lördag 22 november 2014

Our CHI video

I've developed and been responsible for the course "Future of Media" for more than a decade. It wasn't until three years ago that we started to methodically collect the output from course and make it accessible on the web and it was only 1.5 years ago that I learned that there is a term - "design fiction" - for what we are doing in this course (let's call it "inventing the future").

From that realisation came the idea of trying to frame and write something about the course in terms of design fiction, but the only output this far is a short position paper for the design fiction workshop at the CHI conference earlier this year. This is all about to change as we are right now working on a movie about the course and about the results of the course.

The idea of making a movie came to me half a year ago, right before I went to the CHI conference. I therefore made sure to look at the video program and take notes about what worked fine and what was less successful. 23 videos were accepted to CHI this year (the acceptance rate was 37%). Here's what you are up against if you want to submit a video to CHI:

"The videos showcase is a forum for human-computer interaction that leaps off the page: vision videos, reflective pieces, humor, novel interfaces, studies, and anything else that is a good match for video and relevant to HCI. Your work will be screened by a large CHI audience during a special session at CHI 2015, and will be considered for the Golden Mouse award. Because of the large audience the video showcase attracts, it is one of the best means for getting your message out to the CHI community. Videos will be available in the ACM Digital Library after the conference.

Work will be judged on how much it intellectually engages an HCI audience and how effectively it communicates its message. Ultimately, we are looking to put together an enjoyable show for the attendees. Interesting but poorly-produced videos will be rejected - but if it's YouTube-ready per se, it should be ready for the videos track!"

Fortunately we have many talented students in our Media Technology engineering programme and some of them are interested in and have experiences working with video As it so happens, five students are right not working on making a video based on last year's Future of Media course and last year's theme - "The Future of News/News of he Future". The actual filming will start 10 days from now. Perhaps best of all is that it is possible to "pay" the students with course credits - through an elective course of ours called "Individual Course in Media Technology". We have also secured a small budget for the project (1500 USD - don't ask - it's complicated) which will be used for renting equipment (high-end cameras, lights etc.). The deadline for submitting videos to next year's CHI conference is January 5 and the video can at most be 5 minutes long, but 2-3 minutes are apparently more common.

Besides myself and the students in question (Åsa Linder, Olof Lindman, Sara Långvik, David Nylander, Johanna Sjöberg), I have also involved my colleague Åke Walldius in this project. He taught the course Future of Media together with me some years ago and he also happens to have a background (a long time ago) as a documentary filmmaker. Because of my lack of experience with film as a medium, it would have be much harder for me to "manage" the project (negotiate, give instructions or directions to the students) without having Åke to bounce ideas with. I know it sounds stupid, but I didn't realise beforehand that this project would in fact require quite some of my time too. As it is, the students already have a large degree of freedom to shape and edit the movie the way they want to.

The core of the movie will consist of three enactments of the ten scenarios that were developed in last year's course. Despite that fact that most groups within the course opt for creating short videos to communicate their scenarios, the students insist on displaying (some of) last year's ideas by enacting them and recording new footage - rather than heavily rely on reusing the already-recorded material. The core of the movie (the three scenarios) will be preceded and succeeded by non-dramatised parts that will explain what we are doing in the course and link what we are doing to the concept of design fiction. I will starr in those parts. We will also recode some footage from this year's final presentation in the course Future of Media and kinda pretend that it was (could have been) footage from last year's course. It's anyway kind of the same - what we want to show is that there is a big audience listening, that the course is given in English etc. (instead of having to say those things the movie).

This is all very exciting and I very much look forward to seeing the finished movie! The goal for the movie is very straightforward and clear - to get it accepted to the CHI 2015 video program. Below are, for comparison, some of the 23 movies that were accepted to this year's CHI video program:

- “Draco: Bringing life to illustrations with kinetic textures” (abstact).
- "faBrickation: Fast 3D printing using Lego bricks (abstract)
- "Wrigglo: Shape-changing peripheral for interpersonal mobile communication (abstract)
- "SweatAtoms: Understanding physical activity through material artifacts" (abstract)
- "The secret life of computers" (abstract)
- "GaussBricks: Magnetic building blocks for constructive tangible interaction on portable displays" (abstract)

torsdag 13 november 2014

Books I've read (August)

As I came back to Sweden and started to work (in August) I threw myself over the books below to prepare myself for my course on the Future of Media and this year's theme "The digital commons and the sharing economy". I started keeping my eyes open to this theme already at the end of last year by reading Botsman and Roo's (2010) "What is mine is yours" (see this blog post).

Here's the previous blog post about books I've read. The asterisks below refer to the number of quotes from the book (see further below).

Jay Walljasper's "All that we share: A field guide to the commons" (2010) has a long "slogan" or perhaps an "introduction" pretty much summing up the book printed directly on the cover: "How to save the economy, the environment, the Internet, democracy, our communities, and everything else that belongs to all of us". Walljasper is an American writer and activist and his book is a collection of many (dozens) short inspiring texts by himself, fellow activist David Bollier and many other activists writers and academics. From what I can piece together, it seems Bollier was the founding editor of On the Commons (www.onthecommons.org) and Walljasper was (and is) one of the editors there:

"On the Commons is a citizens' network that highlights the importance of the commons in our lives and promotes innovative commons-based solutions to create a brighter future"

Their Commons Magazine (online) seems interesting and I would would guess that many of the other contributors to the book have written for or are connected to On the Commons in one way or another. The book has that kind of feeling to it. It might even be the case that some (or many?) of the texts in the books are processed texts from that website or elsewhere. That would at least explain the lack of tight coherence and the fact that the book sure feels like it is the result of many disparate texts put together. I would say that the book could work as an introduction, as a source of inspiration or as a smorgasbord of more action-oriented writers trying to answer questions such as: what is at stake? what are the issues? what has been tried? what has worked? The more general (very short) chapters are for example called: "What, really, is the commons?" ("The commons refer to a wealth of valuable assets that belong to everyone"), "Is the commons un-American?", "Where to find the commons", "Why I call myself a commoner", "Citizenship 2.0" and "How to become a commoner". Me being an academic, this book didn't make much for me except to showcase the creation (or revival) of "the new commoner" - the person who is willing to create, share and tend to common resources in (primarily) their local communities.

******** I've been peripherally aware of this Jeremy Rifkin guy for a long time (I have even had an unread book of his in my bookshelf for at least 10 years). This is the first time I read a book of his though and it's his latest, brand new (2014) but cumbersomely titled "The zero marginal cost society: The Internet of things, the collaborative commons, and the eclipse of capitalism". 

