fredag 23 februari 2018

Computing and Sustainability (talk)


I'm in Barcelona and I am more specifically visiting Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals/Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UBA). This is the epicenter of research on Degrowth - and that's why I'm here.

As part of my (very sparse) "duties" here, I gave a talk this past week on "Sustainability and Computing" (and on Computing within Limits). The talk was loosely shaped around our recently-accepted (but not-yet-published article) "Computing within Limits". I realised only a few hours before the talk that I didn't actually know how long my talk was supposed to be. The answer was around 30 minutes. I got 35 and managed to run through almost all of my 75 images since I can talk fast and can nowadays adapt my talk on the fly. I only skipped three images - they were too interesting and would have required at least another 5 minutes to explain/discuss).

That talk was followed by a question and answer session and I got some interesting questions despite the facts that no one in this audience (as far as I know) does work that is even close to computing. Below is the blurb that was disseminated at ICTA before my talk:

Title: Sustainability and computing

Speaker: Daniel Pargman (, Associate professor of Media Technology, Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Talk: Besides wishy-washy industry-led attempts to dilute and appropriate the term ”sustainability” (see for example, an increasing amount of research in the intersection of computing and sustainability is now being presented at various general or specialized computing conferences. Much of that research has unfortunately set the bar rather low and been aimed at modest incremental change, e.g. reporting on this particular novel visualization that decreased the amount of electricity used in a dozen households by 4% over a period of 10 weeks. A more radical strand that (for example) more clearly engages in questions about climate change adaption rather than mitigation (Tomlinson et al. 2012) and absolute limits of non-renewable resources (Pargman & Raghavan 2014) has however emerged over the last five years. There is furthermore a venue for such research since 2015, namely the annual Computing within Limits workshop. Computing with Limits in concerned with "the study, design, and development of sociotechnical systems in the abundant present for use in a future of scarcity” (Tomlinson et al. 2012) and the 2018 fourth workshop on Computing within Limits (LIMITS) will be co-located with the larger conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability (ICT4S) in Toronto in May. This talk will describe the main assumptions in computing in general vs the assumptions that guide research in ICT4S and Computing within Limits. Do read the attached (forthcoming) article for more background information about the talk.

Bio: Daniel Pargman is an Associate Professor in Media Technology at the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. Daniel has a mixed computer science/social science background and a ph.d in communication studies. His research interests are situated in the intersection of computing and sustainability/energy research. Some of his most recent publications concern the sharing economy and the commons (Bradley and Pargman 2017), just internet access over time and space (Pargman and Wallsten 2017), sustainability, computing and complexity (Raghavan and Pargman 2017), sustainability, futures studies and design fiction (Pargman et al. 2017) and counterfactual energy histories (Pargman et al. 2017).

Daniel visited the UC Irvine Center for Research in Sustainability, Collapse-Preparedness & Information Technology (RiSCIT) in 2014 and he will visit UAB/ICTA between Feb 12-28 and from May 21 until July (do get in touch to schedule time for a chat - my goal is to be able to write a text on ”Degrowth computing” after my visit). Daniel Pargman’s academic blog (with 500+ blog posts) can be found at:

- Bradley, K., & Pargman, D. (2017). The sharing economy as the commons of the 21st century. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 10(2), pp.231–247. (Special issue on "Sharing Economies? Theories, Practices and Impacts”.) Available online.

- Nardi, B., Tomlinson, B., Pattersson, D., Chen, J., Pargman, D., Raghavan, B., & Penzelstadler, B. (2018, forthcoming). Computing within Limits. Communications of the ACM. Appended below.

- Pargman, D., Eriksson, E., Höjer, M., Östling, U. G., & Borges, L. A. (2017). The (Un)sustainability of Imagined Future Information Societies. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 773-785). ACM. Available online.

- Pargman, D., Eriksson, E., Höök, M., Tanenbaum, J., Pufal, M., & Wangel, J. (2017). What if there had only been half the oil? Rewriting history to envision the consequences of peak oil. Energy Research & Social Science, 31, 170-178. (Special issue on "Narratives and Storytelling in Energy and Climate Change Research”.). Available online at:

- Pargman, D., & Raghavan, B. (2014). Rethinking sustainability in computing: From buzzword to non-negotiable limits. In Proceedings of the 8th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 638-647). ACM. Available online.

- Pargman, D., & Wallsten, B. (2017). Resource Scarcity and Socially Just Internet Access over Time and Space. In Proceedings of the 2017 Workshop on Computing Within Limits (pp. 29-36). ACM. Available online.

- Raghavan, B., & Pargman, D. (2017). Means and Ends in Human-Computer Interaction: Sustainability through Disintermediation. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 786-796). ACM. Available online.

- Tomlinson, B., Silberman, M., Patterson, D., Pan, Y., & Blevis, E. (2012). Collapse informatics: augmenting the sustainability & ICT4D discourse in HCI. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 655-664). ACM. Available online.

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