söndag 20 oktober 2019

The Train Conference Day (symposium)

Image: The long and winding road from starting a Facebook group to becoming an influence

I attended the Train Conference Day [Tågkonferensdagen] this past week. My new research project FLIGHT ("Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations") is the concrete justification for attending. Here's the background to why there was a Train Conference Day in the first place:

More than 100 000 Swedes have by now joined the [Swedish-language] Train Holiday Facebook group to get inspiration for holiday train journeys and more than 1000 persons attended the Train Holiday Meeting back in March. More companies and organisations now want to take the train to their meetings.
- But which destinations and conference facilities are suitable?
- How can the trip itself be made part of the conference?
- What have other companies already done?
- And how does it matter to the climate if we take the train?

These and many other questions will be answered during the Train Conference Day 2019 at Clarion Hotel Stockholm.

The founder of the Train Holiday Facebook group, Susanna Elfors, is an old acquaintance of mine and she gave a short talk about her own personal journal from being a researcher (she has a ph.d. from KTH Royal Institute of Technology) and a social entrepreneur to an influences. Her train event partner and fellow co-organiser, Andreas Sidkvist, gave a short talk about obstacles and possibilities for chartering trains (which can be compared to how some companies are in the habit of chartering a plane).

The day for the most part consisted of a long line of inspiring 10 or 15 minutes long talks and my FLIGHT research colleague Markus Robért gave one of these talks. I will present some of these talks and I start with the four talks that interested me personally the most first (but all the talks were interesting!).

- Susannas Elfors presented the background to it all and she is right now surfing on an incredible groundswell movement with a half a decade long pre-history; she participated in a charter train trip to lake Garda in northern Italy together with her family five years ago. The trip wasn't very smooth and it tried the patience even of someone who was very motivated to take the train so she started a Facebook group afterwards (2014) to exchange advice and discuss train vacations. At the end of 2017, the group had a few thousand members. Then it exploded and the group now has more than 100 000 members and it consists of 70% women who join primarily due to climate-related reasons and 30% men who join because they love trains! (More than a third of the group members are women between 35 and 54.) There have since been numerous interviews and media coverage. Susanna and Andreas have started an event company and they now try to find ways to secure a stable income from all of this (Susanna complained that many others make money of the massive interest in train vacations but they don't yet). Susanna also mentioned that in Sweden we have now gone from "flygskam" (flight shamemore, more and even more) and "smygflyg" (sneak flying, e.g. flying but keeping quite about it) to "tågskryt" (train bragging). Susanna has also edited a coffee-table book, Tågsemester ("Train vacation") that I bought - it's the perfect Christmas gift!

A to me really interesting talk was that of Jim Werngren who works at Folkhälsomyndigheten [The Swedish Public Health Agency] and who talked about "Train bonus - a tool for sustainable business travel". The agency has two offices, one in Stockholm and one in Östersund (550 kilometers north) and Jim had, as a union representative, done a wonderful job to promote travelling by train between their offices instead of flying (which has traditionally been the norm). It turns out that not only is train the better choice for the environment but it's also the less expensive choice and through his personal industrious and indefatigable work, they now have new rules at this governmental agency. Flying is taxed internally and anyone who takes the train at distances above 500 kilometers (e.g. between their two offices) gets a salary bonus of 550 SEK per trip AND can also account for the extra time if the working day becomes longer than 8 hours ["endagsförrättningstillägg"]. Due to his work, The Swedish Public Health Agency got Swedish Rail's diploma for sustainable travel this year!

Another talk that was both interesting and instrumentally useful was Maria Klint's talk about using the train trip itself for conducting a company workshop. Maria works at the service and UX design agency Antrop  and her talk was very super inspiring since we are discussing to pay for a train trip to the upcoming (June 2020) ICT for Sustainability conference in Bristol for our whole research group. Maria's talk was very practical as she shared her experiences and she also offered to share the "conversation cards" they produced and used on their trip.

Another inspiring talk was that of Joakim Crona who is a doctor and a researcher at Uppsala University Hospital who wanted to travel by train to the huge research conference about cancer research in Barcelona that "everybody" in his field travels to (we're talking about 20 000 attendees!). He gave a very practical talk with lots of pictures of him designing a sign (Greta Thunberg style), taking photos and recoding a YouTube video that "went viral" (within a limited community of researchers). He then took the train from Uppsala to Barcelona and got more and more company when researchers joined up as they travelled through Europe. Joakim mentioned that he did nothing but talk about taking the train to the conference at the week-long conference and that they are now planning a second trip through Europe (now with increased administrative support - two other persons from Academic Conferences (a full-service Professional Congress Organizer for Karolinska Institutet, SLU and Uppsala university) had joined him at the Train Conference Day to learn more).

Other really interesting (but to me less instrumentally useful) talks were:

Thomas Eneroth, Swedish minister for Infrastructure who discussed investments in trains and tracks and routes - he said he wanted to give us more and better night trains to the continent - Hamburg, Berlin and Brussels! He also wants it to be easier to book trips and discussed how work is being done to make that happen. Thomas is apparently is a fan of the Train Holiday Facebook group. He gave the opening talk and then had to hurry away and while he said many nice things about trains, others snidely mentioned that he says nice things about cars and planes when he talks to other audiences. Still, it was hard not to be affected and infected by his enthusiasm for trains.

Jens Forsmark from Naturskyddsföreningen [the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation] is their expert on sustainable transportation and he talked about the train as the obvious choice in organisations' sustainability work. His fact-filled 15-minute talk was a fountain of knowledge! He claimed and also seemed to be a calm and peaceful person but mentioned that his work makes him end up in conflicts all the time since he has opinions about issues (taxes, city planning etc.) where there are many strong stakeholders who have interest in disagreeing with his conclusions. His thoughts about the structural characteristics of car and road-based versus train and track-based cities were very interesting! I had a chat with him at the break and we "clicked" - I'm quite sure I will be in touch with him again and that something concrete will come out of it in terms of some sort of cooperation at some point.

Another inspiring speaker was Maja Rosén who started the movement "Vi håller oss på jorden" ("We Stay on the Ground") and the campaign "Flygfritt 2020" ("Flight Free 2020") which aims at getting 100 000 Swedes to pledge not to fly during 2020. What is needed for you to make that decision is oftentimes that other people you know make the same decision. Maja also talked about the psychological dimensions of questioning each plane trip versus the relief of making a decision once and for all. A researcher she knows had qualms every time she had to decide whether to fly to attend a conference in Europe. Then she decided never to fly within Europe and her life suddenly became easier. She also mentioned that a Swedish politician in the EU parliament said to her that "to me there are no airplanes between Stockholm and Strasbourg".

Camilla Lystrand who is travel manager at White architects talked about how they have worked for more than a decade to fly only when absolutely necessary. This is a challenge as architects travek a lot but the effort and the thought that has gone into their internal work is both inspiring and commendable! One example is that internal meetings are planned so that they fit the schedule for arriving trains. Another example is that they always travel first class by train to improve the possibilities to work. The biggest cost for them is of course salaries and they are much more concerned with getting the most out of their employees rather than skimping on the (price of the) train tricket.

There were also a few other speakers who taked at the conference (again including my colleague Markus Robért). The event was attended by 50 persons including representatives from Swedish Rail as well as two different start-up companies who both work towards the goal of making it easier to book train tickets. While it works well within Sweden, it can indeed be very hard to book tickets for a longer trip that passes several national boundaries.

All in all it was very inspiring and worthwhile to attend this event. While I was surprised by how few people attended, that in the end made it easier to connect to those who were there and these really were the right people to connect to in all matters pertaining to train travel.

torsdag 17 oktober 2019

Help save the world! We are hiring a ph.d. student!

The image comes from the web page "Being a doctoral student at KTH"

I've haven't blogged much in the last 12+ months. I did however write a blog post in January about a research grant application we submitted, "Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations: From data to practice" and I did in fact end that blog post like this:

"If there ever was an application where it felt like we hit all the marks, well, then this is it. We were definitely on a high as we handed in the application. The Energy Agency will hand out funds for at least 10 projects and we have so much faith in our application that we were confident there just can't be 10 other applications that are better than our. We hope."

I really ought to have written a blog post before the summer when we found out that the project was approved. I might in fact still do that retroactively (I will then edit this introduction) and I should also write a blog post about what has happened in the project this far/during the start-up phase (e.g. during the autumn). Do however also see this blog post where the first three master's-level project course proposals are related to this particular research project.

This blog post is however an announcement that we just placed an ad and that we are hiring! We are looking for a ph.d. student who wants to join our project and our research group! 

