söndag 29 mars 2020

On the necessity of flying and of not flying (paper)

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This is the first paper that comes out of the FLIGHT project. More papers are being written as this is being written.

My last blog post was about a paper that has been accepted to the upcoming (virtual) ICT4S conference. We in fact also have another paper accepted, "On the necessity of flying and of not flying Exploring how computer scientists reason about academic travel". The paper-writing was again spearheaded by my colleague Elina Eriksson and the other authors were Daniel Pargman, Markus Robèrt and Jarmo Laaksolahti. This is in fact the very first paper that comes out of our 2019-2022 "FLIGHT" research project. The real/full name of the project is "Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations: from data to practice". There is much activity in the project and we have turned to paper-writing now that other activities are put on hold by the Covid-19 crisis.

This paper is both a side project compared to the main thrust as well as a background project. These are two different ways of saying that the paper is interesting but possibly a bit peripheral in relation to the project goals. The paper builds on a travel survey that was conducted at KTH a year ago. The survey is not part of the FLIGHT research project but it was conducted by FLIGHT project member Markus Robèrt on behalf of KTH, was sent out to all employees at KTH and contains a large number of free text answers. The empirical part of the paper builds on these free text answers, but the analysis has been restricted to answers given by employees at (only) the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) - which also happens to be the school where I and all project members with the exception of Markus Robèrt works.

The survey answers we analyze were more specifically answers to the following four questions:
- “A large part of the emissions at KTH come from air travel. What do you think should be done to reduce these emissions?
- “How do you contribute to KTH's sustainability goals regarding reduced air travel?
- “Do you experience any disadvantages with meetings via videoconference or web meeting?
- “Other comments?” (the very last open ended question)

The survey was answered anonymously and the answers are not in any way representative of anything - but they do represent a range of opinions from computer scientists (broadly defined) about their own and their colleagues' habits of flying, ranging all the way from “KTH should increase its flying; an excellent way of making great contacts. Sustainability goals are a political hoax” to “Since January 1, 2019, I have stopped flying for work, so it will be train, boat or video conferencing instead”. Below is the paper abstract:


ABSTRACT

In order to fulfill the Paris agreement, we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions globally. 2020 is a pivotal year in this endeavour as many projections indicate that emissions need to decrease significantly before 2030. This challenge pertains to all parts of society, including (computer science) researchers. This however clashes with the fact that flying to a large extent has become built-in to the everyday practices of research and of academic life. It is feasible to imagine that computer scientists could fly less than other academics since we ought to be innovators and early adopters of computer-mediated alternatives such as teleconferencing and other forms of digital meeting technologies. It is however also possible that we fly more because conferences might be a more dominant outlet for publications in our field in comparison to other research fields. At KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the researchers at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) fly the most. In this paper, we present initial qualitative results from a survey regarding travel that was answered by computer scientists at EECS. We are in particular analyse the free text answers in order to understand how computer scientists reason about their own flying and about the alternatives. It will be hard to fulfil the Paris agreement without decreasing flying significantly, but this requires us to rethink how we do research, and how we travel (or not) within academia. This paper contributes with knowledge about the perceived barriers and drivers for computer scientists to decrease their flying.
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torsdag 26 mars 2020

Systems Thinking exercises in Computing Education (paper)

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We played games from "The Systems Thinking Playbook for Climate Change" with our students. Then we wrote a paper about it,


Our paper, "Systems Thinking exercises in Computing Education - broadening the scope of ICT and sustainability" has been accepted to the upcoming ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) conference. The paper is written by Elina Eriksson, Miriam Börjesson Rivera, Björn Hedin, Daniel Pargman and Hanna Hasselqvist. The conference itself was supposed to have been held in Bristol during the second half of June but has now moved online.

This paper is based on our work of introducing Systems Thinking and in particular Systems Thinking games into our sustainability education. We introduced Systems Thinking games in our course about "Sustainability and Media Technology" during two course rounds and then expanded the role of Systems Thinking this past autumn (and will expand it again the next time the course is given).

The paper is a more or less straightforward narration of what we did, how we did it, lessons learned etc. The paper can also be seen as a follow-up to the paper that my colleague Elina Eriksson and me wrote and presented at the (2014) 2nd ICT4S conference in Stockholm, “ICT4S Reaching Out: Making sustainability relevant in higher education". This paper starts the conclusion byt stating that:

"To sum up our experience, we can only warmly recommend using systems thinking games as a tool in sustainability education for computing students. There was a wealth of aspects that could be used as examples in our education, to point back to and remind students of how systems work."


We originally encountered the idea of using Systems Thinking games in a great ICT4S 2014 paper by Steve Easterbrook, "From Computational Thinking to Systems Thinking". It was after attending the (2018) 5th ICT4S conference in Toronto and actually playing such games together with Steve that we seriously started to consider trying this on in our own courses. The games themselves come from "The Systems Thinking Playbook for Climate Change" by Sweeney, Meadows and Mehers (see image above - also available online as a pdf file!). We have used four different games (Group Juggle, Harvest, Living Loops and 1-2-3-Go) of which most time (in class) is spend with the game Harvest (about the commons and individual vs collective rationality).

