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:

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 Deadline 14 August 2014.

Please see the workshop homepage for more information:

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: */ 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:  */ 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".

    torsdag 19 juni 2014

    ICT use in the post-modern city

    Quite some time ago, during the autumn 2010, I posted a master's thesis proposal concerning "ICT use in the post-modern city" in a blog/on the Internet:

    "If we posit a scenario where economic growth is slow to return (or absent, or negative), and unemployment will continue to be high, the future use of computing will for a gradually larger segment of the population consist of inexpensive portable computing equipment (laptop/notebook computers, smart or not-so-smart cell phones) and wireless internet access. So what if that future of ubiquitous computing and ubiquitous information services can be found in a city that has already experienced major challenges and slow decline for decades? What if the future is already here and its name is... Detroit? Detroit - the center of the American auto industry - stood at its zenith in 1950 and was at the time the 4th largest city in the U.S. Detroit has fallen on hard times since then and has lost fully half (!) of its population in the 60 years since then.  
    Taking into account all the challenges Detroit faces above, the question for this proposed thesis becomes:
    - What can be learned from Detroit that might give us hints about computing conditions and practices in the "city of the future"?"
    - More specifically, what are the computing needs and the computing uses among people who live in Detroit's low-income areas?"

    It doesn't have to be Detroit or other US "rust belt" cities, it could equally well be a city in Europe that have declined since the peak of coal, steel and mining industrialism (UK, Belgium, Germany, Poland etc.), that has shrank in size and population (e.g. ex-East Germany etc.) or that is situated in a country which is struggling with a stagnant or shrinking economy (e.g. Greece, Spain and other countries in southern Europe). These are the post-modern cities and who can confidently claim that the future of computing is not to be found in these cities?

    Several students have been in touch with me over the years, but it oftentimes becomes difficult to write this master's thesis since there for example is no research project that can offer money for extra expenses. I'm therefore very happy to announce that the second completed thesis on ICT use in the post-modern city recently was presented at KTH.

    Last month, my student Antonio Labajo successfully defended his master's thesis "Digital natives and the financial crisis: A study of ICT use among Spanish youth". Here's the abstract:

    "The global financial crisis of 2008 had severe effects on many countries and these effects remain six years later. Spain is one of the countries that has been most severely affected in Europe. As a consequence, ordinary peoples’ lives have undergone dramatic changes, including their use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). ICT has in a short amount of time become an essential element of our lives and rapid change in the area (Internet, smartphones, etc.) has had distinctive influence on people’s behaviours. Spaniards are nowadays less affluent than they were six years ago, but prices on ICT products and services have nevertheless continued to rise. This had made access to digital technologies difficult for particular social groups and with a staggering 56 % youth unemployment, young people in general are such a group.

    The lack of affordable ICT products and services is terribly discouraging for young people since they can be regarded as “digital natives” - individuals who have interacted with ICT and digital technologies since childhood. Generally speaking, youths today build their identities on and with social networks. ICT is a basic tool for them in their “life projects” and they use it as a means to communicate and keep in touch with others. It is however important to find out how far young people depend on ICT and how they might react if they had little or no access to it whatsoever, and that is the topic of this thesis. The focus on unemployed (or temporarily employed) Spanish youth between 20 and 26 years old and with a university degree, this thesis attempts to determine the impact of ICT scarcity on young Spaniards; how they use what they have, what are their needs and how do they satisfy their ICT needs despite little access to money?"

    Antonio comes from Spain but went to KTH to do his master's degree. He took my course DM2573 Sustainability and Media Technology during the autumn of 2012 and got in touch with me a year later in regards to writing his thesis with me as his advisor. Since he comes from Madrid, cares about Madrid and was returning to Madrid, it fit him very well to to to Madrid to collect the empirical material for his thesis. With him being in Madrid and me being on sabbatical in the US, we have kept in touch by Skype for regular supervision sessions since January.

