söndag 20 juli 2014

Follow-up (spring 2014)

Ongoing projects often generate follow-up blog posts. A submission to a conference will generate a blog post about that conference (some months later). A research project will generate a new blog perhaps three or six or nine months later. Some "projects" (blog posts) don't generate follow-up blog posts even thought they "should". A blog post about an article that was submitted but that was rejected will most often not generate a follow-up blog posts, so, every six months I go back and look for "loose ends" to follow up and tie up.

In these follow-up blog posts, I don't follow up everything that has happened, but only create closure for those projects and blog posts that can come to an end by writing a short blurb about them.

I here primarily look at things that has happened during the spring (Jan-June) but have also started to go back a full year looking for loose ends to tie up. It turns out that this tie around there aren't that many loose ends from the almost 50 blog posts I have published since January. Some of those 50 blog posts contain temporary loose ends that I will come back to later and that I thus don't bother to write about below.

Autumn 2013
Me and my colleague Björn applied for a small amount of (KTH-internal) money for a project, "Social annotation systems and formative peer feedback for bachelors' theses", and we did get that money. We have worked on that project during the latter part of the autumn term and during the first half of the spring term and Björn presented the results in the beginning of June. Our project and the results were much appreciated by some of the "high and mighty" at KTH and we apparently gained goodwill (a currency that is good for getting our next project approved).

I participated in a course on "Research supervision" during the autumn term. The attendance rules were draconian and since I missed one meeting I had to do an extra assignment. We agreed to customise that assignment and I was to interviews two US Ph.D. students and compare the situation of Ph.D. students in the US and Sweden. I did the two interviews back in April but only managed to submit my assignment last month (June). It is however done now and I did pass the course - hooray!

Me and Björn wrote another application for (CSC-internal) pedagogical funds in December so as to develop the work we have done procrastination and we got that money too. Our application was called "Do it now! Support for better education about procrastination" and we more specifically promised to "develop our own teaching materials - a tailored, KTH-adapted compendium - dealing with the topic of procrastination and nearby areas such as study habits, distractions and the use of technology". This is one of the projects that I wanted to work with on my sabbatical, but I haven't and it is one more reason for why the autumn term will be very busy. We plan to put together a 75-page compendium that will replace the ragtag readings we have been using this far.

Me and Björn wrote yet another application for (CSC-internal) pedagogical funds for yet another project in December about social annotation systems, "Increased thesis quality through increased goal focus and peer- and self-assessment". Also this project application was funded (again with just a small amount of money though). This project overlaps, but is still different from the social annotation project above. Björn have managed these two (social annotation, peer feedback) projects and while I've been working with both of them remotely, it's a little hard for me to be on top of all the facts when I was in the US. I think we have done everything we were supposed to in both of these projects (and if not, I expect Björn to tell me).

I wrote a (popular) blog post about my negative experiences of using Airbnb this past winter when on vacation in Argentina. It all worked out for the best in the end though and I have used Airbnb a ton since. Now that I know how to better use the service, I'm really quite happy with it. I will go to a conference in Germany in August and another conference in Helsinki in October and have already booked apartments through Airbnb...

I wrote a blog post about Barath Raghavan's visit to UC Irvine. This was the first time I met with Barath personally and we have since written a paper together that recently was accepted to the NordiCHI conference. This was just the start of a fruitful cooperation and we have two more papers in the pipe as well as planning for a workshop that will be held next year, e.g. there is more to follow...

I'm the co-author of no less than three papers that were submitted to the upcoming ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) conference in Stockholm. One of the papers, "Green websites for next-generation screens", was rejected but the other two papers (here and here) were accepted and both were furthermore nominated for the best paper award (only eight papers were nominated).

Malin Picha and I submitted an article, "Explorative scenarios of emerging media trends" to the Journal of Print and Media Technology Research. It has since been accepted for publication but I don't know when it will be in print. Hopefully some time later this year.

Nothing has happened since April that can be followed up yet, stay tuned for the next follow-up half a year from now though...

onsdag 16 juli 2014

A blast from the past

While looking for something completely different on the Internet, I came across this picture of me:

I snooped around some and realised that that photo came from the Microsoft Social Computing Symposium that I attended back in May 2006. I've been on a sabbatical at UC Irvine this spring and my half-year long stay at Microsoft Research (MSR) during the second half 2007 (one year after the photo was taken) was my one and only previous sabbatical. (As an aside, it for sure won't take another 7 years until we go on a sabbatical again!). My presence at the 2006 symposium was, perhaps, their way of getting a feeling for who I was(?) - but I just don't remember the details of this-and-that (e.g. the connection between my presence at the invitation-only event in 2006 and my stay at MSR 15 months later). This was, after all, almost 8 years ago.