The paper has been accepted to ICT4S and we have a bit more than 10 days to take the reviewers' comments into account and do minor edits before we submit the camera-ready version of the paper. Here's the abstract:


ABSTRACT
Integrating sustainability in computing education entails broadening the scope of the education, but how can that be done while maintaining student engagement? Climate change and species extinction can appear far removed from data structures and algorithms to say the least. In our ongoing work of integrating sustainability in our Media Technology programme, we have addressed this gap by introducing systems thinking games and activities to broaden the scope, as well as by situating the issues addressed in the course in relation to their future profession. In this paper, we present our experiences of introducing and playing systems thinking games, how the systems thinking exercise sessions were conducted, outcomes of the sessions and finally some lessons learnt. Furthermore, we present and analyse changes we did to the exercises and that led to a richer material for discussions in the classroom.
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söndag 22 mars 2020

Corona adaptations

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Corona adaptations. My current workplace.

I guess there is only one topic this blog post could possibly treat and that is how Corona has affected my own and others' teaching practices during the last 10 days or so.

I'd say that for me personally, the shit hit the fan on Thursday March 12. I had group supervision with six bachelor's thesis students and my guest, Kelly Widdicks, tagged along. At the beginning of the session I asked the students if they were personally worried about Corona and the answer was "not for my own health but perhaps the socially responsible thing would be to stay home". We switched to speaking English at that session to include Kelly in our conversation, but she was distracted and also left the classroom twice. It turned out that when we ended our two-hour meeting, Kelly had re-booked here ticket back to the UK from Saturday and she left Sweden that same afternoon after she had held a lunch seminar about her research at another department with a lackluster turnout (many had chosen to stay home that day). And then things went downhill.

The next supervision meeting with the same students happened exactly one week later (Thursday March 19) was done through videoconference (using Zoom) and the topic of the day was Corona adaptations of the students' bachelor's theses. Meeting outside of Zoom was no longer an option at that point since KTH had closed its doors to all students the day before. As of Wednesday March 18, the students' keycards don't work any longer and they can not enter KTH buildings. Me together with all other faculty can still enter KTH, but have personally worked from home since Thursday March 19 for two reasons. The first is that it's is being said that it's not advisable to go by subway, but the second and more important reason is that they closed my youngest son's school on Thursday and Friday (March 19-20) to retool and switch to distance education. He and all other sixth graders are welcome back on Monday for a half-day tutorial on how to handle the new situation and the online/distance education tools but his school will be closed during the following two weeks after that (and then there's a one week long Easter break when they reassess the situation). As apart from much of Europe, Swedish schools are not mandated to close, but they apparently have the option and I presume they took that decision after it seemed to be the socially responsible thing to do but primarily since increasing numbers of parents started to keep their children home from school. My son treated Thursday and Friday as vacation (or weekend) and tensions ran high as both me and my wife worked from home while he wanted to use the TV to play computer games (and loudly banter with his online friends).


I could thus continue to go to KTH to work if I wanted to (it's empty), but I would then possibly chose to go by bike instead of subway. With two kids at home (12 and 16) I would however then leave all "ground service" at home to my wife. I might still go to KTH now and then during the following week(s) but I will probably also work a lot from home.

I have had an extraordinary number of Zoom (video conference) meetings during the last few days and I'm now learning new things about how to work with Zoom. The biggest problem I have is that the internet connection from my balcony sometimes is sub-standard with sound dropping for upwards to 5 or 10 seconds. The balcony is still where I prefer to go to be able to talk freely without disturbing others. Some things are easy to shift to online but other things are very hard to manage remotely. Much work during the latter part of the week was about retooling. I'm the advisor of 8 pairs of students who write their bachelor's thesis this spring (see this and this blog post) and while some have fewer problem and just shift their planned interviews to online, others have planned to recruit people to do focus groups/design workshops - which will now not happen. It's also a huge challenge to manage the 17-student Homo Colossus@Expo 2020 project online instead of in person. What really sucks is that we just now got a project room at KTH where we can work and hang out - except of course that we can't hang out there during the Corona virus shutdown.

Still, I talked to a colleague abroad and he said it was sad to realize that besides working from home, very little is different in what he does during the self-imposed Corona quarantine and what he ordinarily does at his job - and I agree. This shutdown does not affect my job very much. I do what I ordinarily do, e.g. work with a variety of tasks where I use my computer and while I prefer to do them at KTH for a number or reasons, it is also possible to do them from elsewhere with only a minor decline in the quality of the time I put in. The one big difference (which isn't that big/problematic) is that I have shifted my meetings from in-person to online.


If I lift the perspective from my personal situation to that of my colleagues at the department, it seems we retooled to online in a very short amount of time. The new courses started this past week (Monday March 16) and there was a concerted effort to help teachers switch to online in no time at all. A KTH IT and a pedagogical support helpdesk function was open all weekend to help teachers cope and solve practical problems to "mission: move all teaching online". From my lowly perspective, we actually seem to cope well at KTH, switching all our education to online in no time at all. While the Corona crisis is a challenge, my colleagues and higher ups are smart and have made smart decisions - like the decision to allow/encourage people to solve their own problems instead of trying to run things from "up above".

At our department, we have a collaboratively authored Google document about teaching practices during Covid-19. Since I last saw that document, someone has now erected a better structure and the document is currently seven pages long and has headers with titles such as "Ideas on how to re-design a course, and communicate it to the students", "Lecturing", "Project assignments", "Use of labs", "Master/Bachelor thesis", "Divide students into groups", "Work discipline/studying together at a distance" and "About/tracking Corona".

It could be that I'm misinformed, but from my perspective it seems that shift all courses to online  works OK and this makes me proud of my brilliant colleagues. I've asked students and they also say it's "OK" as in "passable" or better. Both teachers and students of course realize that this is an extraordinary situation that requires extraordinary measures and we all try to make the best of it together. I'm privileged in as much as I have the pleasure to for the most part work very motivated, self-directed and goal-oriented students.