    Antonio has more specifically interviewed 10 persons who are between 23-26 years old (i.e. "youth" in the unemployment statistics), who have a university degree, who are underemployed and who live home with their parents. Since more 56% of all Spanish youth (16-26 years old) are officially unemployed, it was not too hard for him to find informants who belong to the 1.4 million strong "lost generation" in Spain. The main research question the thesis aims to answer is "How does the unemployed or underemployed consumer satisfy his/her ICT needs in Spain today?". Secondary questions that are asked (and at least partially answered) are:

    • What are the ICT uses of the Spanish unemployed youth? (What do they have, how do they use it and what do they perceive to miss?)
    • What do they do when they cannot access technology and how does it affect their lives?
    • How do they get more for less (satisfy their computing needs for little money)?
    • Do they use alternative ways to solve their computing needs? (e.g. collaborative consumption, fixing devices, adapting old hardware to their current needs)
    Since Antonio does not have an electrical engineering rather than a social science background, setting out to answer these questions has been a long journey for him with lots of things to read about "collaborative consumption", "digital natives", "diffusion of innovations" and "ICT for development" (ICTD). The results of his thesis are interesting and I will link to the thesis as soon as it's available on the Internet at the department homepage.

    I mentioned that this was the second thesis on "ICT use in the post-modern city" that I have been the advisor of. The first thesis was written by Esther Contreras Montero and she started working on her thesis three years ago (summer 2011). The thesis took some time writing but she was for the most part finished with it a year later and the title of her thesis was "The poorest internet users: A case study of Ensenada Baja California, Mexico 2011". Here is the abstract:

    "Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is becoming increasingly important as the technological development rapidly makes the tools of ICT more and more powerful. ICT has changed the way we conduct our lives. Furthermore, apart from the social aspects, it has made a significant impact on an economic, educational and political level. However, developing countries are lagging behind in their adoption of ICTs and are therefore not yet making use of the full potential of ICT.

    Therefore this study focuses on how the poorest internet users use the Internet in the poorest areas- neighborhood of Ensenada Baja California, México. Having as principal questions: What are the usages of the Internet to the poorest Internet users in Ensenada Baja California? and What role does the Internet have in the lives of the poorest Internet users in Ensenada Baja California? to collect data and to analyze the results of the investigation a qualitative and quantitative survey was performed on the Internet usage of persons in Ensenada B.C. The survey constituted questionnaires with a total of 138 respondents, interviews of the managers of the four cybercafés, eight interviews out of 138 questionnaire responders, as well as casual observations of the cybercafés’ visitors with respect to their use of the Internet.

    The results show that the users’ main activities were, listed in order of main usage, the use of social networks (Facebook and Twitter), school work, searching of diverse information and multimedia. The results also show that the users at least have a basic knowledge of using the computer. Furthermore, to some extent they do research information online as to further their personal education.

    The results were discussed with respect to three theories: Internet in everyday life, Technology Diffusion and Information and Communication Technology for Developing countries (ICT4D). In conclusion, the results indicate that there is a digital divide in the sense of differential Internet usage of developing regions as compared to early adopters of ICTs."

    One of the reasons it took time for Esther to complete her thesis was because I was the advisor, but the thesis was written and presented as part of Esther's master's degree in Economics of Innovation and Growth. That meant there were two different goals pulling in two different directions (economic growth vs. economic degrowth), two different departments (Media Technology and Industrial Economy) and in the end also two advisors (she needed some shepherding also from her home department to "adapt" it to their requirements). It was in the end very hard for Esther to get her thesis together and for these and other reasons the thesis didn't turn out to be great - but I know for a fact that the experience of writing the thesis changed Esther's life and that she was working in Africa at/with/close to a NGO last year. Esther's research questions for her thesis were:

    1. What are the uses of the Internet to the poorest Internet users in Ensenada Baja California?
    2. What role does the internet have in the lives of the poorest Internet users in Ensenada Baja California?

    Esther comes from Mexico and she collected material in her home town of Ensenada over Christmas and new year 2011. The empirical material collected consisted of ethnographic observations in a number of different cybercafés in poor neighbourhoods, 138 questionnaires and 8 interviews in peoples' homes as well as some interviews with cybercafé employees.

    The basic idea was that the poorest 10% of the population would not be affluent (or literate) enough to be on the Internet. But by how many steps (deciles) would you have to progress on the ladder of poverty/affluence before you would find (relatively) poor people who did use the Internet? These were the people Esther tried to reach. Her questions were: who are they and how do they use the Internet?

    I hope more (exchange) students who are interested in this thesis topic will turn up. It would be best if they happen to be at, or can get transfer to (and present their theses at) my department. Do forward a link to this blog post if you happen to have ideas about how to make that happen! In a best-case scenario, I would be part of a research project that could extend some limited financial support to a student who wanted to write his/her thesis about ICT use in the post-modern city!

    söndag 15 juni 2014

    The past 25 years of the future

    I've written about the research project I participate in, "Scenarios and impacts of the information society" a couple of times over the last 18 months and the last blog post on this topic treated a draft report I had written about "the future of work" three months ago. During the second part of the spring, I have also worked together with Ulrika Gunnarsson-Östling on another project of our own within the larger research project.