I did however find a 7-minute long video where I give a high-speed, high-content talk about "mobil/pervasive social computing" and here it is! The talk builds especially on Martin Bjerver's excellent master's thesis on the long-ago defunct game "Botfighters". The thesis is called "Player behaviour in pervasive games -- using the city as game board in Botfighters" and it's available online (abstract, full text).

Wow, that was a long time ago! My two sons who today are 10 and 7 years old were 3 and <1 back then. Also, my current all-encompassing interest in sustainability wasn't even on the map back then as the starting point for that turn-around happened two years later, in 2008.

This whole event makes you wonder what other crap is archived on the Internet? Not that this is crap though, I actually still think it's pretty good and the content of the talk is actually relatively amazing, right? Still, it's like a blast from the past - like a postcard from a previous life...

I wrote this blog post a few weeks ago. It's scheduled to be published just as I'm on the airplane, heading back to Sweden from my half year-long sabbatical at University of California, Irvine. When you read this I will be back in Sweden again.

söndag 6 juli 2014

The Global Dimension in Engineering Education

I was asked to contribute to a project about "The Global Dimension in Engineering Education" (GDEE) at the end of last year. More specifically, I was asked to write a book chapter to help university teachers get their engineering students engaged in "the global dimension". I was confused about many things - starting with the term "the global dimension". I had a chat with the project coordinator, Emily, back in February and I accepted the challenge after I understood more about the project. "The global dimension" refers to all non-technical topics that will impact the engineering profession at a global level over the next 20-30 years.  These topics include sustainability, but also globalisation, inequality, climate change etc. The goal of the project is to find ways to integrate these topics into “mainstream” engineering educations. Emily reached out to me because of the paper me and Elina Eriksson presented at the conference Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) in September last year, "'It's not fair! Making students engage in sustainability".

The Global Dimension for Engineering Education (GDEE) project is funded by the European Commission and it is also a partnership with NGOs in Italy, the UK and Spain. The goal is to “develop the capacity” of engineering academics to teach topics related to the Global Dimension in their engineering educations. It turned out Emily actually works not of the European Commission, but for one of the NGOs involved - Engineers Without Borders UK.

The practical goal of the project is to produce a series of online courses and accompanying "resource packages" to be offered for free to EU engineering academics. The first three courses (out of nine)  were launched this spring; "Making a case for a critical global engineer", "Key elements for addressing the Global Dimension of engineering" and "The Global Engineer in Sustainable Human Development". A "course" consists (as far as I understand) of several "modules" and each module consists of several "sections". Each "section" consists of several different parts of which the most important parts are:
- A short book chapter on the subject matter in question (10-12 pages, 4000-5000 words)
- One activity ("examination") for the online course, including proposed evaluation criteria
- Pointers to additional resources (readings, videos, slides etc.)

I was asked to prepare a section on "the relevance of GD issues" which is part of a module on "The global dimension in teaching". Other sections in that module are:
- Key pedagogical/learning theories relevant to teaching GD topics
- What skills/competencies are needed for global engineers? Learning outcomes, teaching/assessment methods for “non-technical” GD courses.
- Intended Learning Outcomes.
- Teaching and assessment methods.

The target audience for all of these activities are university teachers who are interested in integrating GD topics into their (under-, post-)graduate courses. One of the challenges for these teachers are to get the students onboard, e.g. how do we get engineering students to care about “non-technical” subjects? In Emily's original e-mail to me she wrote that “Your paper, presented at the EESD Conference in Cambridge in September 2013 on how to engage students in sustainability education is similar in content to this session.” My task was thus to use the EESD paper as a draft version to be "repurposed" into a book chapter. The goal of my section was help other teachers communicate the relevance of the global dimension to engineering students and. The emphasis was primarily on motivation and engagement and only secondarily on sustainability (in a broad sense).

It took some time and effort to reach the (perhaps still partial) understanding that made it possible for me to write the text above. I have to admit that I'm still a little confused about all the different moving parts of this project and how they are tied together. Beyond "courses", "modules" and "sections", there are also "resource packages", "blocks" and "sessions". It might be that "sections" and "sessions" refer to the same thing, i.e. that my "session" - "The Issue of Relevance" - is located "within Block C (Integrating the Global Dimension into Teaching and Research), Module 2 (The Global Dimension in Teaching: Theory and Practice)".

It all of a sudden comes back to me - all the reasons why I think any project that becomes endorsed at a pan-European level oftentimes is doomed to mediocrity or worse. Such projects often seem to become a matter of "design by committee". Despite having accepted to be part of this project, I still get irritated when I find it to be difficult to understand exactly what I am to produce and for exactly which purpose (how will my part fit with other parts and so on...). I really feel I have to be exceedingly selective in the future any time I'm on the verge of becoming involved in a project that is endorsed by EU/at a supra-national level. It just becomes very complicated with huge overhead costs for communication and coordination and (relatively) little output to show for it. I of course don't object to introducing the global dimension to engineering educations, it's just that I think that comparatively little will be accomplished when the initiative and the money comes "from the top".  I here compare this with the sleeker KTH-initiated project to help teachers plan and teach project courses that I wrote a blog post about half a year ago, "Handbook for project-based courses".

