torsdag 12 december 2019

Homo Colossus at World Expo 2020!

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Mattias Hansson, Program Director in the Committee for Sweden's Participation at Expo 2020 (front/middle) and the The Homo Colossus project team; Åsa Andersson Broms, Belinda Retourné, Daniel Pargman, Per Hasselberg and Mario Romero. 

I recently (less than two weeks ago) wrote a blog post about how we got an informal invitation to display our science + art + communications project "Homo Colossus" at the upcoming World Expo (October 2020 - April 2021). KTH will be part of the program in the Swedish pavilion during two separate weeks (in November 2020 and February 2021) and our project would then be part of KTH's program. We were invited by Karin Larsdotter who is part of the working group that manages the KTH Expo 2020 program. That working group had a meeting in the beginning of this week and Karin then reported back to them.

Apparently that meeting was also attended by Mattias Hansson who is Program Director in the Committee for Sweden's Participation at Expo 2020 in Dubai. That means he is responsible for the contents of the Swedish pavilion for the duration of the World Expo (6 months). I don't know exactly how, but Karin apparently managed to set up a separate meeting between Mattias Hansson and the Homo Colossus project and all five project members (me, Mario, Åsa, Per, Belinda) could, with short notice, liberate ourselves from other commitments and meet up with Mattias Thursday this past week (Karin also attended the meeting). The picture (above) was published on the Swedish Expo 2020 Instagram account the very day after we met.

Mattias started the meeting by stating that Sweden had decided to participate in the World Expo back in 2017, so whatever objections could be raised, participation was in itself not negotiable. I have since managed to find the original mission statement (the outcome of a cabinet meeting in December 2017) where the mission from the Swedish parliament is stated:

"The Government has decided that Sweden will participate in the World Expo 2020 exhibition in Dubai, provided that the state and the Swedish business sector [näringslivet] finance the Swedish participation in equal parts.
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The purpose of Swedish participation in Expo 2020 is to strengthen a comprehensive and positive image of Sweden abroad, to promote Sweden as a knowledge nation, the competitiveness and creativity of Swedish trade and industry and to strengthen Sweden's attractiveness for tourism and investments and for research, innovation and cultural exchange. [...] Promoting Sweden and Swedish trade, education and research collaborations, economic relations and cultural partnerships with other countries also create platforms to discuss issues such as democracy, gender equality, human rights, sustainability and environmental issues.
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The total cost of Sweden's participation in the world exhibition is estimated at about 165 MSEK, of which the business sector [näringslivet] and the state are expected to contribute 82.5 MSEK each. In the Budget Bill for 2018, the Swedish Government proposes that 3.5 MSEK is allocated for that purpose in 2018, and estimates that an additional 50 MSEK is allocated for the years 2019-2021 to cover the state's share of the costs of Sweden's participation in the exhibition. In addition, several state-sponsored actors will contribute to [implementing and financing] activities that are related to the Swedish pavilion."

Mattias then talked about the two main kinds of critique that the Swedish decision to participate in Expo 2020 regularly gets; concerns about sustainability and concerns about the the lack of democratic rights in Dubai. Here's a critical just-published report from the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs about "Human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the United Arab Emirates" (Dubai is one of the seven emirates that constitutes the United Arab Emirates). The official Swedish position is that it is only by participating (as one of 192 countries) that we have the chance to change things for the better (in terms of democratic rights, women's rights, guest workers' rights, sustainability etc.): "Our attitude is to go there and show them what we think we are good at, rather than sitting home and telling them what we think they do poorly."

It was apparent that Mattias had given this speech many times, he talked for at least 10 minutes straight and we hadn't even presented ourselves at that point. Mattias also mentioned that the World Expo expects 25 million visitors and that (at least) 1 million will visit the Swedish pavilion. These visitors will stay for different durations and can be thought of as "skimmers" (15 minute), "swimmers" (30 minute) and "divers" (2 hours).

I then presented (pitched) the Homo Colossus project and this eventually resulted in an offer by Mattias to be part of the permanent exhibition in the Swedish pavilion for the duration of the World Expo. We even started to discuss which particular spaces would be most suitable for Homo Colossus to occupy inside and outside the Swedish pavilion. Mattias was also particularly intrigued by my idea of sending KTH students to Dubai on a container ship bound for China (these ships stop in Dubai on their journey eastwards). The students would first go by train from Sweden to Genoa (Italy) and then by container ship to Dubai - a trip that takes around 17 days. I had framed such a trip as a way of decreasing the carbon emissions of a trip to Dubai but Mattias also saw such a trip as a huge opportunity in terms of a media campaign. What was really interesting for me though was that Mattias opened up the possibility of having Expo 2020 sponsor our students' trip.


This is the eighth (!) and last blog post about Homo Colossus during 2019. The project has morphed and changed and picked up the pace during the year and I suspect so much will happen in 2020 that I I could probably write a new blog post about the project every week. There are certainly many more things I could have written about in 2019, but the project is only part of what I work with and I feel I can't fill the blog with information about this one project when much else is also happening. I thus won't write a weekly blog post about Homo Colossus in 2020 - but I'm also sure I will write at least one blog post per month. The pace of the project is about to increase even further in 2020.
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söndag 1 december 2019

Homo Colossus at World Expo 2020?

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The Swedish World Expo 2020 homepage

I attended the annual KTH Sustainability Research Day this past week (Thursday). I unfortunately missed the first two hours (I had a seminar with the students in my course), but the second half was really good. This blog post is however not about the KTH Sustainability Research Day but rather about what happened right after the official program ended.

At the reception, I chit-chatted with various friends and acquaintances and ended up talking to Karin Larsdotter who works for KTH Sustainability Office (who organised the event). Karin was the moderator for the just-held event and I congratulated her for a job well done. It turned out she is also part of a working group that will put together KTH's contribution to the upcoming (October 2020 - April 2021) World Expo in Dubai.

Almost before I had time to understand exactly what she wanted to talk about, she gave me a short speech about all the possible sustainability-related objections one could have towards World Expos in general and towards organising the next World Expo in Dubai in particular (not the most sustainable of places for starters). She said such objections were in the end moot, because KTH has made already the decision that we should be part of the World Expo. It was in other words a "done deal" at this point, but KTH had also decided that all KTH contributions to the World Expo should relate to sustainability (one goal would for example bo to "minimise" the number of trips to Dubai).

That's nice, I guess, but what did that have to do with me? It turned out the main question Karin wanted to ask me was if I/we were interested in representing KTH at the World Expo with our Homo Colossus project during the two weeks that KTH has access to the Swedish pavilion. I have never been to a World Expo and was a bit confused (not the least since the Homo Colossus project has not yet officially started), but I did of course not outright reject such an offer. Another complicating factor was however that I only had time to talk with Karin for 10 minutes since I had a schedule phone interview with one of the candidates for the PhD position we announced the previous month. I did however at the same time feel a great need to know a lot more about this offer and then discuss it with the other Homo Colossus project members. As I am currently very busy teaching, I suggested me and Karin should meet and talk a bit more about it up right before the Christmas break (a few weeks later).

Still, it was hard to put the aside and not think about it so what happened was instead that I immediately got in touch with the other four project participants (Mario, Åsa, Per, Belinda). I have also spent a considerable amount of time since then reading up on the World Expo as well as ways to go to Dubai without flying (train? boat? see the map below!). It turns out it is possible to go by train, but it is oh so difficult. The trip from Sweden to Turkey is long but comparatively easy; the hard part is to go through the eastern parts of Turkey and pass the border to Iran. To do that you need to:
- First travel from Ankara with the "Vangölü Ekspresi" to Tatvan. The train leaves Ankara twice per week.
- Then take the ferry from Tatvan to Van. The journey only takes four hours but boat schedules are only available locally.
- Take the train from Van (Turkey) to Tabriz (Iran). This train runs only once per week and the border control is in the middle of the night.
- Finally continue from Tabriz to Teheran and then travel to the coast.