    While our code phrase for the project is "The past 25 years of the future", the more descriptive formulations of what we are trying to do is to figure out what the problem is in other ICT scenarios. What is the focus of, and what is unproblematically taken for given in other/other's scenarios? More specifically, we have assumed that most previous scenarios of the future information society have not taken sustainability or the environment into account. The literature study and a future article of ours could thus also function as a justification of why our larger project contributes with new insights, i.e. our scenarios are valuable because we point out stuff that has been overlooked or neglected by the vast majority of previously developed scenarios. That's our hypothesis anyway. I still remains to be seen if it is justified.

    We started to work on this project of ours (a literature study) back in March. In our initial discussions we formulated a methodology (search strategies) and we then started to do actual work about three months ago, in April. Since then, me and Ulrika have had about half a dozen video conference meeting. Since the larger project developed a variety of scenarios of (future) information societies, the purpose of this smaller project of ours is to look at other, previous visions of the future information society that are as "close" to ours as possible. It doesn't much matter to us if these visions are recently-formulated visions of the future (2020, 2050) or if they are visions from the 1980's or 1990's about the information society of year 2000 or 2010.

    This has already been an example of where interdisciplinary research makes a lot of sense. Ulrika has a very different background compared to mine and we divided the task up in ways that make sense and that covers more ground than any one of us could have done by him/herself. Ulrika focused on looking for keywords like "ICT" and "scenarios", "future" and "society" in journals like "Futures" and "Technological forecasts and social change". I instead looked for difference combinations of a variety of terms primarily in the ACM Digital Library.

    After our first sweep, we had caught around 175 articles in our net. After regularly meeting to discuss filtering strategies as well as what the next step(s) should be in the process, we have gradually discarded articles (e.g. titles that sounded interesting but where the abstract didn't live up to our expectations in comparison to our purposes).

    At our second to last session, we had whittled down our catch to 16 articles and 4 full-length books that we deemed to be "highly interesting". We have printed all the articles, will order the books and we will both read all the 16 articles before the autumn term starts (Sept 1). On top of that, we also have (for now put aside) another 14 articles, 7 books, 4 book chapters and 4 other documents (a report, a Ph.D. thesis, a workshop call, a 2-page article). Some of these will be interesting, but we will not read them all, or at least not from start to finish. We will start to read them all but will evaluate if they are worth continuing to read on a page-by-page basis.

    At mine and Ulrika's very last meeting just this past week, we discussed the general order in which we will read the 16 "highly interesting" articles as well as specific strategies to use when reading these texts. It's not good enough "just do it" (e.g. read the texts). We will also "interrogate" the articles and we have a list of no less than 15 questions that iteratively needs to be answered for each article. Both of us will thus read all the articles and comment/answer these 15 questions independently, later to meet up and compare our notes (at a marathon session or a series of sessions). As a service to "the community", I publish the full list of 16 "highly interesting" articles:

    • Fujimoto, J., Poland, D., & Matsumoto, M. (2009). Low-Carbon Society Scenario: ICT and Ecodesign. The Information Society, 25(2), 139-151.
    • Leva, T., Hammainen, H., & Kilkki, K. (2009, August). Scenario analysis on future internet. In Evolving Internet, 2009. INTERNET'09. First International Conference on (pp. 52-59). IEEE.
    • Moyer, J. D., & Hughes, B. B. (2012). ICTs: Do they contribute to increased carbon emissions?. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 79(5), 919-931.
    • Hilty, L. M., Arnfalk, P., Erdmann, L., Goodman, J., Lehmann, M., & Wäger, P. A. (2006). The relevance of information and communication technologies for environmental sustainability–a prospective simulation study. Environmental Modelling & Software, 21(11), 1618-1629.
    • van der Duin, P., & Huijboom, N. (2008, January). The futures of EU-based eGovernment: a scenario-based exploration. In Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Proceedings of the 41st Annual (pp. 221-221). IEEE.
    • Grammenos, D. (2012, October). Little red-smart-hood: envisioning how ambient and ubiquitous technologies may affect future everyday life. In Proceeding of the 16th International Academic MindTrek Conference (pp. 57-60). ACM.
    • Misuraca, G., Broster, D., & Centeno, C. (2012). Digital Europe 2030: Designing scenarios for ICT in future governance and policy making. Government Information Quarterly, 29, S121-S131.
    • Gray, P., & Hovav, A. (1999). Using scenarios to understand the frontiers of IS. Information Systems Frontiers, 1(1), 15-24.
    • Bouwman, H., Haaker, T., & Reuver, M. D. (2012). Some reflections on the high expectations as formulated in the Internet Bubble era. Futures, 44(5), 420-430.
    • Estrin, D. et. al. (2010) Internet Predictions, IEEE Internet Computing, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 12-42
    • Weiser, M. (1991). The computer for the 21st century. Scientific american, 265(3), 94-104.
    • Bishop, S., Helbing, D., Lukowicz, P., & Conte, R. (2011). FuturICT: FET flagship pilot project. Procedia Computer Science, 7, 34-38.
    • Misuraca, G., Broster, D., & Centeno, C. (2010, October). Envisioning digital Europe 2030: scenario design on ICT for governance and policy modelling. In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (pp. 347-356). ACM.
    • Geels, F. W., & Smit, W. A. (2000). Failed technology futures: pitfalls and lessons from a historical survey. Futures, 32(9), 867-885.
    • Horner, D. S. (2007). Digital futures: promising ethics and the ethics of promising. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, 37(2), 64-77.
    • Markus, M. L., & Mentzer, K. (2014). Foresight for a responsible future with ICT. Information Systems Frontiers, 1-16.

    Me and Ulrika have two different goals and we have to keep both of them in mind at the same time. The first goal is that this project of ours should result in an article (the plan is for early next year). The second is more practical and that is that our work should also be useful for, or "service" the larger "Scenarios and Impacts" project. It's been great working together with Ulrika - whom I didn't really know before - and I look forward to read and discuss these articles with her!

    torsdag 12 juni 2014

    Books I've read lately (six months ago)

    I seem to never catch up but is instead endemically publishing blog posts about books I read half a year ago... This is at least the very last blog post about books that I read last year (2013) and it is also the fifth and last blog post about books that relates to "work" and "the future of work". I read all these books (including the three books below) in preparation for a report I wrote as part of a research project I'm taking part in earlier this spring (here's the previous blog post).

    As apart from previous books abut work, the books below actually propose "solutions" instead of (for the most part) the ordinary litany of problems. The books below might be regarded as utopian or unrealistic by some cynics. Still, to read books that present new ideas instead of just documenting (for the most part) depressing trends is nice for a change.

    The very premise of this book is going to be controversial - and especially so from a Swedish perspective. There are many "homemakers" (e.g. housewives) the US. I have no idea how many, but many (especially) women stay home when their children are young - at least until they start school. There are several reasons for this and with the costs piling up, it might in the end not make a lot of sense for a US couple who pool their resources to have both parents work in wage labour instead of only one. Or perhaps none? - this is Hayes own story:

    "My community and family practiced subsistence farming, food preservation, barter and frugal living as a matter of course. I had been taught in school to plan for  a six-figure income in a dual-earning family [but my husband] and I did the math. We could move away, take on dual careers, get a new house, own two cars to get to work. By the time we subtracted out what we'd pay for commuting, a new house, professional wardrobes, taxes, and buying rather than growing our food, we were only $10,000 ahead in annual income [and] That was before we had figured in the costs for day care. Thus, Bob and I officially joined my parents on the family farm [...] and we became homemakers."

    The US homemaker angle of course differs a lot from Sweden where we have state-subsidised daycare and where the norm is for both men and women to work full- or at least part time. Hayes does however confront this issue and she has a bunch of compelling arguments, for example:

    "Working alone or with a partner to create a nurturing home is not antithetical to progress. Indeed, in a time of climate crisis, peak oil, and worldwide economic and social unrest, it may be the only thing that saves us. It is possible to be a feminist and to can tomatoes."