Despite these concerns, I am quite happy about the chapter I have written and I hope (but am by no means certain) that Emily will like it and that I don't have to change or work too much with it from now on. It turned out in the end that I did not only write a new version of our EESD paper, but rather a brand new text that draws on that paper and of mine and Elina's latest paper, "ICT4S reaching out: Making sustainability relevant in higher education". We will present the new paper at the ICT4S conference in the end of August.

Here is the introduction to the book chapter I just submitted:

The Global Dimension: On getting students on-board


This practical text is written on behalf of university teachers who want their (engineering) students to “get on-board” and care about issues that are usually perceived to be outside the scope of (traditional) engineering educations. These issues pertain to “The Global Dimension” (GD), i.e. to primarily non-technical topics (challenges) that will impact the engineering profession at a global level over the next couple of decades.

These topics include but are not limited to climate change, ecological crises (e.g. pollution, species extinction etc.), globalization, surveillance, erosion of freedoms, militarisation and decreased prevalence of democracy, overpopulation, overconsumption, resource depletion, energy scarcity, water scarcity, overfishing, decreased food production, recession or depression (e.g. decreased or negative economic growth), jobless growth, increased unemployment, social instability, global poverty and inequality etc. The list is long and can be made longer, but it can also be compressed into three broad overarching topics; how can we create a sustainable society in terms of environmental, social and economic sustainability (Brundtland 1992)? This short text does not aim to answer that particular question, but rather another, related question - namely how to get engineering students to care about and become engaged in such topics.

This text is written with a particular audience in mind. It is primarily an attempt to support individual university teachers as they plan and develop a course that treats GD issues. It is secondarily directed to someone who is in a position to commission such a course, for example someone who is responsible for an engineering educational programme. It would of course be desirable to not just develop and teach a single course on GD issues, but rather to integrate GD issues into a number of courses, or, to allow such GD issues to shape a whole educational programme (Mann et. al. 2009, Cai 2010, Sterling 2004). This text has a more modest goal though.

I personally teach a course for first year master’s students in a media technology engineering programme at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. The one overarching challenge we work with in my course is environmental sustainability. My experiences and many of my examples will thus relate to environmental sustainability in particular, but, my aim has been to write this text in such a way that it is useful primarily in terms of student engagement. Still, the text would become very abstract and hard to read if I had to hang a long string of qualification to every statement, so, I will at times write the text as if your task too is to engage your students in the particular issue of environmental sustainability. My hope is that you easily can exchange this particular “preoccupation” of mine with your own preoccupation - be it issues pertaining to globalization, inequality, poverty, climate change or other issues.

This text is based on two articles I have written together with my colleague Elina Eriksson; “‘It’s not fair!’: Making students engage in sustainability” (Pargman & Eriksson 2013) and “ICT4S reaching out: Making sustainability relevant in higher education” (Eriksson & Pargman 2014).


tisdag 1 juli 2014

Books I've read (Jan)

I read the four books below during my Christmas vacation in Argentina and during the first few weeks of my sabbatical at UC Irvine (which, as I write these words, is coming to an end), i.e. between the end of December and mid-February. Here's the previous blog post about books I read before that.

My new habit (as of February) is to each day post one or two quotes from books or articles that I'm reading on Facebook. I will harvest these quotes from Facebook and post them at the bottom of this and future blog posts. They will thus flesh out these blog posts considerably and constitute a sample of memorable quotes from the book(s) in question. Each asterisk below denotes one quote from that book (further below).

I don't have easy access to a color scanner here in the US so (for now) I have just taken photos of the books in question. The pictures below are thus placeholders and I will replace them with scanned pictures later, after I come back to Sweden.

The book "Future of News" is in fact the final report from the 10 groups that took my master's level project course "The Future of Media" during the autumn 2013 term. Instead of writing a final report, each project group writes a chapter and we put them together and print them in a limited-edition book. The book from the previous year is called "The future of magazines" and I wrote about it a year ago. I also wrote several blog posts about different aspects of the course itself during the autumn, for example this and this.

I read this book primarily because I had to; I needed to grade the project groups and their "final reports" were neatly collected in the above limited-edition book. Although the physical book is hard to get hold of, the texts aren't - they're online! You can either download and read individual chapters or download and print/read the whole book (pdf file, 6.14 MB).

