Theses proposals

This is a shortlist of ”ICT + sustainability” bachelors’ and masters’ theses proposals and ideas that have been formulated by members of the KTH/MID sustainability team (MID4S) or by an organisation that have been in contact with us. Some of the proposals are linked to blog post that further describes the proposal.

If you are a KTH student, please get in touch with the contact person(s) for the specific proposal or get in touch with Daniel Pargman and Elina Eriksson if you are interested in/have similar ideas and are looking for a supervisor!

You are of course also welcome to get in touch with us if you have ideas of your own about a thesis in the intersection of ICT/HCI/media technology and sustainability. We have several ongoing research projects where we love to have students involved, see our projects webpage. Other sources of inspiration could for example be our team blog , thesis projects from previous years or Daniel’s personal academic blog.

———– The proposals shortlist ———–

Note: We had several suggestions for projects in the DM2799 course autumn 2019 that would also be suitable as a master thesis project, see Daniels summarising blog post.


[First four kexjobb proposals in Swedish added 2020-01-17, the rest of the proposals are in English]

1. Interactionary för story-telling av hållbarhetseffekterna av dagliga val
Minibakgrund: Val av matvaror samt aktiviteter i kök utgör en mycket stor del av hushållens växthusgasutsläpp och energianvändning. Att stötta människor i att minska dessa effekter genom beteendeförändringar är ett intressant och viktigt forskningsområde. Det finns indikationer på att ”story-telling” är ett bra sätt att uppnå både kunskap och engagemang.

Beskrivning: Detta kexjobb går ut på att göra någon typ av interaktivt system för ”berättande” om energiåtgång i kök och hållbarhetseffekterna av val av mat och liknande. Typ en ”interactionary” (som de gjort i årskurs 1 och 2) om en eller två personer som vaknar på morgonen och går ut och ska göra sin frukost, en som gör ”bra” och en som gör ”dåligt”. Men då ställs man inför diverse val under dagen av t.ex. att välja ost eller skinka på smörgåsen. Hur många gram CO2 innebär respektive val? Vad innebär det på årsbasis om man väljer det ena eller det andra? Vad motsvarar det i t.ex. körda mil bil (svaret är för övrigt ca 50 kg CO2 bättre för skinka vilket motsvarar med än 35 mil bilåkning). Exjobbet går ut på att utveckla en sådan interactionary och sedan utvärdera lärandeeffekten och/eller engagemanget i att engagera sig i interactionaryn jämfört med att studera motsvarande på papper.

2. Social media campaings för att minska matsvinn – incitamentsmodeller
Minibakgrund: Hushållens matsvinn står för ungefär lika mycket koldioxidutsläpp som flyget i Sverige. En stor del av matsvinnet uppstår genom att mat som köpts och lagras i kylskåp helt enkelt glöms bort och blir för gammal och sedan måste slängas. Detta skulle kunna åtgärdas om man kunde engagera människor i att någon gång per vecka rensa i sina kylskåp. Kan en socia mediakampanj utformas på ett sätt som kan engarera tillräckligt många för att göra en skillnad?

Beskrivning: Hur kan en instagramkampanj (eller motsvarande) utformas för att uppmuntra personer att hålla ordning i sina kylskåp. T.ex. en kampanj som går ut på att varje vecka ta en bild av sitt (nystädade) kylskåp och posta det på sociala medier med en speciell hashtagg. Hur stort engagemang kan man uppnå? Olika typer av gamification är sannolikt intressant, i kombination med olika typer av motivation. Som twist föreslår jag också att testa tre olika grupper. En som bara deltar i kampanjen på frivillig basis, en grupp som dessutom får t.ex. 1:- per vecka de postar en bild på sitt välstädade kylskåp och en grupp som får klimatkompensation motsvarande 1:- per bild de postar på sitt välstädade kylskåp. Det sistnämnda blir nämligen ganska mycket (motsvarande ca 3 mil bilresa). En hypotes är att personer kommer bli demotiverade av att få en krona (”va, en krona är ju pyttelite, jag orkar inte”) och personer som får motsvarande som klimatkompensation blir motiverade (”va, 3 spara motsvarande 3 mil bilåkning bara genom att jag håller koll på mitt kylskåp”).