Walking from Istanbul to Dubai would take 100 days even if you walked for almost 8 hours per day (the trip ends by crossing the strait of Hormuz by ship).

Another interesting alternative is to go by container ship from southern Europe (Spain, France, Italy or Malta) to Dubai. Such a trip that takes 2-3 weeks and it is also quite expensive.

Instead of postponing a follow-up meeting with Karin by 2-3 weeks, I wrote an email to Karin the very next day (Friday - just two days ago) and told her we needed to talk! I don't yet know what will come out of this but it's certainly very exciting! I am also pretty sure we can deliver - although I don't know exactly what we would deliver (what is called for). I guess that remains to be seen so stay tuned!




So exactly how bad is a World Expo from a CO2 emissions perspective? That's of course hard to say but Mike Berners-Lee wrote the book "How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything" in 2010 and one of the examples in the book is an analysis of the CO2 emissions from the 2010 football World Cup. The World Cup was held in South Africa that year and it was estimated that 1.2 million spectators saw the matches live. The total CO2 emissions from the World Cup were estimated to be 2.8 million tonnes and transport (of players, spectators and everything else) accounts for about 85% of all emissions. The World Expo is however much much bigger and it has been estimated that the 2020 World Expo in Dubai will be attended by 25 million visitors during the 6 months that it is open....

onsdag 27 november 2019

Homo Colossus course assignment

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The energy footprint of a middle-class Englishman’s lifestyle (MacKay 2009).


We are about half-way through my main annual teaching commitment, the course "Sustainability and Media Technology" (DM2573) and this year we had to modify one of the weekly writing assignments for a couple of different reasons. While the content of this particular assignment had previously catered to my personal interests (having to do with the concept of Homo Colossus), I just about all-out highjacked the assignment this year so that the students basically worked for our not-yet-started science + art + communication project "From Homo Sapiens to Homo Colossus". From the project application summary:

"The idea of us being as big as our energy footprint is called Homo Colossus. The project aims to convey it through art, augmented reality, and a museum exhibit and by interactively visualizing the energy size of Swedes from all walks of life; from the poor single mother who struggles to make ends meet to the executive who flies several times per week. What do we look like through the lens of our energy footprints?" 

We in particular stated in the application that:

”These [Augmented Reality] portraits will be exchanged on a daily basis, randomly chosen from a larger pool of “personas”, e.g. fictitious persons that represent Swedes of different ages, genders, incomes, habits and lifestyle choices. Instead of representing “the average Swede”, these personas will illustrate the energy footprint of a range of lifestyles that exist in Sweden today; from the retired housekeeper to the executive who lives in Visby and commutes to Stockholm by plane on a daily basis.” 

While we were careful not to specify an exact number of personas in the research grant application, we have internally set the (very high) internal goal of working with 100 different portraits of different Swedish lifestyles. My "highjacking" of the course assignment consisted of me asking all my students to:
- 1) read our research grant application (it's only 3 pages long) and
- 2) create a ”persona” (sketch out a portrait of that persona and his/her lifestyle) and calculate the energy footprint (size) of that person's lifestyle. This value should then be translated into body weight (had that person been an animal that used an equal amount of energy to fuel its Huge body).

Below I paste selected parts of the instructions to the students and further below I also publish my feedback to the students after the task was completed. While the personas (as well as the calculations) need to be checked, the students submitted no less than 90 assignments and this is a big help and a big boost to the research project - it would have strained our fantasy to start with a blank paper and the task to invent 100 different lifestyles!

TEXT: Sketch out a portrait of an unusual lifestyle
- Choose an unconventional lifestyle. ”Unconventional” means that you can not choose an ordinary household, e.g. a family (with or without children) or a student living alone or with a partner. Think of a specific person who ”inhabits that lifestyle”, e.g. think of an unconventional friend, family member, acquaintance or possibly someone from a reportage you have read, a documentary you have seen or even a realistic but fictive person from a book or a tv series (no science fiction or fantasy!). 
- CLARIFICATION: High-energy (affluent) and low-energy (poor) lifestyles could be of particular interest in this exercise as are lifestyles that for some reason score high or low on specific ”energy-related activities/practices” (for example a person who for some reasons spends a significant part of her salary on petrol for her car or on flying).
- Write about one page of text (300-500 words – but more is OK if needed) about that person and his/her life, life history, lifestyle, motivation, hobbies, relationships, living arrangements, ”social practices” etc. Try to develop a rich portrait – the goal is to give someone who reads your text an understanding of that person and his/her life(style).

ESTIMATES: Estimate the energy footprint of your person’s/persona’s lifestyle. 
This part, ”estimates”, might look a bit daunting but should rather be seen as a checklist that you methodically work though.
- In his 2009 book ”Sustainable energy – without the hot air”, David MacKay calculates the energy footprint of the average middle-class Englishman’s lifestyle (”a typical moderately-affluent person”). Use the information below as a template/checklist and adapt it to fit your persona’s lifestyle. That means: you should vary the numbers when appropriate – but you should also comment and justify each choice and each important decison you make about your estimates.
- You don’t need to read anything from MacKay’s book to understand these calculations – but the whole book is available online for free at https://www.withouthotair.com).
- MacKay’s calculations (see the figure) indicate that the average middle-class Englisman uses 195 kWh of energy per person and per day. Average UK and European ”Primary energy consumption” (oil, coal, gas, wind, hydro, nuclear etc.) is instead only 125 kWh per person per day, but that figure excludes ”embedded energy”, e.g. energy that was used ”elsewhere” (for example in China) to manufacture stuff that is consumed in the UK, as well as the solar energy that was acquired ”for free” through photosynthesis and that is ”embedded” in the food we eat. 
- Please check and modify the following categories for your ”persona” (you don’t need to bother with the smaller categories but you can modify also those numbers if you want to):
1. Car use  (40 kWh/day)
2. Jet flights  (30 kWh/day)
3. Heating, cooling (of an apartment, house)  (37 kWh/day)
4. Food (farming, fertilizer)  (15 kWh/day)
5. Stuff & transporting stuff  (60 kWh/day)
6. Smaller categories (no need to customize):
public services, gadgets, light (12 kWh/day)

This is followed by more detailed instructions about how to calculate the energy footprint of each of the categories, for example:

2 Jet flights (chapter 5 in MacKay)
- MacKay: one maximum-range (14 200 km) roundtrip on a Boeing 747 where every single seat is occupied (416 passengers) = 12 000 kWh = 33 kWh/day. 
- MacKay: A roundtrip between London – Los Angeles is shorter (9 000 km).
- MacKay: Most planes are not full – let’s say planes are on average 80% full.
- MacKay: One single roundtrip London – Los Angeles on an 80% full plane comes to 29 kWh/day ≈ 30 kWh/person per day
- Comment: It is easy to fly significantly more than one intercontinental trip per year
- Comment: use http://flightemissionmap.org to check the distance between different cities in the world
- Comment: go with MacKay’s figures after estimating and adjusting for the total distance flown by your persona in a year.

This exercise ends with translating energy footprint into weight:

2c) CALCULATION: Calculate the weight of your person/persona’s energy footprint. 
- Go through the checklist [above] where you have adapted each category to your persona. NOTE: it’s important that you justify each choice – but you don’t have to write more than one or a few sentences per category!
[...]
- Ask for help or at least compare your answer with a classmate to make sure your answer is not fundamentally wrong when you answer the question “How much does your persona weigh?”