The quality of the chapters (project groups' final reports) vary, but the three most-appreciated projects (solid texts, great deliverables and interesting ideas in general) were "Newsify" (pdf), "You've got bias" (pdf) and "Future of ads" (pdf). Do note that not only the texts, but also some really great concept movies about the projects are available in the online archive. An alternative to reading the book above might be to download and watch some of those movies (and then deepen your understanding by reading the book chapters about your favorite projects).

Since the book consists of 10 very different chapters, it's difficult to say something about the book as a whole rather than about the individual chapters/projects. I do have to say that the book itself looks great though - as usual! I hope we can reach the same level of quality in this year's course (with a new, different theme) that starts after the summer.

Thomas Homer-Dixon's 2006 book "The upside of down: Catastrophe, creativity and the renewal of civilisation" is a very interesting book. Homer-Dixon successfully combines results from many different areas, including the social sciences, ecology, energy and complexity studies. The book is very "sturdy" - 300 pages of text and 100 pages of detailed notes. A major part of the book treats developments and stresses of different kinds (environmental, social, economic) on local, national and international scales:

"Convergence is treacherous, too, because it could lead directly to synchronous failure, if several stresses were to climax together in a way that overloads our societies' ability to cope. What happens, for example if together or in quick succession the world has to deal with a sudden shift in climate that sharply cuts food production in Europe and Asia, a severe oil price increase that sends economies tumbling around the world, and a string of major terrorist attacks on several Western capital cities? Such a convergence would be a body blow to global order, and might even send reeling the world's richest and most powerful societies. Global financial institutions and political stability could begin to break down" (p.17).
"Any management policies that really address the underlying causes of our hardest problems usually require big changes in the existing economic and political order. After all, that order is often a central reason why our problems are so bad. But big changes always run headlong into staunch opposition from powerful and entrenched intest groups - like companies, unions, government bureaucracies, and associations of financial investors - that benefit from the status quo" (p19).
"Because it's hard to challenge the arrangements that benefit vested interests, when we try to manage serious threats to our well-being we usually create new organizations, institutions, and procedures rather than reforming those that already exist. ... too often, though, this strategy simply adds another layer of complexity on top of an already cumbersome and dysfunctional management system. So, over time, our mechanisms for dealing with a more volatile world become more rigid and susceptible to catastrophic failure when exposed to severe stress" (p.20).

This longish quote pretty much summarises a large part of the book. Those of you who might have read any of Joseph Tainter's works will recognise his ideas about decreasing returns of increasing complexity. Beyond being influence by Tainter,  biologist Buzz Holling's work on "panarchy theory" (of biological cycles of growth, collapse, regeneration and renewed growth) has also had a large influence on Homer-Dixon's thinking. Being a social scientist, Homer-Dixon transposes biologist Holling's theory of adaptiveness and resilience to the social and societal arena. The picture Homer-Dixon paints is in general pretty grim, but he does also propose ways to go forward from where we are by emphasizing creativity (which often is unleashed in uncertain times) and the birth of something new (e.g. "the light at the end of the tunnel")

Homer-Dixon is the director of the Trudeau Center for Peace and Conflict Studies in Waterloo outside of Toronto. I was in Toronto a few months ago and tried to set up a meeting with him about a project of mine. We did unfortunately not succeed in setting up a meeting - not the least because he is working on a new book "about how humanity might solve its global problems". I can understand that that topic might keep him busy for a quite some time...

Married couple Michael and Joyce Huesemann's (2011) "Techo-fix: Why technology won't save us or the environment" is a broadside against human hubris, and, against the human belief that we can "improve on nature" with/through technology. From the introduction:

"Tech-optimistm is pervasive in our society but hardly justified. ... Techo-Fix questions a primary paradigm of our age: that advanced technology alone will extricate us from an ever-increasing load of social, environmental and economic issues. Techo-Fix shows why negative unintended consequences of science and technology are inherently unavoidable and unpredictable, why counter-technologies, techo-fixes and efficiency improvements do not offer lasting solutions and why modern technology, in the presence of continued economic growth, does not promote sustainability but instead hastens collapse.
Techo-Fix ... asserts that technological optimism and the unrelenting belief in progress are based on ignorance, that most technological cost-benefit analyses are biased in favor of new technologies and that increasing consumerism and materialism, which have been facilitated by science and technology, have failed to increase happiness.

It would be easy to imagine that a book like this would have been written by journalists, historians or philosophers, but the two authors actually have Ph.D.s in chemical engineering and mathematics. Moreover, the book actually does elaborate on each of the statements above and methodically delivers on them. The critique that is formulated is very well grounded - for example taking evolutionary biology and the laws of thermodynamics as starting points:

"One assumption that underlies a substantial number of technological applications is the belief that nature can be improved upon or perfected for the benefit of mankind [but] the process of evolution guarantees that, within a given environment, species function and interact in a changing but largely optimized fashion. ... in effect there are some two to three billion years of "R&D" behind every living thing. ... Our most glittering improvement over Nature are often a fool's solution to a problem that has been isolated from context, a transient, local maximizaion that is bound to be followed by mostly undesirable counter-adjustments throughout the system. 
... Because the negative consequences of science and technology often occur in unanticipated forms and in distant locations, and sometimes after significant time intervals, they are often not perceived as related to their causes."