3. Leftover inventory system baserad på röstinput med google home
Minibakgrund: I många hushåll blir mat över som sedan läggs i burkar i kylskåp för att användas senare, men dessa blir liggande så länge att maten måste slängas. Detta förbrukar onödiga resurser i form av pengar, matråvaror och kodioxid. Att bygga någon typ av system som stöttade personer i planeringen av vad de ska äta/ta till jobbet/KTH är intressant och en del av ett forskningsprojekt jag har.

Beskrivning: Exjobbet går ut på att bygga vidare på ett tidigare exjobb där en Google Home Mini användes för att skapa kalenderinlägg när man lägger in en låda med rester. Typ när man lagt rester i en låda och lägger in i kylen säger man till sin Google home ”Ok google, lägg in pasta med köttfärssås i kalendern på tisdag nästa vecka klockan 15” om man gjort en matlåda som man tänker sig borde användas senast nästa tisdag. Då skapas en kalenderentry i ens googlekalender med detta. Poängen är att man då så fort man öppnar sin kalender ser vilken mat man faktiskt har i kylskåpet och bättre kan komma ihåg att använda den. I kexjobbet kan (men behövs inte) viss teknisk vidareutveckling av det tidigare exjobbet göras, och dessutom bör det ingå att att skapa ett tydligt förslag/rutin/rekommendation för hur olika typer av hushåll kan/bör organisera sitt kylskåp för att detta ska fungera. Fokus på utvärdering bland riktiga användare under så lång tid som möjligt. Åtminstone 8 google home mini finns att tillgå.

4. Goal alignment to increase health and support sustainability by eating fruit + restriction technologies
Minibakgrund: Matsvinn från hemmen står för större växthusgasutsläpp än flyget. Det vanligaste att slänga är frukt och grönt, ofta pga att man glömt att äta frukt man köpt som sedan måste slängas. Samtidigt är det ur både hälsosynvinkel och hållbarhetssynvinkel önskvärt att befolkningen äter mer frukt (enligt livsmedelsverket 3 frukter och 2 grönsaker per dag). Det råder alltså hög ”goal alignment” för att äta frukt om man är intresserad av hållbarhet (minska matsvinn), spara pengar (inte slänga mat), hållbarhet (låga CO2-utsläpp för frukt jämfört med annan mat) och hälsa. Många vill (borde vilja) alltså äta mer frukt men glömmer ofta helt enkelt bort att göra det.

Beskrivning: Tanken med detta exjobb är att titta på ”restriction technologies” där man frivilligt begränsar tillgången till något, och använda sådana för att få folk att göra ett aktivt val gällande att äta (eller inte äta) frukt. Ett exempel på restriction technologies är appar som begränsar hur mycket tid man kan ägna åt sociala medier. En idé för hur detta skulle kunna göras är att låsa internetaccess på datorn efter kl 18 om man inte registrerar att man åtminstone tänkt på att äta en frukt. Exjobbet går ut på att undersöka villigheten bland folk att testa detta, vad skulle folk i så kunna tänka sig vilja begränsa (tillfälligt tills de ätit en frukt), bygga någon form av system som gör detta (eventuellt med köpt hårdvara och mjukvara, budget finns i projektet) och sedan utvärdera det.

Please contact Björn for more information about the four kexjobb proposals above

 

Tangible representation of everyday energy (or food) use [option: use a digital scale]

Research shows that mere factual information about, for example, the carbon footprint of food, or the energy consumption of household appliances, are difficult to internalise and thereby difficult to use for everyday decisions. This thesis is about trying to develop a more tangible way to represent this. An initial idea is to try to use weight and/or physical artefacts for this, for example to have physical model of a cow where the weight of the model corresponds to the carbon footprint of one serving (”portion”) of beef, and another physical model of a potato where the weight of the model corresponds to the carbon footprint of one serving of potatoes. These can then be used to in a tangible way represent how the different parts of a meal contributes to the total carbon footprint of the meal. An interesting option is to use digital scales to ”play” with the model and visualise results. For an example of a prototype we have developed, see ”Energy weight: Tangible Interface for Increasing Energy Literacy


