The MID4S group has been exceptionally productive and submitted multiple papers to the Computing within Limits (LIMITS’20) workshop and ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S’20) conference this year. These are the papers that are accepted and that will be presented between June 21 and June 25, 2020. Below are the seven titles and abstracts, 6 papers accepted conference papers and 1 journal paper presented in a journal first track, in the order of when they will be presented. Participation this year is free, so please sign up and listen to us!
Diminishing space: peer-to-peer sharing as a transition practice (link to paper)
Miriam Börjesson Rivera, Elina Eriksson, Rob Comber
A regenerative thriving future within limits will require a change of social practices. Such a change will however not come by itself, and it is safe to state that computing in different forms and shapes will be critical. In this paper we evaluate a start-up in the form of an online platform supporting peer-to-peer storage space rentals. We will present and analyse their service and discuss the current and future prospects for systems in this genre, in light of the transition to a post-carbon future society. The analysis is grounded in a user study evaluating the system in its current form. We argue that services like the one offered by these types of companies could function as a type of ‘transition service’ in the sense that they are perhaps an interim self-obviating system that enable people to get accustomed to a new way of thinking about current unsustainable practices (in this case storage practices and sharing of storage), but eventually might become unnecessary/superfluous as a new ecology of storage practices comes into place. Hence, it might be important for these services and the companies behind them to prepare for this eventuality, for example by diversifying their business offer.
Skill rebound: On an unintended effect of digitalization (link to paper)
Vlad C. Coroamă, Daniel Pargman
Efficiency gains in economic processes often do not deliver the projected overall savings. Irrespective of whether the increase in efficiency saves energy, resources, time or transac- tion costs, there are various mechanisms that spur additional consumption as a consequence. These mechanisms are gener- ically called rebound effects, and they are problematic from a sustainability perspective as they decrease or outweigh the environmental benefits of efficiency gains. Since one of the overarching purposes of digitalization is to increase effi- ciency, rebound effects are bound to occur frequently in its wake. Rebound effects of digitalization have been ignored until recently, but they have been increasingly studied lately. One particular mechanism of digital rebound, however, has been largely disregarded so far: the digitalization-induced lowered skill requirements needed to perform a specific ac- tivity. As with other types of rebound effects, this leads to an increase in the activity in question. In this paper, we pro- pose the term skill rebound to denote this mechanism. We use the example of self-driving cars to show how digitaliza- tion can lower the skill bar for operating a vehicle, and how this opens ‘driving’ a car to entirely new socio-demographic categories such as elderly, children or even pets, leading to increased use of the (transportation) service in question and thus to rebound effects. We finally argue that these unin- tended environmental effects of skill rebound must be better understood and taken into account in the design of new digital technologies.
From Moore’s Law to the Carbon Law (link to paper)
Daniel Pargman, Aksel Biørn-Hansen, Elina Eriksson, Jarmo Laaksolahti, Markus Robèrt
In society in general and within computing in particular, there has, and continues to be, a focus on faster, cheaper, better etc. Such perspectives clash with the fact that impeding climate change and the need for radically decreased CO2 emissions (c.f. the Paris Agreement) will have fundamental and far-reaching ramification for computing and for all other sectors of society during the coming decades.
In the call for the first Computing within Limits workshop, it was stated that “A goal of this community is to impact society through the design and development of computing systems in the abundant present for use in a future of limits and/or scarcity.” There have since been several contributions to Computing within Limits that have accepted the challenge of discussing and imagining what such systems as well as what “a future of limits and/or scarcity” could look like. Despite this, there is currently no consensus about what exactly such a future entails and the community can consequently only offer hazy ideas about exactly what systems we should strive to design and develop. The basic problem can be summed up as follows: we know that fundamental changes are necessary and will come, but we still struggle with envisioning what a post-growth/decarbonising society looks like and what computing systems need to be designed and developed for use in such futures, or, to support that transition.
