torsdag 31 oktober 2013

Sustainability and Media Technology 2013 line-up

This time last year I published a blog post with a list of all the (guest) lectures in my course DM2573 "Sustainability and Media Technology" and this blog post does the very same for this year's course. Around half the lectures are the same as last year and the other half are new for this year. Below is the 2013 line-up for the course (14 lectures).

The course again ended with a "gripe session" and me and my assistant teacher Elina Eriksson got a lot of feedback that will help us improve the course for next year. This time around we also did a "real" course evaluation (that we haven't had time to look at yet). Finally, we played a game, Carbonoply/GaSuCo in class (three times) this year. It was great and we have studied/collected material around these game-playing sessions. Me and Elina aim at writing a paper about it and submitting it to the upcoming ICT4S conference that will be held in Stockholm next year.

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

Jon-Erik Dahlin, Ph.D., Researcher/teacher at KTH/Department of Energy Technology, "Sustainable development: Intoduction, definitions and perspectives."

Jon-Erik Dahlin, Ph.D., Researcher/teacher at KTH/Department of Energy Technology, "Sustainable development: Threats against sustainability, threats against development"

Jon-Erik Dahlin, Ph.D., Researcher/teacher at KTH/Department of Energy Technology, "Sustainable development: Strategies for sustainability"

Jon-Erik Dahlin, Ph.D., Researcher/teacher at KTH/Department of Energy Technology, "Sustainable development: Perspectives on sustainable development"

Nate Hagens, Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont, USA, US Director of the Institute for Integrated Economic Research (IIER), "Human behavior meets limits to growth: Constraints and opportunities"

Daniel Pargman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Media Technology, KTH/CSC/MID and CESC, "Global resource challenges and implications for ICT and media"

Shakila Umair, Guest researcher at FMS/CESC, KTH, "Informal recycling of electronic waste in Pakistan"

- Elina Eriksson, Researcher at Green Leap, CESC/MID, KTH, "Energy, IT and Design"

Baki Cakici, Ph.D. student at Stockholm University, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences and Researcher at the Swedish Institute of Computer Science (SICS), Software and Systems Engineering Laboratory, "Designing ICT for future generations: The case of the Stockholm Royal Seaport"

- Henrik Åhman, Ph.D. student at KTH/CSC/Media Technology and Interaction Design, "Social sustainability: Society at the intersection of maintenance and development"

Daniel Pargman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Media Technology, KTH/CSC/MID and CESC, "Rebound effects"

- Concluding panel discussion"Images of the future"
ModeratorDaniel Pargman, KTH/CSC/MID. 
Peter Nöu, Senior Program Manager at The Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (Vinnova)
Sören Enholm, CEO at TCO Development
Elisabeth Ekener Petersen, Ph.D. student at KTH/FMS and KTH/CESC
Daniel Berg, Ph.D. student in Economic History at Stockholm University and Secretary in ASPO Sweden.

- Daniel Pargman (teacher) and Elina Eriksson (assistant teacher), wrap-up and gripe session

During the previous month, I have written three texts on this blog that relates to the this year's Sustainability and Media Technology course:

onsdag 30 oktober 2013

Science Fiction research workshop

I have recently combined one of my courses with a research project I'm involved in; "Scenarios and Environmental Impacts of the Information Society". In my course Sustainability and Information Technology, we had a panel with invited guests who discussed "Images of the future" and we followed it up with a seminar about the future a couple of days later. The students prepared for the seminar by writing and handing in 200-600 words long texts on the theme: "What is your image(s) of the future?" (in relation to the panel as well as other stuff we had talked about in the course).

We did not use students' submitted hand-ins at the seminar, but instead used the output from the research project. Back in June, I wrote a blog post and super-short summaries of the five scenarios of future ICT societies that we have developed within the project. Me and Elina (course assistant) updated these super-short summaries with the goal of making all five summaries fit on one single page that could be handed out to the students. The students read these short description and chose which of the five scenario they preferred to (start to) work. We then gave them a large sheet of paper (70*100 cm) as well as a variety of practical materials (post-it notes, pens with different colors etc.) to work with. The students were encouraged to move around (inspired by the "open space" format), but they surprisingly often got "stuck" where they sat down. We had to prod them and forced them to take a break in order to get them to move around (it's much easier to move to a different table when you come back from a break).

The actual task consisted of "fleshing out" the scenarios and to think about links, connections and implications of different scenario "design decisions" that had already been made when formulating the scenarios or that the students made then and there. We wanted one post-it note per observation/insight and we asked them to use different colors depending on what their observation primarily concerned; black for ICT/technology, green for environment, blue for economy  and red for people (social relations, values, norms). We also directed them to spend most of the time in "the future where their scenario played out", but to also dedicate a small portion of the paper (say 20%) to "the past future" (i.e. to think some about the time between 2013 and their future society in terms of factors that led up to the scenario in question) and another 20% or so to "the far future" (i.e. what happens afterwards, what are the implications and the consequences of the scenario for the far future).