Please contact Björn for more information

Using online challenges and physical triggers for sustainable behaviour change

Most of us have habits we would like to change, for example to eat more fruit or to waste less food. There are several attempts to use digital tools to support such change, but most attempts are based on intuition rather than well-founded research, which is an explanation why many such attempts fail. In this thesis you would explore a number of well-grounded behaviour change techniques (BCTs) for this, including goal setting, commitments, action planning, cues (and possibly rewards). The initial idea is to capitalise on the all-too-familiar ”Someone has challenged me to post my [something] most [something]…” phenomenon on social media, combined with a some kind of physical reminder to do whatever you want to change. For example, my daughter has challenged me to eat one fruit per day until christmas, and to facilitate that she has arranged for all members of our family to have a ”christmas stocking” where we daily place one piece of fruit. This makes it easy to remember and also makes it a rather fun challenge for the whole family, and if it works we will have eaten fruit for 24 days and initialised a habitual behaviour.

The thesis is about developing these ideas further based on the Behaviour Change Wheel and the Behaviour Change Technique taxonomy, implement an actual campaign and evaluate the result.

Please contact Björn for more information

Social plogging – Making Sweden Clean Again

Plogging is a phenomenon where people who walk/jog also pick up litter at the same time. That is generally done individually. The idea of this thesis is to develop a system where each item that is picked up by someone is logged with its location/position and the data is collected centrally. This would give several possible benefits, such as making it a more social activity (feeling that you are part of a growing community, challenges and so on), and that the data itself can be used to gather information about where litter is common and for where there is a need for more waste bins (for example).

The basic premise is that this would have to be REALLY easy to do, which is why we suggest that it is based on using ”Flic buttons”, which is buttons that can be used to trigger various actions on phones by a single click (such as logging a location). The data should then be visualized on (for example) google maps. The design/activity should be designed in a way that supports people to keep doing this, perhaps by using elements of gamification, but mainly by using intrinsic motivation (that this actually is something good) rather than extrinsic motivation (I want to WIN the ”game”).

Screenshot 2019-12-04 at 10.42.11

We have contacts with ”Håll Sverige Rent”, who are interested in the project.

Please contact Björn for more information

 


Communicating co2 emissions data beyond digital screens

Climate change is real and we need to act quickly and cut our carbon emissions in order to fulfil the Paris agreement. Air travel is one of the fastest growing contributors to carbon emissions, and within academia, air travel has lately begun to be discussed. In a research project that recently started at MID, “Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations”, we support KTH in it’s goal to reduce employees’ carbon emission from travel (which to a large extent means flying). One way of reaching the goals that KTH has set for itself is to publicly communicate and raise awareness of the historical and current state of flying/carbon emissions and how these relate to KTH’s targets.

In this project we invite students to explore alternative and innovative ways of communicating travel data from KTH or the implications of KTH’s air travel and we want to see innovative suggestions beyond screen-based visualizations. We want you to find ways to make historical and current data on flying engaging and provocative! How can KTH’s data set be used in ways that help employees become more aware of our emissions and more prone to start acting to decrease them? A source for inspiration could be the master thesis work by Tomás Albrecht that developed the Publikkvitto prototype, but we would also invite other types of communication such as sonification, haptic feedback or smell.

Please contact Elina for more info


Making Carbon Budgets Tangible

We are all aware that we are heading towards an altered planet due to climate change, and most countries are on board taking measures, in order to minimise the impact, in accordance with the Paris agreement of 1.5 degrees Celsius average global warming. However, the action taken in order to fulfill this agreement is missing, and everyone, from national to personal level are struggling to understand exactly what needs to change. There are broad themes easily communicated (eat less meat, fly less, consume less products and clothes) but how much is less? One concept that tackles this is Carbon Budgets – which is being developed by Kevin Anderson and Isak Stoddard at Uppsala University. According to them, it is possible to calculate how much CO2  humanity can emit from now until eternity, in case we want to fulfill the Paris agreement. With carbon budgets, we can look at carbon intensive activities, and based on how much these emit, also say for how long we can continue doing these, until our budget is used up.