Rifkin has his heart in the right place, but certain characteristics of the book made it a book that was hard for me to like. Rifkin has a consultancy firm and a sizeable part of the book consists of self-promotion of him as a person, earlier insights of his, previous book of his, his current consultancy and everything else Rifkin. Also, this is clearly a book on a "big idea" which might sound like a good idea but isn't. The book has one, or a small set of ideas that are not so much elaborated and explored as hammered into the forehead of the reader, one of them being Rifkin's concept (as well as his previous book) "The Third Industrial Revolution" (TIR). I'm not this set of ideas really fit together as neatly as Rifkin claims, but there is no room for doubt when reading Rifkin's book. Rifkin's point is that in the future everyone will be happy because with digital technology (including big data and 3D printing) the marginal cost of, well, everything will come down so low that it will be indistinguishable from zero. Being interested in sustainability, I also found some of his basic operating assumptions ludicrous since they do not at all take any kind of scarcity into account - despite the fact that we obviously live on a finite planet where the low-hanging fruit is getting more and more scarce:

"when the marginal cost of producing ... goods and services approaches zero and the price becomes nearly free, the capitalist system loses its hold over scarcity and the ability to profit from another's dependency.
The notion of organizing economic life around abundance and use and share value rather then scarcity and exchange value is so alien to the way we conceive of economic theory and practice that we are unable to envision it. But that is what is just beginning to emerge in wide sectors of the economy as new technologies make possible efficiencies and productivity that all but eliminate the cost of producing additional units and services"

Despite these objections, I also found some interesting ideas in the book (see the quotes below) though on the whole, my first encounter with Rifkin unfortunately turned out to be a disappointment.

* Malcolm Harris and Neal Gorenflo's (2012) "Share or die: Voices of the gest lost generation in the age of crisis" is a book by activists and, I assume, for activist. It is reminiscent of Walljasper's book (above), with 20+ chapters (some really short) sprawling in many different directions (i.e. the book doesn't have a very strong focus). Just as with Walljasper's book, this book too came out of an online network/magazine, shareable.net but it has a less civic and a more gritty, down-in-the-trenches feel to it. This is natural since many of the contributors are young people who have painful first-hand experiences of graduating right into a contracting, post-2008 economy, not being able to find a job etc.

The book is an easy read and gives insights into the lives, the conditions and the coping strategies of young Americans who, for the most part unexpectedly, meet hardship in their lives. It is interesting as testimony of their lives and the challenges they meet and sometimes overcome, but it is less interesting for me as an academic.

Lisa Gansky's "The mesh: Why the future of business is sharing" (2010) is competing in the exact same space as the above-mentioned "What is mine is yours" by Botsman and Roo. I'd say the Botsman and Roo's book hands-down is the winner in that space. This is yet another "big idea" book and as part of that strategy, Gansky of course has to invent a new term ("The mesh"), explain what it is and then consistently use it throughout the book. It's a given that the book in (large) part is an advertisement for Lisa Gansky and the services she has to offer companies.

"Fundamentally, the Mesh is based on network-enable sharing - on access rather than ownershiop. The central strategy is, in effect, to "sell" the same product multiple times."

As an alternative to reading this book, I would instead recommend Gansky's 15-minute Ted Talk.

  ----- On the triumph of capitalism as the reason for its demise -----

"Although economists and entrepreneurs never intended for the capitalist system to self-destruct ... a careful look at its operating logic reveals the inevitability of a future of near zero marginal cost. A near zero marginal cost society is the optimally efficient state for promoting the general welfare and represents the ultimate triumph of capitalism. Its moment of triumph, however, also marks its inescapable passage from the world stage."
Rifkin (2014). "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", p.8-9.

  ----- On the medieval sustainable renewable energy revolution -----

"By the late eleventh century ... France boasted 20,000 water mills ... for an average of one mill for every 250 people. The economic impact was dramatic. A typical water mill generated two to three horsepower for approximately half the time the mill was operating. A water mill could replace the labor of 10 to 20 people.
Where water was either lacking, too intermittent, or on the property of the lords, towns and cities turned to wind power.
In the 1790s ... there were more than half a million water mills operating in Europe with the equivalent of 2,250,000 horsepower. Although fewer in number, the thousands of windmills up and running at the time were generating even more power than the water mills. The average windmill could produce upward of 30 horsepower."
Rifkin (2014). "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", p.33-34.

  ----- On 3D printing as "sustainable manufacturing" -----

"Traditional factory manufacturing is a subtractive process. Raw materials are cut down and winnowed and then assembled to manufacture the final product. In the process, a significant amount of the material is wasted and never finds its say into the end product. Three-dimensional printing, by contrast, is additive infofacturing. ... Additive infofacturing uses one-tenth of the material of subtractive manufacturing, giving the 3D printer a substantial leg up in efficiency and productivity.
the 3D printing movement is deeply committed to sustainable production. Emphasis is on durability and recyclability and using nonpolluting materials.."
Rifkin (2014). "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", p.90-01.

  ----- On 3D printing as the technology that will save the world's poverty-stricken masses  -----

"It is in the developing world, however, that a Makers infrastructure is evolving in its purest form. In poor urban outskirts, isolated towns, and rural locales - where infrastructure is scant, access to capital spotty, at best, and technical expertise, tools, and machinery virtually nonexistent - 3D printing provides a desperately needed opportunity for building a TIR [Third Industrial Revolution] Makers infrastructure."
Rifkin (2014). "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", p.102.

  ----- Should government or private firms build (pay, charge for) our infrastructure? -----

"there are certain kinds of goods - public goods - that are nonrivalrous because everyone needs to have access to them - for example, roads and bridges, water and sewage systems, railroad lines, electricity grids, etc. These public goods are generally of the kind that establish infrastructure for conducting all other economic activity and require significant capital expenditures. ... All of which raises the question: How should infrastructure and public goods be paid for?."
Rifkin (2014). "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", p.136.

  ----- On US subsidies of big business (including dirty energy) -----

"In the United States, over half of all federal tax subsidies go to just four industries - finance, utilities, telecommunications, and oil, gas, and pipelines. With the exception of finance, they bear all the earmarks of pubic utilities. Between 2008 and 2010, gas and electric utilities received more than $31 billion in government subsidies, telecommunication got more than $30 billion, and oil, gas, and pipelines weighed in with $24 billion."
Rifkin (2014). "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", p.137-138.

  ----- On "algorithm neutrality" -----

"social media sites like Twitter might be tempted to manipulate rankings, one of the more popular features used to engage their members. For example, Twitter hosts a feature called Twitter Trends, which identifies hot topics and issues of current interest that are "trending". Questions have been raised about whether the algorithms companies use to spot and rank trends might be programmed to reflect the biases of the management that oversees them, consciously or otherwise. Julian Assange's supporters suspected that Twitter deliberately finagled the trending during the WikiLeaks scandal. Industry watchers are beginning to ask, how we can maintain "algorithm neutrality"?"
Rifkin (2014). "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", p.203.