I especially appreciated the job the authors did on tearing cost-benefit analysis to pieces. They spend a whole chapter (25 pages, "The positive bias of technology assessment and cost-benefit analysis") on showing how arbitrary systems boundaries are, how important but "diffuse" stakeholders (e.g. the general public, future generations, plants and animals) are sidelined or ignored, and how such "analyses" are set up so as to always overestimate the (possible) positive effects and underestimate and downplay the (possible) negative effects of new technologies.

Techno-Fix is a really deep book and it is, in my opinion, almost on par with Alf Hornborg's excellent book "The power of the machine". While the ideas expressed are first-class, the drawback of the Huesemanns' methodicalness is their sometimes plodding writing style, enumerating one thing after another after another. No stone is left unturned in this book - for good and for bad.

I originally found out about the book by listening to a podcast where the first author was interviewed. I immediately thought both the author and the book sounded really interesting, but I think it has taken me two years or more from I head the podcast to buying the book and then reading it. My lead times can apparently be very long in this ongoing book-reading project of mine... I'm pretty methodical myself and the drawback is a lack of spontaneity.

***** (five asterisks = five quotes from the book below) Joseph Tainter came to visit UCI back in February and I wrote a blog post about it. My copy of his classic book "The collapse of complex societies" is back in Sweden so I thought I would buy and read another book of his and my choice fell on Joseph TainterTadeusz Patzek's (blog) (2012) "Drilling down: The Gulf oil debacle and our energy dilemma". This is a really strange book as it not so much a cooperation between two authors as it is two totally different books within the same spine. The authors have very different profiles and it is exceedingly easy to figure out which chapter is written whom. The chapters are furthermore hardly linked to each other at all! Patek is a professor of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at The University of Texas and his current research "involves mathematical and numerical modeling of earth systems with emphasis on fluid flow in the subsurface soils and rocks". I learned much more than I ever wanted about the nuts and bolts of offshore/deepwater drilling when I read Patek's chapters...

Needless to say, I bought the book not because of Patek, but because of Tainter and his chapters did not let me down despite the fact that I have the distinct feeling that they for the most part are built on touched-up already-published articles of his. I think this is a sloppily written book - perhaps the authors had a tight deadline or something - but Tainter's ideas are so interesting that I still appreciated reading it quite a lot. For more about this, see the blog post I wrote after Tainter's UCI visit. See the quotes below for sample quotes from the book!

---------- QUOTES: ----------

----- on the extravagant use of energy in modern society -----

"The late anthropologist Leslie White once noted that a bomber flying over Europe during the World War II consumed more energy in a single flight than had been consumed by all the people of Europe during the Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age, who existed entirely by hunting and gathering wild foods."
Tainter & Patzek (2012), "Drilling down".

----- on large effects of small screw-ups -----

"In 2005, during Hurricane Dennis, an incorrectly plumbed, 6-inch. length of pipe [...] ultimately caused the Thunder Horse platform to tip into the water. The platform was fully righted about a week after the hurricane, delaying commercial production initially scheduled for late 2005 by 3 years."
Tainter & Patzek (2012), "Drilling down".

----- on living in a risk society -----

"Thousands of computer screens and messages are misinterpreted or misunderstood every day, but only occasionally does a mine cave in, a nuclear reactor melt down, a well blow out, a plane crash, a refinery explode, or soldiers die from friendly fire as a result. Each time we are reassured that the incidents were isolated and could have been avoided if people were just more thoughtful, better trained, or better supervised, managed, and regulated. Is this sense of security justified [...] or are these events the result of societal processes over which we have little control?."
Tainter & Patzek (2012), "Drilling down".

----- on the price we pay for societal complexity -----

"We pay a price for complexity, and two of the currencies for counting that price are stress and aggravation. [...] When an electronic device pesters us to update antivirus software, or download, install, and configure some program said to be improved, we count the cost in the currency of annoyance."
Tainter & Patzek (2012), "Drilling down".

----- on decreasing returns of "big science" -----

"fields of scientific research follow a characteristic developmental pattern, from general to specialized; from wealthy dilettantes and gentleman-scholars to large teams with staff and supporting institutions; from knowledge that is generalized and widely useful to research that is specialized and narrowly useful; from simple to complex; and from low to high societal costs. [...]
exponential growth in the size and costliness of science is needed just to maintain a constant rate of innovation.
we have this impression of continued progress not because science is as productive as ever, but because the size of the enterprise has grown so large."
Tainter & Patzek (2012), "Drilling down".

fredag 27 juni 2014

Our NordiCHI workshop is ON!