The job ad is available here (in English) and here (in Swedish) and the deadline to apply is Thursday November 7. We will then set aside time to sort out applications that do not fulfil the formal requirement and then try to further winnow down the applications to get between 3-5 applicants that we think are highly interesting.

Me and my colleague Elina Eriksson put together the ad. Much of it consists of boilerplate text - text that will be found in any ad for a ph.d. position at KTH (e.g. we offer "Work and study in Stockholm, one of Europe’s fastest-growing capitals, which is close to both nature and the sea"). I will here point out the significant parts of the ad that makes it different from other ads.

1) The super-short description of the project that the ph.d. student will work in and what his/her tasks mainly will consist of:

You will join an interdisciplinary research project that aims to decrease carbon emissions in flight-intensive organizations. We work collaboratively with other ongoing efforts to decrease carbon emissions at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The project will develop interaction tools and methods to visualize, engage and help individuals and departments to become aware of and decrease unnecessary flying. You will help us explore and develop novel concepts and design proposals to support behavior change on an individual and organizational level. Our project will contribute to KTH’s overarching sustainability goal to decrease carbon emissions from flight with 20% during the current four-year period.

2) We are looking for someone who wants to work with sustainability and design and has (some kind of) background in design is a requirement:

To be admitted to postgraduate education (Chapter 7, 39 § Swedish Higher Education Ordinance), the applicant must [...]
• have a specialisation (or prior experience) in design, for example interaction design. 

Comment: there are several requirements that are non-negotiable such as for example having passed a degree at an advanced level (same for all ph.d. positions at KTH). We added this requirement to this particular ph.d. position and it means that many who might have wanted to apply will not be able to do so (or will be sorted away in the first pass). While design background/experience is a requirement, we are pretty open about what kind of design. While we exemplify with "interaction design" (something that allows students from our own engineering programme in media technology to apply), other types of designers are also welcome to apply, for example industrial designers, service designers, (user) experience designers etc. 

3) While some kind of design experience/background is a requirement, there is also a less binding wish list of characteristics of which most (again) consists of boilerplate text (e.g. the applicant should have the "ability to independently pursue his or her work" but also the "ability to collaborate with others"). The following two criteria have however been added by us for this ph.d. position in particular:

In order to succeed as a doctoral student at KTH, you need to be goal oriented and persevering in your work. In the selection of the applicants, the following will be assessed: 
• ability to come up with ideas and new approaches (creativity), and
• English proficiency in reading, writing and speaking.

Comment: it is hard for me to imagine hiring someone who isn't good or at least decent at writing. For someone who finds writing to be tedious and difficult, my general advice would be to not apply for a ph.d. position. Five years as a ph.d. student for for the person who hates writing would mean a world of pain. I'm surprised that proficiency in reading and writing in English isn't a requirement for all ph.d. positions at our university. 

Comment: the creativity criteria will be a bit tricky to evaluate but we felt that the project really needs a person who has an innovative way of thinking which can be put into practice and which leads to results. This criteria also fits together with the design requirement above. The project will include various "design interventions" and we want someone who is creative and can contribute with new ideas!

4) As to what background material to hand in as part of the application, we added the following two elements (besides a CV, a degree certificate etc.):

• Contact information for at least two reference persons. 
• Your master’s thesis or a representative equivalent publication or technical report. 

Comment: we will in fact check this up carefully for the last 3-5 applicants that we will choose between!

5) To those who have studied at KTH, who have met me elsewhere or will get a tip about this ph.d. position from someone who knows me, I imagine this could in fact make a difference:

Supervision: The doctoral student will be placed at the Royal Institute of Technology and supervised by associate professor Daniel Pargman.

6) Lastly, we want to emphasise that the ph.d. student will become part of an up-and-coming research group with many different research projects and and that he/she will become part of an exciting research environment:

What we offer: [...]
• You will be part of the sustainability research group at the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design. This group has recently started several new research projects and is at the forefront of research and teaching in the area of computing and sustainability. For more information, see our web page.

Me and Elina spent half a day this past week disseminating the ad in various networks such as:
- Our department, our research group and in other research groups at KTH.
- Facebook, Twitter.
- In various relevant distribution lists.
- To people/in networks of researchers who look at problematising or reducing (academic) flying.
- To individuals we know personally who work with sustainability and/or design.
- We also hope to reach alumni from our media technology engineering programme through colleagues of ours but don't know if this has or will happen.

Some colleagues have helped further disseminate the ad on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you! Please disseminate the link to this blog post too!

lördag 28 september 2019

Proposals for our project course on Interactive Media Technology (course)

Our "Advanced Project course in Interactive Media Technology" (DM2799) will be held for the third time this autumn term (primarily in November and December):

"The course is an advanced project course, where the students [in groups of 3-5 students] carry out a smaller research study in close cooperation with researchers in the field of interactive media technology."

This course (3-minute video) is interesting for various reasons and one reason is that most students who take the course are fifth-year students. That means they have lots of knowledge and experience and that they can get a lot done despite the fact that most of the work in these projects are performed over a period of less than two months. Another thing that is interesting is that the project course is followed by their master's thesis and while many students would like to do their thesis with a company as their client, it also represents a chance to recruit students to do their master's thesis in a research project.

The sustainability team that I lead together with Elina now has several new research projects up and running and we also have a strong tradition of writing project proposals for this course and getting them manned. I have personally been the advisor of five different project groups during the previous two course offerings.

This year we have a very strong line-up of sustainability-related project proposals and I will list all our proposals below. New for this year is that the students will specify their preferences and be organised into project groups a month before the course starts. This has forced us to write our project proposals earlier during the term, but, the start of the course and the start of these projects will be much smoother than before - the students and their projects will get off to a "flying start" compared to earlier years.

Below are our 12 sustainability-related proposals and further below are descriptions of all projects in terms of title, background and task (some additional information has been removed, this blog post will be long enough as it is).

[UPDATE (October 8): titles in orange have been chosen by groups of students who will work with them during the remainder of the year]

Flightminder - Gapminder for KTH’s flight data (FLIGHT advisors: Daniel Pargman and Mario Romero)
Communicating data beyond digital screens (FLIGHT advisor: Elina Eriksson)
CERO Challenge (FLIGHT advisor: Elina Eriksson)
Bringing Homo Colossus to life (KTH campus edition) (HC advisors: Daniel Pargman and Mario Romero)
Bringing Homo Colossus to life (City of Stockholm edition) (HC advisors: Daniel Pargman and Mario Romero)
Exploring human powered interaction (advisor: Anders Lundström)
Climate map - carbon budget made visible for municipalities (advisor: Elina Eriksson)
HabitWise – design of climate calculators to create sustainable habits (HABITWISE advisors: Elina Eriksson and Cecilia Katzeff)
Non-intrusive social reminders for sustainable food behaviour (KITCHEN advisor: Björn Hedin)
Sharing preference-based adjustments of online recipes (KITCHEN advisor: Björn Hedin)
Making Hippo Hip Again - Redesign of a food inventory system (KITCHEN advisor: Miriam Börjesson Rivera)
- Meat-O-Meter - changing meat consumption behavior (KITCHEN advisor: Björn Hedin and Jarmo Laaksolahti)

The majority of these project proposals are directly related to ongoing research projects in our research group (MID4). That is an advantage for students choosing these projects since each research project has a network of researchers attached to it who have a lot of goodwill towards these students projects and who are willing to spend time and energy to help the students. Also, project groups that yield interesting results could easily result in ideas for master's thesis topics that these students could work on during the spring term (2020). For more information about these research project, follow these links: FLIGHTHABITWISE and KITCHEN. The HC (Homo Colossus) project is brand new and does not yet have a homepage.

Here are the longer version of each project:

Flightminder - Gapminder for KTH’s flight data

KTH has set up goals to reduce our carbon emissions. Decreasing employees’ flying is a prioritised area since researchers fly a lot (to scientific conferences etc.), but in order to decrease our flying, we first need to understand our flying.

In a MID research project that just started, “Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations”(a.k.a. “FLIGHT”), we have access to all data for all KTH employees’ all travel during the previous 12 months. We will analyse this data from various perspectives but need your help to develop a tool that can help us visualise the data in useful and nifty ways.

Your task is to find ways to visualise our data and to develop a tool that will help us researchers work with our data in better ways over the coming years (the project runs between 2019-2022). You can think of your task in terms of developing Gapminder (see link below) for KTH’s flight data.

See “additional material” below for references to two recent academic studies that analyses the academic flying at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. We want to be able to replicate these studies and see if we get the same results when we plug our KTH data set into the tool you develop!