Most impressive feat: My colleague Anders Lundström fixed "goody bags" for the students who are taking his course. The course started this past week and can't be taught without students having access to concrete materials. The were of course supposed to work with this at KTH but the course was retooled and necessary materials were delivered to their homes in suitably-branded paper bags (see below)! Here's Anders' March 18 Facebook post:

"During the past day we have been able to gather materials and distribute these bags to 56 students taking the DM1588 sensorprogramming course. Some have even been delivered outside their door! It is essential that the students have materials to make their homes into labspaces, otherwise this course makes little sense. Many thanks to the students and teaching assistants for their efforts in making this possible! There is hope!"



Good luck with your own Corona life. Also I encourage you to write a comment to this blog post about how the Corona crisis/shutdown affects you in your job.

Corona adaptations. From my Facebook post on this topic: 
"Finally proved my wife wrong when she 10 years ago ERRONEOUSLY claimed we would have NO USE of the National Encyclopedia on paper..."
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söndag 15 mars 2020

FLIGHT visualization tools

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I have written about the FlightViz visualization tool that a group of students developed for the FLIGHT research project (for example here and here), but we now have not just one nor just two but three new visualization tools that work with our dataset comprising of all KTH employees' all plane trips during 2017-2019 (anonymized, I might for example be user "p1234").

My colleague Mario Romero is the course leader for "DH2321 - Information Visualization" and me and Elina pitched the FLIGHT project to the students taking the course when it started back in January. The course has its own homepage and I expect the projects I describe below to appear there at some point.

"The course covers the basic concepts of information visualization including the visualization pipeline, data types, data transformations, data models, visual mappings, visual structures, view transformations, and evaluation techniques. Students develop projects using web-based visualization tools, in particular D3.js.
The course is project-based and the students create and work both individually and in groups. the projects range from, for example, medical records visualization to environmental visualization of global trade. Group projects include actual data from open sources or from partners who provide the data."

I think of the course and its outcomes in terms of "data sets" and "visualizations on flat screens". After pitching to the students no less than three groups who wanted to work with us (and our data set)  were formed and we had to think a bit to make sure that the three groups found three different angles instead of all doing more or less the same thing and stepping on each others' toes.

The students presented their visualization tools earlier this week and I will below briefly tell you about the visualization tools FlightWise, Flight Fighters and Flight 404.

FlightWise

Flightwise consists of Fabio Cassisa, Ying He, Yuwen Hu, Bastian Orthmann and Jayanthi Raghunathan. Flightwise is primarily a tool to keep track of carbon emissions from flight and the tool makes it possible to compare and understand CO2 emissions patterns from schools, divisions/departments and individuals. KTH has recently (December 2019) adopt ambitious travel-related carbon emission abatement goals and FlightWise also helps compare and support the attainment of said goals by visualizing these goals in comparison to current CO2 emission levels.

KTH CO2 emissions from flying during 2019 by school. My school (EECS but "ECS" in the image) has the highest emissions (but also most employees). The light blue "temporary" category are non-KTH employees whose trip was paid by KTH (PhD thesis opponents etc.).


CO2 emissions from flying but with a different graphical representation. Total CO2 emissions from my school (EECS) for 2019 is 11 500 tons and the top-flying school.


EECS was the school with the most employees in 2019 (>800) so we will obviously have larger emissions than the ABE school (<500 employees). It however turns out we also have the highest per capital emission (13 tons per person in 2019).


There are many departments ("divisions") within the School for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID) where I work is the 11th biggest emitter at our school with >520 tons of CO2 emissions from flying in 2019.


It's also possible to compare individuals and these are the six top emitters from six top-emitting EECS departments. These six persons each emitted between 67 and 127 tons of CO2 emissions from flying. The second largest emitter clocks in at 120 tons and most of these emissions come from the 7 intercontinental trips in 2019 (besides the 5 trips that were made within Europe),


Flight Fighters

Flight Fighters consists of Philip Axelsson, Beatrice Brånemark, Elin Forsberg, Lovisa Forsberg and Viktor Lemón. The Flight Fighters tool visualizes KTH departments' flight travel patterns and habits and visualize data that can help answer questions such as "who flies?", "when do we fly?" and "where do we fly?".

Almost 55000 one-way trips were conducted at KTH between 2017-2019. The most popular months to fly are June and September. We only have 5 schools now but the 2017 data comes from the 10 pre-merged schools we had back then.


My own department, Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID), made 378 one-way flights during the period 2017-2019. Our biggest and most important conference happens in May every year (in different places in the world). This year's upcoming conferenced was just cancelled due to Coroana so this year's data will look very different.


This is a map representation of where we (MID) flew during 2017-2019. We for example flew 5 times to Tokyo. In general we (of course) fly a lot within Europe.

Another view of where we flew. As can be seen, about 25% of the trips we make are intercontinental and about 60% of the trips are within Europe (the rest are trips within Sweden or Scandinavia). This is by number of trips - the carbon footprint of these trips would have been very different - the intercontinental trips would have ballooned.