After all students had submitted their assignments and I had had time to look at them, I wrote a message with some feedback to the students:

Hello.

I haven't read all the submitted Homo Colossus personas, estimates and calculations yet, but I have scanned and leafed through them and thus for example gotten to know 10 persons who have low (or very low) energy footprints (i.e. who weighs less than 10000 kgs) :

- My 91 year old grandmother
- Margaret Fairchild who has lived in a van for 15 years
- Sven (72) who lives in a hut in the woods
- Yara (21), a Syrian refugee who lives in Sweden
- Lea (24), and environmental activist
- Ms Person (28) who lives in collective/farm
- Sara Greenberg (25), a political science student
- Sarah Blom (36) who lives in a tinyhouse
- Emma who lives in protected residence for women
- Marita (82), a frugal pensioner

I have also gotten to know 10 persons with enormous (or humongous) energy footprints (i.e. who weighs > 150 000 kg):

- John Olofsson (39) - ex-professional snowboarder
- X (55), lawyer working in Moscow
- Aaron (25), a professional sportsman (NFL player)
- Alexander, CEO of Sustainable Feature
- Karla (20s), an Instagram influencer from Copenhagen
- My brother Michael (28) who lives in Munich
- Emma Marklund (27) who competes in racing
- Anna,  musician/bass player
- Dwayne ("The Rock") Johnson (47), actor
- Axl Rose, Rock star (Guns N' Roses)

Anna travels a lot as a musician and weighs 1 000 000 kilos and the last two on the list weigh about twice as much! I even got the tour dates for November 2019 for Guns N' Roses...

Thank you all for your assignments, they were really interesting and I will look closer at them after the course ends next week!

/Daniel
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söndag 17 november 2019

How much do you (really) weigh? (popular science article)

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The first popular science article about our new science + art + communication project, "From Homo Sapiens to Homo Colossus" has just been published. The article was published in Formas' online web journal "Extrakt" and Formas is the funding agency that gave us the money to run the project. I wrote about the project only two weeks ago when I pitched the project to be part of an upcoming (autumn 2020) exhibition at Färgfabriken.

While the project officially won't start until January 2020, I was contacted by journalist Karin Montgomery who works for Extrakt in the beginning of the month about doing an interview. The interview was conducted by phone on Monday November 11, Karin sent me a draft of the article for inspection and proof-reading three days later and the article was published online already the the next day. It should also be noted that the article was published one and a half months before the project officially started!

The title of the article is "Hur mycket väger du, egentligen?" ["How much do you (really) weigh?"]. It's a good "gateway" text - it's short and very easy to read but still captures the gist of the project.

The image above illustrated the article and it shows an artist (Joel) testing an app that our students developed in a project course one year ago. Since the project hasn't started yet, we don't have any "real" results to show (and we won't have anything to show until sometime next year). The article thus covers the background, the ideas and the plan but there is as of yet nothing to show in terms of results - that will have to wait until the end of the spring at the earlierst
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söndag 27 oktober 2019

Homo Colossus at Färgfabriken (exhibition)

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Me pitching Homo Colossus at Färgfabriken. Photo by Per Hasselberg.

Less than a month ago I wrote a blog post about our just-approved research grant application, "From Homo Sapiens to Homo Colossus: Visualising our energy footprint". I have however talked about these ideas for year, including when I was physically located at the Center for Sustainable Communications (CESC), a research center that ended its planned 10-year run two years ago.

It thus came naturally to mention that the applications had been approved when I met ex-CESC director Mattias Höjer who immediately went about to put me in touch with Andreas Bergmark at Färgfabriken ["The Colour Factory"] by mail. Färgfabriken is an exhibition space which "since its inception in 1995 [has] served as a platform for contemporary cultural expressions with an emphasis on art, architecture and urban planning":

"It is important to create conditions for free and creative thinking. In this context, art is central. It acts as a catalyst for innovation in the meeting with the rest of society, as well as with individuals. Färgfabriken’s projects and exhibitions have a wide audience, including active decision makers, creators, artists and scientists – those who can make a difference today. Everyone is welcome to Färgfabriken.

Our approach creates space for exhibitions and projects that might not find its natural place elsewhere. Färgfabriken wants to make the invisible visible."

Me and Anders got in touch and I was quickly invited to give a talk at an event that Färgfabriken organised this past week, an "inspirational meeting" with short talks and workshops in preparation for an exhibition, "Symbiosis", that Färgfabriken will put together next year:

"We will discuss and develop ideas and examples of symbiotic thinking that have the potential to break habitual thinking patterns and which in the long run can create the conditions for a better future."

The Symbiosis exhibition will have four themes; "hinterlands", "de-signing ecology", "becoming human" and "planetary enterprise". I was a bit unclear about the exact purpose of the inspirational meeting, about who would be there and about my role in the event, but I got together with Anders to discuss these and other issues a week in advance. It turns out that Homo Colossus had made a quick career; the purpose of our presentation was not any longer to pitch our project to Färgfabriken, but instead to be part of Färgfabriken's pitch to their corporate partners/sponsors!

I was accompanied to the meeting by Homo Colossus project colleague Per Hasselberg (Konstfrämjandet) and I also met up with Mattias Höjer there (he has some kind of "advisory" role in relation to Färgfabriken). The presentation went very well so it does indeed seem that Homo Colossus will be part of the upcoming exhibition Symbiosis exhibition (more to follow on this topic next year).

I also met Jonna Holmstedt at the event. She's an artist who also has a ph.d. in visual arts and she is currently associated with the KTH Posthumanities Hub. It turned out that she too is an aficionado of brilliant Swedish social psychologist Johan Asplund and we will surely meet again at KTH in the not too distant future!


Comment: This blog post was written at a later point in time and has been back-dated. 

Addendum: The Symbiosis exhibitions has been postponed; it was supposed to open in the spring of 2020 but will instead open in the autumn. This is actually better for us and our project starts in January and it would have been hard to get something together already by April.
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söndag 20 oktober 2019

The Train Conference Day (symposium)

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Image: The long and winding road from starting a Facebook group to becoming an influence

I attended the Train Conference Day [Tågkonferensdagen] this past week. My new research project FLIGHT ("Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations") is the concrete justification for attending. Here's the background to why there was a Train Conference Day in the first place:

More than 100 000 Swedes have by now joined the [Swedish-language] Train Holiday Facebook group to get inspiration for holiday train journeys and more than 1000 persons attended the Train Holiday Meeting back in March. More companies and organisations now want to take the train to their meetings.
- But which destinations and conference facilities are suitable?
- How can the trip itself be made part of the conference?
- What have other companies already done?
- And how does it matter to the climate if we take the train?

These and many other questions will be answered during the Train Conference Day 2019 at Clarion Hotel Stockholm.

The founder of the Train Holiday Facebook group, Susanna Elfors, is an old acquaintance of mine and she gave a short talk about her own personal journal from being a researcher (she has a ph.d. from KTH Royal Institute of Technology) and a social entrepreneur to an influences. Her train event partner and fellow co-organiser, Andreas Sidkvist, gave a short talk about obstacles and possibilities for chartering trains (which can be compared to how some companies are in the habit of chartering a plane).

The day for the most part consisted of a long line of inspiring 10 or 15 minutes long talks and my FLIGHT research colleague Markus Robért gave one of these talks. I will present some of these talks and I start with the four talks that interested me personally the most first (but all the talks were interesting!).