All in all, we did two seminars with 20-25 students at each seminar. The rests of this blog post will however not primarily treat the results of these seminars, but rather results of organizing "the same" seminar at "Fantastika" - a Science Fiction convention (SF con) that was held in Stockholm 10 days ago. Except for me and Elina, Luciane Borges from the KTH Dept. of Environmental Strategies Research joined us for that particular exercise and this is how it was announced in the program:

"In a three-year long research project at KTH, we will ponder and count on the implications of tomorrow's information society in terms of the sustainability impacts of different futures. We have developed five different scenarios for the future information society and we need your help to flesh them out! We will present our scenarios at his workshop and ask you for feedback as well as references to new (or old) books, stories, movies, TV series etc. Are our scenrious believable and credible? Or silly, or scary, or...?"

There were a number of new limitations that were challenging and the three most important ones were that 1) the workshop was held early in the day (many attendees had not arrived yet) and there was competition from other parallel program activities, 2) because of the stiff competition for attendees attention, we did not dare to claim/ask for two consecutive hours of their time and 3) we thus had to make do with 50 minutes and compress the whole exercise.

Taking into account that we had to do quite a few adjustments both before as well as during the workshop, I think we did a fair job of organizing the workshop and I do believe participants enjoyed participating and contributing. Remember, this is a very different situation compared to organizing course seminars at KTH with a "captive audience" who haven't chosen to be there and who can't leave. Some examples of more or less impromptu changes we had to make are:
- 1) the written/spoken instructions had to be more compressed and self-contained and the pace of the workshop had to be speeded up (i.e. we had to force the participants to move on despite the fact that there were really good discussions going on that we unfortunately had to break up).
- 2) we assumed but didn't have access to a good blackboard/whiteboard (but we solved that with the help of a computer and a projector).
- 3) the room was not big enough and people had to stand instead of sit down (which might have turned out to be for the better).
- 4) only about a dozen persons or so showed up where we had hoped for at least double that amount (but it is doubtful that 25 persons would easily have fit in the room - especially when they started to move around). There were literally hundreds of participants at the convention although not everyone had arrived by Saturday morning.
- 5) we could have announce our workshop differently and much better in the program, emphasizing that it was an activity where you didn't just sit down and listen but were co-creating results. Especially some of the younger participants crave activities like ours - where you don't just sit down and listen to other people talking.

Me, Elina and Luciane sat down for a debriefing immediately after we had held the workshop and we had many ideas and reflections, for example:
- 50 minutes is very little time taking into account that some time has to be spent on instructions and on explaining the goals, the rules, the process etc. In a "lightning workshop" like ours, things have to be simplified, streamlined and speeded up as much as possible, but 50 minutes is still very little time. Perhaps it's too little?
- People who attended the workshop did not know each other. We should have helped facilitate contacts between them. A round of introductions would have been nice, but how do we do that quickly?
- We really really should have handed out contact information if participants wanted to know more about the research project or wanted to get in touch with us afterwards. At a university-level course all the participants know each other (some) and they of course all know the teachers. Here they don't and the format has to be adapted to these new circumstances.
- The scenarios are quite abstract. It's possible (easy?) to get stuck in "high-level" thinking. An idea might be to instantiate them, perhaps to create some kind of Day-in-the-life scenario that makes the scenarios "come true" in day-to-day life.
- It was actually pretty good that people had to stand. It speeds things up and people can also move around within or between groups. It would have been even better had we had a number of tripods for our large sheet of paper (one tripod for each scenario).
- It's easy to get people to talk both in the classroom but especially at a SF con, but it's sometimes harder to get them to write down stuff on post-it notes. Should perhaps the discussions also/instead be recorded?
- We didn't get as many references to literary works (text/moving images) as I would have thought (and hoped for).

Elina and Luciane had to leave, but the observations above together with later conversations of mine with convention attendees initiated a chain of thoughts. Single loop learning ("the repeated attempt to solve the same problem [...] without ever questioning the goal", c.f. Argyris & Schön (1978), "Organizational learning") would give us insights about how to do "the same" workshop but better at the next SF convention. But beyond streamlining the 50-minute workshop, perhaps it would be possible to prepare some self-explanatory instructions (one sheet of paper with scenarios on one side and instructions on the other side) with the possibility of reaching a major part of the 400-500 participants - instead of just a handful?

If we decide that a major part of doing a workshop at a SF convention is to get feedback and suggestions as to what short stories and books we should read and what movies and TV series we should watch, why not allow people to continue to submit suggestions also after the workshop or indeed after the weekend-long convention? Why not set up a simple web form where you can drop a suggestion, a reference and/or a link? But then why settle for a lonely web form where you can drop suggestions - shouldn't that form instead be part of a (small) website that would contain information about the whole research project? With (or without) a small website, it would also be possible to reach out not just to the people who attended this particular SF convention, but also to the largest distribution list for Swedish Science Fiction fans and ask them for literary and other references. But why settle for that when we could use a Science Fiction convention and/or the distribution list to recruit SF "trendspotters" that we could tie to our project and that could help us out both right now as well as 6 or 12 months down the road?