  ----- On cooperatives employing more people than multinational companies -----

"much of humanity is already organizing at least some parts of its economic life in cooperative associations operating in Commons. It's just that we never hear about it. ... Perhaps it's because the global media are concentrated in the hands of a few giant for-profit media companies that decide what is news. ... More than 100 million people are employed by cooperatives, or 20 percent more employees than in multinational companies"
Rifkin (2014). "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", p.213.

  ----- On student debt in the US -----

"In August 2010, student loans surpassed credit cards as the [US] single largest source of debt, edging ever closer to $1 trillion. Yet for all the moralizing about American consumer debt by both political parties, no one dares call higher education a bad investment. The nearly axiomatic good of a university degree in American society has allowed a higher education bubble expand to the point of bursting.
Unemployment has hit recent graduates especially hard, nearly doubling in the post-2007 recession. The result is that the most indebted generation in history is without the dependable jobs it needs to escape debt."
Harris & Gorenflo (Eds.) (2012). "Share Or Die", p.169.

söndag 9 november 2014

Supporting development through small projects / our Smart Sustainable Cities course

My university at times asks for descriptions of small projects and hands out money to bottom-up suggestions from teachers and researchers that would not otherwise get money/support. I like it; easy to write, easy to judge and fast money with few strings attached for a concrete project with a short time span that a "colleague" supports and really wants to happen.

I've personally (successfully) applied for money (together with Björn Hedin) for several small pedagogical projects where the call came from my own school (Computer Science and Communication, CSC). We have also applied for money for a small pedagogical project where the call came from the school of Education and Communication in Engineering Science (ECE). My school, CSC, has also handed out money for interdisciplinary projects that ties together people from different departments and research environments within the school (but I haven't applied for any of those funds).

The amount of money handed out is typically in the range of 50.000 - 100.000 SEK (6.000 - 12.000 USD). That money typically mainly covers one or a few persons' time and with a standard of, say, 500 SEK/hour, that money typically buys 100 - 200 hours of one or a few persons' time. As apart from "real" research grant applications (i.e. millions of SEK), the threshold and the effort to write one of these small applications is typically very low. The emphasis is on having a good idea for a small project and this reduces the risk in terms of money used/wasted. Having a good idea is (in the best case scenario) half of what you have do to as an applicant - instead of in advance having to spend a lot of time promising or hypothesising about possible future outcomes and benefits (perhaps years down the road) that might or might not come true.

This past summer, I was offered to be a teacher representative in the KTH Sustainability council and KTH-S recently offered to support small projects relating to "Environment and Sustainable Development". KTH-S offered 500.000 SEK to small action-based projects and the emphasis was of networking between different departments and different schools. The suggested size of the applications was in the range of 50.000 - 75.000. I have been one of four persons who read and graded all the applications submitted. The deadline for handling in applications was October 8 and 18 applications were handed in. The total amount of money asked for in these 18 applications were between 2.5 - 3 times the amount of money available.

Most applications were only two pages long, of which the majority of the information on first page treated formal information; the names of applicants, departments involved, name of the project, amount sought etc. The applications themselves belonged to a number of different categories, for example:
- starting up a network around the interdisciplinary topic X at KTH
- creating an undergraduate, master's level or ph.d. course together with another department/school
- conference-related (for example supporting the attendance of local students, teachers and researchers)
- organising a workshop (which could double up as a graduate course)
- supporting (supplementing) an existing research project or perhaps the kernel of something that could turn into a new project
- support the establishment of a school-wide teacher colloquium

Reading the 18 applications, I was surprised by the number of applications that were relatively easy to put aside as "not relevant" or "less relevant". I thus felt that quite a few applications missed the mark by asking for too much money, by not involving any significant networking between different schools or departments, by asking for money that should come from a research project or from the basic education budget, by only involving (named) participants instead of being open to new actors (e.g. lack of networking potential), by asking for money that (for the most part) would be paid to an external consultant and so on.

Still, there wasn't really a problem to find enough applications that did fulfil the criteria and proposed promising ideas of how to use the money in question. I did in the end recommend that seven applications should be funded. With supplemental money for supporting the development of ph.d. courses (that were not part of the call), KTH-S will in the end support nine applications (including all the seven applications I recommended).

My colleague Elina Eriksson was responsible for one of the applications (I settled for including it in the set of applications I recommended should be funded but refrained from reviewing or comparing it to other applications). As it turned out, her application, "Citizens and planning in Smart Sustainable Cities - an interdisciplinary course" was funded! The application/course is a cooperation between three departments (Media Technology and Interaction Design, Environmental Strategic Research and Industrial Ecology) at two different schools (School of Computer Science and Communication and School of Architecture and the Built Environment).

The money will be used for first developing a ph.d. course and later transform it into a master's level course, and, the idea is that the course will be developed and given by the two different schools as well as to attract participants from both schools:

"Furthermore, we need to investigate what schools and master’s programs that could benefit from this course and approach these (discussions have been started within the network KTH Smart sustainable cities, approx. 15 research groups). We will coordinate our efforts with course leaders for MJ2685 Smart Cities and Climate Mitigation Strategies, so that the curricula will complement that course. Moreover, we will develop the course to give it at doctoral level first in order to try out the curricula with the benefit that the lead times for such a scheme is shorter than for giving it at master’s level."

Developing this course neatly fits the MID4S group's bid to develop a master's level "track" (specialisation); this course could become an eligible course for (especially) those students who choose to read our proposed "Sustainable Information Society" track when the new tracks are in place (two years from now). Almost all of the money applied for (90+%) will be used to "buy time" (pay salaries) so that Elina Eriksson, Anna Kramers and Hanna Hasselqvist can develop the course curriculum. Here's the very short project description:

"The aim of this project is to collaboratively develop a master’s course on the topic of citizens, ICT use and planning in smart sustainable cities. The course curricula will cover the use of technology, and the practices of technology use within smart sustainable cities and how this is correlated to planning practices. The long term goal is to make the course selectable for several different master’s programs at KTH, effectually creating a diverse and multidisciplinary student group with background knowledge in ICT development, energy technology, Human-computer Interaction and urban planning."

torsdag 6 november 2014

NordiCHI 2014 (Helsinki)

My previous blog post treated the pre-conference NordiCHI worshop we organised. This blog post treats the rest of the conference - the 8th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. Finland at the end of October was windy and cold, but not that much colder than Stockholm. The fact that I rented a huge 200 m2 luxurious apartment right next-door to the conference venue and shared it with colleagues was excellent compared to renting a small (and more expensive) hotel room. The fact that I took the boat to Helsinki was also pretty awesome - despite the fact that I had to fly back to Stockholm to receive a guest at KTH the next morning. The organisation of the conference was excellent!