- Susannas Elfors presented the background to it all and she is right now surfing on an incredible groundswell movement with a half a decade long pre-history; she participated in a charter train trip to lake Garda in northern Italy together with her family five years ago. The trip wasn't very smooth and it tried the patience even of someone who was very motivated to take the train so she started a Facebook group afterwards (2014) to exchange advice and discuss train vacations. At the end of 2017, the group had a few thousand members. Then it exploded and the group now has more than 100 000 members and it consists of 70% women who join primarily due to climate-related reasons and 30% men who join because they love trains! (More than a third of the group members are women between 35 and 54.) There have since been numerous interviews and media coverage. Susanna and Andreas have started an event company and they now try to find ways to secure a stable income from all of this (Susanna complained that many others make money of the massive interest in train vacations but they don't yet). Susanna also mentioned that in Sweden we have now gone from "flygskam" (flight shamemore, more and even more) and "smygflyg" (sneak flying, e.g. flying but keeping quite about it) to "tågskryt" (train bragging). Susanna has also edited a coffee-table book, Tågsemester ("Train vacation") that I bought - it's the perfect Christmas gift!

A to me really interesting talk was that of Jim Werngren who works at Folkhälsomyndigheten [The Swedish Public Health Agency] and who talked about "Train bonus - a tool for sustainable business travel". The agency has two offices, one in Stockholm and one in Östersund (550 kilometers north) and Jim had, as a union representative, done a wonderful job to promote travelling by train between their offices instead of flying (which has traditionally been the norm). It turns out that not only is train the better choice for the environment but it's also the less expensive choice and through his personal industrious and indefatigable work, they now have new rules at this governmental agency. Flying is taxed internally and anyone who takes the train at distances above 500 kilometers (e.g. between their two offices) gets a salary bonus of 550 SEK per trip AND can also account for the extra time if the working day becomes longer than 8 hours ["endagsförrättningstillägg"]. Due to his work, The Swedish Public Health Agency got Swedish Rail's diploma for sustainable travel this year!

Another talk that was both interesting and instrumentally useful was Maria Klint's talk about using the train trip itself for conducting a company workshop. Maria works at the service and UX design agency Antrop  and her talk was very super inspiring since we are discussing to pay for a train trip to the upcoming (June 2020) ICT for Sustainability conference in Bristol for our whole research group. Maria's talk was very practical as she shared her experiences and she also offered to share the "conversation cards" they produced and used on their trip.

Another inspiring talk was that of Joakim Crona who is a doctor and a researcher at Uppsala University Hospital who wanted to travel by train to the huge research conference about cancer research in Barcelona that "everybody" in his field travels to (we're talking about 20 000 attendees!). He gave a very practical talk with lots of pictures of him designing a sign (Greta Thunberg style), taking photos and recoding a YouTube video that "went viral" (within a limited community of researchers). He then took the train from Uppsala to Barcelona and got more and more company when researchers joined up as they travelled through Europe. Joakim mentioned that he did nothing but talk about taking the train to the conference at the week-long conference and that they are now planning a second trip through Europe (now with increased administrative support - two other persons from Academic Conferences (a full-service Professional Congress Organizer for Karolinska Institutet, SLU and Uppsala university) had joined him at the Train Conference Day to learn more).

Other really interesting (but to me less instrumentally useful) talks were:

Thomas Eneroth, Swedish minister for Infrastructure who discussed investments in trains and tracks and routes - he said he wanted to give us more and better night trains to the continent - Hamburg, Berlin and Brussels! He also wants it to be easier to book trips and discussed how work is being done to make that happen. Thomas is apparently is a fan of the Train Holiday Facebook group. He gave the opening talk and then had to hurry away and while he said many nice things about trains, others snidely mentioned that he says nice things about cars and planes when he talks to other audiences. Still, it was hard not to be affected and infected by his enthusiasm for trains.

Jens Forsmark from Naturskyddsföreningen [the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation] is their expert on sustainable transportation and he talked about the train as the obvious choice in organisations' sustainability work. His fact-filled 15-minute talk was a fountain of knowledge! He claimed and also seemed to be a calm and peaceful person but mentioned that his work makes him end up in conflicts all the time since he has opinions about issues (taxes, city planning etc.) where there are many strong stakeholders who have interest in disagreeing with his conclusions. His thoughts about the structural characteristics of car and road-based versus train and track-based cities were very interesting! I had a chat with him at the break and we "clicked" - I'm quite sure I will be in touch with him again and that something concrete will come out of it in terms of some sort of cooperation at some point.

Another inspiring speaker was Maja Rosén who started the movement "Vi håller oss på jorden" ("We Stay on the Ground") and the campaign "Flygfritt 2020" ("Flight Free 2020") which aims at getting 100 000 Swedes to pledge not to fly during 2020. What is needed for you to make that decision is oftentimes that other people you know make the same decision. Maja also talked about the psychological dimensions of questioning each plane trip versus the relief of making a decision once and for all. A researcher she knows had qualms every time she had to decide whether to fly to attend a conference in Europe. Then she decided never to fly within Europe and her life suddenly became easier. She also mentioned that a Swedish politician in the EU parliament said to her that "to me there are no airplanes between Stockholm and Strasbourg".

Camilla Lystrand who is travel manager at White architects talked about how they have worked for more than a decade to fly only when absolutely necessary. This is a challenge as architects travek a lot but the effort and the thought that has gone into their internal work is both inspiring and commendable! One example is that internal meetings are planned so that they fit the schedule for arriving trains. Another example is that they always travel first class by train to improve the possibilities to work. The biggest cost for them is of course salaries and they are much more concerned with getting the most out of their employees rather than skimping on the (price of the) train tricket.

There were also a few other speakers who taked at the conference (again including my colleague Markus Robért). The event was attended by 50 persons including representatives from Swedish Rail as well as two different start-up companies who both work towards the goal of making it easier to book train tickets. While it works well within Sweden, it can indeed be very hard to book tickets for a longer trip that passes several national boundaries.

All in all it was very inspiring and worthwhile to attend this event. While I was surprised by how few people attended, that in the end made it easier to connect to those who were there and these really were the right people to connect to in all matters pertaining to train travel.
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torsdag 17 oktober 2019

Help save the world! We are hiring a ph.d. student!

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The image comes from the web page "Being a doctoral student at KTH"

I've haven't blogged much in the last 12+ months. I did however write a blog post in January about a research grant application we submitted, "Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations: From data to practice" and I did in fact end that blog post like this:

"If there ever was an application where it felt like we hit all the marks, well, then this is it. We were definitely on a high as we handed in the application. The Energy Agency will hand out funds for at least 10 projects and we have so much faith in our application that we were confident there just can't be 10 other applications that are better than our. We hope."

I really ought to have written a blog post before the summer when we found out that the project was approved. I might in fact still do that retroactively (I will then edit this introduction) and I should also write a blog post about what has happened in the project this far/during the start-up phase (e.g. during the autumn). Do however also see this blog post where the first three master's-level project course proposals are related to this particular research project.

This blog post is however an announcement that we just placed an ad and that we are hiring! We are looking for a ph.d. student who wants to join our project and our research group! 

The job ad is available here (in English) and here (in Swedish) and the deadline to apply is Thursday November 7. We will then set aside time to sort out applications that do not fulfil the formal requirement and then try to further winnow down the applications to get between 3-5 applicants that we think are highly interesting.

Me and my colleague Elina Eriksson put together the ad. Much of it consists of boilerplate text - text that will be found in any ad for a ph.d. position at KTH (e.g. we offer "Work and study in Stockholm, one of Europe’s fastest-growing capitals, which is close to both nature and the sea"). I will here point out the significant parts of the ad that makes it different from other ads.