The KTH data set includes data about all 3700 employees’ all trips between September 2018 and August 2019. You will more specifically have access to this data:
For every employee: unique identifier, year of birth, gender, title (e.g. “professor” or “ph.d. student”), salary, school and department, purpose of the trip.
For every trip: unique identifier (person travelling), date, flight number, airport codes, type of ticket, price, estimated CO2 emissions

Communicating 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 (see additional material for reference), but we would also invite other types of communication such as sonification, haptic feedback or smell.

CERO Challenge

Emissions from transport and travel are a substantial part of the global emissions of carbon, and even though much transport is necessary and hard to cut down on, some are possible to change. However behaviour change is hard, and changing transport behaviour is difficult since it is intertwined with everyday practices. In this situation, digital tools can be of help, and one such tool that has been developed is CERO Challenge. CERO challenge is a tool to help people choose more sustainable travel choices. But, the tool need some care and love to really become engaging and useful.

In this project, we want a team to do a redesign of the CERO Challenge app. This would include an evaluation of the current user interface and the creation of a new interface (a high-fidelity mock-up, an implementation for android/IOS, or a combination). We encourage the student group to take a critical perspective and for example explore what alternative motivations (besides gamification) that could be used as drivers in the application. Here it could be interesting to explore Transcendental Values (see Common Cause handbook in additional material).

Bringing Homo Colossus to life (KTH campus edition)

Fossil fuels account for ≈ 85% of mankind's primary energy supply. This is problematic for several reasons (climate change etc.) and we urgently need to phase out fossil fuels. But how do we convince people in more affluent countries that much will have to change, perhaps including highly valued aspects of our taken-for-granted lifestyles? How do we show that what we have come to perceive as “normal” in fact is anything but and that we today use extravagant amounts of energy (that eventually must come to an end)?

William Catton’s idea of “homo colossus” (Catton 1986, 1987) pushes home the point that each of us would be COLOSSAL if we imagined that our everyday energy consumption – the energy we use in our daily lives (for heating our homes, driving our cars, flying on vacation trips etc.) – instead was used to fuel a Huge Creature that physically ingested (ate) and metabolised the same amount of energy. It is easy for a Swede to use 50 to 100 times more energy in our everyday lives than the energy content of the food we eat (≈ 1700 kcal or 2 kWh per day for a person who weighs 70 kilos)! But how big would we be if we were huge and ATE all that energy instead, i.e. how big is the “energy footprint” of the average Swede and of his/her lifestyle??

The Homo Colossus “double” or “shadow” of the average Swede would be about 12 meters tall and weight about 25.000 kilos. Imagine building a 12 meters tall statue that represents “the average Swede” (e.g. the average Swede’s energy footprint)! You will not build that statue in this project, but you will model (Maya, Blender) and 3D print giant body parts (eg. toes, fingers, ears) and find a suitable place to install them on campus (for example sticking out of a building (wall) or up from the ground). You will then develop a smartphone app (using the ARCore Augmented Reality development kit) so that the rest of Homo Colossus’ body can be seen through the smartphone’s screen and with the help of an AR app.

You will also design a method to invite people to use the AR app on the public installation. People need to be aware of the fact the giant body parts are part of an AR installation and get information about how to see the AR augmentation. Your task is thus to design an intervention/information system that gets their attention, provide them with relevant information and invites explorations - be it posters, screens, in-app advertisements or some other method.

Bringing Homo Colossus to life (City of Stockholm edition)

Fossil fuels account for ≈ 85% of mankind's primary energy supply. This is problematic for several reasons (climate change etc.) and we urgently need to phase out fossil fuels. But how do we convince people in more affluent countries that much will have to change, perhaps including highly valued aspects of our taken-for-granted lifestyles? How do we show that what we have come to perceive as “normal” in fact is anything but and that we today use extravagant amounts of energy (that eventually must come to an end)?

William Catton’s idea of “homo colossus” (Catton 1986, 1987) pushes home the point that each of us would be COLOSSAL if we imagined that our everyday energy consumption – the energy we use in our daily lives (for heating our homes, driving our cars, flying on vacation trips etc.) – instead was used to fuel a Huge Creature that physically ingested (ate) and metabolised the same amount of energy. It is easy for a Swede to use 50 to 100 times more energy in our everyday lives than the energy content of the food we eat (≈ 1700 kcal or 2 kWh per day for a person who weighs 70 kilos)! But how big would we be if we were huge and ATE all that energy instead, i.e. how big is the “energy footprint” of the average Swede and of his/her lifestyle??

The Homo Colossus “double” or “shadow” of the average Swede would be about 12 meters tall and weight about 25.000 kilos. Imagine building a 12 meters tall statue that represents “the average Swede” (e.g. the average Swede’s energy footprint)! You will not build that statue in this project, but you will “recruit” one or more pieces of public art (life-sized statues of people) in the City of Stockholm. You will then develop a smartphone app (using the ARCore Augmented Reality development kit) so that the statue/statues are endowed with huge Homo Colossus “shadows” that can be seen through the smartphone’s screen and with the help of an AR app. 

You will also design a method to invite people to use the AR app on these public sculptures. People need to be aware of the location and the identity of the statues that have been augmented and how to see the AR augmentation. Your task is thus to design an intervention/information system that gets their attention, provide them with relevant information and invites explorations - be it posters, screens, in-app advertisements or some other method.

Exploring human powered interaction

You will explore the potential of powering interactive artefacts through so called “human-powered interaction” (HPI). In HPI, the aim is that the power needed to run the device should be acquired through interacting with - and simultaneously “charging” - the device. “Charging” is a nice metaphor but is in fact the wrong term because as apart from “harvesting” energy from human activity (for example through a dynamo that charges a smartphone battery), there is no battery to charge in HPI. The energy that is generated by your physical activity is used up as it is generated, and in fact constitutes a design material of sorts.

One early example of HPI was “The Peppermill” [1] which describes a simple circuit and a human powered peppermill remote control for a TV. The theory around HPI has been further discussed in a paper by James Pierce and Eric Paulos (“Electric materialities and interactive technology”) [2] in which they argue that HPI originates from human physical activity and becomes a part of the interactive experience itself. Power generation is both the source of the interaction and becomes part of the interactive experience!

“If the source of power is generated only via one’s interaction with the technology and experienced as such, then one does not experience the power as external to the immediate context of use as can be the case with ordinary electric technology. Instead, one can experience this power as something able to be personally generated or created.” [2, p. 6]

Interestingly, little has been done from a design perspective to advance this research area despite the increasing interest in sustainable technology. 

Climate map - carbon budget made visible for municipalities

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (PPM) can be measured with high accuracy and we know how much we can emit to keep within certain global mean temperature increases. This is also the scientific basis for what has come to be called the budget perspective: the realization that carbon dioxide accumulates and that we must limit the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere within certain relatively well-known limits in order to meet global temperature targets.

The Climate Map is a non-profit company that was formed in early 2019. We are developing a digital carbon dioxide budget tool together with the Uppsala researchers. We will in the first hand turn to Swedish municipalities, but eventually we also want to reach regions, nations and individuals.

The background to the tool is that in order to adapt our (or a municipality’s) emissions to the global remaining carbon dioxide budget (and thus indirectly to one of the two temperature targets of the Paris Agreement), we (as individuals, municipalities, regions and countries) must first determine what proportion of this global budget is ours. There are different methods for doing so. The easiest one to apply a "flat model" where all the world's current inhabitants are allocated an equal budget. We will apply this 'flat model' as a kind of default mode, or starting position, in our interface, but also allow the user to make additional assumptions and adjust their budget, for example to take into account OECD countries' historical emissions debt.

In this task we want to get suggestions on how we can visualize this a carbon budget with the default mode, that is an equal share of the remaining carbon budget. The prospective user/recipient is a Swedish municipality.

We would therefore like to see proposals for an interface that makes visible our remaining global carbon dioxide budget and a Swedish municipality's share of this. We want it, as visually and intuitively as possible, to show how the municipal budget is calculated (using the Greenpeace flat model where there is a division first (of all now living people), then a multiplication (by the number of inhabitants in the municipality)). In summary, we want the user to meet a visual representation of his/her municipality's carbon dioxide budget, but also as intuitively and directly as possible, understand how this is calculated, and also see its proportional relation to our remaining global budget.