Flight 404

Flight Fighters consists of Albin André, Amelia Lindroth Henriksson, Agnes Petäjävaara, Aleksandra Soltan, Siyuan Su and Johan Wieslander  This is the most experimental tool - it visualizes "carbon velocity" - carbon emissions in terms of CO2/day during 2019. The longer the distance of the trip and the shorter the duration the higher the CO2/emissions per day. This representation does not so much answer questions as it poses them and I think it's very intriguing. This "carbon calendar" shows the relation between how far people travel and how long they stay, e.g. when (at what time of the year) are we the most efficient at pushing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere? Would it be possible to make longer trips "count" more by regarding them as "investments" and by extending them in time, i.e. if you are going to go to LA (≈ 3000 kilos of CO2 emissions), perhaps you should take the opportunity to stay there for a longer period and take the opportunity to do many things rather than just stay for the duration of a three-day event and then directly travel back home?


Left: Carbon emissions by school (and by department within schools). It's also possible to choose total flight distance, number of employees or number of trips. Right: CO2 emissions/day from our flying. The peaks represent 30 tons of CO2 emissions/day. 


Left: Carbon emissions at my school, the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). Right: Carbon emissions per day at EECS. There's a peak at 16 tons/day in December but we haven't analysed why that is. Now we know there is a peak in December though and we thus have the option of investigating it.


Left: my department, Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID) with info about top emitters (anonymized). Right: we flew a lot in May, June and December last year. The May peak was due to the annual CHI conference which was held in Glasgow last year. I don't know for sure what the other peaks are but could easily find out by asking around at the department.


Individual carbon emissions of some semi-randomly chosen "high emitters" at my department (p1936, p1942 and p4918). Do note that the representation on the left if by number of trips rather than by CO2 emissions.


Conclusion

We are really happy about the results and will probably be back next year and pitch again in the same course. Our FLIGHT research project will have progressed and it is probably the case that the data set and the questions we dangle in front of the students will be different from this year's data.

The time schedule for the course was very compressed and while we were in touch with the students at the beginning of their projects, contact thereafter was sparse - the students just didn't have time to meet us (regularly) and to take care of feedback from us so the sensibly set out and just did things. While we are very impressed with all the groups' results, there are are bound to be opportunities for improvements in all of the tools.

We now want to get access to these visualization tools to we can play around and discuss them within the research project. It could then be that we choose to continue to develop one of the tools - or that we will be "inspired" by these tool and design yet another tool from the ground up.
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torsdag 12 mars 2020

Guest researcher Kelly Widdicks (visit)

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 Postdoc Kelly Widdicks from Lancaster University 
visited our research group this past week


This week we have had a guest since Kelly Widdicks visited our research group at KTH. Kelly has done her PhD at Lancaster University (UK) and she recently (February) defended her dissertation. It was in fact my colleague Elina Eriksson who was the external examiner and Elina wrote two interesting blog posts about her (train) trip to the UK ("By train to Lancaster" and "Slower academic travel").

Me and Kelly met at the ICT4S summer school in the Netherlands in 2017. Our work at the summer school later resulted in a published paper and me and her have since written another paper together (see further below for references and links to these papers).

Kelly primarily visited KTH for two reasons:
- to work on a research paper together with me
- to meet and socialize with other members of our research group

I have invited Kelly to be a co-author of a paper that, while promising, fell just below the threshold when we submitted it to a conference some time ago. I have actually written about the paper on this blog (quite some time ago) but have since become a bit more cagey about writing about papers that are in review/have not yet been accepted, so I will not disclose exactly what paper we are working on at this point. What I can say is that I was the first author and have worked on the paper together with two other researchers. None of us have however had the time to have another go at it, so I thought it would be a good idea to invite Kelly to become a co-author and through her also get some new perspectives and ideas that could help strengthen the paper. The paper is very much in line with Kelly's own research so me and Kelly agreed she will now take main responsibility for the paper and also become the first author of the paper when we re-submit it. To me and the other authors, the most important thing at this point is that the paper will finally be published, since it otherwise runs the risk of becoming permanently shelved.

Since I nowadays officially work in three different research projects, I have made a commitment to not write any new researchers papers where 1) I am the first author unless 2) the paper in question is related to one of my three research projects. This paper is not related to any of those three projects and "off-loading" the paper to Kelly is thus right in line with this new "policy" of mine.

Kelly also met other people in our research group during her visit (including at social events) and also tagged along to some of our ICT & Sustainability teaching activities, but let's face it, this wasn't the best week to be out traveling and the department became progressively emptier as the week and the Corona virus advanced and became a force to be reckoned with. Kelly was supposed to stay until Saturday but hastily rebooked her ticket and instead flew back to the UK Thursday afternoon. Despite her hasty departure, it was great to have her over and I hope to see Kelly either at the upcoming (June 2020) ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) conference in Bristol or at the upcoming (August 2020) summer school on ICT for Sustainability at the Lorentz Center in Leiden, NL.

Before Kelly's left Stockholm, she did manage to give not just one but two lunch seminar (in fact the same seminar but at two different departments). The talk (below) is based on Kelly's PhD projects/thesis:

Kelly Widdicks PhD thesis, "Understanding and Mitigating the Impact of Internet Demand in Everyday Life"


Title: Understanding and Mitigating the Impact of Internet Demand in Everyday Life

Abstract: The growth in demand for Internet data has implications for the environment due to the energy consumption from the underlying Internet infrastructure; this demand needs to be reduced to stop the continuous growth cycle of the Internet. In this talk, Kelly will provide a brief overview of Internet demand in everyday life and the opportunities for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) designers to reduce such demand. She will specifically discuss the new norms of watching that are driving Internet demand, given that the majority of global Internet traffic is formed by video. She will also discuss her work on designing for moderate and meaningful use of digital devices and online services, utilising HCI themes of wellbeing, work productivity, online privacy and relationships with others to reduce the demand for Internet data in ways that users might appreciate.