1) The super-short description of the project that the ph.d. student will work in and what his/her tasks mainly will consist of:

You will join an interdisciplinary research project that aims to decrease carbon emissions in flight-intensive organizations. We work collaboratively with other ongoing efforts to decrease carbon emissions at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The project will develop interaction tools and methods to visualize, engage and help individuals and departments to become aware of and decrease unnecessary flying. You will help us explore and develop novel concepts and design proposals to support behavior change on an individual and organizational level. Our project will contribute to KTH’s overarching sustainability goal to decrease carbon emissions from flight with 20% during the current four-year period.


2) We are looking for someone who wants to work with sustainability and design and has (some kind of) background in design is a requirement:

Eligibility 
To be admitted to postgraduate education (Chapter 7, 39 § Swedish Higher Education Ordinance), the applicant must [...]
• have a specialisation (or prior experience) in design, for example interaction design. 

Comment: there are several requirements that are non-negotiable such as for example having passed a degree at an advanced level (same for all ph.d. positions at KTH). We added this requirement to this particular ph.d. position and it means that many who might have wanted to apply will not be able to do so (or will be sorted away in the first pass). While design background/experience is a requirement, we are pretty open about what kind of design. While we exemplify with "interaction design" (something that allows students from our own engineering programme in media technology to apply), other types of designers are also welcome to apply, for example industrial designers, service designers, (user) experience designers etc. 


3) While some kind of design experience/background is a requirement, there is also a less binding wish list of characteristics of which most (again) consists of boilerplate text (e.g. the applicant should have the "ability to independently pursue his or her work" but also the "ability to collaborate with others"). The following two criteria have however been added by us for this ph.d. position in particular:

Selection 
In order to succeed as a doctoral student at KTH, you need to be goal oriented and persevering in your work. In the selection of the applicants, the following will be assessed: 
[...]
• ability to come up with ideas and new approaches (creativity), and
• English proficiency in reading, writing and speaking.

Comment: it is hard for me to imagine hiring someone who isn't good or at least decent at writing. For someone who finds writing to be tedious and difficult, my general advice would be to not apply for a ph.d. position. Five years as a ph.d. student for for the person who hates writing would mean a world of pain. I'm surprised that proficiency in reading and writing in English isn't a requirement for all ph.d. positions at our university. 

Comment: the creativity criteria will be a bit tricky to evaluate but we felt that the project really needs a person who has an innovative way of thinking which can be put into practice and which leads to results. This criteria also fits together with the design requirement above. The project will include various "design interventions" and we want someone who is creative and can contribute with new ideas!


4) As to what background material to hand in as part of the application, we added the following two elements (besides a CV, a degree certificate etc.):

• Contact information for at least two reference persons. 
• Your master’s thesis or a representative equivalent publication or technical report. 

Comment: we will in fact check this up carefully for the last 3-5 applicants that we will choose between!


5) To those who have studied at KTH, who have met me elsewhere or will get a tip about this ph.d. position from someone who knows me, I imagine this could in fact make a difference:

Supervision: The doctoral student will be placed at the Royal Institute of Technology and supervised by associate professor Daniel Pargman.


6) Lastly, we want to emphasise that the ph.d. student will become part of an up-and-coming research group with many different research projects and and that he/she will become part of an exciting research environment:

What we offer: [...]
• You will be part of the sustainability research group at the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design. This group has recently started several new research projects and is at the forefront of research and teaching in the area of computing and sustainability. For more information, see our web page.


Me and Elina spent half a day this past week disseminating the ad in various networks such as:
- Our department, our research group and in other research groups at KTH.
- Facebook, Twitter.
- In various relevant distribution lists.
- To people/in networks of researchers who look at problematising or reducing (academic) flying.
- To individuals we know personally who work with sustainability and/or design.
- We also hope to reach alumni from our media technology engineering programme through colleagues of ours but don't know if this has or will happen.

Some colleagues have helped further disseminate the ad on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you! Please disseminate the link to this blog post too!
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måndag 30 september 2019

Homo Colossus application approved!

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Hooray! Our 3-year science + art + communication project, "From Homo Sapiens to Homo Colossus: Visualising our energy footprint" has been approved! I wrote a blog post about this application when we handed it in (back in April 2019).

That means I will work together with Mario Romero (KTH), Åsa Andersson Broms (Kungl. Konsthögskolan), Per Hasselberg (Konstfrämjandet) and Belinda Hellberg (Changency) between 2020-2022 on a very exciting project - and that we will meet regularly for the next three years!

The assessment (see above) was very positive ("this is, communication-wise, an exciting and innovative project with a clear strategy", "the project team has a very high competence" etc.) and the final assessment of the whole application/project was the best possible grade, "Outstanding" (one step above "Excellent"). The application was also deemed to be "Outstanding" in terms of "societal relevance" and it was deemed to be "Excellent" in terms of "research quality" and "communication efforts".

It's fair to say that we by now partly have "squandered" the seed money we got from KTH at the end of last year since we primarily have used that money for writing applications instead of doing what we were supposed to. We have basically and for the most part used the seed money (0.08 MSEK) to write two applications:
We applied for money for a Small Visionary Project (0.3 MSEK) a month ago.
- We also applied for this now-approved Formas communication grant (1.9 MSEK) back in April.

Despite the fact that we are not on track to do what we were supposed to, I still think the seed money was money well spent by KTH. But I have to find a way to explain why we won't deliver what we were supposed to at the end of the year... Also, it certainly feels like we should spend the remaining money/time to start to plan for the new 3-year project rather than doing a rush job and delivering a sub-standard report at the end of the year.


Comment: This blog post was written at a later point in time and has been back-dated. I have later heard that our application got the highest grade of all the 10 applications that were approved.
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lördag 28 september 2019

Proposals for our project course on Interactive Media Technology (course)

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Our "Advanced Project course in Interactive Media Technology" (DM2799) will be held for the third time this autumn term (primarily in November and December):

"The course is an advanced project course, where the students [in groups of 3-5 students] carry out a smaller research study in close cooperation with researchers in the field of interactive media technology."

This course (3-minute video) is interesting for various reasons and one reason is that most students who take the course are fifth-year students. That means they have lots of knowledge and experience and that they can get a lot done despite the fact that most of the work in these projects are performed over a period of less than two months. Another thing that is interesting is that the project course is followed by their master's thesis and while many students would like to do their thesis with a company as their client, it also represents a chance to recruit students to do their master's thesis in a research project.

The sustainability team that I lead together with Elina now has several new research projects up and running and we also have a strong tradition of writing project proposals for this course and getting them manned. I have personally been the advisor of five different project groups during the previous two course offerings.

This year we have a very strong line-up of sustainability-related project proposals and I will list all our proposals below. New for this year is that the students will specify their preferences and be organised into project groups a month before the course starts. This has forced us to write our project proposals earlier during the term, but, the start of the course and the start of these projects will be much smoother than before - the students and their projects will get off to a "flying start" compared to earlier years.

Below are our 12 sustainability-related proposals and further below are descriptions of all projects in terms of title, background and task (some additional information has been removed, this blog post will be long enough as it is).

