Four master theses on sustainability successfully defended

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During the spring I have supervised a group of six master students of which four have sustainability related thesis topics. This week the students presented and successfully defended their results, and below are my very brief summaries of their work. Despite working hard all spring, the students have found that there is always more that could be done. So, their theses could possibly also serve as inspiration for future master thesis students.

Sofie Nyström: Providing meaningful waste feedback to larger grocery stores to promote sustainable development

The thesis work was carried out as part of a CESC project in collaboration with the grocery store Coop. Sofie investigated recycling practices in large Coop stores and explored different ways of providing feedback on waste recycling to staff and managers, for example by relating a store’s amount of recycling to central Coop goals. The concepts, and particularly statistics related to economic benefits of recycling, were appreciated by the managers and ideas for future feedback solutions are to include more tips on how to improve recycling and tools to spark motivation. There might also be future opportunities in engaging more with other staff in the stores than the managers.

Gabriella Sanchez Karlsson: Designing a Game for Learning About Recycling

This thesis work is related to a MID project on design and energy use, funded by the Swedish Energy Agency. Gabriella investigated recycling habits of young adults, who may recently have moved out of their parents’ place and being in the process of establishing new habits. The focus of the study was on knowledge and motivation related to recycling, but Gabriella also found other aspects, such as lack of space at home, that mattered for if people were recycling. Gabriella designed a game with questions aiming to increase knowledge of recycling and motivation to recycle. The results showed a significant increase in knowledge of recycling among the players, and future work could explore how recycling habits are affected by such increase in knowledge.

Emil Westin: Visualization of Quantified Self with movement and transport data

Related to the same MID project as Gabriella’s thesis, Emil recruited participants who for two weeks tracked their trips with the app Moves. He designed an interface where the participants could follow their daily carbon emissions from different transportation modes, compared to for example other partipants and Swedish transport emission goals for 2030. The interface served as a tool for reflecting on transportation practices and the participants expressed an increased understanding of their own transport related carbon emissions, from extremely low before the study to somewhat higher after. The work focussed on capabilities (in terms of knowledge) and motivation related to sustainable transportation and future opportunities include to further explore how these factors are linked to each other and to opportunities to choose sustainable transportation modes.

Samuel Lindberg: Encouragement for sustainable pension – A better understanding for sustainability in regards to pension savings

This thesis project was proposed by the Swedish pension company SPP. They wanted to explore ways of communicating sustainable pensions to companies that place their occupational pensions (tjänstepension) with SPP. Samuel found that the interviewed companies did not make links between sustainability and pensions. They also thought it would be more expensive and less beneficial with sustainable pension funds, which according to SPP are misconceptions. Samuel explored ways of concretising sustainability on the SPP web portal for business customers, and while the sustainability-oriented design was appreciated by the study participants Samuel also identified risks of rebound effects: people might use the carbon emission “savings” from sustainable pensions to justify activities with a negative impact on the environment (such a driving cars). A challenge for the future is to highlight sustainability benefits of certain pension funds without triggering such rebound effects.

The theses will be available in Diva eventually.


Last CESC retreat

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I attended the annual CESC 24-hour retreat last week, where CESC of course stands for the Center for Sustainable Communications. I not only work at CESC part time but I also physically sit at CESC all the time as of one year ago (together with MID4S members Elina Eriksson and Hanna Hasselqvist).

This was the fifth CESC retreat I have attended but it’s different from the previous retreats as it was also the very last. CESC is VINNOVA Centre of Excellence with financing for 10 years and those 10 years will come to a end in 2017. Much of the focus of the activities at the retreat were therefore on what we have accomplished in 10 years, how to wrap up CESC, how to manage its legacy and how the area of ICT, digitalization and sustainability can continue to develop also outside of and after CESC.

We still have the better part of a year to figure these things out and we all certainly hope that the overlap between ICT and sustainability will continue to thrive.

Afterwork Exjobb@KTH: IT, Digitalisering och Hållbarhet

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MID4S-teamet och CESC arrangerade onsdagen den 9 november kl. 16:30-18:30 en afterwork med temat exjobb med inriktning mot IT, Digitalisering och Hållbarhet.

