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, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.




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.

Peak oil – only a game

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.

Daniel setting up the game and explaining the rules.
Endgame, Nicolas drew the last barrel of oil.

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)!

New technologies might not always be clean and renewable.

Thanks to Hanna, Philipp, and Nicolas for joining and Daniel for bringing the game. Congrats to Nicolas who won!


Make IT matter – student event at Spotify

On Friday the 20th of November, Elina and Daniel were invited to speak about IT and sustainability at a student event organized by Spotify. The theme of the weekend long event was “Make IT matter” and during the weekend you can follow the event on social media through the hashtag #MITM15.

Daniel and Elina waiting to get their time in the lime light.

All in all, there were some 40 students, who had just arrived at the Spotify headquarters in Stockholm on Friday evening, and who had been handpicked from a large group of applicants. During the following weekend they will through workshops with Spotify staff develop ideas that could help alleviating sustainability issues. We were honoured to kick the event off with what we hope was an inspiring and energizing talk, albeit on a partly difficult topic.

Daniel also wrote a blog post about the event on his personal blog.



Go vegetarian – A challenge for the team!

The members of our sustainability team has been challenged, by a colleague, to try out being vegetarians for a period of time. The challenge has of course a connection to sustainability, since the meat consumption is threatening issues of a sustainable future.

I for one found this challenge interesting, and invite everyone to join the challenge, regardless if you are part of the team or not. The challenge is issued during the month of February 2014 (which happens to be a hashtag event on Twitter: #vegfeb), and I will prompt you to reflect on the outcome of the challenge if you commit. Since it might be difficult to persuade (innocent) family members, we have in the team decided to have two levels of commitment:

1) Only eat vegetarian meals during February independent of where you are.

2) All meals outside the family home  should be vegetarian.

Since there might be traps out there to fall into, we have also decided that we shall have a punishment fund, where you have to pay 20 kr for failing a vegetarian meal. It also need to be followed by a slip of paper with a reflection on why this failing occurred. There will be a box in my room for this purpose.

Join the challenge by commenting below, and if you have any questions you can e-mail me elina(@) Please feel free to share any tip regarding recipes or the like! Team members are also encouraged to write a blog post about their experience of the challenge!

And by encouraging you to exert yourself, I hereby pledge myself to the first level of commitment, I (and my family) will eat only vegetarian meals during February. This will be an adventure!


EDIT 31 Jan 10:04 ————-

Since the folder (see below) didn’t work as anticipated, nobody could access the files in the folder, I hereby instead post the links to the files directly. So, one file to sign up and one file where those who want can write down tips and recipes.

Sign up here.

Write your recipes here.

EDIT 24 Jan 19:59 ————-

Since this blogpost is reaching more people than just the team members, I have created a google drive folder with a possibility to assign to the challenge and a document where people can share recipes etc. Please join the challenge!