[UPDATE (October 8): titles in orange have been chosen by groups of students who will work with them during the remainder of the year]

Flightminder - Gapminder for KTH’s flight data (FLIGHT advisors: Daniel Pargman and Mario Romero)
Communicating data beyond digital screens (FLIGHT advisor: Elina Eriksson)
CERO Challenge (FLIGHT advisor: Elina Eriksson)
Bringing Homo Colossus to life (KTH campus edition) (HC advisors: Daniel Pargman and Mario Romero)
Bringing Homo Colossus to life (City of Stockholm edition) (HC advisors: Daniel Pargman and Mario Romero)
Exploring human powered interaction (advisor: Anders Lundström)
Climate map - carbon budget made visible for municipalities (advisor: Elina Eriksson)
HabitWise – design of climate calculators to create sustainable habits (HABITWISE advisors: Elina Eriksson and Cecilia Katzeff)
Non-intrusive social reminders for sustainable food behaviour (KITCHEN advisor: Björn Hedin)
Sharing preference-based adjustments of online recipes (KITCHEN advisor: Björn Hedin)
Making Hippo Hip Again - Redesign of a food inventory system (KITCHEN advisor: Miriam Börjesson Rivera)
- Meat-O-Meter - changing meat consumption behavior (KITCHEN advisor: Björn Hedin and Jarmo Laaksolahti)

The majority of these project proposals are directly related to ongoing research projects in our research group (MID4). That is an advantage for students choosing these projects since each research project has a network of researchers attached to it who have a lot of goodwill towards these students projects and who are willing to spend time and energy to help the students. Also, project groups that yield interesting results could easily result in ideas for master's thesis topics that these students could work on during the spring term (2020). For more information about these research project, follow these links: FLIGHTHABITWISE and KITCHEN. The HC (Homo Colossus) project is brand new and does not yet have a homepage.

Here are the longer version of each project:

Flightminder - Gapminder for KTH’s flight data

Background
KTH has set up goals to reduce our carbon emissions. Decreasing employees’ flying is a prioritised area since researchers fly a lot (to scientific conferences etc.), but in order to decrease our flying, we first need to understand our flying.

In a MID research project that just started, “Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations”(a.k.a. “FLIGHT”), we have access to all data for all KTH employees’ all travel during the previous 12 months. We will analyse this data from various perspectives but need your help to develop a tool that can help us visualise the data in useful and nifty ways.

Project/Task
Your task is to find ways to visualise our data and to develop a tool that will help us researchers work with our data in better ways over the coming years (the project runs between 2019-2022). You can think of your task in terms of developing Gapminder (see link below) for KTH’s flight data.

See “additional material” below for references to two recent academic studies that analyses the academic flying at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. We want to be able to replicate these studies and see if we get the same results when we plug our KTH data set into the tool you develop!

The KTH data set includes data about all 3700 employees’ all trips between September 2018 and August 2019. You will more specifically have access to this data:
For every employee: unique identifier, year of birth, gender, title (e.g. “professor” or “ph.d. student”), salary, school and department, purpose of the trip.
For every trip: unique identifier (person travelling), date, flight number, airport codes, type of ticket, price, estimated CO2 emissions

Communicating data beyond digital screens

Background
Climate change is real and we need to act quickly and cut our carbon emissions in order to fulfil the Paris agreement. Air travel is one of the fastest growing contributors to carbon emissions, and within academia, air travel has lately begun to be discussed. In a research project that recently started at MID, “Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations”, we support KTH in it’s goal to reduce employees’ carbon emission from travel (which to a large extent means flying). One way of reaching the goals that KTH has set for itself is to publicly communicate and raise awareness of the historical and current state of flying/carbon emissions and how these relate to KTH’s targets.

Project/Task
In this project we invite students to explore alternative and innovative ways of communicating travel data from KTH or the implications of KTH’s air travel and we want to see innovative suggestions beyond screen-based visualizations. We want you to find ways to make historical and current data on flying engaging and provocative! How can KTH’s data set be used in ways that help employees become more aware of our emissions and more prone to start acting to decrease them? A source for inspiration could be the master thesis work by Tomás Albrecht that developed the Publikkvitto prototype (see additional material for reference), but we would also invite other types of communication such as sonification, haptic feedback or smell.

CERO Challenge

Background
Emissions from transport and travel are a substantial part of the global emissions of carbon, and even though much transport is necessary and hard to cut down on, some are possible to change. However behaviour change is hard, and changing transport behaviour is difficult since it is intertwined with everyday practices. In this situation, digital tools can be of help, and one such tool that has been developed is CERO Challenge. CERO challenge is a tool to help people choose more sustainable travel choices. But, the tool need some care and love to really become engaging and useful.

Project/Task
In this project, we want a team to do a redesign of the CERO Challenge app. This would include an evaluation of the current user interface and the creation of a new interface (a high-fidelity mock-up, an implementation for android/IOS, or a combination). We encourage the student group to take a critical perspective and for example explore what alternative motivations (besides gamification) that could be used as drivers in the application. Here it could be interesting to explore Transcendental Values (see Common Cause handbook in additional material).

Bringing Homo Colossus to life (KTH campus edition)

Background
Fossil fuels account for ≈ 85% of mankind's primary energy supply. This is problematic for several reasons (climate change etc.) and we urgently need to phase out fossil fuels. But how do we convince people in more affluent countries that much will have to change, perhaps including highly valued aspects of our taken-for-granted lifestyles? How do we show that what we have come to perceive as “normal” in fact is anything but and that we today use extravagant amounts of energy (that eventually must come to an end)?

William Catton’s idea of “homo colossus” (Catton 1986, 1987) pushes home the point that each of us would be COLOSSAL if we imagined that our everyday energy consumption – the energy we use in our daily lives (for heating our homes, driving our cars, flying on vacation trips etc.) – instead was used to fuel a Huge Creature that physically ingested (ate) and metabolised the same amount of energy. It is easy for a Swede to use 50 to 100 times more energy in our everyday lives than the energy content of the food we eat (≈ 1700 kcal or 2 kWh per day for a person who weighs 70 kilos)! But how big would we be if we were huge and ATE all that energy instead, i.e. how big is the “energy footprint” of the average Swede and of his/her lifestyle??

Project/Task
The Homo Colossus “double” or “shadow” of the average Swede would be about 12 meters tall and weight about 25.000 kilos. Imagine building a 12 meters tall statue that represents “the average Swede” (e.g. the average Swede’s energy footprint)! You will not build that statue in this project, but you will model (Maya, Blender) and 3D print giant body parts (eg. toes, fingers, ears) and find a suitable place to install them on campus (for example sticking out of a building (wall) or up from the ground). You will then develop a smartphone app (using the ARCore Augmented Reality development kit) so that the rest of Homo Colossus’ body can be seen through the smartphone’s screen and with the help of an AR app.

You will also design a method to invite people to use the AR app on the public installation. People need to be aware of the fact the giant body parts are part of an AR installation and get information about how to see the AR augmentation. Your task is thus to design an intervention/information system that gets their attention, provide them with relevant information and invites explorations - be it posters, screens, in-app advertisements or some other method.

Bringing Homo Colossus to life (City of Stockholm edition)

Background
Fossil fuels account for ≈ 85% of mankind's primary energy supply. This is problematic for several reasons (climate change etc.) and we urgently need to phase out fossil fuels. But how do we convince people in more affluent countries that much will have to change, perhaps including highly valued aspects of our taken-for-granted lifestyles? How do we show that what we have come to perceive as “normal” in fact is anything but and that we today use extravagant amounts of energy (that eventually must come to an end)?

William Catton’s idea of “homo colossus” (Catton 1986, 1987) pushes home the point that each of us would be COLOSSAL if we imagined that our everyday energy consumption – the energy we use in our daily lives (for heating our homes, driving our cars, flying on vacation trips etc.) – instead was used to fuel a Huge Creature that physically ingested (ate) and metabolised the same amount of energy. It is easy for a Swede to use 50 to 100 times more energy in our everyday lives than the energy content of the food we eat (≈ 1700 kcal or 2 kWh per day for a person who weighs 70 kilos)! But how big would we be if we were huge and ATE all that energy instead, i.e. how big is the “energy footprint” of the average Swede and of his/her lifestyle??