Back in the beginning of May, I wrote a blog post about the proposal for a NordiCHI workshop that we submitted, "Is there a European strand of Sustainable HCI?". In the beginning of June, I mentioned that the proposal had been accepted that the workshop will be organised at the NordiCHI conference in Helsinki at the end of October.

No less than 20 pre-conference workshops will be held on Sunday October 26 and Monday October 27 and our workshop (workshop 8 on this list) will be held on Sunday. I might consider attending one of the 10 workshops that will be held on Monday. The purpose of this blog post is however first and foremost to promote our workshop and we and we are just in the process of sending out the following call for participation to a variety of relevant distribution lists (please cut and paste and distribute as you see fit!):


Call for participation - please distribute as you see fit!

NordiCHI’14 Workshop: Is there a European strand of sustainable HCI?

Sunday, October 26th, 2014: Helsinki, Finland

Workshop web site: http://hci4s.wordpress.com/

Deadline for submissions (1-4 pages position papers in the ACM Paper format): August 14th, 2014.


Sustainability is a well established topic at the CHI conference – but not at NordiCHI. The discourse around sustainability differs (sometimes markedly) between Europe and the US. This implies that there are differences also in terms of framing problems of interest, choice of methods, and proposed solutions. It must therefore also be possible to conduct new, innovative research within a European context. With this workshop, we aim to identify, discuss and cultivate a uniquely European strand of Sustainable HCI research, as well as to develop an agenda for future research in the area. Be part of creating that vision at the inaugural Sustainable HCI NordiCHI workshop!

We invite researchers, designers, and practitioners who are doing, or who want to do, research within Sustainable HCI to this workshop. Topics to be discussed include, but are not limited to:

   • What are the emerging characteristics of a European perspective on sustainability? What is different or unique about European Sustainable HCI research? What are our strengths and weaknesses?
   • What are the unique challenges or opportunities for sustainability research in Europe, and how might this differ from other perspectives (e.g. North America, Asia and elsewhere)?
   • Where should the Sustainable HCI community be heading in terms of research outputs?
   • What is (or should) the relationship be between research and other stakeholders (policymakers, industry, media, activists, citizens)?
   • How can we help broaden our collective networks, for example in terms of helping researchers and research groups find prospective partners for future EU research grant applications (e.g. Horizon 2020)?


You can choose to contribute to the workshop with two different types of position papers:

- Established Sustainable HCI researchers seeking to participate are asked to submit position papers that addresses any subset of the questions above.
- Researchers new to the area are instead asked to summarize their (1) interest in the area, (2) background and approaches, (3) questions you might have in relation to the questions above.

Please send your position paper (1-4 pages in the ACM Paper format) by email to hci4sustainability@gmail.com. Deadline 14 August 2014.

Please see the workshop homepage for more information: http://hci4s.wordpress.com/

See you at NordiCHI 2014!


Workshop organizers:
- Daniel Pargman, assistant professor, Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID), KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden.
- Elina Eriksson, PhD, Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID), KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden.
- Cecilia Katzeff, Adjunct professor, Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID), KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden.
- Chris Preist, Reader in Sustainability and Computer Systems at the University of Bristol, UK.
- Maria Håkansson, Assistant professor, Department of Applied IT, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
- Bran Knowles, Research associate, School of Computing and Communications, Lancaster University, UK.


The deadline for submitting position papers (which is the "official" application to attend the workshop) is the same for all workshops (August 14). The deadline for sending out notifications (e.g. if position papers are accepted or not) is on September 11.

We are very excited about this workshop! Do consider attending it if you are interested in the intersection of sustainability and HCI (e.g. "Sustainable HCI"). We aim to make this workshop the kick-off for a sustainability track at the NordiCHI conference and our goal is nothing less than establishing Sustainable HCI as a regular topic at the NordiCHI conference. It is in fact strange that it isn't already - and we aim to change that. Several of the workshop organisers have submitted Sustainable HCI-related papers to the conference and I also plan to submit a proposal for a panel at the conference. Our 30-word workshop contribution statement is:

Sustainability is by now a well established topic at the CHI conference, but not yet at NordiCHI. Be part of creating the vision at the inaugural Sustainable HCI NordiCHI workshop!

Join the party! Join the revolution!? For more information about the workshop, see the workshop website!

söndag 22 juni 2014

Articles I've read (Feb)

I've finally caught up (sort of)! These are the first articles I write about that I have read *this* year (2014). My last blog post about "articles I've read" treated articles I read a year ago (I don't have time to read that much beyond books during the autumn due to my teaching load).