    From a (very) American perspective, Shannon Hayes has written the book "Radical homemakers: Reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture" (2010) and it is fuelled by her anger at the way things are and by her hope that they could be different. Hayes has interviewed homemakers who have centered their lives around their families and communities and who consume less, produce more and increase their self-reliance. These are people who want to remake their households into units of production rather than units of consumption. She interviewed 12 couples and 8 individuals and I basically think it's fair to call the whole bunch of informants she interviewed "activists" in terms of their thought and their convictions as well as in terms of their (private) actions. I think the book conveys an important message, not the least because it is represents a perspective that is not very well represented and that is thus interesting in and of itself. Some things feels very strange for me to read from a Swedish context though (even beyond the homemaker/housewife angle):

    1) The close connection between her informants and homeschooling - something which is basically impossible/outlawed in Sweden.
    2) Consciously opting out of the US health care system ("the health care racket"?) and taking on the responsibility of much of their own health care (e.g. an emphasis on prevention rather than cures and on traditional medicines with respect to local herbs etc.):

    "for many reasons, a number of the homemakers pointedly refuse to participate in this system. In a sense, they have become conscientious objectors to the conventional health-care industry. They might not find it hard to pay affordable health insurance premiums if they felt assured that the money was used to help those in need. It is hard paying exorbitant premiums, however, knowing that a significant portion is used to employ a staff whose job security relies upon denying claims by its policy holders. It is also hard to pay high premiums knowing that a portion of the money also goes to support a powerful lobby effort in Washington to fight comprehensive health-care reform. Further, it is ethically challenging to support the for-profit health-care system, because it handcuffs so many American to jobs that do not honor the four tenets of family, community, social justice and ecological health."

    On the negative side, the book feels slightly "amateurish". That goes both for the author's ability to weave the individual stories into a greater whole, and to her ability analyse the patterns that emerge into something more and something beyond the obvious. There is too little analysis and the book thus to some extent feels like a pamphlet or like propaganda for a certain perspective on life. I'm sympathetic to that perspective, but the book could have become much more than what it turned out to be. The academic in me leaves me wishing for more analysis to complement the "story-telling" - especially since Hayes herself has a Ph.D. from the prestigious Cornell University. It's however never stated in which subject/discipline she got her Ph.D., so I guess her degree it's not related to the contents of the book in any way.

    Juliet Schor is a celebrated researcher who often writes about the overlap between sociology and economics. She is most well-known for being the author of the two books "The overworked American" (1993) and "The overspent American" (1999). Her most recent book is called "Plentitude: The new economics of true wealth" (2010), but I guess they changed the name for the paperback edition to sell more. My book is thus instead called "True wealth: How millions of Americans are creating a time-rich, ecologically light, small-scale, high-satisfaction economy".

    Schor's book was an easy read, but writing this text half a year later, I realise that beyond the fact that I liked the book, I hardly remember anything at all without having to leaf through the book. That unfortunately implies it was also a relatively forgettable book...  But, here we go.

    The 2008 financial crisis erased 50 trillion dollars of wealth and the global economy requires fundamental changes. Schor's book is a proposal for what needs to be done in practice to restructure the economy and her answer is "plentitude" and involves putting ecological and social functioning and well-being at its core. I think Schor's "plentitude" would work fine as a description also of Hayes' "Radical homemakers" book (above).  There are four principles of plentitude:

    1) Liberate time from the encroachment of (wage) labour, money and markets. Buy less and accept the following deal; less money in exchange for less work and more free time.
    2) Make, grow and do things for yourself whenever possible. Diversify in the direction of self-provisioning and away from 100% reliance on the market to satisfy all needs.  "in a world of ecological and economic uncertainty and distress, putting all one's eggs in the basket of the capitalist market looks like a more dubious proposition."
    3) Practice "true materialism", i.e. an environmentally aware approach to consumption. Buy smart, sustainable things instead of participating in perpetuating throw-away society.
    4) Restore investments in one another and in our communities. Social capital is a form of wealth that is just as important as economic capital and material goods.

    Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers' book "What's mine is yours: How collaborative consumption is changing the way we live" (2010) is the book about "collaborative consumption". How can we switch from materialism (everyone owning their own lawn mower) to sharing lawn movers, cars (Zipcar, Uber) and that extra room you hardly use in your apartment/house (Airbnb, Couchsurfing)? It's not only great for your wallet, for strengthening human relationships and community, but also for the planet (decrease resource throughput). Much of this is made possible through networked computers and the internet:

    "There is now an unbounded marketplace for efficient peer-to-peer exchanges between producer and consumer, seller and buyer, lender and borrower, and neighbour and neighbour.
    cooperatives, collectives, and communes - are being refreshed and reinvented in appealing and valuable forms of collaboration and community. We call this [...] Collaborative Consumption [...] sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting and swapping, redefined through technology and peer communities."