Project/Task
The Homo Colossus “double” or “shadow” of the average Swede would be about 12 meters tall and weight about 25.000 kilos. Imagine building a 12 meters tall statue that represents “the average Swede” (e.g. the average Swede’s energy footprint)! You will not build that statue in this project, but you will “recruit” one or more pieces of public art (life-sized statues of people) in the City of Stockholm. You will then develop a smartphone app (using the ARCore Augmented Reality development kit) so that the statue/statues are endowed with huge Homo Colossus “shadows” that can be seen through the smartphone’s screen and with the help of an AR app. 

You will also design a method to invite people to use the AR app on these public sculptures. People need to be aware of the location and the identity of the statues that have been augmented and how to see the AR augmentation. Your task is thus to design an intervention/information system that gets their attention, provide them with relevant information and invites explorations - be it posters, screens, in-app advertisements or some other method.

Exploring human powered interaction

Project/Task
You will explore the potential of powering interactive artefacts through so called “human-powered interaction” (HPI). In HPI, the aim is that the power needed to run the device should be acquired through interacting with - and simultaneously “charging” - the device. “Charging” is a nice metaphor but is in fact the wrong term because as apart from “harvesting” energy from human activity (for example through a dynamo that charges a smartphone battery), there is no battery to charge in HPI. The energy that is generated by your physical activity is used up as it is generated, and in fact constitutes a design material of sorts.

One early example of HPI was “The Peppermill” [1] which describes a simple circuit and a human powered peppermill remote control for a TV. The theory around HPI has been further discussed in a paper by James Pierce and Eric Paulos (“Electric materialities and interactive technology”) [2] in which they argue that HPI originates from human physical activity and becomes a part of the interactive experience itself. Power generation is both the source of the interaction and becomes part of the interactive experience!

“If the source of power is generated only via one’s interaction with the technology and experienced as such, then one does not experience the power as external to the immediate context of use as can be the case with ordinary electric technology. Instead, one can experience this power as something able to be personally generated or created.” [2, p. 6]

Interestingly, little has been done from a design perspective to advance this research area despite the increasing interest in sustainable technology. 

Climate map - carbon budget made visible for municipalities

Background
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (PPM) can be measured with high accuracy and we know how much we can emit to keep within certain global mean temperature increases. This is also the scientific basis for what has come to be called the budget perspective: the realization that carbon dioxide accumulates and that we must limit the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere within certain relatively well-known limits in order to meet global temperature targets.

The Climate Map is a non-profit company that was formed in early 2019. We are developing a digital carbon dioxide budget tool together with the Uppsala researchers. We will in the first hand turn to Swedish municipalities, but eventually we also want to reach regions, nations and individuals.

The background to the tool is that in order to adapt our (or a municipality’s) emissions to the global remaining carbon dioxide budget (and thus indirectly to one of the two temperature targets of the Paris Agreement), we (as individuals, municipalities, regions and countries) must first determine what proportion of this global budget is ours. There are different methods for doing so. The easiest one to apply a "flat model" where all the world's current inhabitants are allocated an equal budget. We will apply this 'flat model' as a kind of default mode, or starting position, in our interface, but also allow the user to make additional assumptions and adjust their budget, for example to take into account OECD countries' historical emissions debt.

Project/Task
In this task we want to get suggestions on how we can visualize this a carbon budget with the default mode, that is an equal share of the remaining carbon budget. The prospective user/recipient is a Swedish municipality.

We would therefore like to see proposals for an interface that makes visible our remaining global carbon dioxide budget and a Swedish municipality's share of this. We want it, as visually and intuitively as possible, to show how the municipal budget is calculated (using the Greenpeace flat model where there is a division first (of all now living people), then a multiplication (by the number of inhabitants in the municipality)). In summary, we want the user to meet a visual representation of his/her municipality's carbon dioxide budget, but also as intuitively and directly as possible, understand how this is calculated, and also see its proportional relation to our remaining global budget.

HabitWise – design of climate calculators to create sustainable habits

Background
Human impact on the climate is one of our time’s biggest challenges. Consumption within Swedish households contribute to around 80% of Sweden’s consumption based climate emissions (Swedish EPA 2017). Considering the impact of different categories of consumption from the average Swede, food consumption generates the largest impact, followed by transport, housing, and other shopping. These categories can be measured and communicated to households. This communication holds
a prospect of people learning about their impact and taking steps to change their lifestyles to decrease their impact.
In one way, climate impact tools are the “culmination” of climate impact research. Through these tools, knowledge is available to people outside the scientific community. But what needs to be communicated and what aspects have a lasting impact? We aim to understand how the tools can be improved to bridge science and society toward sustainable development. Several climate calculators are available for households to use. They review climate footprint and, in some cases, suggest how to develop more sustainable consumption patterns. However, little research is available on
systematic user studies providing fruitful information on how to design of climate calculators to best fit their users.
  
The project
We want to know how climate footprint calculators can be designed and implemented to encourage users to lifestyle changes. Hence we would like to invite a group to do an evaluation study (which would be a pre-study for our larger research project), where one climate calculator is evaluated with users.
Potentially this could be a think-aloud study of c:a 5-10 individual household users of 1 selected footprint tool. Selection of test users should aim for balancing gender, age and education. It could also include an expert evaluation and (concept) design of a new interface, new features etc.
Potentially the project could meet the respondents twice, in order to after a few weeks, see what the respondents remember and/if they have started doing any changes in their life.
The work will be part of the project HabitWise – Creating Sustainable Everyday Habits.

Non-intrusive social reminders for sustainable food behaviour

Background 
Food is something we all have a relationship with, whether we like it or not. Food is also an area where we ourselves often think we could, or should behave differently. We might want to eat more vegetables for one or more reasons (health, climate issues, animal welfare etc), generate less food waste, eat less candy, follow diet X, eat more fruit, spend less money on impulse purchases and so on. However, changing such behaviours is easier said than done. 

Research on supporting behaviour change has been conducted for a long time, especially within the areas of health and medicine (i.e. stop smoking) but the technological advances have in recent years opened up the sub-field of digital behaviour change, where digital tools and services are used to support behaviour change. In my research projects we try out new digital technologies to promote more sustainable behaviour around food and for more sustainable kitchen practices. This project is about designing a device for supporting “Non-intrusive social reminders for sustainable food behaviour”.

Project/Task 
This project for the advanced course aims at designing, building and testing a digital connected device (see below) to support more sustainable kitchen- and food behaviours. The designs should be grounded in the “behaviour change wheel” model/framework and the “behaviour change taxonomy v1”. The device should preliminary use the behaviour change techniques “goal setting”, “prompts/cues”, “social support”, “information about other’s approval” from the Behaviour change taxonomy, but choosing behaviour change techniques is a part of the project work.

The basic idea that a group of friends should each have a device. The friends should all share a real interest in improving some (or preferably several) sustainability or health aspect about their food and kitchen practices, such as eat fruit before it turns bad in order to avoid food waste, clean out the fridge, eat healthier/more sustainable and so on. When a person performs some such activity that makes the person feel satisfied with themselves (in a broad sense), the person pushes a button on the device. That makes one led-light light up on the device, and on all their friends’ devices. This serves as a trigger/cue for the friends to remind them that perhaps they should also do something “good”. As more friends do something they are satisfied with, more lights light up on the groups’ devices, creating a collective feeling that the group is doing well. Each night the lights are turned off, and the procedure starts again next day. The devices should be placed in the kitchen of the participants, so that the lights are visible (but not intrusive) when the persons are located in a physical location where it is easy to do “good” food-related behaviours.

The project should make a well-grounded theoretical argument of the design they choose. Of special importance is the grounding the design in the behaviour change models and frameworks described above. The devices should be built with the aim that it should be possible for our research project to build and test the devices during the spring (a possible master’s thesis for participants in the project), and a publicly available instructable of how to build the device should be provided. The devices should then be tested on real users of the target group, and the designs and devices should be qualitatively evaluated from both a design and a behaviour change perspective.