I'm on a sabbatical in the US (at UC Irvine) as of six months. We arrived in mid-January but there the first week or two was spent fixing admin stuff (enrolling the kids in school etc.) so I basically started to work on February. Below are the articles I read that month.

Since I came to the US, I have started to post quotes from the text I read on Facebook. In this and later blog posts about books and articles I have read, I will from now on include these quotes. See further below for the first batch of quotes. I have chosen to add an asterisk before the authors names for each quote that is included further down on the webpage.

Batch/week 1 - design fiction
Comment: I basically read only one article (about design fiction) as the manuscript was 50 pages long!
  • Wakkary, R., Desjardins, A., Hauser, S., & Maestri, L. (2013). A sustainable design fiction: Green practices. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 20(4), 23. */ "This paper explores how sustainable interaction design (SID) can be informed by viewing sustainability within a framework of social practices." Everything should be just right about this article; sustainability, HCI, design fiction. While interesting, the text still for some reason didn't grab me. Still, I'm reading more and more texts about "practice theory" and this being one, I'm learning more and more about it. /*
  • Murphy, K. M. (2013). A cultural geometry: Designing political things in Sweden. American Ethnologist, 40(1), 118-131. */ The author is an anthropologist at UCI, he speaks Swedish and we were supposed to meet. There was a mix-up and we never met, but I read his articles to prepare for our meeting. Always interesting to see what an anthropologist-outsider has to say about my culture... "By formulating Swedish design as intrinsically democratic and socially responsible, proponents ... cast mundane things as latent instruments of social justice." /*

Batch/week 2 - Sustainable HCI and design fiction
More stuff I have read in my quest to learn more about sustainability, ICT and HCI (there's more to come...).
  • Mancini, C., Rogers, Y., Bandara, A. K., Coe, T., Jedrzejczyk, L., Joinson, A. N., Blaine, A. P., Thomas, K., & Nuseibeh, B. (2010, April). Contravision: exploring users' reactions to futuristic technology. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 153-162). ACM. */ "How can we best explore the range of users' reactions when developing future technologies that may be controversial ... Our approach -- uses futuristic videos, or other narrative forms, that convey either negative or positive aspects of the proposed technology." Interesting methodological contribution! /*
  • * Kirby, D. (2009). The future is now: Diegetic prototypes and the role of popular films in generating real-world technological development. Social Studies of Science. */ "'diegetic prototypes' ... account for the ways in which cinematic depictions of future technologies demonstrate to large public audiences a technology's need, viability and benevolence*. Highly recommended article about the nuts and bolts of how fiction (movies), emerging technologies and maketing of said, not-yet-existing technologies (and the movie) works! How do we become convinced of the necessity, normalcy and viability of technology that does not yet exist? /*
  • Pierce, J., & Paulos, E. (2012, May). Beyond energy monitors: interaction, energy, and emerging energy systems. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 665-674). ACM. */ Often-referred to article reviewing energy-related work within HCI (51 papers) with ideas about how to progress beyond electricity consumption feedback and 'using less'. "current work is narrowly focused on a specific set of goals and interventions" /*
  • Dourish, P. (2009). Print this paper, kill a tree: Environmental sustainability as a research topic for human-computer interaction. Submitted to Proc CHI. */ The paper has a "troubled history" and first became a UCI report, later to (slightly modified) become an accepted paper ("HCI and environmental sustainability" at the DIS conference. Argues that the HCI focus on individual acts/action (rational actors, cost-benefit analysis, return on investment etc.) is too narrow. We need to look at and think more about the super-individual level, e.g. corporate responsibility, state regulation etc. /*
  • Mankoff, J., Kravets, R., & Blevis, E. (2008). Some Computer Science Issues in Creating a Sustainable World. iEEE Computer, 41(8), 102-105. */ An early take. What is the role of, and, how can computer scientists help combat global climate change? Hardware, networks, data centers, electronic waste = low-hanging fruit. This short paper does not - in my opinion - struggle with the really hard questions. /*
  • Ross, J., & Tomlinson, B. (2011). Negabehaviors and environmental sustainability. Journal of Sustainability Education, 2. */ "the concept of "negabehaviors" ... are a variation on the idea of "negawatts" (a unit of energy saved through conservation), and offer a way to view and teach environmental sustainability that focuses on subtractive elements rather than additive ones." Instead of only "taking action", how can we also sometimes refrain from behaviours that have negative environmental effects (e.g. "stop taking action")? /*