HabitWise – design of climate calculators to create sustainable habits

Human impact on the climate is one of our time’s biggest challenges. Consumption within Swedish households contribute to around 80% of Sweden’s consumption based climate emissions (Swedish EPA 2017). Considering the impact of different categories of consumption from the average Swede, food consumption generates the largest impact, followed by transport, housing, and other shopping. These categories can be measured and communicated to households. This communication holds
a prospect of people learning about their impact and taking steps to change their lifestyles to decrease their impact.
In one way, climate impact tools are the “culmination” of climate impact research. Through these tools, knowledge is available to people outside the scientific community. But what needs to be communicated and what aspects have a lasting impact? We aim to understand how the tools can be improved to bridge science and society toward sustainable development. Several climate calculators are available for households to use. They review climate footprint and, in some cases, suggest how to develop more sustainable consumption patterns. However, little research is available on
systematic user studies providing fruitful information on how to design of climate calculators to best fit their users.
The project
We want to know how climate footprint calculators can be designed and implemented to encourage users to lifestyle changes. Hence we would like to invite a group to do an evaluation study (which would be a pre-study for our larger research project), where one climate calculator is evaluated with users.
Potentially this could be a think-aloud study of c:a 5-10 individual household users of 1 selected footprint tool. Selection of test users should aim for balancing gender, age and education. It could also include an expert evaluation and (concept) design of a new interface, new features etc.
Potentially the project could meet the respondents twice, in order to after a few weeks, see what the respondents remember and/if they have started doing any changes in their life.
The work will be part of the project HabitWise – Creating Sustainable Everyday Habits.

Non-intrusive social reminders for sustainable food behaviour

Food is something we all have a relationship with, whether we like it or not. Food is also an area where we ourselves often think we could, or should behave differently. We might want to eat more vegetables for one or more reasons (health, climate issues, animal welfare etc), generate less food waste, eat less candy, follow diet X, eat more fruit, spend less money on impulse purchases and so on. However, changing such behaviours is easier said than done. 

Research on supporting behaviour change has been conducted for a long time, especially within the areas of health and medicine (i.e. stop smoking) but the technological advances have in recent years opened up the sub-field of digital behaviour change, where digital tools and services are used to support behaviour change. In my research projects we try out new digital technologies to promote more sustainable behaviour around food and for more sustainable kitchen practices. This project is about designing a device for supporting “Non-intrusive social reminders for sustainable food behaviour”.

This project for the advanced course aims at designing, building and testing a digital connected device (see below) to support more sustainable kitchen- and food behaviours. The designs should be grounded in the “behaviour change wheel” model/framework and the “behaviour change taxonomy v1”. The device should preliminary use the behaviour change techniques “goal setting”, “prompts/cues”, “social support”, “information about other’s approval” from the Behaviour change taxonomy, but choosing behaviour change techniques is a part of the project work.

The basic idea that a group of friends should each have a device. The friends should all share a real interest in improving some (or preferably several) sustainability or health aspect about their food and kitchen practices, such as eat fruit before it turns bad in order to avoid food waste, clean out the fridge, eat healthier/more sustainable and so on. When a person performs some such activity that makes the person feel satisfied with themselves (in a broad sense), the person pushes a button on the device. That makes one led-light light up on the device, and on all their friends’ devices. This serves as a trigger/cue for the friends to remind them that perhaps they should also do something “good”. As more friends do something they are satisfied with, more lights light up on the groups’ devices, creating a collective feeling that the group is doing well. Each night the lights are turned off, and the procedure starts again next day. The devices should be placed in the kitchen of the participants, so that the lights are visible (but not intrusive) when the persons are located in a physical location where it is easy to do “good” food-related behaviours.

The project should make a well-grounded theoretical argument of the design they choose. Of special importance is the grounding the design in the behaviour change models and frameworks described above. The devices should be built with the aim that it should be possible for our research project to build and test the devices during the spring (a possible master’s thesis for participants in the project), and a publicly available instructable of how to build the device should be provided. The devices should then be tested on real users of the target group, and the designs and devices should be qualitatively evaluated from both a design and a behaviour change perspective.

Sharing preference-based adjustments of online recipes

In society today we today see an increased interest in what we eat, and the number of people with specific preferences (such as vegetarian, low-fat, high-fat, gluten free, climate friendly, non-from-country-x …) are rapidly increasing. In on-line recipes, users often give suggestions of how to modify recipes according such preferences or tastes, but the comments are then provided in the comment field, and a suggestion to replace for example a meat-based ingredient with a vegetarian alternative would not make the recipe appear as “vegetarian” on the recipe website, and vegetarians would probably never find the recipe even though the modified version is now vegetarian. A structured way to provide suggestions of how to modify recipes in a computer-readable way is an interesting research topic that would increase the usefulness of online recipe sites, and support users in finding new recipes that supports their personal preferences.

This advanced project suggestion is about designing, developing and evaluating a web-plugin (or similar solution) that recognizes the ingredients on one (or several) recipe sites such as Tasteline.se, and allows users to in a user-friendly and structured way suggest replacing one or more ingredients by other ingredients. The suggestions should be categorized  with one or more “reasons”  (i.e. to make it vegetarian, to decrease the number of calories, to make it tastier …), and it should be possible for other users to in some way rate how good the suggestion is. Other users, using the plugin, should then be able to see that there is a suggestion when they go to the site, and if they have provided personal preferences (such as “lactose free”, “low CO2”) such suggestions should be more easily visible. Other features can be developed as part of the course (such as being able to search for all recipes that have been modified in a specific way, subscription to changes made by specific people, CO2 footprint of recipes and so on). The design should be grounded in the behaviour change wheel framework. Depending on the outcome, this project can also be developed to a master thesis project in the spring.

Making Hippo Hip Again - Redesign of a food inventory system

At the MID-department, there are several research projects related to food waste and sustainable kitchen practices. Within one of these projects, HIPPO, a scanner connected to a digital inventory web application has been developed as a prototype. HIPPO helps you to keep track of what you have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer, and ultimately is a way to keep you from overbuying food that then ends up as food waste.

The mission, should you accept it, is the do some new design thinking around the HIPPO prototype. The prototype in its current form runs the risk of mainly attracting certain segments of consumers (e.g. Resource Man (Strengers, 2014)). Hence we wish you to in this project rethink and redesign the system so that it attracts other types of consumers. What could HIPPO look like, how could users be enticed to use it and what would its purpose be?

Meat-O-Meter - changing meat consumption behavior

Production and consumption of meat, as well as dairy products, is a major source of carbon emissions globally and has a large environmental impact overall. The system sustaining meat production/consumption is complex and includes many areas including but not limited to feed production,animal husbandry, transport, and even political/economical systems regulating production and consumption, import and export, subsidies etc. While a general awareness of the fact that meat, especially imported meat, might not be the most sustainable option is growing, the scale and details of the issue often remains unclear.

This project revolves around creating a tool (e.g visualisation, sonification, or physical installation) that can shed light on, and raise awareness of, relevant aspects of the meat production system, its scale, and impact. Based on real-time data of meat purchases through the service Matlistan.se we want you to develop a tool that can cast light on relevant aspects of the meat production chain thereby promoting awareness/insights leading to informed choices and/or behavior change. The tool should be in the form of an artefact/visualisation/sonification that can be placed in a common space to create peripheral awareness, act as a curiosity object that piques people’s interest, a conversation piece, and something that blends into people’s everyday routine. As an initial site for the installation we imagine our own kitchen at KTH. The project will benefit from a multi-disciplinary design team including skills in coding, design, management/business.

onsdag 18 september 2019

The future through the present (seminar)

I went to a seminar at Stockholm University of the Arts earlier today. The topic of the seminar interested me and for some strange reason I had the whole afternoon free so I went on a lark:

The future through the present

Work has an almost religious function in our lives as the most meaningful activity we should devote ourselves to. In the near future, this may be incompatible with new technology that makes work superfluous. Can creative documentaries prepare us for this outcome? Can depictions of the contemporary create projections into the future?

Erik Gandini (professor of documentary film) and Roland Paulsen (sociologist and author) present "The future through the present", an interdisciplinary research project in collaboration with Jyoti Mistry, professor of film at Valand.

"The future of the present" is an interdisciplinary project that combines creative documentary movies and sociology. Erik Gandini discussed a few questions that he as a filmmaker took with him into the project:
- How can a documentary film based on the present and recoded in contemporary times create a projection into something that does not yet exist? A universe of ideas, assumptions, imaginary notions of what yet is not but can be?
- How can a new documentary aesthetic for the future be formulated that is not an imitation of fiction or of the science fiction genre but instead based on the documentary's own narrative element?