The end of the line of these thoughts is; why wait for the next convention? The SF con attendees had so much to talk about and so many insights, so why not use the distribution list to reach this audience and recruit people for a whole-day workshop at KTH that does not have to compete with a a large number of parallel activities? That could turn out to be the really really interesting workshop where we could dive into, and work through the different scenarios over the course of a day instead of hurrying through it all in an hour. Perhaps we should do a scenarios workshop at the upcoming ICT4S conference next summer? Perhaps we should even get these two disparate groups (researchers and SF fans) together at such an workshop? I do believe that with some screening on behalf of the SF fans ("limited number of spots"), it could be an event that would very much be appreciated by both of these two groups!

Some other concluding thoughts of mine that I don't want to loose are:
- When we do a workshop, is our primary purpose to get our scenarios "out there"in front of an audience in order to get feedback and evaluate/develop the scenarios further? Or should we assume that these scenarios are "finished" (for now). 
- If they are finished ("frozen"), we might instead want to customize the workshop and vary the instructions; media technology students could primarily be directed to think about the technology/ICT implications of the scenarios, urban planning students could primarily be directed to think about the urban/spatial implications and SF fans could primarily be directed to think about the underlying ideas and to provied references that relate to these scenarios. 
- It would then also be possible to find courses and do workshops with other groups of students (or professionals); economy students, environmental [something] students, social science (anthropology) students and so on. Perhaps it would even be possible to coordinate different university courses and form groups consisting of students with different disciplinary backgrounds, e.g. on media technology student, one urban studies student, one economy student and so on?

It seems probable that we we will organize "the same" workshop at another KTH course (urban planning) in November. This blog post is in fact my contribution to the discussion at an upcoming meeting two weeks from now. Some specific observations from Fantastika that I don't want to loose are:
- Two scenarios (Life online and ICT in the real world) are perhaps not so different from each other. They could describe the same scenario but at different points in time (near/far future). 
- Two scenarios (Life online and Gated communities) are perhaps not so much about the future as about the very near future or even the present! They didn't feel "futuristic" enough to some participants. Should these scenarios be pushed further in order to become more "futuristic"?
- The SF fans really liked to think about the Gated communities scenario while that same scenario was a hard sell to our media technology students.
- At the SF con, there was marked disagreement about the desirability (or not) of the Life online scenario. It didn't go all the way to a tussle, but people were sort of upset at each other (someone was charged with being a "luddite" - surely an insult at an SF convention!?). The students never came close to that kind of disagreements. I believe that the students in general had less strong opinions about the future.
- It doesn't come naturally for people to take notes, I especially had to hound one of my groups at the SF con who had a vivid discussion but didn't take any of it down on paper. This could probably be fixed more smoothly (less hounding) had we had more time. The same is true for the students but to a lesser extent (they tend to be better at following the instructions and do what you tell them (not the least since they will be graded at some point in time!)).
- It should be noted that we have not yet looked at the concrete output of the three seminars; we haven't looked at the dozen large sheets of papers that are covered with post-it notes nor have we analyzed the students' 50+ hand-ins about their "images of the future". I very much look forward to doing that - but when? There is always so much to do...

Additional comments (Nov 14): We had a meeting today and decided to:
- Do a workshop for SF fans sometimes in the spring (I won't be able to participate as I will be abroad at that time).
- Submit a workshop proposal for the upcoming (Aug 2014) ICT4S conference
- We might also submit a workshop proposal on this topic (or some other topic) to the upcoming NordiCHI conference in Finland next year (workshop proposal deadline is in May 2014).

tisdag 29 oktober 2013

Books I've read recently

"Books I've read recently" is a recurring topic and here is the previous blog post (same topic, different books). Below are books that I read back in April and May this year. I also read a bunch of books during the summer and I wrote about them at the end of the summer (here and here).

The four books below are all broad and critical analyses of the direction we as a civilization and as a species have taken and why that direction is pure folly. All three books treat the unsustainability of our current path and all three authors preach that we should amend our ways ASAP.

Richard Heinberg is a prolific writer and opinion builder. I've read two of his earlier books ("The party's over" and "Powerdown"), but that was five years ago. A year ago, I did however read and write about a book that Heinberg co-edited, "The post-carbon reader". Heinberg's "Peak everything: Waking up to the century of declines" came out in hardcover in 2007, right before the financial crisis hit. I thought it would be a good idea to follow it up by also reading his 2011 post-crisis book (see further below in this blog post).

First a short note about the book cover. I wrote a paper (unpublished) and gave a talk at a workshop (conference) three years ago, and I used the image of the book cover (above) as part of my slides. The talk was well received but it didn't sit well with on particular person in the audience and he especially didn't like the book cover picture above. The picture implies that modern societies are fragile, like a house of cards, and he instead insisted that they are robust (he himself had done research on our electricity infrastructure). Still, I like the picture and I still use it in my slides. It's a great illustration of how dependent we are on fossil fuels.