Batch/week 3 - texts about sustainability, the web and collapse informatics
More stuff I have read in my quest to learn more about sustainability, ICT and HCI (there's more to come...).
    • Christie, J. (2013). Sustainable web design. A list apart. Available online at: http://alistapart.com/article/sustainable-web-design. */ Not an academic text but I will consider using it in my education. Written by a practitioner who are concerned about the right things and asks the right questions. How can web designers decrease the carbon footprint of the websites they create? "At 1.4 MB, today's average [web] page is 15 times larger than it was 10 years ago ... The best way to prevent this kind of obesity is to set a page size budget". /*
    • Peters, D. (2013). The web runs on electricity and we’re running out. A list apart. Available online at: http://alistapart.com/article/the-web-runs-on-electricity-and-were-running-out.  */ Not an academic text but I will consider using it in my education. Again written by a practitioner who are concerned about the right things and asks the right questions. "designing for accessibility, with its support for backward compatibility, allows older devices to be useful for longer" "We should design ... systems that don't need to be on full-tie, that can run tasks only when connected, and that can turn themselves off when not in use."/*
    • * Tomlinson, B., Blevis, E., Nardi, B., Patterson, D. J., Silberman, M., & Pan, Y. (2013). Collapse informatics and practice: Theory, method, and design. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 20(4), 24. */ This a longer, expanded and more ambitious paper than the original 2012 collapse informatics article. "While imminent collapse is far from certain, it is prudent to consider now how to develop sociotechnical systems for use in these scenarios." /*
    • Huh, J., Nathan, L. P., Blevis, E., Tomlinson, B., Sengers, P., & Busse, D. (2010, April). Examining appropriation, re-use, and maintenance for sustainability. In CHI'10 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 4457-4460). ACM. */ Four-page CHI 2010 workshop description. HCI has started to discuss sustainability, "yet the most difficult task remains [as] the digital ethos is based upon short-lived computing products that come and go at rapid pace." /*
    • Sengers, P., Boehner, K., & Knouf, N. (2009). Sustainable HCI meets third wave HCI: 4 themes. Position paper at the CHI 2009 Sustainable HCI workshop. */ Four-page paper with 2.5 pages of text and 1.5 pages of references. The themes are: reflect on sociocultural contexts, act locally, stay open to interpretation and break out of moralism. /*
    • Hasan, H. (2013). Information Systems as a Force for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts & Responses, 4(1). */ "This paper takes a conceptual approach to develop a taxonomy of IS-based activities" for averting climate change. The author thinks he is on to something but to me it's just the same old (timid) ideas that are thirteen on the dozen ("inform the public", "monitor and reduce energy use", "improve efficiency of business operations" etc. /*
    • Nardi, B. (2013). The Role of Human Computation in Sustainability, or, Social Progress Is Made of Fossil Fuels. In Handbook of Human Computation (pp. 1011-1020). Springer New York. */ The title is a riff of another paper. "The goal of this chapter is to sketch a future of economic decline and discuss how we should prioritize computational resources to prevent the erosion of social gains achieved" "The most important point is that we must absolutely protect the global communication channels the internet has created." /*
    • * Rahm, L. (2013). Who Will Survive?: On Bodies and Boundaries after the Apocalypse. In Gender Forum (Vol. 45). */ Written by my friend/colleague Jörgen's wife. "Preppers and Survivalists ... believe in abrupt, imposing and near-in-time disasters and ... are actively and practically preparing to survive this imminent apocalypse. Preparing to survive, in this context, usually focuses on collecting gadgets for defence, safety and food ("bullet, bandages and beans"), but also on social, physical and mental preparedness. Importantly, with the internet, online discussion forums have become a central part of prepping and survivalism" /*

    ***** on science fiction, movies and future technologies *****

    "For scientists and engineers, the best way to jump-start technical development is to produce a working physical prototype. Working physical prototypes, however, are time consuming, expense and require initial funds. [...] cinematic depictions can foster public support for potential or emerging technologies by establishing the need, benevolence and viability of these technologies. [...] film-makers and science consultants [...] construct cinematic scenarios [...] with an eye towards generation real-world funding opportunities and the ability to construct real-life prototypes. [...] technological advocates [...] are creating 'pre-product placements' for technologies that do not yet exist."

    David Kirby (2010), "The future is now".

    ***** on collapse informatics *****

    "In this article, we propose that there is a need for research in collapse informatics - the study, design, and development of sociotechnical systems in the abundant present for use in a future of scarcity.
    collpase infromatics may produce innovations that are broadly useful, for example, in localized collapse situations, disaster-preparedness and response, or in ICT for Development (ICT4D), even in the event that the global community is able to sustain itself indefinitely.

    Bill Tomlinson et. al. (2013), "Collapse informatics and practice".

    ***** on hard survival skills vs talk and make-believe *****

    "The only major study to surface this far is on survivalist culture in the USA. In short, this study descries survivalists as being mostly about "talk" (rather than "action"). Again this points to the importance of online discussion forums as an arean where survivalists can co-create imagined futures and scenarios where their own preparedness will prove useful. In many ways this is a play with alternative futures."

    Lina Rahm (2013), "Who will survive".