    As with any "movement", there are a lot of different services (many mentioned/enumerated in the book), many different kinds of people/actors and many different kinds of motivations (including entrepreneurship, sustainability, alternative personal values, pure economic need, and being fed up with "stuff" - including buy-now-pay-later and the subsequent fees for the self-storage facility. That makes the collaborative consumption phenomenon all the more interesting to study and contemplate.

    I wrote a blog post half a year ago about my problems with Airbnb, but was happy with the way the issue was resolved and have used Airbnb no less than five times since then (!) to book houses for between one day (weekend in the mountains with my family) and a week (conference in Toronto).

    This is a good book, but perhaps with a tad too much "cheerleading" and "evangelism" in it. Collaborative consumption is a great idea, but I'm sure there will be set-backs, backlashes and unexpected rebound effects. If booking a house (apartment, room) though Airbnb is supremely easy and convenient, would that not eventually lead to increased travel? That might then hollow out, or even negate the environmentally beneficial effects of not building more hotels, right? I can however see few negative effects of sharing cars - instead of every family or every person over the age of 18 owning their own car.

    söndag 8 juni 2014

    Workshop: Sustainable HCI + ICT for Sustainability = ?

    At the CHI conference that I attended in Toronto 1 1/2 months ago, the idea of trying to "lure" people over to Stockholm at the end of August to attend the ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) conference came naturally to me and my co-conspirators Elina and Cecilia. The idea of trying to gather the people with a dual interest in ICT4S and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in Stockholm came equally naturally.

    Since we had missed the formal deadline for proposing an ICT4S workshop, we felt that an informal "meeting" would be just as fine (perhaps even around the kitchen table in someone's home) and so me and Elina went to work. Since Elina sits in the same corridor of the conference organisers, she can pop by to ask them questions such as if it would be possible to get a list of who is attending the conference beforehand and/or to disseminate information to those who will attend.

    After some further discussions, it seemed like the conference organisers (i.e. colleagues of ours) not only did not object, but actually encouraged us to incorporate our workshop into the formal program, not the least since there were two workshops (or non-workshops?) in the program that were "vacant" and only went by the names "Workshop X" and "Workshop V" (as placeholders). One of those workshops/non-workshops could thus morph into our workshop and we'd thus get the active cooperation of the organisers to disseminate information about the workshop to prospective workshop participants (including making it easy for people to switch to our workshop). We thus wrote a workshop description and submitted it to the conference organisers just a few days ago (also available on the web):


    What is the role of Sustainable HCI in the field of ICT4S?


    Elina Eriksson and Daniel Pargman
    KTH Royal Institute of Technology
    100 44 Stockholm, Sweden

    Call for participation
    Since Eli Blevis presented his seminal paper “Sustainable Interaction Design” in 2007, sustainability has been an established topic for workshops, panel discussions and paper sessions at the CHI conference(1). Sustainable HCI (S-HCI) is also one of 16 official “SIGCHI communities” ( and S-HCI workshops have been organized at every CHI conference since 2007. The workshop organizers for this workshop are also organizing a Sustainable HCI workshop (“Is there a European strand of Sustainable HCI”) at the European NordiCHI’2014 conference in Helsinki in October.

    Sustainable HCI was present at the first conference on ICT4S in Zürich (2013), for example in the form of invited keynote speaker Jennifer Mankoff (CMU). Moreover, for the ICT4S 2014 conference, there will be a more numerous representation of researchers from the HCI field, and the submission as well as acceptance of several HCI-related papers is a testament to the increasing interest of HCI researchers to engage in the ICT4S conference and in the larger field. Hence, at this pre-conference workshop, we want to gather researchers who are interested in Sustainable HCI in order to discuss a number of questions regarding the intersection between S-HCI and ICT4S. The proposed workshop questions are:

    • What is the relationship between S-HCI and ICT4S?
      • Comment: this question can be discussed both from the point of view of the individual researcher as well in regards to the relationship between the two related and overlapping fields of research.
    • How can/should S-HCI contribute to ICT4S and how can/should ICT4S contribute to S-HCI?
    • Which (if any) S-CHI fields of research are a fit at ICT4S, but might have a hard time getting accepted to HCI venues (conferences and journals) in general or the very selective CHI conference in particular?
    • How could/should ICT4S influence the research being conducted/presented at the CHI conference and at related HCI venues (conferences and journals)?