There was a record-breakning number of participants at NordiCHI - more than 500 attended of which (only) 45 were Swedes. I was quite surprised to learn that with the exceptions of Finns, the two countries with the most participants were the UK and Germany. Only then (4th place) came Sweden followed by Denmark and Norway. Perhaps NordiCHI will be held in the UK or in Germany one of these years? But beyond practical aspects, what about the content of the conference then?

I was unfortunately not equally impressed with the content of the conference. The fact that mine and Barath Raghavan's paper was the only paper about sustainability was a pity, but I can live with that. If I didn't know it before, I have by now figured out that I am only interested in some of what falls within "mainstream HCI" research. I guess I didn't much notice that at the much larger CHI conference half a year ago - since there were no less than 15 parallell tracks to choose between. With "only" three parallell tracks, it was easier to notice that quite some of the content did not raise my pulse significantly. It was of course nowhere near as bad as when I went to a computer games conference at the end of the summer and realised I was hardly interested in anything at all, but still, I guess my research interests nowadays primarily focus on sustainability and only secondarily on HCI. Some of the presented papers were interesting, but quite some of them weren't (to me).

Don Norman was the opening keynote speaker. I heard him talk when he passed by UC Irvine this past spring but that talk for the most part concerned the new, heavily updated and reworked version of his classic book "The design of everyday things". Norman talked about the new playing field - kind of a comparison of what Human-Computer Interaction was when he wrote "The design of everyday things" in 1988 compared to the present situation. The very term "Human-Computer Interaction" was coined at a time when typical situation was one human interacting with one computer. Computing power is now all around us and HCI professionals are asked to solve problems of a very different character; redesign the interface to Obamacare, or, redesign the public administration of Singapore (true story). Norman also spent time on talking about what humans are good at and what computers are good at and what nowadays happens when things go wrong. His was a cautionary tale. Automation is a great thing - until it isn't. When something goes wrong, the human in the loop is rusty and less prepared to take care of the "extraordinary" problem in questions. This is basically a repretition of what Bainbridge wrote in her classic article on the "Ironies of automation" (pdf) 30 years ago, but it is worth repeating time and time again. Norman went into some detail about "challenges" of self-driving cars and massively networked, complex technologies. Technocratic engineers automate what can easily be automated and leave the rest - the really difficult stuff - to human operators. Travelling at 100 km/h, you only have 1 or 2 seconds to react before you are out of time, but when things (invariably) go wrong, we always blame the human factor. I personally made the connection to McLuhans' thoughts about technologies as both extensions of our bodies - our voices can reach longer through radio, our eyes can see farther through TV and our bodies can lift heavier loads when we sit inside an excavator - as well as amputations when our muscles and our skills atrophy:

"Marshall McLuhan taught us [that] "every extension is [also] an amputation." By this he meant that when we rely on technical systems to ameliorate the burdens of everyday life, we invariably allow our organic faculties to atrophy to a corresponding degree. [...] Elevators allow us to live and work hundreds of feet into the air, but we can no longer climb even a few flights without becoming winded. Cars extend the radius of our travels by many times, but it becomes automatic to hop into one if we're planning to travel any further than the corner store" (from Greenfield, 2010, "Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing".)

I have become interested in "design fiction" and there was one talk about future techno-spiritual systems ("Chatterbots of the Gods: Imaginary abstracts for techno-spirituality research"), but it was over the top. Fake results from an experiment that never had and never will be conducted was presented. Not only was the results "invented", but so was the very system presented! The presenter claimed that this was a good way to conduct some initial explorations of alternatives without the risks and the costs of real experiments. But why then don't we always do that, i.e. imagine what hypothetical users might experience and think while using our not-yet-developed systems... Would that be good research? It was hard to understand exactly what had and what had not been done in the work presented as well as understanding what the purpose of the work was in the first place. It felt equally much as an art installation or perhaps a provocation as "research results". It was hard to know what exactly was being researched. Could the results be of use when designing future "techno-spiritual" systems? Or did the paper instead explore (the limits of) design fiction itself? It was hard to know based only on listening to the presentation.

My colleague, Henrik Åhman, who has never been to a CHI conference before, was quite unimpressed (disappointed) by the conference. He thought there were too many "fun systems" presented, but not enough thought and social commentary. Where are the reflections and where are the theories? His question was basically: "why exactly are these systems developed?" and neither me nor anyone else had a good answer for him. I guess I could have asked that very same questions myself had I not been habituated to the field and the kinds of results that "fits" and that is encouraged at HCI conferences. I do however believe that my own paper was one of those (few?) papers that did try to ask deeper questions. The paper is called "Rethinking sustainability in computing: From buzzword to non-negotiable limits" and I have written about it here on the blog before. It was a challenge to present the paper in the 15 minutes I had allotted. I was out of time surprisingly quickly and I had to skip a few things of the fly. On the whole, I was still quite happy about my presentation but I guess it's for others to judge since I was all too busy talking to have time to listen to it. Other presenters at the conference included my wife, Teresa Cerratto-Pargman ("Understanding audience participation in interactive theatre performances") and my colleague Petra Björndal ("On the handling of impedance factors for establishing apprenticeship relations during field studies in industry domains").

An example of a system that I thought was "overdeveloped" (?) or "underthought" (?) - or both - had to do with "the remembering of everyday life". Do note that I have only listened to the presentation and not (yet) read the paper. The presenter compared lifelogging (taking a picture of what's in front of you every 30 seconds and archiving it) with their system that more carefully helps users select and save mementos. I presume their point was that lifelogging was not as good because of the lack of intentions and selectiveness. But the opposite of lifelogging is not selectively saving mementos, but rather to not use any technology at all and to only rely on your own unaided memory to "record" and "save" memories of important events you take part of (remember - extensions and amputations!).