In this paper we argue that the work of imagining an actionable “future of limits” could benefit from using the “carbon law” as a starting point. The carbon law is based on work in the environmental sciences and we exemplify how it can be used to generate requirements that can guide the development of computing systems for a future of limits. While these lessons are general, we exemplify by describing a research project that aims to support the KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s goal of – in line with the carbon law – radically reducing CO2 emissions from academic flying over the next decade. We give examples of how computing can aid in this task, including by presenting visualisation tools that we have developed to support the KTH carbon abatement goals. We also discuss the role of computer science in general and of Computing within Limits in particular in supporting the transition to a more sustainable (or at least a less unsustainable) future.
Introducing financial data and groups in a carbon calculator – issues with trust and opportunities for social interaction (link to paper)
Aksel Biørn-Hansen, Wolmet Barendregt, David Andersson
A range of carbon footprint calculators have emerged over the years, aiming at promoting pro-environmental behaviour through providing information about what impact people have on the environment. Up until recently, most of these calculators have been focusing on providing feedback on an individual level. This paper presents an exploratory study of a new kind of carbon footprint calculator, which offers a social and collective dimension not found in many other existing calculators. This is done through the introduction of a group feature allowing people to engage with and compare themselves to each other. The calculator also makes use of real-time financial data in combination with user generated data in order to provide reliable and continuous estimates of a person’s carbon footprint. Through an explorative study, in which we conducted two in-depth interviews with four participants, we have investigated the reactions to using the carbon calculator for the first time as well as after two to three weeks of unsupervised use. Our study indicates that the use of transaction data does not automatically lead to a higher trust in the calculated carbon footprint due to the numerous insecurities that are revealed. Registry data on the other hand seems to be appreciated because it eases the input that people have to provide anyway. While groups seem to be a promising feature, there is a need to investigate what information about people’s carbon footprints should be shared as well as how the groups and the interaction with the carbon calculator can be kept lively and interesting over time.
On the necessity of flying and of not flying: Exploring how computer scientists reason about academic travel (link to paper)
Elina Eriksson, Daniel Pargman, Markus Robèrt, Jarmo Laaksolahti
In order to fulfill the Paris agreement, we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions globally. 2020 is a pivotal year in this endeavour as many projections indicate that emissions need to decrease significantly before 2030. This challenge pertains to all parts of society, including (computer science) researchers. This however clashes with the fact that flying to a large extent has become built-in to the everyday practices of research and of academic life. It is feasible to imagine that computer scientists could fly less than other academics since we ought to be innovators and early adopters of computer-mediated alternatives such as video-conferencing and other forms of digital meeting technologies. It is however also possible that we fly more because conferences might be a more dominant outlet for publications in our field in comparison to other research fields. At KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the researchers at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) fly the most. In this paper, we present initial qualitative results from a survey regarding travel that was answered by computer scientists at EECS. We are in particular analysing the free text answers in order to understand how computer scientists reason about their own flying and about the alternatives. It will be hard to fulfil the Paris agreement without decreasing flying significantly, but this requires us to rethink how we do research, and how we travel (or not) within academia. This paper contributes with knowledge about the perceived barriers and drivers for computer scientists to decrease their flying.
A Systematic Review of Digital Behaviour Change Interventions for More Sustainable Food Consumption – Journal first (link to paper)
Björn Hedin, Cecilia Katzeff, Elina Eriksson, Daniel Pargman
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.
Systems Thinking exercises in Computing Education – broadening the scope of ICT and sustainability (link to paper)
Elina Eriksson, Miriam Börjesson Rivera, Björn Hedin, Daniel Pargman, Hanna Hasselqvist
Integrating sustainability in computing education entails broadening the scope of the education, but how can that be done while maintaining student engagement? Climate change and species extinction can appear far removed from data structures and algorithms to say the least. In our ongoing work of integrating sustainability in our Media Technology programme, we have addressed this gap by introducing systems thinking games and activities to broaden the scope, as well as by situating the issues addressed in the course in relation to their future profession. In this paper, we present our experiences of introducing and playing systems thinking games, how the systems thinking exercise sessions were conducted, outcomes of the sessions and finally some lessons learnt. Furthermore, we present and analyse changes we did to the exercises and that led to a richer material for discussions in the classroom.