When I started to read the book, I discovered that it wasn't a monograph, but rather a collections of 11 shorter (previously published) texts. The quality of the texts are high (Heinberg's writing is almost always polished, lucid and well structured), but I recognized quite a few of the ideas and the line of reasoning from other texts of his that I have read. Still, a few texts (chapters) were very good, including a text about the hyper-sensitive topic "Population, resources and human idealism". That chapter can be summarized as follows: "idealism and good intentions are insufficient responses to problems of population pressure and resource depletion". That text is also available online.

John Michael Greer's "The wealth of nature: Economics as if survival mattered" (2011) is the third book of his that I have read. I read "The ecotechnic future: Envisioning a post-peak world" a year ago and wrote about it in the blog. The title, "The wealth of nature", is a riff on two other books, Adam Smith's 1776 magnum opus "The wealth of nations" and E. M. Schumacher's "Small is beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered" (1974) (which I also read a year ago). "The wealth of nature" is hands-down the best of the four books I write about in this blog post.

Greer does nothing less than tearing down the very foundation of traditional economics by head-on challenging some deeply-held assumptions among economists (and thus also by politicians and decision-makers):

"the rise of economics as a science and a profession has not been accompanied by any noticeable improvement in the ability of societies to manage their economic affairs. It's ironic, in fact, how few benefits industrial societies seem to have gained from their economic experts in the last few decades."

Many things that made sense 200 year ago, in a world of (perceived) abundance of energy and resources, do in fact not make sense any longer as we realize the finiteness of energy resources, minerals, land (population, food, forests), water (fish/irrigation) and indeed even air (climate change). What makes Greer special is not only what he says, but the way he says it. He has a very sharp pen and an ability to find exceedingly powerful stories, analogies and formulations. To Greer (referring to Schumacher), energy is the "ur-commodity, the foundation for all economic activity":

"In an age that will increasingly be constrained by energy limits [...] a more useful measure of productivity [instead of labor productivity] might be energy productivity - that is, output per barrel of oil equivalent (BOE) of energy consumed. An economy that produces more value with less energy input is an economy better suited to a future of energy constraints"

"In the twilight of the age of cheap energy, the most abundant energy source remaining throught the world will be human labor [...] human labor has certain crucial advantages in a world of energy scarcity, just as it did in earlier eras of economic contraction and social decline. Unlike other technologies, human labor if fueled by food, which is a form of solar energy. [...] field labor by human beings with simple tools, paid at close to Third World wages, already plays a crucial role in the production of many coops in the US, and this will only increase as wages drop and fuel prices rise. The agriculture of the future [will] rely on human labor with hand tools rather than more energy intensive methods. [...] Such an agricultural system will not support seven billion people, but then neither will anything else. [...] perhaps the best way to describe the changes ahead is to say that most of the world's industrial nations are in the process of becoming Third World countries."

I knew of Christ Martenson mainly through his "Crash Course" series of explanatory online video lectures about the connections between economy, energy and environment. They are highly praised by many, but for some reason I have never watched these videos as a series but rather just a handful of them. I instead opted for reading his book, "The crash course: The unsustainable future of our economy, energy and environment" (2011).

Christ Martenson was a career-oriented executive who then "saw the light" and turned his life around. Parts of the book feels very American, sort of like a self-help book with a lot of self-promotion thrown in ("I turned my life around and did all of this, and if you put your mind to it, so can you!"). It basically covers the same topics as all the other books in this blog post and compared to the competition, this is the book I liked the least.

If the Richard Heinberg book above is his pre-crisis book, "The end of growth: Adapting to our new economic reality" (2011) is his post-crisis analysis. As early as in the very first sentence on page number 1, he states that "The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with." The kind of economic growth that we won't have any more is growth of the overall size of the economy and of materials and energy throughput. "From now on [...] the global economy is playing a zero-sum game, with an ever-shrinking pot to be divided among the winners." That means we are right now, globally, transitioning from economic growth to economic contraction. That might not be a total catastrophe if we could just understand and replace "more" with "better".

Heinberg is a truly gifted teacher and he backs up his arguments with sound data, diagrams and lots of sources, but he doesn't measure up to Greer's ability to create and spin stories. Still, you can do worse than reading a book by master pedagogue Richard Heinberg:

"Energy, water, and food are all essential and have no substitutes, which means that prices fluctuate wildly in response to small changes in quantity [...] As a side effect of this, their contribution to GNP [...] increases as their supply declines, which is highly perverse. When financial publications tout "bullish" oil or grain prices, the reader may naturally assume that this constitutes good news. But it's only good for investors in these commodities; for everyone else, higher food and energy prices mean economic pain."