I had a big problem with the presentation already at this point (long before the actual system was presented - there is almost always a system presented in HCI papers). This research takes for granted that it is desirable to save lots of (carefully selected) stuff (photos, souvenirs and other objects) - but perhaps not too much (i.e. not a photo every 30 seconds). My question is: "why?". What if we are already drowning in memories and forgetting is just as important as remembering? Shouldn't we then also design systems that will help people forget (selectively?)? Why is nobody ever doing that? We might for starters need systems that will help us forget/remove the "clutter" of having 100.000 photos in our computers (that's one photo taken each hour you are awake during a period of 20 years)? Or rather, what is the tradeoff between remembering and forgetting, and why is the forgetting part of this equation always ignored or forgotten? What is it with this imperative to remember? It is hardly ever discussed in depth before some brave HCI researchers attempt to design (yet another) systems that will help us remember more (and more). Is the answer simply "because we can", or are there any deeper thoughts behind this and other systems? What is ailing us as individuals and as modern societies that would be worthy causes for budding HCI researchers to tackle? Is it really that we don't remember enough of what happened 5 minutes, 5 days or 5 years ago? If we don't remember what just happened, could that not then be an effect of us being too busy collecting new mementos in the present to remember even the recent past? But then who am I to raise these issues in this, my 307th blog post since I started blogging here 50 months ago...?

There are so many unanswered questions here but it seems we as a community do not to want to think about them too deeply and instead choose to run straight ahead, designing systems that attempts to support (some relatively-easy-to-automate aspect of) our lives "because we can". Is this then not what Norman warned us about when he pointed out that we automate what can easily be automated and then leave the remaining, difficult stuff for the humans. A more sensible starting point would instead seem to be to first ask what humans need help with and then design and shape technology to satisfy these needs. I don't really feel that that is what is being done and I guess this rant also supports Henrik's opinions (above), but I'm still not finished.

What if memories and mementos can become a burden? I am here reminded of Alexander Luria's book "The mind of a mnemonist" (1987). It's a psychological case study of a man who could not forget and who for the most part supported himself as a memory artist in Soviet Russia. He had a photographic/encyclopaedic memory and could remember random series of playing cards also years later. When he tried his hand at other professions, he had problems differing between high and low, between important and trivial memories (knowledge). If I don't misremember, he might also have had problems in his personal life (marriage, friendship). Is this what HCI researchers implicitly want to turn us all into - modern "rain men" and the closest thing you can come to being a computer? What if we entertain the notion that computer-supported memory systems can/could/will/do make us more rather than less unhappy - helping us to cling to conflicts and past injustices (both personal and historical), long lost love, departed relatives and many other for the most part "unproductive" ways of dwelling on the past? What if the problem already today is that we remember too much rather than too little? What if by spending more time with our memories, we spend less time living in the present and less time thinking about and planning for the future? What if we by spending more time with technical artefacts (that helps us remember the past) also spend less time creating significant memories together with the people we hold dear in the present? I don't know, but perhaps HCI researchers should be required to read more fiction - for example this year's winner of the Noble prize in literature, Patrick Modiano, whose most important themes (that he revisits again and again in all his books) are memories and identity. From the Wikipedia article about him and his authorship:

"All of Modiano's works are written from a place of "mania." In Rue des Boutiques Obscures (Missing Person), the protagonist suffers from amnesia and travels from Polynesia to Rome in an attempt to reconnect with his past. The novel addresses the never-ending search for identity in a world where "the sand holds the traces of our footsteps but a few moments." In Du Plus Loin de l'Oubli (Out of the Dark), the narrator recalls his shadowy love affair in the 1960s with an enigmatic woman. Fifteen years after their breakup, they meet again, but she has changed her name and denies their past. What is real and what is not remain to be seen in the dreamlike novel that typifies Modiano's obsessions and elegiac prose. The theme of memory is most clearly at play in Dora Bruder ... In Modiano's 26th book L'Horizon (2011), the narrator, Jean Bosmans, a fragile man pursued by his mother's ghost, dwells on his youth and the people he has lost. Among them is the enigmatic Margaret Le Coz, a young woman he met and fell in love with in the 1960s. The two loners spent several weeks wandering the winding streets of a now long-forgotten Paris, fleeing a phantom menace. One day, however, without notice, Margaret boarded a train and vanished into the void—but not from Jean's memory."

I wonder how lifelogging and other technologies of enhancing the process of remembering through technical means would have helped - or thwarted - the characters in Modiano's novels? I have always assumed that as we get older and we retire, the future shrinks and we tend to dwell more upon the past and think less about the future. When you are young, we have most of our lives in front of us, so it would seem natural that we instead think more about the future than about the past. So are we then inventing technologies that helps age us in advance by helping (encouraging?) us to think about the past more often? Perhaps "memento technologies" help us better cling to the past when we - at all ages - should be thinking and caring more about the future (our own and our grandchildren's)? Perhaps memento technology help us become more self-centered? What if we more often should heed Baumer and Silberman's suggestion and think about "When the implication is not to design (technology)"? Referring back to Henrik, I guess my problem is that there really isn't a theory of memory anywhere around - except the happy-go-lucky attitude that "remembering is good and remembering more is better". I should point out that at some point in the text above, I have moved on from this specific paper (that I haven't read) to critiquing a more general class of HCI papers.

Ok, I am the first to admit that I really don't have and idea of what I'm talking about here since this is neither my area of expertise nor research, but I sometimes get really tired of "the new new thing" and I very much like to exercise some "contrarian" thinking. Perhaps I really should read the paper in question - it would definitely be the decent thing to do after having written this much based on the presentation. Still, I suspect there are more ideas worth pondering in the few paragraphs above that in a whole bunch of HCI conference papers about systems supporting memory - since these papers will most often assume that all the really difficult problems have already been solved and then spend an inordinate amount of time devising ingenious ways to solve the relatively simple problems remaining:

"the weakness of all Utopias is this, that they take the greatest difficulty of man and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller ones. They first assume that no man will want more than his share, and then are very ingenious in explaining whether his share will be delivered by motor-car or balloon." G.K. Chesterton (1905), "Heretics".

Attending a CHI (or NordiCHI) conference is thus a great way get a feeling for what innovative computer systems are being designed right now. It is not the best place to go if you what to think about the possible desirability (or not) of those systems or other "deeper" thoughts about the relationship between humans and our technologies. Despite this, I will most probably go back again and again since these conferences still represent one of the few places where it's possible to find people who do work in the intersection of computer technologies and sustainability.

söndag 2 november 2014

Our NordiCHI sustainability workshop

Back in May, I wrote a blog post about the NordiCHI workshop proposal we submitted, "Is there a European strand of Sustainable HCI?".  I also wrote another blog post at the end of June, informing the world that yes indeed, our workshop proposal had been accepted and would you please consider attending the workshop (advertising the workshop in a blog post is yet another way of using this blog). October just turned to November and this blog post treats the pre-conference NordiCHI workshop we held exactly one week ago, on Sunday October 26.

Of the six organisers, unfortunately only me and my colleague Elina Eriksson could attend the workshop and the conference. We had eight submissions to the workshop but one person had to pull out because he did not secure the travel funds needed and another person pulled out after he realised he had also registered for the same-day doctoral colloquium. We on the other hand had one person join us later, after the deadline. He was allowed to participate despite not having submitted a position paper - he instead submitted his ph.d. thesis a few days before the workshop. Here's a list of the nine workshop participants as well as the position papers.