    Everyone who is actively pursuing research or who has an interest in Sustainable HCI is welcome to attend the workshop. There is no call for position papers to the workshop, but we instead urge attendees to prepare a short, ”minimal" Pecha Kucha(2) presentation for the workshop. Further instructions for preparing for the workshop will be disseminated in August.

    If you have any questions regarding the workshop, please don’t hesitate to contact the workshop organizers.

    (1) ACM SIGCHI (Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction) arranges the annual CHI (Human Factors in Computing Systems) conference. The CHI conference is the premier conference on Human-Computer Interaction.


    Earlier in the past week, we also found out that our workshop proposal to the NordiCHI conference in Helsinki in October has been accepted ("Is there a European strand of Sustainable HCI?" - website here!). Since I've taken on the main responsibility for organising that workshop, we decided that Elina would take on the main responsibility for organising the workshop above. We very much look forward to both our workshops and there are still some workshops surprises left for this year (more on that later).

    fredag 6 juni 2014

    Thank you, Garmin & Siri

    I'm on a sabbatical at UC Irvine for six months. When you live abroad you naturally see the society/culture you're visting from the outside. You can also at times glimpse your own culture from the outside. New experiences and exposure to new points of view lead to new thoughts. This blog post is based on certain aspects of my life as a visitor/guest in the US and it most closely relates to a blog post some months ago about my eldest son's use of messenger/social networking app and how it mediated his relationship to his friends back home in Sweden while at the same time being very far away from them ("Communication technologies as an umbilical cord").

    I have noticed how much easier things are this time around compared to 6 1/2 years ago when I was a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research (MSR) in Seattle/Redmond. There are for sure several reasons, but one important reason is in fact the sophisticated geographical/map services that two of our devices supply us with. The first device is our Garmin GPS car navigator. We call her "Ingrid" because that's the name of the Swedish voice we are using. The second is Apple's Siri in my first-ever smartphone (an iPhone 5c).

    In our everyday life, these two services have, when I look back, been supremely empowering for us. The obvious "use case" is us having an address, then getting into the car with little idea of even the direction we are going in, and with Ingrid leading us to the right place. I bought maps of southern California for Ingrid already back in Sweden as part of the preparations for going here, but, we have also been in Arizona (spring break) and San Francisco (memorial day extended weekend) and then had to rely on Apple's Siri. Sometimes, without even cell phone coverage, it can become a bit tricky. You need to download the map/route when you have access, and then not stray from the path too much (since you can't download a new map in the middle of a cell coverage-free Death Valley). Entering an addresses into Ingrid/Sire and getting the directions is great as the alternative would be to do it on the laptop at home and then print out or write the instructions down.

    The next level of services is Siri's ability to find stuff nearby. The typical "use case" is that we are somewhere away from home. We then ask Siri if there is a restaurant/café/bakery/gas station/ATM/Target store, or, a sushi, Thai or Indian restaurant nearby. Siri will then find the 15 closest, and we choose to walk or drive to one of them depending on our preferences and how close they are.

    It sounds pretty simple but these services have allowed us to not always have to plan a lot of stuff in advance (when will we be hungry, and where will we be at that time?) and, to stray from the beaten track. It's been very convenient and I don't think I'm hyping these services when I say that for us, here and now, these services have increased our quality of life on our sabbatical here in California and allowed us to do stuff we would not have done otherwise. On the other hand, during my time in the US, I have learned less about the city I'm in, but more about how to talk to Siri - she doesn't always understand my Swedish accent and since I can't train her, she trains me to pronounce words so that she can understand me (through the process of trial and error). Thank you, Siri, ...or (?). And I by the way still don't know if Siri can understand Swedish or not...

    I also realize I would/will have less use of these services back in Stockholm. I know the city and I already know where many of the things we need in our daily lives are located and I don't need a smartphone to tell me where I can buy X or get Y fixed. These services are thus best, or at least most useful, for people who move around a lot (in a big city, a region, a country or who moves between countries and continents). These technologies and services consequently ought to be most useful for a global elite of people who travel to a lot of new places in their jobs, i.e. primarily businessmen or other (very) qualified professionals. They are also really useful for people who can afford to travel to (new) places every year when they go on vacation. They are by all means also useful for researchers who go to some (or many) conferences in different places every year.