"Limits to freshwater could restrict economic growth by impacting society in four primary ways: (1) by increasing mortality and general misery as increasing numbers of people find difficulty filling basic and essential human needs related to drinking, bathing, and cooking; (2) by reducing agricultural output from currently irrigated farmland; (3) by compromising mining and manufacturing processes that require water as an input; and (4) by reducing energy production that requires water. As water becomes scarce, attempts to avert any one of these four impacts will likely make matters worse with regard to at least one of the other three. There is now widespread concern among experts and responsible agencies that freshwater supplies around the world are being critically overused and degraded, so that water scarcity will increase dramatically as the century wears on."

måndag 28 oktober 2013

Katarina Elevant's Ph.D. defense

I attended Katarina Elevant's Ph.D. defense Friday last week when she presented/defended her thesis "'Share weather': Design and evaluation of a new concept for sharing weather information" (available online here).

The opponent was professor Lore Olfman (profile here) from the School of Information Systems and Technology at Claremont Graduate University (US). The grading committee consisted of three persons; Lise Kofoed from Aalborg University (Denmark), Mikael Lind (Victoria Institute and University of Borås) and Inga Britt Werner (KTH).

The primary reason I write this blog post is because I have had a small role in this process too - I was the opponent at Katarina's "final seminar" back in December last year when she presented a draft version of her thesis. I should have written a blog post about it back then, but was very busy at the time and so it just didn't happen (as apart from when I was the opponent at Jorge Zapico's "final seminar" earlier this year and did manage to write a blog post about it).

The fact that I was the opponent at the final seminar means that I have read a previous version of her thesis (including the seven articles that were included) very carefully. I had lots of opinions at the time, but my main concern and my main advice concerned the "kappa" (literally "the coat" but actually referring to the "summarizing chapter of a compilation thesis" according to The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education).

I felt that the "kappa" was too compact and difficult to understand and that it was written primarily from the point of view of what Katarina wanted to have said, rather than according to what a reader wanted/needed to know. My suggestion was to shorten and streamline the "kappa" and to take things away that were less relevant in relation to the main arguments of the thesis (rather than to try to cover "everything"). I also suggested that including seven articles might be a little to much. While each article did add something, some of the articles overlapped a little too much. Perhaps one or even two articles could be taken away in a general effort to streamline and shorten the thesis?

I instead estimate that the final version of the "kappa" was 50% more voluminous than the version I read back in December (i.e. 200+ pages), and instead of taking one or two papers away, another paper had been added to the thesis. I didn't have the opportunity to see or read the thesis before the defense, but I got the distinct feeling that some of the persons in the grading committee (above) had objections similar to the ones I expressed back in the day (a quote was "it was very very long and had many many words").

I on the other hand also think that that several of the papers were very interesting. I especially like the very first paper that gives an historical background and that outlines the field that Katarina has worked within. With a background in meteorology, I think that basic idea of crowdsourcing weather observations through an app is brilliant as an alternative to setting up an ever more fine mesh of really expensive weather stations around the world. The flip from top-down expensive, cumbersome, government-run systems to bottom-up, nimble, social media/media technology-mediated systems is a game-changer and a really interesting development. Having developed and ran the shareweather app/website, I do believe Katarina might be one of the few persons in the world with a dual competence in both meteorology and media technology and that being located in the intersection of these two fields might be a very good place to be situated.

Blog week

I've been busy lately and there are lots of things that I could write about on the blog. According my own self-imposed rules, I should choose to write about a maximum of two events/topics on this blog every week and push other possible blog topics forward in time or write them off.

At it so happens, a period of much activity is now (finally) followed by a week with plenty of space in my calendar and so I establish this coming week to be my first-ever "blog week". My goal is to write a new post every day this week. I haven't decided yet if the week ends on Friday or on Sunday.

söndag 27 oktober 2013

CESC advisory board visit

I'm a member of the management team at the Center for Sustainable Communications (CESC). This past week, the International Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB) visited KTH to evaluate and advice CESC as to how well the center fulfills its goals - and how suitable the stated goals actually are.

The ISAB visit claimed one whole day as I partook in all activities (including a dinner the day before). The international members of the advisory board are all distinguished/well-connected academics:
- Susan Owens is a professor of geography and policy, head of the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of the British Academy.
- Marko Turpeinen is the director of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) ICT Labs Helsinki node. He was a professor at my department, Media Technology, until he too the job at EIT. He has also been principal scientist at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT).
- Frans Berkhout is a professor of Environment, Society and Climate at the Department of Geography, King's College, London and Interim Director of the Future Earth programme.

While Susan and Marko were physically present in Stockholm, Frans participated through video conferencing for about half the day.

There was very little that was genuinely new to me, but I was provided with an update of what happens in the different CESC research projects and some other ongoing CESC projects. That might prove to be good - for example if I myself is ever going to present CESC.

When the wrap-up was spent discussing KPIs for 30 minutes, I took the opportunity to compose, well, if not poem, then at least a verse of sorts. I read it before we broke up and here's a slightly update version:

"ISAB has to help us to get the KPIs right
and emphasize the CESC USPs
in order for PIs and Ph.Ds
to synergistically leverage and maximize their personal brand values
so as to attain VIP status
in the emerging field of ICT4S"

fredag 25 oktober 2013

School of procrastination

Only last week I wrote a blog post about an article that me and my colleague Björn Hedin have written. It's the first article that we write together based on the data of almost 700 students' procrastination habits that we have collected between October 2011 and March 2013 and we will present the article at a conference next month.

