NordiCHI 2018 from an environmentalist’s perspective

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.

Workshoppy thingies going on at NordiCHI 2019

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?

My sketch notes of the keynote by Steven Jackson. Much of his talk touch upon the materiality of our ICT society, and how it will be here long after we are gone.

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)

//Elina

 

Annonser

The Futures of Computing and Wisdom

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).

What is wAIsdom? AIs showed up in many of the fictional abstracts

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.

Is this the recipy for wisdom?

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.

//Elina

LIMITS’2015 – Computing within limits

This a late blogpost about the workshop Computing within Limits that I and Daniel attended in Irvine* the 15-16 of June 2015. Or really, Daniel was one of the main organizers of the workshop, which was a first of its kind. This were the theme of the workshop:

LIMITS 2015 aims to foster discussion on the impact of present or future ecological, material, energetic, and/or societal limits on computing. These topics are seldom discussed in contemporary computing research. The medium-term aim of the workshop is to foster concrete research, potentially of an interdisciplinary nature, that innovates on technologies, techniques, and contexts for computing within fundamental limits. A longer-term goal is to build a community around relevant topics and research, with LIMITS 2015 constituting the inaugural meeting. 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.

All participants at the workshop had been invited to send in position papers to the workshop, which were then peer-reviewed before acceptance. There was a great diversity, and the papers presented intriguing subjects, I can only recommend you to browse the list of papers under program and papers and read those that catch your eye. Personally I presented a paper that I had co-authored with Bran Knowles, ”Deviant and Guilt-ridden – Psychological Limits to Computing”, where we start discussing the psychological and sociological limits when trying to work/research computing within limits.

My main take-away from the workshop, besides the obvious of meeting researchers I have been keen on meeting for a long time, was the discussion around how to address, discuss or get papers published that handles limits, degrowth** and a future of scarcity. One participants told us that his papers hade been met with comments in the lines of ”this is Mad Max scenarios, not research” when sending his texts to conferences. There were interesting discussions on complexity and if we can scale down complexity in society in a ordered fashion, and I really liked the term ”refactoring society” which Barath Raghavan coined in one pre-workshop discussion.

In terms of research areas, this was workshop where several different computing areas met around limits, so that there where scholars in ICT4D, networking, software engineering, Human-Computer Interaction, sensors and energy. I do hope this research community can get more established and grow [sic!]. There are many interesting topics that can come out of this group, even though you don’t believe in decline or collapse scenarios.

//Elina

 

* ironically #1 we were in a place where it has been a severe drought for several years, and where there were only one year of water reserves left in the state. Talking about a limits scenario.
** ironically #2, my web browser does not want to recognize degrowth as a proper word, but tries to auto-correct it to regrowth. 🙂

Team meeting May 19, 2014

Today, we had one of our regular lunch team meetings. Hanna, Cristi, Henrik, Åke, Cecilia, Elina and Malin participated. We did not have any set agenda today, but we talked rather freely about things that are happening and what we are currently focusing on.

Cecilia has gotten a workshop proposal for ICT4S accepted; A Social Practice Perspective on the Smart Grid. Elina, Daniel and Cecilia are also part of discussions on how to develop the research area of sustainable HCI, both at the ICT4S conference and the NordiCHI conference. We also discussed two calls coming up in September, one for full papers for CHI and one call for research grants on Energy, IT and Design at Energimyndigheten.

Last Friday, Green leap had an event which Hanna, Malin and Elina attended. The event focused on Design and Sustainability. Perhaps the most interesting part was to listen to Staffan Laestadius, author of the book Klimatet och välfärden. But it was also interesting to hear more about the new project Life 2053 with future scenarios and impacts on sustainable living. Cesc-researcher Josefine Wangel presented this project extensively at the Green leap event.

Last but not the least, our team was responsible for the MID monday breakfast, and of course we had to spread the good energy of our group:

MID4S freshly baked bread.
MID4S freshly baked bread.

The next lunch meeting is in two weeks. See you then!

//Malin and Elina