The seminar also treated the topics of "work" and "the future of work". Some of the questions that were raised in connection to this were:

- Is the ethical superiority of work (compared to non-work/unemployment etc.) really untouchable?
- Can we think of a different future? Can we imagine what a post-work society look like?
- What will we do when we do not need to work?
- Can creative documentary prepare us for this outcome?

Several other provocative ideas were aired at the seminar, for example:
- A pro-work argument that is repeated all the time is that "we can't afford to work less" (because fewer people will have to work harder, more and longer in order to support more "non-productive" people now and even more so in the future (the young, the old, the infirm, the unemployed, the unemployable illiterate immigrant etc.). Roland Paulsen pointed out that the discussion always seem to glaze over the fact that we have progressively grown wealthier for a very long time.
- Research results indicate that people prefer to work rather than not to work and that it's better to have job than not to have a job taking physical and mental health into consideration. Roland pointed out that these "facts" could be the result of the current "workfare" regime where the alternatives to work (unemployment etc.) have been designed so as to make the alternatives to (full-time) employment unpalatable and punishing.

Erik discussed the phenomena of countries that have become filthy rich (Norway) and showed us footing from an upcoming documentary of his about Kuwait which was very interesting and thought-provoking. All Kuwaiti nationals apparently has the right to get a (well-paid) job - but they don't have  a right to get a meaningful work and many people flounder or suffer as they (sometimes) drag their butts to a workplace where there is nothing to do but to kill time. Erik also mentioned that ultraortodox jews in Israel get a stipend, "a sort of universal basic income", and spend all their time being religions and reading holy texts and apparently also score very high on any and all happiness measures. That's a way of thinking of Israeli ultraortodox jews that I certainly hadn't thought of before...

The seminar also took a for me very unexpected turn when both Roland and Erik at one point started to talk about "counterfactuals" - about worlds that could be (or might have been) as a way to open up our imagination to the currently-unimaginable. I made sure to mention our just-approved research project that starts in January and that involves counterfactuals!

I also learned something new. In psychology, the noble-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has written about about ("upward" and "downward") counterfactuals. I immediately ordered a copy of a 1982 book chapter and an 1986 article of his about counterfactual! In a break, Roland also mentioned to me that the radical marxist sociologist Eric Olin Wright had used/written about counterfactuals, using the term "real utopias". Wright apparently wrote a (for me must-buy) book, "Envisioning real utopias" in 2010 and there is also a "Real Utopias Project" that started more than 25 years ago:

"The Real Utopias Project, begun in 1991, explores a wide range of proposals and models for radical social change. The basic idea is to combine serious normative discussions of the underlying principles and rationales for different emancipatory visions with the analysis of pragmatic problems of institutional design. The project itself consists of a series of conferences sponsored periodically by the A. E, Havens Center at the University of Wisconsin."

tisdag 4 juni 2019

Narrative science (workshop)


I was invited to give a talk at a two-day workshop that was organised by the European Research Council (ERC-funded) project “Narrative Science”. The principal workshop organisers were Mary S. Morgan (principal investigator) and Andrew Hopkins.

The topic of the workshop was "Does time always pass? Temporalities in scientific narratives" and the research project has apparently organised many such workshop; the previous workshop was "Narratives as navigational tools" (March 2019) and the next two workshops are "Scientific polyphony: How scientific narratives configure many 'voices'" (June 2019) and "Narrative science in techno-environments" (July 2019). From what I understand, Mary has hired a number of post-docs in the project and then help plan but mainly let them organise and run workshops that are in line with their and the project's research interests.

In Andrew's invitation (March), he wrote that "This will be an interdisciplinary event that will include an interesting mix of contributions from fields including philosophy, history of science, geology, biology, cosmology and others, to explore how narratives about and involving time occur in various disciplines." The reason I was invited to give a talk is of course because of our 2017 article "What if there had only been half the oil? Rewriting history to envision the consequences of peak oil".

While the workshop encompassed a broad mix of people and topics, it still felt that I was one of the more exotic additions to the workshop both due to my "odd" background (computer science, social science and sustainability) and the "odd" topic of my talk (allohistorical narratives/counterfactuals). Most people who attended the workshop were philosophers or historians and more specifically people with backgrounds in philosophy of science or history of science. Literature was also very much present in the form of a few participants with such backgrounds, through the theories that participants referred to and of course through the project itself ("narrative science"). A few of the titles of talks that were given at the workshop were "Faraday's Lines of Force and the Temporality of Serial Narration", Do we always need a timeline? The roles of temporal sequence in art narratives and science narratives", "Narratives in scientific argument and explanation" and "When you can't get there from here: The importance of temporal order in evolutionary biology and ecology" If you want to know/learn more, do have a look at the narrative science project website and at the 2017 special issue about "Narrative in Science" in the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

My workshop talk was entitled "Using allohistorical narratives to envision alternative energy futures” and here's my abstract:

Everything unsustainable is possible only until it isn’t any longer. Our use of non-renewable fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) is unsustainable but has for centuries increased both in relative and absolute terms and currently constitutes 85% of the global energy supply. We intuitively sense that the consequences of phasing out fossil fuels will be momentous, but it is hard to envision what the transition to alternative energy sources could look like since "prediction is hard, especially about the future”. We suggest that allohistorical (counterfactual) narratives can be used for that purpose and we explore a specific scenario in our 2017 paper "What if there had only been half the oil? Rewriting history to envision the consequences of peak oil”, the first in a planned series of papers about ”Coalworld”. 

At the workshop I felt like I was the "practitioner" who used (counterfactual) narratives for a very specific purpose. Almost everyone else was a "theoretician" and their talks were sprinkled with terms such as "narrative processing", "reason-giving practices", "serial narration", "narrative closure", "discursive practices", "narrative explanation" and many more such terms. Interestingly enough, someone mentioned that my talk was the only talk that concerned (also) the future at this workshop on time and scientific narratives. Most other speakers talked about and analysed historical persons and historical events, including for example competing hypotheses/narratives about "the nature of contemporary theories in evolutionary biology employed to explain the origin of eukaryotic cells" (a very long theory ago). I instead discussed the story in the paper we have written as well as the story of the paper. The latter included both the history of the paper and even further back, the motivation behind the paper as well as the future of the paper - since our paper is the first "instalment" in a planned series of papers.

My talk got a very positive reception and there were many interesting questions from the audience. Some questions were relatively easy to answer and others will leave me pondering for quite some time. It was perhaps a pity that my talk was number 11 out of 14 talks, I think I would have gotten more feedback and more out of the workshop had I presented during the first day. 

An amusing and quite embarrassing event happened when I, during a coffee break the first day, was involved in a conversation with a professor and a post-doc and the post-doc asked me what I thought of "Lewis". It turned out that there's this philosopher, David K. Lewis, who wrote the book about counterfactuals back in 1973. The title of the book is "Counterfactuals". I helped organise a week-long international workshop on counterfactuals earlier this year but none of the 20+ participants mentioned this book at any time during that week... My explanation for how this could be is that it seems that people from many different academic disciplines seems to have thought and written about counterfactuals, but I've never really met or discussed the topic with philosophers before... Also, someone else said the book was actually "boring" and that I should instead settle for reading Lewis' much shorter 1979 text "Counterfactual dependence and time's arrow" (pdf file).

All in all it was a nice workshop and I made a few new contacts that I believe I will be in contact with later! The workshop was organised by The London School of Economics but it was hosted by the Royal Institution. Here's some more background info about the workshop:


The standard view of narrative is inextricably bound up with the passage of time. Narrative scholars are convinced that time is an essential element in any narrative, and it has been thought equally essential, though treated in different ways, by philosophers of history. But exactly how to think about time in the narratives of science is not self-evident. And if we look at the way scientists use time in narratives, we see a number of different ways in which time is taken into account and is deployed. Time may be an element in the way scientists write and tell about their handling of materials, processes, practices and discoveries. Alternatively, it may feature as an element in their accounts of causes, mechanisms, interactions, and developments in their scientific materials. And it may be an important component in their theoretical and conceptual terms and discussions. Thus, there are many different sites and guises in which scientists use time in their own subject-based narratives.

In this workshop, the focus will be on the different temporalities in narratives as they occur in scientific discourses. The obvious loci for such explorations are what are generally referred to as the historical sciences, that is, those that seek to reconstruct the past, which may be very deep, on the basis of what can be observed in the present. These include geology, evolutionary biology, archaeology, cosmology and forensic science. Beyond the obvious disciplines however, time and its narrative expression are to be found in a wide variety of places, from measuring the arrival of seismic waves travelling through the earth, to the account of the lab scientist patiently waiting for a key change to occur in an experiment. Other ways of tracing time in scientific narratives might look to the “what if” questions posed in counterfactual reasoning; the ways time is rethought over a life- time; allegiances and resistances to time-based identities; and the relations of narrative to memory and myth. Throughout the workshop, the question of how essential time is to narrative will remain open for argument.

