Theses proposals

This is a shortlist of ”ICT + sustainability” bachelors’ and masters’ theses proposals 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. Do not be afraid to chose an ”older” proposal – your first task would however be to update the proposal should it be needed.

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 and sustainability. 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 ———–


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, 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 (, 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

Instant CO2 feedback from supermarket receipts

Food contributes to about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. While there are several ways to reduce these emissions, the most most powerful way is to change what you eat. While many people have a rough idea about the greenhouse gas emissions from foodstuff, they often don’t have a feeling about the impact of their own purchases, and therefore even if they try to reduce their CO2 impact from food, make bad choices.

A powerful method to change behaviour, like what food you buy, is to get feedback. In this case feedback on the emissions from foodstuff you buy. There are some attempts at this, for example ICA’s ”mina klimatmål”, where you can get a monthly summary. However, this feedback is long after the actual purchase.

This thesis is about testing if instant feedback directly after the purchase can be a useful mechanism for reflecting on the greenhouse gas impact of foodsuff bought in supermarkets, and that this can lead to changes in what you choose to buy. The idea is to use ”Hemköps” digital receipts to calculate this. Instead of directly sending the recepits to the consumer, the recepits should first be sent to a program that parses the content of the recepit (an XML section in the email), tries to identify the product and quantity, looks up the CO2 emissions in a database previously developed in another project, then adds the CO2 emissions to the digital recept and sends the result to the consumer (either as an email, but preferably to their mobile phones using either a dedicated app or some messaging function).

The theoretical base of this project is the ”behavior change wheel” model, where the focus is on changing ”psychological capability” using the intervention function ”feedback on outcomes of behavior”.

Please contact Björn Hedin for more info

Sustainable IBM Chef Watson

How can “IBM Chef Watson” be adapted to promoting sustainable food consumption practices? Today IBM Chef Watson uses state of the art AI to create novel recipes on the fly. Chef Watson combines foodstuffs that might not necessarily seem to go well together into recipes that actually do appeal to human taste buds with the help of a large database of recipes together with an “understanding” of what chemical flavour compounds go together. How can today’s service be developed by adding a “sustainability filter” (layer) to the software that will encourage more sustainable food practices through its choice of proposed recipes and/or by suggesting more sustainable foodstuffs as default alternatives? The thesis could explore this at a more conceptual level with an emphasis of interviewing different stakeholders (households, companies) or alternatively explore the concept by developing mock-ups and/or functional prototypes. 

Possible organisations to work with: Coop, IBM, Ericsson, Telia. 

Please contact Daniel 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!

Organisation: Schibsted, Bonnier, Ericsson, Google.

Please contact Daniel for more info

Green lifestyles for reduced energy consumption (for more info, follow the link)
We ought to change our habits to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions – but many find it hard to do that. Some manage though, and we want to support them as well as ask what can be learned from these ”early adopters” that can be relevant to the larger population. More information can be obtained from a research project presentation that we can provide you with.

Possible organizations: Transition Town Sweden, IKEA.

Please contact Daniel for more info

Who is the Off-gridder? (for more info, follow the link)

The aim of this thesis proposal is to explore the domain of people who produce their own electricity without being connected to the grid. We are interested in understanding the off-gridders, their driving forces and lifestyle choices. Furthermore we want to know what kind of solutions they have created in order to produce and consume electricity, and how they came by the knowledge of constructing these solutions.

Please contact Elina for more info.

Koldioxidvaluta (for more info, follow the link)
Vissa har föreslagit att man ska ransonera CO2-utsläpp på personnivå. Parallellt med kronor och ören betalar man också för bensinen från sin CO2-ranson (tänk ICA-kort). Hur skulle ett sådant system kunna se ut och fungera?

Please contact Daniel for more info

IT use in the post-modern city (for more info, follow the link)
How do (poor) people who live in cities in decline (for example Detroit or in all of Greece) use information and communication technologies? How are their needs similar or different from other people’s ICT needs? What can be learned from how homeless and other marginalized groups participate in (or do not participate in) ”life online”? What can be learned from how people in less affluent countries perceive and use the Internet?

Please contact Daniel for more info

Astroturf robot wars (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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