Bio: Kelly Widdicks is an EPSRC Doctoral Prize Researcher in the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University, interested in understanding and mitigating the negative impacts of technology on society and the environment. Her PhD research (successfully defended at her viva in February) explored how the demand for the Internet relates to, and impacts, users’ everyday lives, as well as the opportunities for technology designers and wider stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, network engineers) to mitigate the environmental and societal impacts of Internet traffic growth. She has published work at CHI (top conference for HCI) and was recently awarded an EPSRC Doctoral Prize to continue her research until January 2021.

Publications for interest:

- Widdicks, K., Hazas, M., Bates, O. and Friday, A., 2019, May. Streaming, Multi-Screens and YouTube: The New (Unsustainable) Ways of Watching in the Home. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-13).

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This is the paper that came out of the 2017 ICT4S summer school:
- K. Widdicks, T. Ringenson, D. Pargman, V. Kuppusamy, and P. Lago (2018). Undesigning the internet: An exploratory study of reducing everyday internet connectivity. In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Information and Communication Technology for Sustainability (ICT4S). Here's a pdf of the paper!

This is the other paper that Kelly and me have written together:
- Widdicks, K., & Pargman, D. (2019). Breaking the Cornucopian Paradigm: Towards Moderate Internet Use in Everyday Life. In Proceedings of the Fifth Workshop on Computing within Limits (LIMITS). Here's a pdf of the paper!
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söndag 8 mars 2020

Doing your thing (whatever that is) (reflection)

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I recently went to a local event on "climate prepping"


I recently went to a local event on a lark, "Climate Prepping - how can we manage a changed climate?". It was organized by a local association, "Prep together Hägersten", I saw the Facebook event in my feed the very same day and it was held nearby (a 20-minute walk).

I listened to psychologist Karin Kali Andersson who gave a talk, "From climate anxiety to action". Some things were good in the talk, others less so. I was irritated when she recurrently referred to "research" without giving any hints as to what research (who, what discipline, when and what's the name of the five-stage model you are presenting right now?).

She did however discuss climate action by placing activities in a graph with two axis; actions that had smaller vs larger effect and actions that did or did not challenge the system (had structural implications).

Personal actions we do in our everyday life can have small effects (boycotting plastic bags or plastic straws) or larger effects (not flying, stop eating meat), but, they are personal decisions that still fit within a consumer power (consumerist) paradigm that hardly constitute a challenge to business as usual. I suggested my FLIGHT research project could represent structural change and while she agreed it could have large-ish effects, she still discounted it since the project is centered on decreasing CO2 emissions only in one specific organisation. She instead pointed to End Ecocide - a popular movement that wants to institute global laws that make ecocide a crime - as an example of something that could have large structural ramifications. She also mentioned a EU law to outlaw plastic straws an an example of structural change (large reach) but with limited effects. I pointed out that taking into account that we all have limited resources in terms of time, attention, money etc. outlawing plastic straws did not see like good use of EU parliamentarians' time and attention, something Karin agreed with. These parliamentarians could have asked themselves what they could accomplish together and perhaps aimed at something that would have had larger effects than banning plastic straws.

Someone in the audience then said that we should think in terms of missionaries and religious conversion rather than just about what we ourselves can do. I first thought it sounded nuts but then realized that that was a very shrewd perspective. Taking into account that we all have limited resources in terms time, attention and money, the best way to overcome such limitations is to recruit others to do the work you yourself do not have time to do (or the money or whatever other resource that is lacking or constitutes a bottleneck).

In the concluding session of the day, an open-floor discussion, it was apparent that people struggle with limitations in their lives; they did something (or many things), but they wanted to do more and partly had a bad conscience for not doing "all they could do" (or everything they imagined that they could do). If they grew food, they had a bad conscience for not participating in demonstrations - and vice versa. I also feel there is more I could do and while I am a member of an ecovillage, I am nowadays the least-active member and have for years felt that I should do more. Thinking about the event after it was over and done, I had a couple of minor epiphanies though:

1) As a teacher, I am a missionary of sorts. I have, as part of my job, the opportunity to every year change many people (students) a little and to change a few people a lot. This could very well be my greatest contribution to sustainability and it must surely add up to a much bigger impact than any particular lifestyle changes I myself could do in my own life. This is a privileged position (not everyone has the platform and the necessary credentials and skills to be able to legitimately "preach" and "convert" people) and I thus have a responsibility make the most of it.

2) As a researchers, all my current research projects concern different aspects of sustainability and some projects actually do have system-changing potential. The FLIGHT project aims to help KTH reach its climate targets and decrease CO2 emissions at KTH by more than 50% between 2020 and 2030, and, while KTH is just one organisation, the methods and the effects could, if successful, spread to other organisations.

3) The biggest epiphany though was the realisation that I'm doing exactly what I should do if I want to maximize the potential for (structural) changes. I could do other things, but the things I so happen to do are probably exactly the things I could do that have the highest potential of effectuating change in society. So I should continue to do what I do and I should not have a bad conscience about all the things I don't do (or the things that are worth doing but where I personally lack the skill set or even the interest to do them). This made me relax a bit. Instead of constantly having a bad conscience about (all) the things I don't do, I should take pride in all the things I do and strive to do them even better (including blogging about the things I do...).

While this blog post constitutes a personal revelation of sorts, these insights of mine could of course also be generalized so that they are valid also for you! I thus think everyone else should think this way, e.g. "what are the things that I could do that have the biggest potential to effectuate change?". If you can ask that question and answer it with your head held high, then you don't need look back at what else you could do/could have done and have a bad conscience about all those "could-have-beens".
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söndag 1 mars 2020

Climate Collage (game)

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I played a game, "Climate Collage", the other day at the neighboring department. 