We suggest three starting points in this wide agenda:

1. Perspectival matters - does a scientist’s narrative look forward to what will happen, or backward over what has happened, or for a dynamics involving time within those materials or do they rather try to get a bird’s eye synoptic view, or look sideways at points in a chain where time just pass by on the other side? And, are the phenomena scientists study reversible, or is time itself only ever uni-directional?

2. Routine matters - does a scientist regularly observe their materials at a specific point in time, observe at the beginning and end of some event, or try to capture the moving process of a phenomena? And equally, do narrative representations of their phenomena repeat certain intervals, or work to different rhythms and rulers.

3. Time matters - Does time really or always matter in a science narrative. Is it instead a place holder for something else that is substantive (such as development, a change process, or a regularity), or else not really very important in terms of the coherence and credibility of a narrative where other ‘rulers’, such as spatial or subject- relations, rule? Does time structure a scientist’s narrative or does the narrative provide the argument, structure or logic in which time appears?

fredag 1 mars 2019

The cloud devours electricity (radio interview)

I was on Swedish radio yesterday, in the weekly science/sustainability show "Klotet"(The Globe). The theme of this episode was The cloud devours electricity - can we store data sustainably? ("Molnet slukar el - går det att lagra data hållbart?"). The show was built up around two pre-recoded reportages and they also had two invited guests who commented and discussed the intersection of on the one hand computing and social media use and on the other hand sustainability. Besides me, the other guest was professor of Communication Systems Erik Agrell from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. I had to go to Uppsala to record the show so it took half a day (plus preparations!). The chat/interview with me and Erik took an hour but was later cut down to 20 minutes or so.

Sustainability in this context primarily means energy use and related carbon emissions, but it could also include material throughput (us buying and throwing away gadgets or data centers buying and throwing away servers). I took the partly unspecific and unstructured questions I got sent over by mail beforehand and structured them a bit so here's what they wanted us to comment/talk about:

- On the electricity consumption of data traffic in relation to sustainability:
   - Is this a big problem now and/or in the future? If so, how do we solve it?
   - Do people need to change their behaviour (just as we need to change how we transport ourselves etc.)?
   - How far can (future) technical developments take us?

It just so happens that I am giving a ph.d. course this term (together with my colleague Miriam Börjesson Rivera) and several of these questions relate to issues we discussed at the previous seminar or that we will discuss at the next seminar. So I prepared by leafing through paper I had just read and by reading papers we will discuss at our upcoming seminar so that was pretty convenient.

I knew that the focus of both the radio program and that of Erik Agrell would be on technical challenges in terms of how much the data traffic grows each year (≈ 25%), how much global electricity generation grows each year (≈ 3%), how much technical developments on energy efficiency might counteract such trends etc., so I decided to try to open up the discussion to take into account also other factors instead of focusing only on such technical factors (which are not my forte). This part of my argument primarily builds on the arguments made in this 2016 paper:

Preist, C., Schien, D., & Blevis, E. (2016). Understanding and mitigating the effects of device and cloud service design decisions on the environmental footprint of digital infrastructure. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1324-1337). ACM.

Priest et al. talks about "the cornucopian paradigm" where:
1) "Effectively, the provision of digital services to high-end users stimulates latent demand in mainstream users for such services".
2) "The mainstream users then pick up devices and services which were formerly high-end, and they become embedded in everyday practice. Services that most users were happy without become essential to everyday life for the majority of the populace in developed countries."
3) "This results in a reinforcing feedback loop encouraging growth of the digital infrastructure."

A growing digital infrastructure then enables the design of new high-end services that later/again makes increased demands on infrastructure (and so on). This is succinctly summarised by an image in their paper:

The paper also has a long list of design principles that drives the increase in infrastructure demand that I found useful when I exemplified and pretended that I used a GoPro camera to record the daily commute to my job. Such a video stream could be automatically backed up to the cloud and I might also make "unreasonable" demands at a later point in time, for example assuming that I will have instant access to this video stream and can choose to share it a year later when I'm on vacation in Antarctica (filmed in high-definition video of course).

Basically I wanted to emphasise that the infrastructure does not grow autonomously but rather because new technical possibilities (increased storage, increased bandwidth, new capabilities and features in the electronic gadgets we buy and in the software that runs them) creates the possibilities for developing new high-end data-intensive services and because we as users are quick to pick up those services and incorporate them into our behaviours and into our lives. This line of reasoning problematises and opens up discussions about our behaviour. Are there limits to our needs (or our "needs", e.g. wants)? We only have 24 hours per day, but we can replace less data-intensive practices with more data-intensive practices, including but not limited to using more than one device/service simultaneously.

This line of reasoning analyses the problem, but a second article starts the discussion about what to do to "solve" this problem. That article is written by Kelly Widdicks and me and it's currently in review. It's a kind of continuation of an article we wrote together a bit more than a year ago, "Undesigning the Internet: An exploratory study of reducing everyday Internet connectivity". That paper was written together with yet three more persons and it was presented at the Fifth International Conference on ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) in Toronto a bit less than a year ago. The new, just-submitted article that we are writing, "Breaking the Cornucopian Paradigm: Towards Moderate Internet Use in Everyday Life" has just been submitted to this year's (upcoming) workshop on Computing within Limits. Borrowing from another area, here then is the line of reasoning I made in the radio show:

We should all switch to buying ecological food, but it costs more so many people don't. It could however be the case that many buy ecological food not in order to "save the environment" but because they believe it is more healthy for themselves and because they care about their children's health. So these two motivations pull in the same direction and it might be that the latter (health) has more pull than the former (sustainability).

It might similarly be an uphill battle to try to convince people to use their phones less in order to "save the environment", but there might exist strong non-sustainbility reasons for why we should think about tempering our use of electronic gadgets and these drivers could also have beneficial effects in terms of sustainability - so we should explore which they are. We have four examples (reasons) in the paper but I'll just mention one here and that is "Relationships". It might be beneficial for our close relationships if we put our phones/gadgets away more often; We might ban them from the second floor in the house (where our bedrooms are) or from the dinner table (to encourage unmediated face to face conversations). Some schools have "smartphone hotels" where you park your phone, perhaps we should have smartphone hotels also in our homes? Perhaps "parental controls" should be extended to cover the whole family's use of electronic gadgets in the home?

I also cursorily raised the questions of etiquette in the radio show. There are etiquette rules in many different areas of life but few around our use of electronic gadgets. Perhaps we should speed up the invention of such rules? For a fascinating take on the evolution of etiquette, do see my blog post about Norbert Elias' (1939) book "The Civilizing Process",  a book that in detail analyses the evolution of etiquette rules over centuries (do also look the quotes further down in that blog post).

All in all it was fun to be on radio. I also thought a bit about what I could have done different so that my next appearance on radio will be better. Lastly I also suggested two other topics for radio shows so don't be surprised if I write a new blog post about my next appearance on radio a year or so from now.

måndag 21 januari 2019

Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations (application)

I just submitted a research grant application, "Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations: from data to practice", to the Swedish Energy Agency in response to their call "Contribute to the creation of a transport efficient society".

The application is written together with my colleagues Elina Eriksson, Björn Hedin and Jarmo Laaksolahti but it is also written with our new collaborator Markus Robért who works at the Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the KTH School of Architecture and the Built Environment. We got a tip-off some time ago to get in touch with Markus through Göran Finnveden who is vice-president for sustainable development at KTH, and, our collaboration with Markus has great promise. This application builds on work Markus has pursued for more than a decade, but it takes his work in a direction that he himself might not have thought of. Also, Markus is just one person but now he gets help from four others to take "his" research to the next level. To us, it's instead a great opportunity to explore an area we are interested in by cooperating with and building on work that someone else has already done for more than a decade.

The application has an abstract and while the abstract is correct, it does not really succeed in capturing what we feel are the most exiting and interesting aspects of this project:

Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations: from data to practice

In flight-intensive organizations, many employees travel both frequently and far - resulting in large CO2 emissions. At management level, there is often an awareness and a willingness to change, as expressed for example through internal climate goals. But at those levels in the organization where concrete decisions are made about when, where and how to travel, there is a lack of awareness and tools to manage these challenges. In this project, we will create and test practical tools to reduce travel-related CO2 emissions, thereby moving from words to action. By using a structured method in combination with analog and digital tools, the project will take stock, visualize, design, plan and mediate negotiations about departmental and individual CO2 emissions and the results will be followed up regularly. The project aims to give flight-intensive organizations greater opportunities to reach or exceed climate targets, thereby contributing to an energy-efficient and sustainable future.