We started the workshop by getting to know each other - each person had prepared a nine-picture three-minute Pecha Kucha presentation and we followed up with some questions and answers. As expected, many of the participants had had problems answering or contributing to the nominal topic of the workshop. We followed up the Pecha Kucha with a "fishbowl" exercise to pick up ideas and trends in participants’ presentations and to go on from there. I have participated in a fishbowl exercise once before, but had never organised myself before. Still, the results were above my expectations. After lunch we had some small-group discussions followed by reporting back to the larger group and discussing the results. We ended the workshop by doing some strategic thinking - how can we, the participants of the workshop, promote sustainability and Sustainable HCI in Europe and as a topic at the NordiCHI conference?

As to the question of whether there is a difference between Europe and the US, here are some suggestions about possible differences we brought with us to the workshop:
- Differences in environmental discourses, for example how we see, value and frame nature (in (Northern) Europe, the US.
- How (organic) food is framed
- The role of the individual, the family, that state, society, regulation, the market, media etc. (institutions)
- The political dimension - there are green political parties in Europe!
- Climate wars in the US (consensus vs paralysis)
- Cities, municipalities (states) are more involved in research in Europe, for example studying public transportation from an environmental point of view (Europe) vs from a point of view of safety, equity etc. (the US). How can we capitalise on that?
- Environmental justice (proactive vs reactive)
- Funding!

Some issues that were raised at the workshop were:
- Are there differences in methods, in goals and in directions between Europe and the US?
- What about differences between European countries (e.g. Italy vs Finland etc.)
- Is Sustainable HCI big enough to have different schools?
- If so, wouldn't the differences between Europe and the US be much smaller than those between the Global North and the Global South?
- What about OzCHI or HCI in Asia more generally (Japan, China, Korea etc.)?
- Are there any unique opportunities for Europe, is there any research that can be done in Europe that is difficult or impossible to conduct in the US?
- Air conditioning is big in the US. Heating is big in (northern) Europe (as well as in the Northern US)

I will skip most of what was discussed before and after lunch and instead point to some of the more action-oriented conclusions and recommendations that came out of the workshop:
- When discussing venues, the ones that seemed to be most interesting for us as a group were CHI, NordiCHI and ICT4S. Other suggested/possible venues were Ubicomp, DIS, CSCW and ECSCW. The Critical Computing conference in Århus next year (held once every 10 years!) is also an interesting venue. We even specifically discussed writing an ICT4S 2029-related paper (here's the actual paper) to that conference. We also discussed journals that are possible/relevant for us to publish in.
- The next ICT4S conference will be held in Copenhagen in September 2015 and the deadline for submitting papers will be in mid-March. That's where we will meet next (if not at the CHI conference in Korea this coming spring)!
- The next NordiCHI conference will be held in Gothenburg two years from now (2016). There is a good chance that sustainability will be promoted as a topic of interest at that conference. This should increase our chances of organising a new workshop there and perhaps also to encourage more persons to submit sustainability-related research papers! Gunnar S, Chris W and Tessy P are interested in helping to organise such a workshop at NordiCHI 2016.
- We should suggest some sustainability-related keynote speakers (as well as other activities) to the NordiCHI'16 organising committee. Rob Hopkins was mentioned, as was Samuel Mann.
- We also discussed the potentially negative effects of large companies having a big stake in HCI as an area if these companies at the same time promote unsustainable practices of various kinds. Could NordiCHI be seens as a non-commercial (or at least a less-commercial) "free zone" where it is possible to ask more "uncomfortable" questions with a focus on HCI beyond big business, on social entrepreneurs and so on.
- We decided to create a a platform for a European Sustainable HCI group in the form of a mailing list. The list will be called EUSHCI and Gunnar Stevens (Univ. of Siegen) will set it up.
- We discussed the possibility of organising a summer school about Sustainable HCI and had some leads and ideas as to funding. We'll see if something could come out of that. A mailing list would be an excellent place to conduct such discussions...
- To get to know each other better, we suggested each participant should nominate one of their own (sustainability-related) papers for others to read. This should preferably have been done before the workshop, but it can also be done afterwards. That's a great way to get to know each other better and also to encourage us as a community to read (and cite) each others' work!

One of our goals of organising the workshop was to start up a European community of Sustainable HCI researchers. I do believe we were successful and that many were energised by participating in the workshop. I hope this is the beginning of a stronger presence of sustainability and the NordiCHI conference as well as more networking and cooperation between European HCI researchers with an interest in these topics. It's a bit silly that European researchers should have to go to the larger CHI conference (usually held in the US) to meet other European researchers with similar interests.

fredag 24 oktober 2014

The future of the sharing economy 12 times over

My previous blog post listed all the guest lecturers that have visited our course "The future of media" during the first half of the autumn term. This year's theme is "The future of the digital commons and the sharing economy". Last week we had our last guests drop by and we also divided the students into no less than 12 project groups. They have by now worked together for 10 days and we met each group to review their project plans earlier this week. Some groups have probably already found their Great Idea that they will work with during the rest of the terms, while other groups still have work ahead of them trying to figure that out.

Below is a list of the 12 project groups together with the short descriptions that brought the students together. For several groups, these descriptions are already outdated, but they are still good enough to get an idea about what topics our students are working on now and will work on for the rest of the autumn term.

Trust and reputation systems. For sharing to be able to work, there has to be (justified) trust between strangers. So who should you trust? How do state-of-the-art reputation systems encourage and ensure the creation of “social capital” and mutual trust today (and punish free riders and cheaters)? How could such systems be further developed to support the digital commons and the sharing economy of tomorrow?

3D society. 3D-printers (and makerspaces and Fab labs etc.) will change society forever. Explore and explain how by finding, talking and participating with the Stockholm “scene”. Choose to explore the positive effects (Rifkin) and/or possible negative effects (printing guns and drugs, who has control over the printers or of the equivalent of the “ink”).

The future of learning. What is the future of learning and the future of universities in an age of free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the Internet? What are the pros and cons of MOOCs compared to the alternatives?

A sustainable sharing economy. What is the relationship between sustainability and the sharing economy? How can a future sharing economy be shaped to be maximally sustainable?

Sharing motivations. Why do people share? For the noble good, for making some extra cash for myself, from dire need or for some other reason (or combination of reasons)? What does this imply for the future of sharing?

The end of big business. The sharing economy will undermine and topple some (or many?) of the giants of the 20th century industrial economy. Explore and explain how. Will collaborative consumption ruin old business structures and create a new economic system?