Cards from Climate Collage. Create a "fresco" of climate system/climate change causes and effects.

The games comes from France and the event was organized by two junior KTH researchers from France that I haven't met before, Elias Sebastian Azzi and Josephine Demay. We were about 10 persons who met and we were divided into two groups. These were the instructions we got:

Principle of the game:
You play with a team of around 6 to 8 people and the goal is to build a fresco, describing all cause-effect chain in the climate system. If more people show up we will split you into teams.
You will be given 50 cards and you will have to link them to each other. It will take about 1 hour to do so. The next hour will be free to decorate the fresco, discuss the relevance of this game at [KTH], and share fika.
About the Game:
The game has been developed by the French professor Cédric Ringenbach to raise awareness about climate change. As a result, by reading the text on the cards and trying to figure out links between them the participants will get a better understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change.
Why would you participate in that game?
- Have fun with others
- Teach and learn about climate changes issues
- Get some inspiration if you wish to develop this activity with your students


As soon as we had connected the cards in a set, another set was added that needed to be "fitted in" and that made the fresco more complicated

This eventually created a complex image of causes and effects of climate change with an emphasis on biophysical processes but also involving human actions.

With feedback loops things got seriously complicated and the value of the exercise was in the process  (discussing with others) rather than in the finished results (the map with arrows)

There was an explanatory text at the back of each card


Playing Climate Collage was an interesting experience and also a fun activity to do together with others. I played with experienced climate researchers (including with the KTH vice chancellor with responsibility for sustainability) so the exercise itself was a smooth experience. I would however not call Climate Collage a "game" but rather an exercise that facilitates learning and discussion and that you can use in classrooms (at various levels) to teach and learn about the (complexity of the) climate system and of climate change.

You can order the cards by either buying a deck of printed cards (in French or English for 10 €, or, you can print them yourself (they have been translated to 15 languages!).
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torsdag 27 februari 2020

ICT4S summer school (Aug 17-21)

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The poster for the previous  ICT4S Summer School (2017)

We will organize a summer school on ICT for Sustainability at the Lorentz Center (University of Leiden) between Monday August 17 and Friday August 21 - welcome!

At the most recent ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) conference (in Lappeenranta, Finland in June 2019), I suggested to Patricia Lago that perhaps it was time to organize a new ICT4S summer school. There first ICT4S summer school was organized at the hilariously great Lorentz Center back in August 2017 (and I was a guest lecturer at the summer school).

Me and Patricia recruited more people at the conference and later, at the end of September, Patricia submitted our proposal. The five applicants who have worked with this application are:

Patricia Lago (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Dan Schien (University of Bristol, United Kingdom) - co-chair of the upcoming June 2020 ICT4S conference
Daniel Pargman (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)
Jay Chen (New York University, Abu Dhabi)
Christoph Becker (University of Toronto, Canada)

The Lorentz Center has a relatively long application process and in mid-December the application was conditionally approved, but we needed to clarify some points and we submitted a revised proposal in the beginning of January. Our revised application has now been accepted and we thus know for sure that we will organize a summer school this coming summer between August 17-21.


Invited speakers to the upcoming summer school are (we hope all will be able to confirm their participation): 

Mon Aug 17, ICT4S and SDGs: 
Lorentz Hilty (University of Zurich, Switzerland), "ICT for Sustainability"
Tue Aug 18, Systemic Perspective:
Vlad Coroama (ETH Zürich), "Rebound Effects"
Christoph Becker (University of Toronto, Canada), "Critical Systems Thinking & Sustainability Design"
Wed Aug 19, Design for Sustainability
Elina Eriksson (KTH Royal Inst of Technology), "Research Through Design"
Patricia Lago (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands), "Software and Sustainability"
Thu Aug 20, Societal impacts
Jay Chen (New York University, Abu Dhabi), "ICT4S and ICT for Development - ICT4D"
Agha Ali Raza (Lahore University of Management Science)" Reaching Underserved Communities"
Fri Aug 21, Economics and Politics
Mattias Höjer (KTH Royal Inst of Technology), "ICT4S and Policy Making"
Steffen Lange (TU Berlin, Germany), "Economics and Sustainability"

We still need to jump through some administrative hurdles (such as an "intake meeting" with the Lorentz Center), but prospective participants (PhD students and postdocs but also junior and senior researchers) should keep their eyes open for an invitation to apply to the summer school during the spring! 

I have to press home the point that that there really is no better location for the summer school than the Lorentz Center (whose slogan is "you do the research, we do the rest"). I also want to emphasize that we are interested in reaching out to people and neighboring communities who haven't been to the ICT4S conferences and who could help broaden the field of ICT4S through their presence at the summer school!

Below is the "scientific case" and the a motivation for why we wanted to organize a (second) ICT4S summer school at the Lorentz Center:


Scientific case

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has a central role to play in digitalization and the transition to a sustainable society. ICT offers us a rich set of tools to collect and analyze diverse sources of data that helps us develop and share new solutions, and increasingly, ICT provides new low-energy alternatives to physically moving people and goods around the planet. At the same time, ICT can erode democratic governance, reinforce inequality and exploitation, increase energy consumption, and seduce us into patterns of over-consumption and waste as we buy and discard an ever-growing set of gadgets. While ICT can help reduce energy consumption through effects such as dematerialisation, at the same it generates new demands for energy consumption, for example for bitcoin mining [1,2] and artificial intelligence [3]. The complexities of these interactions between ICT, society and the economy must be disentangled in order to support the growing commitment to address negative impacts on the environment and society [4,5]. 