Tanken var att detta skulle vara ett tillfälle för organisationer att knyta kontakter, ta del av vår forskning och inspireras av våra masterstudenters kompetenser. Och framförallt få veta vad ett examensarbete på masters-nivå är och vad det kan bidra med i deras egna organisationer. Här är bilder som visades på afterworken.(pdf)

Vi hade lite otur med vädret – men några modiga dök upp! Daniel har skrivit mer om eventet på sin blog


HCI and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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Team leaders Elina Eriksson and Daniel Pargman (together with five other persons at other universities and at two companies) held a workshop at the 9th NordiCHI conference in Gothenburg on Monday October 24 about ”HCI and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: Responsibilities, Barriers and Opportunities” .

Team members Cecilia Katzeff and Hanna Hasselqvist contributed to the workshop by attending it.

There were altogether 16 persons at the workshop and it was very successful. We have been offered to edit a special issue about this topic (to be published a year from now).

Read more about the workshop in a blog post on Daniel Pargman’s academic blog, and at InUse’s blog (where one of the co-organizers Johan Berndtsson is a co-founder).

KTH Sustainability Research Day

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I attended KTH Sustainability Research Day with quite a few of the MID4S team members earlier this week.

I wrote a longer blog post about the event on my private blog (including links to the event etc.), so read more about it at: http://danielpargman.blogspot.se/2016/10/kth-sustainability-research-day.html

/Daniel Pargman

KTH Sustaianability Research Day

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KTH organised its annual KTH Sustainability Research Day earlier this week and several team members attended the event.. Team member Teo briefly talked about the project ”Car-free year” in the part of the program that covered issues pertaining to ”mobility”.  KTH showcased sustainability-related research and invited both KTH researchers (and students) as well as people from business, politics etc.

I wrote a blog post about the event on my personal blog but it’s more of an analysis of the event rather than a description of it.


Sustainability highlights (and lowlights) of CHI 2015

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Sustainability workshop: Expanding the boundaries

On the Saturday before the conference I attended a workshop with the SIGCHI HCI & Sustainability group. The workshop was building on the work from last year’s workshop at CHI and one of the themes of the workshop was how to increase the societal impact of the research we do. We discussed the importance of actively seeking cross-disciplinary collaborations, both in projects and teaching, and one very concrete example of how to scale up research results was to involve consultancy firms in the research projects. Since consultants typically work with many different organisations, both public and private, they are good actors for spreading and making use of new knowledge. In the end of the workshop we came up with ideas for what to do after the workshop, individually and collectively:

next steps


It was encouraging to see that the title of the opening keynote was “Crossing: HCI, Design and Sustainability“. Unfortunately the speaker, Lou Yongqi, dean of College of Design and Innovation at Tongji University, taked about sustainability in a very superficial way. He did mention the planetary boundaries and the seriousness of the situation but at the same time, as an example of how design can support sustainable behaviours, he mentioned an experiment where people chose to take the stairs instead of the escalator when the stairs were made into piano keys and made sounds when stepped on. I really do think design can make a difference in many ways, but to me this is a very simplified example that doesn’t say much about the long-term changes required for sustainability. Would people still prefer the piano stairs after a week or if they were everywhere?

Another keynote worth mentioning, because it completely lacked sustainability thinking, was by Donghoon Chang from Samsung Electronics who presented “UX Design in the IoT Era”. We were shown a video of the “future city of your dreams” where coffee is automatically prepared after the alarm clock goes off in the morning, you can go for a run indoor on a floor screen that makes it look like outdoors, you can take a swim in an augmented reality pool, and when you are out walking and want to cross the street the crosswalk automatically appears – just for you. There was a strong focus on individuals and the speaker didn’t have any good answer for how this would work in a city full of people.

Paper sessions

I attended a few different session with themes related to sustainability. The presentation I found most interesting was a paper with the title “Beyond the Individual: The Contextual Wheel of Practice as a Research Framework for Sustainable HCI”. There was also an interesting presentation of a paper about renewable energy forecasting on an island with limited access to energy. The authors proposed a change from energy feedback to energy forecasting for this specific context and in their study they found that people felt an “energy instinct” and were willing to adapt their energy use although there were no financial incentives to do so. Adapting the energy use to limitations, such as the access to locally produced energy, I think could be relevant for many more places in the future if we are going to increasingly rely on renewable sources of energy.