The future of crowdwork. Crowdwork is a powerful idea. Some work is done by voluneers for free (Wikipedia, Foldit), other work is done for profit (Amazon Mechanical Turk). What is the future of crowdwork? For for-profit crowdwork, how can such ideas be leveraged to be beneficial for employers and service providers (e.g. Amazon) as well as for employees?

The future of piracy. What is the connection (if any) between piracy and the commons? Do pirates perceive themselves to be “commoners”? Are pirates “liberating” things that should be in the common or are they criminals who should be stopped? Hunt down your very own pirates (and anti-pirates) and find the answers to how these things go together.

The future of trust. Trust might very well be *the* issue that determines the future of the digital commons and the sharing economy. How do companies (and non-profits) work with issues of trust today? What are the possibilities and what are the challenges?

The bottom-up revolution. Instead of installing expensive meteorological weather stations, why not let (many) ordinary users report the temperature and the shape of the clouds through an app (e.g. Shareweather)? And why not build bottom-up maps of pollution or congestion or where the nearest sushi bar or free wi-fi is? What are the implications of creating new commons through this bottom-up “revolution”?

The future of shared food. Can food production (locally cultivated organic food in gardens) and preparation/consumption (shared dinners etc.) be brought to the cities and mediated by ICT?

The future of work. What will happen to work (good jobs, bad jobs, no jobs) if the sharing economy expands? Will sharing create a better society for all or will it undermine safety and security in the job market, e.g. taxi drivers starting to work for Uber but with lower salaries)? What are the effects of the current sharing economy on job creation and the job market?

söndag 19 oktober 2014

Future of Media 2014 line-up

The first part of the project course I'm teaching, DM2571 "Future of Media", came to an end this past week and we are now moving from the start-up phase (with lots of guest lectures) to the project phase. We change the theme in the course every year and this year's theme - the 12th - is "The Future of the digital commons and the sharing economy". Last year's theme was "The Future of News / News of the Future".

Since we change the theme every year, we basically also deliver a new course every year. More specifically, we make a few changes in the format but replace all the content since the content naturally is very much dependent on the theme. That means lots of work each year. This year has been particularly stressful since I was away on a sabbatical during the spring and could not start to plan the course before the summer (which I usually do). Having the first part of the course come to a close is thus a huge relief. While there is still quite some work left to do, it will definitely demand less from me from now on.

This time last year I took the opportunity to write a blog post where I listed all the great guest lecturers we had had visit the course. Below is the 2014 line-up of our (no less than 18! guests lectures. Twelve different student project groups will present their visions of the future in the form of a larger (200+ persons) public presentation (welcome!) in mid-December. I will shortly write a follow-up blog post about the 12 different projects and the topics they plan to look into.

-------------------- Lectures --------------------

- Jan Forsmark, coordinator for the Transition Sweden network, "From Global challenges to local projects".

- Peter Jakobsson, Ph.D. in Media and Communication, Södertörn University, "Contested cultural commons: a political-economy perspective".

- Daniel Pargman, KTH/CSC/Media Technology and Interaction Design, "The digital commons, the sharing economy and collaborative consumption"

- Six Silberman, Co-maintainer for Turkopticon; PhD student at the Department of Informatics, UC Irvine, "Crowdwork and the 'sharing economy': a non-exuberant introduction to the commons".

- Christofer Gradin Franzén, Psychologist and master of science business and economics, "Co-creating the financial, social and psychological space for a paradigm shift".

- Visit to Dieselverkstadens bibliotek, Nacka where we we taken care of by Margareta Swanelid (CEO), Kalle Molin (librarian), Per Perstrand (librarian) and Anna Lundmark (librarian).

- Jan Ainali, CEO of Wikimedia Sverige, "Collecting the sum of all human knowledge - why and how?".

- Airi Lampinen, Postdoctoral Researcher at Mobile Life Centre, Stockholm University, "Social Interaction in the Sharing Economy".

- Kristina Alexanderson, project leader at Creative Commons Sverige, "Creative Commons: On leading a creative community with yourself as a ”guinea pig”".

Daniel Pargman, KTH/CSC/Media Technology and Interaction Design, "Checkpoint & looking forward towards the second half of the course".

- Roope Mokka, Founder of the think tank Demos Helsinki, "Smartups – sharing economy as part of a next wave of startups".

- Robin Teigland, Associate Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, "The Sharing Economy and Collaborative Consumption".

- Daniel Wentz, VP Strategy, Schibsted Media Group, "Schibsted and the Peer 2 Peer Economy".

- Daniel Ljungstig and Anders Tyrland, founders and owners of 3DVerkstan, "3D Printing: Hype or a truly disruptive technology for the future? Our kids might have the answer!".

- Mattias Jägerskog, founder of Skjutsgruppen and #RidesharingDay, OuiShare connector for Sweden, "The return of the Collaborative Economy".

- Karin Bradley, Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Studies at KTH, "The interplay between urban commons and digital commons".

- Anna Swartling, Usability architect at Scania CV AB, "Project TEAM work".

- Milad Hossainzadeh, Dip.MArch, White Architects, "Exception = Exceptional - alternative futures through big picture thinking in a creative process".

We unfortunately had a few guests cancel their lectures, and there was one person I really would have wanted to listen to, but alas, in the end he cancelled his lecture with short notice. 

lördag 18 oktober 2014

Sustainability and Media Technology 2014 line-up

About this time last year I published a blog post with a list of all the (guest) lectures in my course DM2573 "Sustainability and Media Technology". This blog post does the very same for this year's course. The last lecture (wrap-up and course evaluation) was held only yesterday and the only thing now remaining is to grade the exam and to report the results. We have changed the course contents significantly this year so the majority of the lectures below are new for this year.

The course once more ended with a "gripe session" where we got a lot of feedback that will help us improve the course for next year. I hope me and Elina will once more write a paper about the course and submit it to a suitable conference. We have written two papers this far; "'It's not fair!': Making students engage in sustainability" and "ICT4S reaching out: Making sustainability relevant in higher education". I can see four different possible angles for a new paper right now but the fourth requires a somehow more extensive explanation (below):
1) a paper about our use of the GaSuCo board game that we have used in the course,
2) a paper that utilises the (literally hundreds of) seminar questions the students have submitted in the course,
3) a paper focusing on this year's use of social annotations systems in the course.
4) see below

Idea number 4 was inspired by listening to a podcast interview with Chris Martenson (Extranvironmentalist #81, Sept 2014, 81 minutes into the show). Chris said that during the last five years, he has come to realise that he is not in the information-sharing business, but rather in the belief-challenging business. Those two businesses are very different. Beliefs are not changed by information. Changing your own or someone else's beliefs rather has something to do with some sort of "emotional processing". This raises the question of what business we are in when we teach a course about sustainability. We share a lot of information that is potentially very worrisome for the students taking the course, but what are we - as teachers - supposed to do then? Leave them dangling and let them take care of it themselves? Or do we have a responsibility to - in some way - take care of their "emotional needs"? As university teachers we can do seminars, but a course at a technical university is not a "retreat", not an ashram and not a support group. If we tried to turn a course into any of those things, we would quickly land in trouble! I'm a researcher. I can read up and I can share facts and to some extent also my opinions about this-and-that, but, how good am I at meeting my students' emotional needs? 'Not very' I would say. This is something worthy of further reflection, and why not in the shape of a text?