In this thesis proposal, we want to explore the concept of carbon budgets, and design concepts of how this tool could be used. This could be at an individual level for example. How could we (effectively and efficiently) communicate carbon budgets? How would different current systems that help us understand the environmental impact of our lifestyles/behaviour/choices be redesigned with a carbon budget perspective?

Please contact Elina for more info


Homo Colossus

There are many tools that help you calculated how much CO2 you (and your lifestyle) emits. Instead of calculating how  much CO2 you emit, create a service that calculates how much you would weight if you were a (very very large) animal that had to eat as much energy as you – through your lifestyle – use every day! The crucial formula you need to work with is: your energy use (kWh/day) = weight (kg)^3/4 * 0.08135555 – and the average Swede would weigh upwards to 20 000 kg based on our energy use! (For comparison, elephants weigh 3000 – 7000 kg.).

The Homo Colossus concept represents a way to calculate and visualize the footprint of our lifestyle and constitutes an alternative to Ecological Footprint Analysis (see also Earth Overshoot Day). For inspiration from other projects of how to visualize energy and carbon emissions, see also kilowh.at, carbon.to and SeeEffect.

Project idea 1: With a focus on computer graphics and visualisation (e.g. AR and VR) and in collaboration with the Mario Romero at the KTH visualisation studio (VIC), create tools to visualise a statue/interactive installation of a Homo Colossus on the KTH campus and test it on a suitable audience (we have suggestions). Imagine that your work would support a proposal to build such a statue. What would be the best way to help people visualise what the statue would like like?

Project idea 2: Imagine a book about Homo Colossus. Imagine illustrations in the book. Imagine that these illustrations on paper would jump out and “come alive” through AR when seen through the screen of a smartphone. For inspiration, see this one minute YouTube video or this video about “Augmented Reality Books”. This thesis would again be done in collaboration with Mario Romero and the KTH visualisation studio (VIC).

Please contact Daniel for more info


Designing for moderation

This thesis proposal is a spin-off of a successful project in the project course DM2799. The full project course proposal is available here.

Perhaps we spend too much time online in our everyday lives? How could we (re-)design social media apps or computer games in ways that “encourage or allow individuals to reflectivly and explicitly self-inhibit their own use” (Pierce 2012)? Some people try to restrict their Internet use today. One example is the use of ”restriction software” (see this newspaper article).

Your task would be to find empirical material through people who use such software. Who uses restrictions apps? Why and how do they use restriction apps? What are the effects and are they happy about them? What are their limitations and how could these apps be improved? Your task would be to look for answers to such questions and then specific design criteria that takes limitations and moderation into account. You could optionally also propose how an existing social media app or online game could be redesigned taking your results into account.

Please contact Daniel for more info


The carbon footprint of computer games/e-sports

Computer games are very popular and getting more so. Various forms of competitive and professionalised computer gaming (e-sports) have over the last decade emerged and become spectator sports over the Internet (twitch.tv), but issues regarding the environmental footprint of digital sports is a virtually unexplored area. While we can expect computer games to continue to grow in popularity, the environmental footprint of current practices is unclear.

E-sports can pursued from the comfort of one’s own home and thus has the potential to minimise or decrease travel-related effects compared to other sports, but one possible counterbalancing trend is the environmental footprint of the equipment itself; hardware/gaming platforms as well as a the technological infrastructure for gaming (e.g. the Internet and a concordant and explosive growth in data traffic). Another possible counterbalancing trend is that e-sports could follow the lead of other sports and lead to increased travel to various events both for professional e-sport athletes and for spectators.

In terms of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), what is the environmental footprint of computer gaming in general and of e-sports in particular? With preliminary results from such a study at hand, would it be possible to imagine and suggest ways to “redesign” e-sports so as to minimise or reduce its environmental footprint?