Markus has developed a process management tool called CERO that is used to track and help organisations reach their emission targets (typically to reduce their emissions by 10-20% in a few short years). CERO is being implemented in a large and growing number of companies as well as in Swedish municipalities, counties and regions. One organisation that Markus works with is in fact KTH and he therefor has massive amounts of data about our travel and carbon emissions (delivered directly from our travel agency). KTH the goal of reducing its CO2 emissions by 20% between 2016 and 2020 and has contracted Markus/CERO to help make that happen. KTH is a tough case though as almost all (90+%) of our CO2 emissions from travel comes from flying. While Markus currently works with a top-down process, it's very hard for KTH centrally to have a say in the travel habits of different departments and individual researchers - and that's where our application enters the picture:

We will in this project use a CO2 currency and a workshop methodology to reach departments and individual researchers and encourage them to reflect on how they should proceed in order to reduce their travel emissions - without compromising the quality of their research.
Our process will make it possible for individuals to place their own travel in a larger context and it also focuses on equality and justice by implicitly or explicitly asking questions of the type "Who flies?", "How much?", "Who will reduce his/her flying?" and "How can this happen?".

There are several things that are neat about this application. One of them is that Markus runs an annual symposium for the 80-ish organisations that currently uses CERO. It's a lot of work for him to organise the symposium alone, but we can help him out and this project would of course be part of the program during the three years that it would run. Another neat thing is that besides presenting the results of the project in (open access) journal articles, we have pledged to only present the results at conferences that we can attend without flying there. That's a first for me and it basically means that we will only present it in Europe (and preferably mid- to northern Europe at that).

If there ever was an application where it felt like we hit all the marks, well, then this is it. We were definitely on a high as we handed in the application. The Energy Agency will hand out funds for at least 10 projects and we have so much faith in our application that we were confident there just can't be 10 other applications that are better than our. We hope.

måndag 31 december 2018

The Future of Computing and Wisdom (article)

I wrote a blog post some time ago about a workshop we organised at the NordiCHI 2018 conference (Oslo, end of September), "The Futures of Computing and Wisdom". Quick recap:
- The organisers were Daniel Pargman, Elina Eriksson, Rob Comber, Ben Kirman and Oliver Bates.
- The participants did not know it beforehand, but the workshop was set up so as to generate material for a journal article.
- The planned article was to be submitted to one of three special 50th anniversary issues of the journal Futures (theme: "Wise Futures").

Well guess what, I submitted that article, "The Future of Computing and Wisdom: Insights from Human-Computer Interaction" through publisher Elseiver's clunky submission system just a few short hours before the deadline on December 31, 2018 (happy new year!). On the way - between the workshop and the finished article - we picked up two additional co-authors who attended the workshop and who were interested in contributing and the finished article. Here are the authors of the just-submitted article:
- Daniel Sapiens Pargman, K​TH Royal Institute of Technology
- Elina Eriksson KTH Royal Institute of Technology
- Oliver Bates Lancaster University
- Ben Kirman, University of York
- Rob Comber, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
- Anders Hedman, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
- Martijn van den Broeck, Umeå Institute of Design

Our article breaks some of the conventions for scientific articles since this is what the Call for Paper asked for/specified:
- This call invites reports from collaborative dialogues on responsible futures. In this case, the dialogues should attempt to articulate normative futures in 2068; what futures should humanity strive for?
The call [...] invites reports of dialogues on the futures of wisdom, i.e. what might be considered responsible and wise in 2068, and why [emphasis in the original call].
- The main outputs to be published in this theme are structured reports on conversations. These will be edited accounts of dialogues between people.
- For these dialogical contributions rapporteurs will be the corresponding author of reports. Significant contributors to the particular dialogue (e.g. 20% or more) can be named as joint authors. 

So papers for this special issue have "rapporteurs" rather than "authors" and the main contribution of these papers isn't that they report on an experiment or provide a sharp analysis of some social phenomenon, but rather that they constitute a "structured reports of conversations" about the futures of wisdom. This presented us with a challenge as none of us (naturally) had written such report before. A paragraph in the call gave some hints about this new genre ("structured reports of conversations") and what was expected from us:

Dialogue contributions
The aim is to produce a series of dialogues that are well-informed and well-reasoned, rather than rhetorical polemic with single dominant voices. Dialogues should be explorative of normative images of 2068, recognise points of agreement and recognise points of difference. We do not seek consensus, nor battles to be won. As with all publications in Futures they should contribute new knowledge to our understanding of the future and our relationships with the future. Thus clarity of ideas and reasoning and contribution to knowledge will be the main acceptance and editorial criteria. Diversity of participants and imaginaries is encouraged to offer voices to those who, in the language of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, will be ‘left behind’. Unlike more traditional academic papers, discussions of a range of extant literature and methodologies etc. are not required, except in as much as they form part of the context setting and explicit argumentation in the dialogue.

With this in mind, we wrote a paper that presents the main tool we used at the workshop to critically  think about the future, namely fictional abstracts or "abstracts of yet-to-be-written research papers that will be published in 2068". Each workshop participant wrote a fiction abstract and they together discussed various aspects of future wisdom in the context of computing and all nine fictional abstracts are available here. The results part of our paper builds on our workshop discussions and presents our thoughts on a number of themes "that have been extracted both from the workshop discussions as well as from the fictional abstracts themselves". These themes are:
- What is wisdom?
- Where is wisdom, and how do we build and transfer it?
- Human++ [about enhanced humans]
- Time and Acceleration
- Beware and Rejoice futures [what we hope for and what we fear]

All in all a fun special issue and a fun project. I finish this blog post with the abstract of our paper:

The Future of Computing and Wisdom: Insights from Human-Computer Interaction
In this paper, we present a structured report on a dialogue on the Future of Computing and Wisdom. The dialogue consists of a recorded and transcribed discussion between researchers and practitioners in the field of Human-Computer Interaction that was held at a workshop in conjunction with the 10th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction in September 2018. However, the dialogue also encompasses workshop participants’ preparatory work with writing “fictional abstracts” - abstracts of yet-to-be-written research papers that will be published in 2068. The polyvocal dialogue that is reported upon thus includes not just the voices of researchers and practitioners who attended the workshop, but also includes the voices of the future researchers of 2068 who wrote the abstracts in question as well as the voices of the organisms, individuals, intelligent agents and communities who are the subjects, victims, beneficiaries and bystanders of wise (or unwise) future computing systems.

torsdag 4 oktober 2018

The Futures of Computing and Wisdom (workshop)

I recently (September 29) organised a (Design Fiction) workshop, "The Futures of Computing and Wisdom" at the NordiCHI 2018 conference in Oslo together with Elina Eriksson (KTH), Rob Comber (KTH), Ben Kirman (York, UK) and Oliver Bates (Lancaster, UK). Here's a summary (from the workshop Call):

There has been an increasing interest in discussing the consequences of the technologies we invent and study in HCI research, including non-technical dimensions (societal, ethical, normative) (Mankoff et al. 2013, Pargman et al. 2017). This is also apparent in the surge of interest in Design Fiction during the last 10 years (Bleecker 2009, Tanenbaum et al. 2013, Dunne and Raby 2013). Design Fictions have traditionally emphasised near-future developments, implications and consequences, but what about developments that lie one or several decades into the future? If we want to think about and discuss how computing will affect and change society decades from now, the focus cannot be on the technology itself but rather on other types of question.

This workshop will invite participants to a dialogue on the futures of computing and wisdom. Wisdom relates to the dominant paradigms of knowledge, and elucidates what might be considered responsible and wise, and why. Through collaborative imagining, we will draw attention to the consequences of the technologies we invent and study in HCI, including non-technical dimensions (societal, ethical, normative). Deploying methods from Design Fiction we will project and reflect on the future of wise computing for 2068. Extending from the near-future projects of Design Fiction, we will deploy fictional abstracts to examine how computing, through future and imagined technologies and research on HCI, AI, IoT, and related studies on Big Data and Smart Technologies, will create, question, and reinforce ways of knowing, doing and living.