Since its inception in 2013, the ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) research community has coalesced around a common set of research challenges that address this dilemma, focusing both on how to make ICT greener, and how to leverage the power of ICT to develop sustainable solutions in diverse areas such as urban futures, transport, buildings, food, electricity, clean water, and the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The ICT4S community already organized six successful international conferences (Zurich in 2013; Stockholm in 2014; Copenhagen in 2015; Amsterdam in 2016; Toronto in 2018; and Lappeenranta in 2019); a seventh conference will be organised in Bristol in June 2020. The conference series has, over the years, been successful in developing an interdisciplinary community of researchers, and in providing a platform for discussing and presenting new ideas. The ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) research community concerns itself with sustainability issues that are related to ICT (both as a challenge and as a technology to address the challenges). This is what distinguishes it from others, specifically from the engineering communities that predominantly focus on the use of ICT methods and tools as a solution for more narrowly defined sustainability-related problems [6].

Interdisciplinarity, however, needs to be nurtured. This is especially true in this field of research, which (i) demands collaboration within- and across disciplines, (ii) requires the engagement of the next-generation researchers, and (iii) is in dramatic need of regular discussion and action. A conference once a year is insufficient to provide such collaboration context. Therefore, we are seeking intermediate opportunities for the ICT4S community to exchange results and ideas, and grow.

Why a second ICT4S Summer School

Motivation: In the closing session of the 2019 ICT4S conference in Finland, the attendees brainstormed on the status of the international research community. There was a general consensus that it would be beneficial to (1) actively stimulate growth in terms of both the size of the community, and its interdisciplinarity, and (2) reach out to young researchers. 

Many recalled the positive experience of the first International Summer School on ICT for Sustainability, which was organized at the Lorentz Center in 2017. At the time, the trigger for organizing a Summer school was for the community to meet between the two conference editions in 2016 and 2018 (which for organisational reasons would be almost 2 years apart). This time, however, we observe a more structural need to kickstart research collaborations in addition to the international conference and hopefully resulting in publications then presented at the conference. This structural need originates in the multidisciplinary nature of the field of ICT for Sustainability itself, in which it is challenging to establish careers.

Building upon past success. The summer school in 2017 was especially aimed at nurturing the next generation of ICT4S scholars and we would like to have the opportunity to follow it up with a new summer school. There are large differences in the support and training available for junior researchers in different countries and some research groups have since made significant progress in their own institutions. However, the international community would strongly benefit by developing its shared intellectual foundation for research and graduate education. 

The Summer School in 2017 was unanimously considered a great success. It attracted a broad range of PhD students and Postdocs from various disciplinary backgrounds and it kickstarted new research collaborations that led to three scientific publications the following year. Some of the contacts made at the summer school also had further consequences beyond 2017 and 2018. One example is that TU Berlin-based PhD student Johanna Pohl and University of Zürich-based PhD student Jan Bieser are currently (autumn 2019) visiting Stockholm where they cooperate with researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology (School of Architecture and the Built Environment) and the VTI Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute. In a similar way, the LUT-based PhD candidate Shola Oyedeji will visit the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam as a postdoc during 2020 on joint research in software sustainability assessment; and the Lancaster-based PhD candidate Kelly Widdicks will visit KTH Royal Institute of Technology (School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) as a postdoc during 2020. 

So, the 2020 summer school will be considered a success if it (similarly to the first edition in 2017) results in at least three academic papers that are written by various new constellations of researchers and in many new contacts and collaborations. We expect a summer school to have further knock-on effects, but such might take years to appear (as per the examples above). Should this second summer school be (as we hope) successful again, we will consider it as a recurring event. 
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söndag 23 februari 2020

The Frequent Flyer Academy (public talk)

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Our talk was held at the Restaurant Lab which was basically full.


Me and Elina recently gave a talk at the monthly KTH Sustainability Pubnight. The theme for this particular pub was "The Frequent Flyer Academy: how can we limit plane travel?" We talked about recent results from our research project, "Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organizations: from data to practice" (a.k.a. "FLIGHT"). FLIGHT project member Jarmo Laaksolahti didn't talk but also attended the pub. Our colleagues (we recently wrote a research grant application together) Nina Wormbs (KTH) and Maria Wolrath Söderbergh (Södertörn) talked about a report they have written in their research project, "Grounded - Beyond Flygskam".

The pub was held at Restuaranglabbet [The Restaurant Lab] on the KTH Campus and we did not have access to a project/screen which forced us to rethink what we wanted to say and how. We made do with a flip chart and a poker marker "exhibit" which represented all the air trips at one specific KTH department during a 12-month period (see picture below).

The pub was well attended - the Restaurant Lab was pretty full and I was told that 60 persons or so had signed up beforehand. It was also fun that many friends and acquaintances came to listen! This is the our second public talk about this project, we also gave a talk at the Stockholm School of Economics (HHS) in the end of November and we will give at least one more talk later this term.