Below is the 2014 line-up for our course (16 lectures + 1 panel).

------------ DM2573 - Sustainability and Media Technology - lectures ------------

Daniel Pargman (Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Media Technology, KTH/MID) and Samuel Mann, Associate Professor at Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand,
"Course introduction"
"Why sustainability is important for you!"

Josefin Wangel, Ph.D., Researcher at KTH/Division of Environmental Strategies Research (FMS),
"Sustainability and Sustainable Development - Defining the concepts"

Elina Eriksson, Ph.D., Researcher at KTH/Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID),
"Climate change and planetary boundaries"

Daniel Pargman, KTH/MID,
"Global resource challenges and implications for ICT and media"

Daniel Pargman, KTH/MID and Christian Remy, PhD Student at the People and Computing Lab at the University of Zürich

Pella Thiel, The Transition Network and Common Cause,

Cecilia Katzeff, adjunct professor at KTH/MID,

Marcus Nyberg, senior researcher at User Experience Lab at Ericsson Research,
"A networked society contributing to positive change"

Jorge Zapico, Post-doctoral researcher at KTH Centre for Sustainable Communications (CESC) and at the Linnaeus University,
"Data for sustainability"

Karin Edvardsson Björnberg, Assistant Professor of environmental philosophy at the KTH/Division of Philosophy and Elisabeth Ekener Petersen, PhD at KTH/FMS,
"Social sustainability and ICT"

Daniel Berg, PhD student in Economic History at Stockholm University,
"From Credit Crunch to Climate Crunch - How the ecology is acknowledged to suffer from overconsumption, and the economy is uniformly said to suffer from underconsumption"

Greger Henriksson, Senior Researcher at KTH/FMS and Björn Hedin, Ph.D., KTH/MID,
"Sustainability and behavioural change"

Daniel Pargman, KTH/MID,
"Rebound effects"

- Concluding panel discussion"Images of the future"
ModeratorDaniel Pargman, KTH/MID. 
Peter Nöu, Senior Program Manager at The Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (Vinnova)
Ambjörn Næve, Senior Researcher, KTH
Erica Öhlund, PhD student in Environmental Science, Södertörns Högskola

Daniel Pargman (teacher) and Elina Eriksson (assistant teacher)
Wrap-up of the course and gripe session

söndag 12 oktober 2014

Birth of a research project

We got funding for a three-year long research project last year - "Improved energy habits through Quantified Self" - and the time for starting up that project is now! The project is lead by my colleague Björn Hedin. Besides me, Henrik Artman also works in the project. Jorge Zapico is in the project too, but won't do any work in the project during the first year.

We've had two shorter start-up meetings this far and this blog post chronicles the early discussions in this project (recreated from my memory since my web browser crashed and I lost the ample notes from our meeting). This research project touches on no less than seven different areas:

- ICT (everyone)
- Quantified Self (Björn, Daniel)
- Behaviours and habits (Björn)
- Energy, energy use (Daniel)
- Climate and CO2 emissions (Daniel)
- Food (Björn)
- Advising, guidance (Henrik)

That's a lot of different areas. We decided that there should be some internal division of labour in the project (marked out above). Because of my prior interests, I will be the "point man" or the go-to person in the areas of energy and climate, just as Björn is the natural go-to person in the area of behaviour and habits. Looking at these seven different areas, some are more and some are less central to the project. Behaviour and habits is probably the most central area - it's difficult to imagine that we we will write a single academic paper based on this project that does not touch on that area. Still, there are many different possible overlaps so which particular area(s), journals and conferences should we aim for? We haven't really decided yet and I think that will be part of an ongoing discussion for at least the remainder of the year.

One important task for the remainder of this year is for all of us to read up in our chosen areas of expertise as well as to read and discuss some articles together so as to build up a common ground. I'm a supremely structured reader (which comes as no surprise for the regular reader of this blog). I will start to think about how to go about to read up and will then start to work my way through articles. While I like to read in general, this time around it's also a job that has to be done. We will probably create a structured form where we will enter a few sentences about project-relevant articles we read, for example: author, title, main argument, relevance to our project - just to keep track of stuff we as a group read and their relevance to our project. We have also created a shared folder in Google drive as well as a shared folder in KTH Box (KTH's own "Dropbox").

In our application, we promised the project would have some kind of presence on the web and we will have to discuss the level of ambition. It could be a (for the most part) static homepage or it could be something almost as ambitious as this blog (for example with each project member writing a blog post every month).

Me and Björn had a discussion about what we personally want to accomplish with this project and "becoming experts" and publishing papers in high-quality journals came out high for both of us (Björn also raised "changing the world" which indeed is a worthy - but hard - goal). I have already decided that the area of expertise that I work towards is situated in the intersection of computing (Human-Computer Interaction) and Sustainability. That means that Sustainable HCI and ICT4S are important areas for me. I could imagine that I will broaden my interests and add something more to that mix through this project - even though I don't know exactly what yet.

Even though we are starting to work on this project now (October), Björn was quick at defining a few bachelor's thesis topics already at the end of last year and no less than three couples of students worked on three different projects during the past spring. One couple was very successful and they were funded by the project also during the summer and part of the autumn term. That means the project already has results to present and part of what we will do during the rest of the year is to read up - and to write up! The students' project could (should) result in two papers. We will for the most part aim for journal articles but we should perhaps also plan for a paper to next year's ICT4S conference? We also give high priority to defining new topics for masters' and bachelors' thesis topics and to have students work within (for) this research project during the coming spring.

Since this is a project about changing people's habits and since me and Björn have a long-standing interested in topics such as procrastination, life-hacks and in utilising our own working hours more effectively, we also plan to work on our own work habits within this research project. We have set aside one day per week for the project and we will try to work together during that one day. We will probably experiment with different methods to get things done and I very much look forward to that and to forming new (research) habits within the project. Who needs the Panopticon when we can surveil and discipline ourselves? We have only had two (short) meetings this far but it feels like we have gotten off to a great start!