    I would imagine that these services are less useful for the poor who for the most part are "stuck" where they live and who move between a limited number of places over the course of a day, a week, a month or a year. At a minimum, you "should" own a car in order to have maximum use of these services. Or, perhaps my imagination is limited? I realize that even the homeless, the poor or those who are looking for a couch to crash on (Couchsurfing) can find great use of these services. But, I still believe it doesn't come naturally and their use and enjoyment of these gadgets and services are surely "accidental" rather than "essential" (Brooks 1975) in the minds of the (privileged) software developers and corporations that both develop these products and services and also use them...

    Here's a recent example from my own life. Two other visiting researchers with families (French philosopher + wife + two daughters, and, French computer vision researcher + Spanish wife + toddler) are going to Lake Arrowhead this coming weekend. We decided to tag along with short notice. We looked for a house to rent for the weekend through Airbnb and found a big house that we booked. It's a little pricy, but I guess that's what can you expect in Lake Arrowhead...? We booked the house yesterday (Thursday) and got a confirmation the very same evening. Today is Friday and we go tomorrow. Thanks to Ingrid and Siri I don't need to know where Lake Arrowhead actually is or care about exactly where in Lake Arrowhead we are going, the only thing I actually do need to know beforehand is that it takes 90 minutes to go there from our house. This is the kind of convenience you can buy if you have enough money (which we apparently have). This is where Ingrid and Siri shine. We even don't need to plan for buying food or finding a restaurant - Siri can find them for us when we arrive. We actually don't have a single worry in the world. The house we rent (of course) has wifi (as do cafés on the way), so if we bring a computer, we can use the bigger screen to look for things to do, again without having had to plan anything in advance. Supreme convenience...

    Another aspect of these services is that they work best for places that are mapped, measured, counted and tagged - i.e. for affluent places (cities/countries) in the world, where there are many people who have these devices and who use these services. So on the one hand, being a visitor for six months in an environment that is new to me, I am personally thankful for these services. I can at the same time see that they don't necessarily spread their graces evenly among the population.

    A great book that does a great job of unpicking such built-in structural unfairness is Alf Hornborg's book "The power of the machine" (2001) - published in Swedish as "Myten om maskinen" (2012) [The myth of the machine]. Hornborg points out that when a railroad has been built, many people can save a lot of time compared to alternative pre-railroad ways of travelling. It might however be the case that the very people who actually built the and the railroad tracks and cars, to say nothing of those working the ironworks smelters or the mines - could not afford to buy a ticket for the train. The railroad is not really built for them. A railroad can be many things at the same time but one of the things it represents is a way to reorganise time between differently privileged groups in society; some groups spend their (underpaid) time building railroads while other people are first in line to harvest the benefits of that railroad (e.g. affluent people who can afford to buy the tickets and travel faster than they would have done in the pre-railroad era).

    The same kind of reasoning can be applied to cell phones and smartphones; first only the (very) rich can afford them, later they are within reach also to the sales clerks who sell them. Perhaps even the factory workers who assemble the telephones in China can afford to buy the smartphones they assemble? But the people who mine conflict minerals (like Cobalt) in Congo will most certainly never be able to afford a smartphone. Their time has a very low value and we, the rich, harvest all (or most) of the benefits of their hard labor. The give away their time on the cheap and we save time by using the resulting devices in our everyday lives.

    Another book that I found useful in its analysis of the relationship between time, movement, power and wealth is Boltanski & Chiapello's "The spirit of the new capitalism" (published in French in 1999 and in English in 2005). The book was a heavy read, but some parts were absolutely brilliant and could very fruitfully be used to analyse the effects (on power) when different entities (individuals, corporations as well as governments) move at different speeds in relation to each other.

    This blog post started out as an idolatory thank you letter to Garmin/Ingrid and Siri. Having reached the end of the line, perhaps it is possible to draw the conclusion that Ingrid and Siri actually represent the benevolent, smiley face of oppressive capitalism in the early 21st century???

    PS. Another provocative thought: The presence of air conditioning and entertainment systems in our cars (radio, musik, podcasts, audiobooks etc.) make a long trip more bearable. They help people more easily endure long daily commutes. The increased convenience they afford thus encourage us to stay in our cars and to drive longer distances - which is bad for the environment. I assume Garmin & Siri has the same effect. More in-car convenience makes us take more and longer trips in our cars (which is bad for the environment), right?