Last month we got an invitation to give a talk about our work on students' procrastination habits at the GAUPA days, i.e. two days that treat issues of interest for the selected few at KTH who are program coordinators for different educational programmes (there seems to be nine different program coordinators at my own school, the School of Computer Science and Communication), who are directors (or deputy directors) of undergraduate and master's studies (there is I presume one of each at each school), or who manage the dean's office and the admin personnel at each school ("kanslichefer").

We thus had a 90-minute slot to present and discuss our results and 27 persons had signed up for our session, "Better studying habits in the age of procrastination". There were four parallel tracks and the participants could choose between our session or other topics such as "pedagogical leadership", "mathematics in engineering educations", "catering to students with disabilities" etc. There were, among the people who signed up for our talk no less than 3 director of studies, 11 programme coordinators, 3 "kanslichefer" and 9 others (project leader, vice dean etc.).

Me and Björn have both been (very) pressed for time lately, but due to an extremely efficient work process, we managed to put together a solid presentation (with 36 slides) in no time at all. It of course also helps that we have collected excellent material (from close to 700 students!), have put together presentations about this topic before and of course also know each other well.

Me and Björn started by discussing what we wanted to get out of our presentation and formulated two main goals. The first was altruistic - to talk about our findings and make people aware of the fact that procrastination is big problem for many students and that this problem probably merits some intervention/ education/ awareness-building for students as well as teachers. The second goal was to offer our services and to invite them to contract us to deliver our course module in their educational programmes (while we at the same time collect more data).

The presentation went very well, but as I had a lunch appointment and had to leave 10 minutes early Björn had to manage the very last part by himself. It's not like I'm bragging, but... well, actually I am bragging because as both me and Björn are (very) experienced lecturers and also very familiar with our material, our talk went fine despite us not having had time to practice beforehand. In fact, our presentation was put together as a Google docs presentation (instead of a Powerpoint) and I have just made the presentation available to anyone who has the link. I've even set the permissions to allow y'all to leave comments (please do).

As it turned out, the School for Industrial Engineering and Management decided directly after our talk that they wanted our module about procrastination and studying habits in all their five educational programmes next year. So, sometime during the second part of the autumn next year, we will deliver our module to (and collect new data from) all the first-year students in the Master of Science in Engineering programmes for Design and Product Realization, Energy and Environment, Industrial Engineering and Management, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Design and Engineering. That turns out to be around 600 first-year students and I guess we will be able to do it all again the following year if these students appreciate our module as much as the closer-to-home media technology and computer science students have.

Me and Björn now half-jokingly and half-seriously discuss:
- applying for money to hire a ph.d. student to work with all the data we have already collected and all the new data we will collect.
- writing a short book that we can use as perfectly-customized course literature for the module (instead of our current solution of putting together a package with others' texts).

söndag 20 oktober 2013

Feedback and quality (and students' theses)

Back in November last year, I wrote a blog post about a short "best practices" article that me and my colleagues Björn Hedin and Stefan Hrastinski had submitted to the open-access journal "Högre Utbildning" ("Higher Education"). While the article itself was short, it had a pretty long and descriptive title; "Using group supervision and social annotation systems to support students' academic writing". In a blog post that I posted before the summer, I also mentioned that the article had been accepted and indeed had just been published online. Here is direct link to that article - I actually think it's pretty good.

Since Björn is such a well-connected person and since he has done quite a lot of practical work in the area of technology-enhanced learning (TEL), he has apparently been tagged as having done "interesting work" in the area and got an "invitation" to apply for money to further develop some of his "digital learning resources" a month ago.

Björn, me and Stefan have thus worked on a small application that would take our bachelor's thesis course (DM129X) and our students' academic writing to the next level in a small pedagogical project that is a direct continuation of the work we described in our HU article (above). We submitted an application in the beginning of the week and the application is called "Social annotation systems and formative peer feedback for bachelors' theses".

The idea is to spend the remainder of this year (2013) conducting workshops, summarizing, analyzing and preparing teaching materials for the spring. During the spring term we would implement an ambition plan to make our bachelors' theses projects better by educating the (around 50-60) students, their (around 6-8) advisors and to some extent also the (around 3-4) examiners in the course to give and to make better use of feedback during the whole process of producing these theses. An important point in our application is also the dissemination of the results to other educational programs at KTH. Our work would of course also result in a text/academic article of some kind.

We have asked for money to fund 70 hours of the examiners' time, 45 hours of the advisors time and 280 hours of Björn, mine and Stefan's time (to do the actual work in the project). For different reasons, I might be interested in working as much as possible in this project, so if we do get our application granted, I can imagine spending upwards to 10-20% of my time in this project for half a year (mainly during the spring term).