Please contact Daniel for more info


Environmental effect of Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go (and other Augmented Reality games such as Ingress) encourage people to get out of their homes and roam the streets and the parks of the city to accomplish game-related goals (e.g. catch Pokemons and attain a variety of different goals in the game). Pokemon Go is designed to encourage people to move through the city by foot as well as to encourage the emergence of local neighbourhood (gaming) communities. The game as-is thus has beneficial effects both in terms of health and social sustainability, but there is still a dearth of research that analyses these types of games in terms of their sustainability effects. Many aspects of the game design are aligned with sustainability goals, but some emergent practices are not, of which the most flagrant is that some players fly to participate in the international mega-events that are organised in a handful of cities around the world each summer. So how can we chart both the positive and the negative health-, social- and environmental effects of playing Pokemon Go? With preliminary results from such a study at hand, would it be possible to imagine and suggest ways to “redesign” Pokemon Go so as to minimise or reduce its environmental footprint as well as to maximize its benficial effects in terms of health outcomes and social sustainability?

Please contact Daniel for more info


Eating insects?

Many people think about sustainability when considering what food to eat. There are many reasons for why it makes excellent sense, from a sustainability point of view, to eat insects instead of cows or chickens and many people in other parts of the world actually do (5-minute Ted talk, “Should we eat bugs?”). There is now research and practical work being done in Europe to get people to eat insects, for example by producing flour that is made of insects. The greatest challenge is “the disgust factor”, but another important challenge is that people just don’t have the know-how to use insects in their cooking. We want you to design a system (a prototype) that suggests suitable matches between different types of insects and types of food (caterpillars are apparently especially suitable to mix with eggs/omelettes). Your task is then to test and evaluate the prototype on a suitable target group of prospective users who care a lot about the environmental consequences of what they eat (we have suggestions of target groups).

This thesis relates to a now-finished research project about food, ICT and critical design. There are connections between the proposed thesis and ongoing research at KTH so it might be possible to link the thesis to an external stakeholder (for example the City of Stockholm with an interest in making better use of household food waste – which can be used as insect feed).

Please contact Daniel for more info


Reintroducing traditional Swedish food practices through design

In the past, people wasted less food and upheld more sustainable food practices. Food was for example eaten as long as it tasted good and leftovers were used in chains of recipes that followed each other in smart ways. This knowledge has been lost in a world with more mixed food culture and an abundance of inexpensive food. Ironically, the world now needs this knowledge and the food practices of the past more then ever.

In this master thesis, you will look at old food practices and through a research-through-design (RtD) lens design a system that supports people in gaining the knowledge needed to maintain, learn and shape such food practices. This will involve looking historically at the amount of ingredients used, chains of recipes, how ”waste” products were used and traditional knowledge around handling food. This knowledge will then be used to design support for people to develop new sustainable food practices centered around the qualities and practices from the past. You will then test your design in a study where people, for a period of time, are challenged to redesign their current food practice into something resembling the past.

Keywords: Sustainability, Research through design, Food Practices, Food Waste.

Please contact Anders Lundström for more info

 


Designing, developing and studying a new electric car energy management tool for critical situations in VR

The challenge in this thesis is to design a tool to support drivers to manage energy-critical situations in electric cars. The work is based on previous research at KTH but will be extended in terms of energy-use forecasts, aggregated performance values and assisted advice while driving towards a predefined destination.

The student will set up a range of different critical situations in a VR environment and design an energy management visualisation that incorporates different (continuously updating) parameters, forecasts and comparisons on driving performance vs. forecasts. These tools and scenarios will then be used in a randomised control group study in which 2 groups will face the same challenges with/without access to these tools. Data will be collected and analysed from their test drives. The subjects will also be interviewed after the trials about their experiences and their understanding of electric cars and energy consumption while driving.

Ability to build and design applications in Unity is required. Strong interest and/or enthusiasm in VR and/or electric cars are a plus!

