söndag 1 december 2013

MID4S - MID for sustainability

We have a sustainability team at my department (Media Technology and Interaction Design - MID). I have lead the team since it was formed one and a half years ago. From the department's point of view, the primary purposes of having teams is to encourage us to write more academic papers (together) and apply for more money (together). It does take time, and it is an effort to form a team and get it to jell, but I think our team has been quite successful. It might be the case that we are now picking up speed as we get to know each other better. This year (2013) our team have written/presented three academic texts (here, here and here) and we have furthermore written two research grant applications (here and here). No less than eight persons have contributed to those five "pieces of output". As it so happens, your truly has his fingers in all of those jars and vice team leader Elina has been involved in four. Other team members have most often partaken in only one or sometimes two of those "projects"

One year ago our team had a (delayed) kick-off that was very successful. We wanted to do the same this year and organized a one-day retreat/workshop this past week. Quite a few people couldn't come but all-in-all eight persons made it (although several persons could only attend part of the day). It was a really successful, energizing event and we got soo much done. Here are some of the things that came out of this activity:

- Our team has suffered from not having a name. "The MID sustainability team" just doesn't cut it. After having identified and raised the issue (thanks Teo), we also came up with name (thanks Teo). Our team will from now on be called MID4S, i.e. Media Technology and Interaction Design for Sustainability. It's also possible to pronounce our name "mid-force". It turns out that MID4S is visually close to MIDAS and our tagline/slogan is therefore "Everything we touch turns to green".

- People who attended the event (as well as those who belong to the team but didn't attend) had some homework: to think about where you want you yourself and the team to be/do/have done 1, 2 and 5 years from now. Since there was overlaps between different people's visions, Elina offered to take the lead and write a draft of a team vision statement document. We all look forward to see that draft document and to contribute/comment it.

- We had a discussion about our close-to-dormant blog. In the end, we decided to keep it and also to make a renewed attempt to encourage team members to actually use it. There are many possible uses of the blog and just one of them - using it as a platform to publish thesis proposals - is enough to justify keeping the blog around. We also moved the blog to a new, easier-to-remember address: mid4s.wordpress.com.

- We discussed the lack of a sustainability perspective at the upcoming (Nov 2014) NordiCHI conference and decided that we should write a proposal for organizing a workshop about sustainability and CHI at the conference. Organizing that workshop would furthermore be the starting point of more ambitious, subsequent activities which I hope to be able to write more about in the blog - next year.

- Some of us (me included) decided to write a position paper for the sustainability workshop at the upcoming CHI 2014 conference in Toronto in April. We also discussed doing something together for the upcoming ICT4S conference in August next year, but we are already fully booked with papers and other commitments for that conference.

- We decided that our team should work on producing thesis proposals for master's (and bachelor's) students. Since we are moving towards a group supervision process at the department, our team should be able to supervise one group of students each term if the majority of the students in that group have chosen sustainability-related topics for their theses.

- We do get things accomplished in the team - especially taking into account that we we are running on (idealistic) fumes, that we don't really have any funding, and that I as team leader don't have any formal authority to demand things and boss people around (unfortunately?). One thing we unfortunately don't do right now is to have an academic discussion about what we mean when we talk about "sustainability". If there is interest, we are thus considering having an extra meeting once per month to discuss an article. This would help us get further in gaining a common ground as a group and in our collective interpersonal understanding of our area.

We had many more discussions and made a number of decisions that I feel will be very beneficial for the team and its future activities. We started the day by discussing what each person does today (related to sustainability) and where we (as individual and as a team) would like to be in 1, 2 and 5 years from now. I personally hope to bring back many new ideas (and contacts!) when I return to Sweden next year after my sabbatical at the University of California, Irvine.

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