I am once more amazed by how fast it is possible to whip together a well-thought out project and an application with the right people, with the right organization and with the right work process. We haven't worked on the application for a very long time (Björn did the heavy lifting and put most of the time into it), but we have worked really effectively and managed to put together a proposal I hope will be very attractive to fund.

Having now handed it it, we wait for the verdict. It's just like in the military, "hurry up and wait".

torsdag 17 oktober 2013

I just have to color-code my books first...

I have written about the work I and Björn Hedin do on procrastination and students' studying habits before. I wrote a blog post back in April about our project and about the upcoming 4th developmental conference for Swedish engineering educations. We submitted a contribution to that conference and it did indeed get accepted.

This is a national 2nd tier conference, and while there are proceedings, the purpose of the conference is more practical; people who are interested in pedagogical research and engineering educations can meet and inspire/be inspired by each other's examples.

Good enough, and, we did manage to whip a short (2000 words) paper together for the conference. Truth be told, while we planned the paper together, my colleague Björn did the absolute majority of the work involved in writing the paper, because the timing (deadline earlier this week) was totally wrong for me. This is the last week this autumn with a heavy teaching load (17 hours of face to face time with the students in my two courses), and, I also went to a retreat ("internat") for two days this week.

While I did publish the submitted abstract in my April blog post, the paper and the abstract has changed enough for me to publish the new abstract here. The title of the paper is "I'm gonna study now! I just have to color-code my books first". It is written in Swedish and here is a translation of the new abstract:

Procrastination, or, to postpone something against your own better judgement, is a large problem in society in general and for students in particular. In this article, we describe a training module on procrastination which we have introduced in two engineering programs at KTH, of which this article addresses the computer science and engineering program in which 466 students participated. The evaluation had a 100% response rate, and it shows that 95% of students had problems with procrastination and 43% had large or very large problems. 88% felt that procrastination was a good theme to discuss in their education, and 57% felt that the module had positive effects on their study habits. Only 7% felt that the module had not had any noticeable effects on their studies. As the module only requires 8 hours of work from students, we believe that the advantages imply that this, or a similar module, should be included in all engineering programs.

The conference will be held in northern Sweden next month. Björn will go there and present the paper. I haven't decided yet but I believe I just might skip this conference as I will do a lot of traveling in the end of this year.

lördag 12 oktober 2013

Articles I've read lately (March)

I'm waay behind on summing up the articles I read during the spring. Despite being half a year late, I still find it useful to sum up and publish blog posts about the articles I've read "lately". Here is the previous blog post (about the articles I read back in February).

Reading articles are on a hiatus right now because of a heavy work load. I have no time to read articles at the moment, so I might eventually catch up with my blog posts...!

Batch/week 1 - Texts from the ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) conference
Comment: I read a batch of ICT4S articles in February in preparation for the then-upcoming ICT4S conference. In March I read a new batch of articles that for one or another reason had caught my interest at the conference. These articles were much better than last month's.

Blumendorf, M. (2013). Building Sustainable Smart Homes. ICT4S 2013: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability, ETH Zurich, February 14-16, 2013, 151. */ Was awarded the "best paper" prize at the conference. "Can we make smart homes sustainable or sustainable homes smart?" /* 
- Cho, E. J., & Rogel, L. (2013). Urban social sustainability through the web. ICT4S 2013: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability, ETH Zurich, February 14-16, 2013, 167. */ Interesting study of how an online meeting place was integrated into a condominium and how it created "better relationships between neighbors" (referred to as "urban social sustainability"). A little strange though since the second author both lives in the condominium and was the driving force behind the whole intervention, but the references to further research are very good! /*
- Fors, P., & Lennerfors, T. T. (2013). Translating Green IT: the case of the Swedish Green IT Audit. ICT4S 2013: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability, ETH Zurich, February 14-16, 2013, 208. */ The study is part of "the interpretative turn in organizational studies". On how an idea (Green IT) is transformed into something that companies can act upon through the creation of methods and standards (in this case The Green IT Audit) /*
- Kramers, A., Höjer, M., Lövehagen, N., & Wangel, J. (2013). ICT for Sustainable Cities: How ICT Can Support an Environmentally Sustainable Development in Cities. ICT4S 2013: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability, ETH Zurich (pp. 183–188). */ How cities can use ICT to reduce energy use. Ambitious study. /*
- Laubacher, R. (2013). Harnessing Collective Intelligence to Address Climate Change: The Climate CoLab. ICT4S 2013: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability, ETH Zurich, February 14-16, 2013, 1. */ Supershort paper accompanying one of the keynotes. Very interesting. /*
- Lövehagen, N., & Bondesson, A. (2013). Evaluating sustainability of using ICT solutions in smart cities–methodology requirements. ICT4S 2013: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability, ETH Zurich, February 14-16, 2013, 175. */ Research by Ericsson Research "based on an extensive literature study which covered almost 200 papers and reports on assessments, indicators, methodoligies and evaluation tools related to sustainability, ICT and cities". /*
- Mankoff, J. (2013). Defining an Agenda for Computational Sustainability. ICT4S 2013: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability, ETH Zurich, February 14-16, 2013, 4. */ Supershort paper accompanying one of the keynotes. Interesting. /*
- Spreng, D. (2013). Interactions between Energy, Information and Growth. ICT4S 2013: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability, ETH Zurich (pp. 6–7). */ Supershort paper accompanying one of the keynotes. Very interesting. /*
- Svane, Ö. (2013). Energy Efficiency in Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm through ICT and smarter infrastructure–survey and potentials. ICT4S 2013: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Sustainability, ETH Zurich, February 14-16, 2013, 190. */ "Hammarby Sjöstad is seen as one of the world's highest profile examples of Sustainable City Development". So, what happened to the ICT and environmental goals and visions that were formulated as part of the project? As it turns out the answer is "nothing much". "In one case the interactive ICT for management was just prepared for [but never installed], in another it was accidentally disconnected." /*