What workshop participants did not know until they showed up is that the workshop had a back story. "Futures", The journal of policy, planning and futures studies celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with no less than three special issues. The theme of one of these special issues is "Wise Futures" and the editors invite submissions in the form of "dialogues on the futures of wisdom, i.e. what might be considered responsible and wise in 2068, and why". The editors of the special issue more specifically ask for contributions in the form of "structured reports on conversations", so we planned and organised a "conversation" on wisdom in the form of a conference workshop! We hope to be able to submit something to the special issue (the deadline is December 31) but us organisers first have to discuss how, since there is uncertainty about the genre "structured reports on conversations". None of us have worked with, or indeed even seen such reports before.

To participate in the workshop, prospective participants had to submit a fictional abstract, i.e. an abstract of a scientific paper that will be written 50 years from now. Fictional abstracts is a new genre too, but we published some helpful guidelines for how to create compelling fictional abstracts on the workshop webpage to help prospective participants with their contributions. Since the submitted abstracts oftentimes were the participants' first attempt at a fictional abstract, we reviewed and gave feedback to almost all submissions and encouraged participants to rewrite their abstracts. The two exceptions were the abstracts by Sus Lyckvi (Chalmers, Swe) and Britta Schulte (UCL, UK) which were great already when they were submitted. I publish both these abstracts below (with permission from the authors) as well as my own fictional abstract.

In the end there were nine contributions (three more had, for various reasons, unfortunately been withdrawn before the workshop) and ten persons showed up to the workshop (including workshop organisers Daniel, Elina and Ben). The workshop itself was a success - time flew as 90 minute sessions felt like they came to an end in the blink of an eye. I have to say that it was the best workshop I have ever organised and possibly the best I have attended too. We took copious notes and also recorded parts of the workshop, but have not yet started to look at the material collected.

The topic was tough; the year 2068 is far into the future, "wisdom" is elusive and the connection to computers/human-computer interaction is not necessarily obvious. It still felt like we managed to make headway and had we had some great discussions on the way.

As to the nine contributions, most fit the "Beware!" category where they warned about unwise futures. That might be in the nature of writing up an abstract for a scientific paper; you first have to identify a problem and then go on and try to solve it. Only a handful of papers were in the "Rejoice!" category. Mine was one, but I was sorry to learn that my abstract was a bit too convoluted - I had been overly "clever" when I wrote it and some of the finer (but central!) nuances were apparently hard to understand. It might be that that is the case for each fictional abstract. I have the distinct feeling that abstract authors could talk endlessly about about their abstract and the work that went into creating it, while the reader would need to read the abstract more than once to understand even half of it. You do have the chance to do that though; below are three of the nine abstracts, Sus Lyckvi's "Be All In or Get All Out: Exploring Options for CAI-Workers and CAI-Technology", Britta Schulte's "DEO ex Machina: a new Framework for Virtual Agents in Automated Elderly Care Provision" and my own "Dark Patches Creator Personas".


Be All In or Get All Out: Exploring Options for CAI-Workers and CAI-Technology

Sus Lyckvi (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden)

Collaborative AIs (CAIs) provide the combination of human creativity, empathy and intuition with extensive computational power and information access. Since the late 2020ies CAI-technology has advanced many research fields [2036-1, 2036-2, 2038, 2042], but it has also been misused, most notably during the First Panic [2050]. But – whereas there is a vivid discussion on the consequences of CAI-technology, little is said about the situation of CAI-workers, despite the fact that as many as 23.2 % of them are diagnosed with a personality disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolarity or depression [2065].

In this study we made deep-interviews with 152 CAI-workers, using the insights from this in 16 tech-trials with 48 of the interviewees. Our findings show that CAI-workers are effectively excluded from society not only physically – living in closed compounds due to corporate data protection policies – but also due to the public’s attitude towards them: anger over lost jobs, envy from rejects, and the very common fear that CAIs are the last step towards fully sentient AIs [2064]. Further, there are issues of self-image, being superhuman whilst working [2059] vs significantly less able off-duty. In effect, CAI-workers are at the same time their employer’s most valuable asset, and its slaves, contained and deprived of normal cognitive abilities. Accordingly, the tech trials indicated that prolonged CAI-state was highly favorable.

Consequently, we argue that it is time to discuss the future of CAI-technology – should it be abandoned entirely or taken further by allowing perpetual CAI-state, in effect nurturing a new type of humans?


2036-1 Stavros Gkouskos,“I Saw Your Grand-grand-son Graduate”: Using CAI Gossip Algorithms to Increase the Mental Well-being of Elderly Patients, Proceedings of the 2036 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing System, (CHI’36), ACM Press
2036-2 Nicholas Wang, Solving Traffic-Flow Issues for Shared Autonomous Transportation, PhD- thesis for the degree of Doctor of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology 3036

2038 Barake Kansas Henry & Ireli Lyckvi, Two CAIs vs. 500 Million Sick: How We Found Patient Zero. Morgan Kaufmann Bonniers, 3038

2042 Eira Lundgren & Conor McCloud, Ensuring the Democratic Process in the Scot-Scandi Election Using CAI Technology on Citizen Input. International Journal of Interaction Design, Vol 20, Issue 2, March 2042, Springer.

2050 Eira Lundgren & Ireli Lyckvi, The Panic in 2049 – how thwarted gossip algorithms broke the West US, Random O’Reilly 2050.

2059 Charlotte Heath, Amping up information retrieval and system control with a new generation of CAIs. IEEE Transactions on CAIs and Learning Systems, Vol 11, Issue 12, December 2052

2064 Rosie Picard & Charles Francis Xavier, We Are Afraid We Can’t Do That – On Limiting Neural Connections Between CAI-Humans And Their Computer Counterpart. Science, Volume 545, Issue 8705, August 3, 2064, AAAS

2065 Elora Björk & Jari Holopainen “Lesser Than I Used To Be” On the Mental Health of CAI- workers. Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Exo-Applications and Technology 2065 (EAT ’65), Springer

(1) Due to the rapid development of the fields of CAI-technology, Exo-applications and Brain-Computer Interaction, references are typically made to the publication year of a paper, rather than the author(s).


DEO ex Machina: a new Framework for Virtual Agents in Automated Elderly Care Provision

Britta F. Schulte, University College London (UK)

Recent years have seen an increase of technologies that build on interaction between virtual agents and humans (VHI). While the adoption has been successful in many areas such as production and education, other areas - specifically elderly care - show a lack of engagement. Age seems to be a defining factor as users are not used to the technology and do not benefit from its full potential. Recent updates of the virtual agents (VA) technology specifically for the sector, aesthetic adaptions or new interfaces did not seem to have made a significant change in the area

In this paper we present an analysis of interaction logs gathered in a care home equipped with VAs throughout. Contrary to common beliefs the interaction does not break down on the side of the VA, but on the human side as people reject, misinterpret or ignore the well- intentioned suggestions of the VA. Following these insights, we present a new framework to support interactions: DEO. We propose the three steps: DISPENSE and log how the human responds, EDUCATE the human of the insights he is lacking to make the necessary changes and OVERWRITE his decisions, should he repeatedly decide not to follow them. We give detailed instructions on how to best implement each step based on our results. We argue that these steps will lead to increased adherence to the suggestions by VAs even by the elderly population, thereby making the technology accessible to a wider audience

Author Keywords: Design fiction; elderly care; virtual human interaction.


Dark Patches Creator Personas

Daniel Sapiens Pargman, KTH Royal Institute of Technology (SWE) and Wise Person, Vienna Institute for the Betterment of Humanity (East Germania)

Dark patches have become an increasingly large problem on the Internet as of late. Their noxious effects are well known; they create pockets and corridors for illegal high-frequency communication and transactions and widen the market for dark hardware. While not in direct conflict with the 2036 global Computing Backwards Compatibility Act, their existence undermine or come into direct conflict with social equity and they directly clash with the UN Global Development Goal #17, “An affordable Internet for all”.

While much technical research has tried to find algorithmic solutions to the problem of dark patches, little is known of drivers behind their creation. We here present the results of a large-scale study of the dark patch DIY hackers and programmers-for-hire in three European countries. Besides the results of the study itself, we also present five fictive dark patch creator personas (”psychological profiles”).

Since we nowadays take the equitable sharing of limited resources such as the Internet for granted, we have to be all the more vigilant when various kinds of deviants and perverts try to appropriate more than their fair share of The Commons. In that vein, we end the paper with suggestion for future work that will help crime and counter-terrorism agencies in their work of understanding, identifying and apprehending dark patch creators. This works should be seen as a complement to more technically oriented measures of identifying and neutralizing dark patch code.

Author Keywords: Dark patches; Human-Computer Interaction, personas, computer security, counterterrorism.