Keywords: VR, Virtual reality, EV, electric car, Energy, Visualisation.

Please contact Anders Lundström for more info


Total cost of ownership of electric cars as a tool for the public

Interest in electric vehicles (EV) is gradually increasing, but sales are still low. The main barriers to EV sales are limited driving range, insufficient charging infrastructure and high costs. However, EVs have one cost advantage over conventional cars, i.e. low operating costs such as fuel/electricity cost and a lower need for service. In a previously conducted study, we have shown that EVs may even be cheaper from a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) perspective, but buyers rarely base their decisions on calculate costs – only 3% do a complete TCO calculation. One reason is that it takes a lot of time and effort to create a complete TCO model.

In this master thesis, you will design and develop a tool that the public can use to calculate and visualize TCO. Support for TCO calculations will be provided by researchers at KTH and the focus for this thesis is the design and layout of such tool. The design will then be subject to a study that will look at design issues, e.g. how people understand the information and how it affects peoples’ choice of car model and drivetrain. With support of the tool, TCO can be a natural element in the car purchasing process and hence influence consumers to choose more energy efficient cars.

Keywords: Sustainability, Electric Vehicles, TCO.

Please contact Anders Lundström for more info


Learning about Electric Cars through Games

In this thesis, you will develop a fun car game where the underlying intention is that players will learn about key differences between gasoline cars and electric cars. The game emphasise battery and energy management aspects, but other electric car characteristics such as differences in acceleration and charging/fueling time should also be included. Due to the nature of this thesis, design and development will be a core part of the practical work.

The game that is developed will then be subject to a study in which people who are unfamiliar with electric cars will play the game. You will then interview them and focuse on their learning about electric cars, batteries, charging and the user experience.

The platform for the game is open but a webgame would have a greater potential for making a large impact as it more easily could reach larger numbers of people. With that said, if there is interest in other types of media, such as VR, that is also an option.

Ability to build and design applications is required. Strong interest and/or enthusiasm in Games and/or electric cars are a plus!

Keywords: Gamification, (VR), Virtual reality, EV, electric car, Energy.

Please contact Anders Lundström for more info


Social Visualization of quantified self data

Quantified self is to measure various aspects of your daily activities, such as number of steps taken, hours slept, calories eaten, minutes spent on Facebook, CO2 footprint of food you have eaten and hours you have studied. This thesis suggestion is about to explore how this data can be visualized so comparisons can be made with people in close proximity (for example within the same room or within the same mobile cell ID). One suggestion could be to use some kind of augmented reality but we are open to other suggestions. We are particularly interested in using energy use and/or CO2 emissions as cases, and in that case resources can be made available for, for example, hardware purchases.

Please contact Björn Hedin for more info


Interactive tool for learning environmental impact of different kinds of consumption

All consumption has an environmental impact, but it differs very much between different products and categories of consumption. Many people might know that a new computer has a large co2 impact and that carrots have low co2 impact, but what about clothes and hotel stays? One interesting measurement is the unit ”grams of co2 per Euro” which gives completely different results. For example an iPhone has an absolut co2 emission of 56 but a co2/Euro value of 60 grams/Euro. One kg of rice on the other hand has a co2 emission of about 2 kg, but a co2/Euro value of 800 grams/Euro. The idea with this thesis is to implement some kind of solution that can visualize the environmental impact of products, both in absolut terms and in co2/Euro, and to evaluate how such insights affects learning and attitudes towards consumption.

Please contact Björn Hedin for more info


When the electricity price doubles

How would a doubling (or more) of the electricity prices (over a period of several years) affect different/selected parts of the ICT and/or media industries? This thesis requires ingenuity and discussions about how to go about to investigate the impact of higher energy costs!

Possible organisation: Schibsted, Bonnier, Ericsson, Google.

Please contact Daniel for more info


Fake social movements (for more info, follow the link)

How is ”personal management software” that fake multiple personalities used to change the public perception of the public’s opinion on the Internet? How are fake grassroots movements and campaigns (”Astroturfing”) set up?

Please contact Daniel for more info


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