Vitiden – an energy fiction” in which the re-formulated version of Legato is presented through text and images, combining a forward-looking manifesto and a backward-looking future archaeology. Besides the written content and the pictures and illustrations of Vitiden, the design of the book is also part of the speculation as it embodies an exploration of how publications, including form, graphic design and choice of materials, could look like in a future such as Legato.

 

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092638

 

Abstract:

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.