We kept our talk short to leave time for (many) questions and our talk consisted of three parts:
  1. Background to the project and a walkthrough of local KTH goals for decreasing CO2 emissions from air travel. Our chancellor has recently (December) decided that KTH should reduce its CO2 emissions from flying with 60% between 2020 and 2030. This corresponds to annual CO2 reductions by 9% per year ten years in a row!
  2. Analysis of what flying can look like at a KTH department with 30 emplyees and 95 flights during a 12-month period (see image below). What is very apparent is that the flying is very unevenly distributed at this (and other departments). Half the employees did not make a single trip while a small number of persons are responsible for a large proportion of the flights. The data would show and even more skewed picture if the number of trips (poker markers) were replaced by CO2 emissions since every black marker (an intercontinental trip) corresponds to almost six times the CO2 emissions of a red marker (a trip within Europe). A 9% decrease of CO2 emissions at this department (and based on exactly what particular trips this particular department made during this period) is equivalent to 18.5 red markers or 3 black markers.
  3. A flip chart exercise that ran through the implications of reducing CO2 emissions from air trips by three fifths in a decade - when we today hardly even know for what purpose each trip is made, who (what project etc.) pays for it or even who makes the trip when KTH pays for the upwards to 30% of all trips that are made by a non-KTH employees. If those "unknown" trips would remain at today's level, KTH researchers would instead have to decrease their trips by 80% in a ten-year period...
After the talk we talked to people who wanted to know more. One interesting person was a woman (from Greece but I don't remember her name) who works at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). They have a project of their own where they work on adapting a Carbon Travel Tracker that was developed at the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research. This chat also made me realize that there might be a larger "market" for the visualization tools we are developing at KTH (more to come on this). It could be that we should consider spending some time and effort in the project to disseminate these tools. 

All air trips made at one specific department during a 12-month period.
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måndag 17 februari 2020

FLIGHT spring 2020 bachelor's theses

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Three groups of students will evaluate the FlightViz visualization tool during the spring term

My previous blog post presented three bachelor's theses that I will be the advisor of during the spring term and this blog posts presents the other five theses (10 students working in pairs) that I will be the advisor of. It is a bit misleading to say that I will (only) be the advisor of these eight bachelor's theses as my role is more complex. All of these eight theses are "generated" by two research projects, "Homo Colossus" and "FLIGHT". I am the principal investigator and project leader of both of these research projects. All of these bachelor's theses are the result of theses proposals that we wrote up in the research projects. That means my relationship to these students is not just as their "advisor" but also as a "client" who wants something done. This can be compared to a situation where a company wants something done (a "client") and where the students also have an academic "advisor" who helps them deliver not just what the company wants but who also (and actually primarily) helps them write a thesis and thus pass the course (in this case "DM128X Degree Project in Media Technology").

So I have two hats when I meet the students. On the one hand I am a client who wants (practical) things done (stuff should be delivered!). On the other hand I am also their academic advisor who makes (scientific) demands and supports them so that they get their thesis together and pass this 15-credit course.

These students do get more attention and support than "ordinary" students would get. The course has a budget and there are guidelines for how much time an advisor should spend throughout the spring term but since they are working with/for a research project, I am prepared to spend some more time with these students. Here are the five bachelor's thesis:


Evaluating FlightViz at KTH (Anna Gustavsson and Kristina Andersson)
I wrote about the FlightViz vizualisation tool in a blog post a month ago. A group of students developed FlightViz for the FLIGHT project during the latter part of the autumn term. The tool was developed to fit the needs of the four researchers in the FLIGHT project, but (how) does it fit the needs of other users at KTH who also would like to know about KTH flight patterns? Anna and Kristina will evaluate FlightViz with other user groups and will thus also find out what questions others would like to have answered that FlightViz currently does not satisfy. We expect this thesis to result in a list of needs/demands that we can take into consideration when we develop an updated version of FlightViz.


Evaluating FlightViz at other universities (Eliott Remmer and Nils Merkel)
Eliott and Nils will evaluate FlightViz at a number of other universities in and near Stockholm. Kristina von Oelreich who is Chief Sustainability Officer at KTH will help Eliott and Nils with contacts (other persons who have her role at other universities).


Evaluating FlightViz at other organisations (Albin Matson Gyllang and Billy Jansheden)
Albin and Billy will also evaluate FlightViz but in other, non-unviersity organizations. It seems like one of the organisations that will be part of their thesis is the Red Cross. Markus Robèrt who is part of the FLIGHT project will help Albin and Billy with contacts to relevant persons in these companies (organisations).


Engaging through design - visualizing the climate impact of aviation in KTH departments (Maria Jacobson and Nike Backman Eriksson)
We will visit one department/division at each of the five Schools at KTH during the spring. We will visit them again a year later and possibly make shorter visits a few times in-between. It would however be good if these departments knew how they are doing in terms of CO2 emissions from their flights throughout the remainder of the year. Maria and Nike will therefore design a leave-behind "installation" that will be updated with new data on a monthly basis and that will display some relevant information or measure that will help departments understand if they are on track to meet their goals (or not). Maria and Nike have basically taken on a task that we specified in our research project application, e.g. to "examine alternative ways to represent historic, present and future travel data and CO2 emissions to communicate and further increase awareness of the connection between data, habits and behaviors in relation to KTH goals".


Travelspeed (Martin Neihoff and Julia Huang)
Martin and Julia will do the same thing that Maria and Nike will do, but have already decided what specific data they will work with - data on the length of air trips (distance) and time away from Stockholm. Distance divided by time = speed. How can speed be used to benchmark or increase awareness of travel patterns at different departments? This is a far-out idea that came to us (the researchers in the FLIGHT project) when we met a group of students and we think this ides is very intriguing (there are parallells to the "time geography" that Swedish geographer Torsten Hägerstrand developed in the 1960's). We don't yet know what this idea will yield, but we think it is really intriguing and are happy that we have found students who will help us explore this concept!
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