Sharing preference-based adjustments of online recipes

Background 
In society today we today see an increased interest in what we eat, and the number of people with specific preferences (such as vegetarian, low-fat, high-fat, gluten free, climate friendly, non-from-country-x …) are rapidly increasing. In on-line recipes, users often give suggestions of how to modify recipes according such preferences or tastes, but the comments are then provided in the comment field, and a suggestion to replace for example a meat-based ingredient with a vegetarian alternative would not make the recipe appear as “vegetarian” on the recipe website, and vegetarians would probably never find the recipe even though the modified version is now vegetarian. A structured way to provide suggestions of how to modify recipes in a computer-readable way is an interesting research topic that would increase the usefulness of online recipe sites, and support users in finding new recipes that supports their personal preferences.

Project/Task 
This advanced project suggestion is about designing, developing and evaluating a web-plugin (or similar solution) that recognizes the ingredients on one (or several) recipe sites such as Tasteline.se, and allows users to in a user-friendly and structured way suggest replacing one or more ingredients by other ingredients. The suggestions should be categorized  with one or more “reasons”  (i.e. to make it vegetarian, to decrease the number of calories, to make it tastier …), and it should be possible for other users to in some way rate how good the suggestion is. Other users, using the plugin, should then be able to see that there is a suggestion when they go to the site, and if they have provided personal preferences (such as “lactose free”, “low CO2”) such suggestions should be more easily visible. Other features can be developed as part of the course (such as being able to search for all recipes that have been modified in a specific way, subscription to changes made by specific people, CO2 footprint of recipes and so on). The design should be grounded in the behaviour change wheel framework. Depending on the outcome, this project can also be developed to a master thesis project in the spring.

Making Hippo Hip Again - Redesign of a food inventory system

Background
At the MID-department, there are several research projects related to food waste and sustainable kitchen practices. Within one of these projects, HIPPO, a scanner connected to a digital inventory web application has been developed as a prototype. HIPPO helps you to keep track of what you have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer, and ultimately is a way to keep you from overbuying food that then ends up as food waste.

Project/Task
The mission, should you accept it, is the do some new design thinking around the HIPPO prototype. The prototype in its current form runs the risk of mainly attracting certain segments of consumers (e.g. Resource Man (Strengers, 2014)). Hence we wish you to in this project rethink and redesign the system so that it attracts other types of consumers. What could HIPPO look like, how could users be enticed to use it and what would its purpose be?

Meat-O-Meter - changing meat consumption behavior

Background
Production and consumption of meat, as well as dairy products, is a major source of carbon emissions globally and has a large environmental impact overall. The system sustaining meat production/consumption is complex and includes many areas including but not limited to feed production,animal husbandry, transport, and even political/economical systems regulating production and consumption, import and export, subsidies etc. While a general awareness of the fact that meat, especially imported meat, might not be the most sustainable option is growing, the scale and details of the issue often remains unclear.

Project/Task
This project revolves around creating a tool (e.g visualisation, sonification, or physical installation) that can shed light on, and raise awareness of, relevant aspects of the meat production system, its scale, and impact. Based on real-time data of meat purchases through the service Matlistan.se we want you to develop a tool that can cast light on relevant aspects of the meat production chain thereby promoting awareness/insights leading to informed choices and/or behavior change. The tool should be in the form of an artefact/visualisation/sonification that can be placed in a common space to create peripheral awareness, act as a curiosity object that piques people’s interest, a conversation piece, and something that blends into people’s everyday routine. As an initial site for the installation we imagine our own kitchen at KTH. The project will benefit from a multi-disciplinary design team including skills in coding, design, management/business.
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onsdag 18 september 2019

The future through the present (seminar)

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I went to a seminar at Stockholm University of the Arts earlier today. The topic of the seminar interested me and for some strange reason I had the whole afternoon free so I went on a lark:

The future through the present

Work has an almost religious function in our lives as the most meaningful activity we should devote ourselves to. In the near future, this may be incompatible with new technology that makes work superfluous. Can creative documentaries prepare us for this outcome? Can depictions of the contemporary create projections into the future?

Erik Gandini (professor of documentary film) and Roland Paulsen (sociologist and author) present "The future through the present", an interdisciplinary research project in collaboration with Jyoti Mistry, professor of film at Valand.

"The future of the present" is an interdisciplinary project that combines creative documentary movies and sociology. Erik Gandini discussed a few questions that he as a filmmaker took with him into the project:
- How can a documentary film based on the present and recoded in contemporary times create a projection into something that does not yet exist? A universe of ideas, assumptions, imaginary notions of what yet is not but can be?
- How can a new documentary aesthetic for the future be formulated that is not an imitation of fiction or of the science fiction genre but instead based on the documentary's own narrative element?


The seminar also treated the topics of "work" and "the future of work". Some of the questions that were raised in connection to this were:

- Is the ethical superiority of work (compared to non-work/unemployment etc.) really untouchable?
- Can we think of a different future? Can we imagine what a post-work society look like?
- What will we do when we do not need to work?
- Can creative documentary prepare us for this outcome?

Several other provocative ideas were aired at the seminar, for example:
- A pro-work argument that is repeated all the time is that "we can't afford to work less" (because fewer people will have to work harder, more and longer in order to support more "non-productive" people now and even more so in the future (the young, the old, the infirm, the unemployed, the unemployable illiterate immigrant etc.). Roland Paulsen pointed out that the discussion always seem to glaze over the fact that we have progressively grown wealthier for a very long time.
- Research results indicate that people prefer to work rather than not to work and that it's better to have job than not to have a job taking physical and mental health into consideration. Roland pointed out that these "facts" could be the result of the current "workfare" regime where the alternatives to work (unemployment etc.) have been designed so as to make the alternatives to (full-time) employment unpalatable and punishing.

Erik discussed the phenomena of countries that have become filthy rich (Norway) and showed us footing from an upcoming documentary of his about Kuwait which was very interesting and thought-provoking. All Kuwaiti nationals apparently has the right to get a (well-paid) job - but they don't have  a right to get a meaningful work and many people flounder or suffer as they (sometimes) drag their butts to a workplace where there is nothing to do but to kill time. Erik also mentioned that ultraortodox jews in Israel get a stipend, "a sort of universal basic income", and spend all their time being religions and reading holy texts and apparently also score very high on any and all happiness measures. That's a way of thinking of Israeli ultraortodox jews that I certainly hadn't thought of before...


The seminar also took a for me very unexpected turn when both Roland and Erik at one point started to talk about "counterfactuals" - about worlds that could be (or might have been) as a way to open up our imagination to the currently-unimaginable. I made sure to mention our just-approved research project that starts in January and that involves counterfactuals!

I also learned something new. In psychology, the noble-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has written about about ("upward" and "downward") counterfactuals. I immediately ordered a copy of a 1982 book chapter and an 1986 article of his about counterfactual! In a break, Roland also mentioned to me that the radical marxist sociologist Eric Olin Wright had used/written about counterfactuals, using the term "real utopias". Wright apparently wrote a (for me must-buy) book, "Envisioning real utopias" in 2010 and there is also a "Real Utopias Project" that started more than 25 years ago:

"The Real Utopias Project, begun in 1991, explores a wide range of proposals and models for radical social change. The basic idea is to combine serious normative discussions of the underlying principles and rationales for different emancipatory visions with the analysis of pragmatic problems of institutional design. The project itself consists of a series of conferences sponsored periodically by the A. E, Havens Center at the University of Wisconsin."
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