Batch/week 2 - Articles about sustainability from the HCI community
Comment: These articles are the results of following up earlier stuff I have read in this area.

- Dillahunt, T., Mankoff, J., Paulos, E., & Fussell, S. (2009). It’s not all about green: Energy use in low-income communities. Proceedings of the 11th international conference on Ubiquitous computing (pp. 255–264). ACM. */ A study of energy saving behaviors, values and beliefs in US low-income households as well as external factors and challenges. Most such studies are otherwise performed on well-off households living in detached houses. /*
- Dourish, P. (2010). HCI and environmental sustainability: the politics of design and the design of politics. Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 1–10). ACM. */ "This paper examines the way that traditional HCI discourse obscures political and cultural contexts of environmental practice that must be part of an effective solution. [...] this paper explores some of the reasons for the dominance of individually-focused "persuasive applications" and search for an alternative. /*
- Foth, M., Paulos, E., Satchell, C., & Dourish, P. (2009). Pervasive computing and environmental sustainability: two conference workshops. Pervasive Computing, IEEE, 8(1), 78–81. */ Part of a special issue on environmental sustainability. The main question is: how can pervasive computing and HCI make a significant contribution to improve sustainability? /*
- Nathan, L. P., Blevis, E., Friedman, B., Hasbrouck, J., & Sengers, P. (2008). Beyond the hype: sustainability & HCI. CHI’08 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 2273–2276). ACM. */ A panel about the role of sustainability in the HCI field. /*
- Paulos, E., Foth, M., Satchell, C., Kim, Y., Dourish, P., & Choi, J. H.-J. (2008). Ubiquitous Sustainablity: Citizen Science and Activism. Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Paper 200. */ On a workshop at UbiComp 2008 about grassroots activism, citizen science and environmental concerns. /*
- Schuler, D. (2009). Communities, technology, and civic intelligence. Proceedings of the fourth international conference on Communities and technologies (pp. 61–70). ACM. */ Schuler introduces the term "civic intelligence" to propose, describe and explore "collective intelligence that [is] socially and environmentally ameliorative". /*

Batch/week 3 - Texts about competitive computer gaming
Comment: Same as last month, the articles below were part of reading up and gearing up to write about sports, sportification and competitions together with Daniel Svensson.

Cheung, G., & Huang, J. (2011). Starcraft from the stands: understanding the game spectator. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 763–772). ACM. */ "we focus on the spectator, who is emerging as an important stakeholder in video games". The authors identify no less than nine personas from the 100+ stories they have collected; the bystander, the curios, the inspired, the pupil, the unsatisfied, the entertained, the assistant, the commentator and the crowd. /*
- Crawford, G., & Gosling, V. (2009). More than a game: sports-themed video games & player narrativesSociology of Sport Journal26(1), 50–66. */ A study of how sports-themed video games are used and located within the everyday lives of gamers. The actual data consists of 65 interviews. /*
- Rambusch, J., Jakobsson, P., & Purgman, D. (2007). Exploring E-sports: A case study of game play in Counter-strike. Situated play: The 2007 world conference of Digital Games Research Association (pp. 157–164). DiGRA. */ I re-read my own paper but noticed that my name had been misspelled somewhere in the global authorship supply chain ecosystem. In the paper we discuss cognitive, cultural, economical and technological aspects of playing (competing) in the computer game Counter-strike. /* 
- Taylor, N. T. (2011). Play Globally, Act Locally: The Standardization of Pro Halo 3 Gaming. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 3(1). */ The paper is based on ethnographic research of North American competitive Halo 3 players and draws on the author's doctoral research. /*
- Taylor, T. L., & Witkowski, E. (2010). This is how we play it: what a mega-LAN can teach us about games. Proceedings of the fifth international conference on the foundations of digital games (pp. 195–202). ACM. */ The paper is based on participant observation and informal interviews at two Dreamhack events (2005 and 2009). Reflections on gamer identities, women gamers, spectatorship and spatiality during the three-day long events. /*