torsdag 29 december 2016

My new year's promise - blog mania continues

I have once before (in Oct 2013) declared a "Blog week" where I wrote seven blog posts in as many days to "catch up", and, I did it again in the beginning of november. I did however know that I needed to write a lot more than seven blog posts to catch up so I declared it "Blog week/Blog mania" instead. I then proceeded to write eleven blog posts in as many days (Nov 7 - Nov 17) before I had an involuntary eight-day hiatus due to a temporarily heightened work load. I have since Nov 25 however for the most part written three blog posts per week and this is a considerably higher tempo than the one to two blog posts per week that I have consistently aimed for ever since I started to blog back in September 2010.

One reason for the increase in the number of blog posts is due to the fact that a substantial part of the blog posts written this year (>40%) relates to texts (articles, conference papers) that I have submitted left and right. Each text usually generates around two blog posts; one when the text is submitted and another when it is published or presented. I have therefore come to realize that the heightened tempo might not just be temporary, but that I might have to get used to writing not one or (more often) two blog posts per week, but rather two or three blog posts per week. This realization is supported by the fact that I already have the first eight to ten blog posts for 2017 planned out topic-wise as well as a bunch deadlines for various texts coming up... I will however try to lower the ambition (i.e. the length) of each individual blog post as it can take an immense amount of time to write a long analytical blog post about, say,  a workshop or a conference I have attended. To summarize, I have two new year's promises for 2017:

1. I expect to for the most part write between two and three blog posts per week from now on.

2. I will in return try to keep the length of each blog post down. Not primarily to protect the time my readers spend on reading by blog, but to spare the writer's (my) time budget for writing blog posts.

My hope is that 1 and 2 together will not increase the time spent blogging - despite the expected increase in the number of blog posts.

måndag 26 december 2016

The US election and lessons from the Arab spring - what now?

This blog post is unusual in that it's not about my personal academic activities, nor musings that stem from (for examples) from a seminar of from an academic book I have read. It is instead an analysis of current events and it's written against the backdrop of Donal Trump becoming the 45th US president less than four weeks from now

Before I started this blog, I had another non-academic (but in fact much more analytical) blog where I wrote about (peak) oil, energy, geopolitics, sustainability, economy etc. This blog post is in fact much more in line with the kind of blog post I wrote on my previous blog and I also use blog posts from that blog as the starting point of this analysis.


When the Arab Spring started in Tunisia in December 2010, I naturally took an interest. The "unrest" later spread to Egypt where protests began at the end of January 2011 and where Hosni Mubarak was quickly forced away from power after having rules Egypt for 30 years. After some intermittent chaos, the islamist (Muslim Brotherhood leader) Mohamed Morsi won the ensuing election and became president in June 2012 only to a year later be deposed of by General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. See Wikipedia for more information about the Egyptian revolution of 2011.

In my own attempt to understand what was happening, I read up and wrote a series with five (Swedish-language) blog posts about Egypt's challenges already back in February and March of 2011:
- 1. Egypt and the abyss - not the best of these text
- 2. Egypt and the meat - ok text
- 3. Egypt and the bread - this is a good text
- 4. Energy and food (and Egypt) - this is my favorite!
- 5. Egypt and the military - this is my favorite too - I even hinted (in March 2012) that Egypt's shift to democracy might not be very long-lived in the face of the Egyptian military's might!

The basic point that I explored in these blog posts was that the problems Egypt was facing were of such a magnitude that a change of the system of governance (from military dictatorship to theocracy or democracy or any other system of governance) might make a difference, but that the basic problems would be hard or even impossible to solve (to everyone's satisfaction) even should the massively popular lovechild of Buddha, Einstein, Gandhi and Florence Nightingale take a shot running Egypt. Some of the challenges Egypt was (and is) facing were:

- Egypt was the most populous Arab country with more than 80 million inhabitants (up from 20 million in 1950) and the population increases by 1.5 to 2 million inhabitants every year. The population is in fact currently estimated to be 92 million and half the population is 24 years or younger!
- While Egyptian oil production is shrinking, oil exports (and incomes) have been eradicated. According to the US Energy Information Agency's information about the state of energy in Egypt, oil production has shrunk by more than 20% in the last 20 years while oil consumption has increased by 3% per year during the last decade and "Egypt's oil consumption [now] outpaces its oil production".
- Part of the Egyptian state budget has been used to subsidize food and fuel and these subsidies "eat up a big chunk of the budget". According to the "Executive Director of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies in Cairo, government subsidies made up about one-third of the government’s budget in 2014 and 75% of that amount is set aside for energy sector subsidies". People get pissed off when they can't fill their car any longer (despite only paying between 50-60% of the real costs of the gas), and, they get really pissed off when they can't buy bread.
- In 2011, around 20% of the Egyptian population managed on less than 1 USD per day and another 20% on less than 2 USD per day. The price of wheat and subsidized bread is a matter of life and death to many millions of Egyptians. While I have problems finding recent (2015-2016) figuresit seems that things have gotten worse since with more than 25% of all Egyptians now live in poverty and another 25% live just above the poverty line.
- Back in 2010, Egypt imported 40% of all food and 60% of all wheat. Egypt is the number one importer of wheat in the world - and this in a country that was once the breadbasket of the Mediterranean and of the Roman empire.

None of these big problems will disappear by a change of government or by a change of the system of governance. They are in fact likely to get worse every year no matter who governs the country.


So what the is the connection to the US and to Trump? My hypothesis is that the same kind of reasoning can be applied also to the US. The problems that plague the US are at this point not very likely to go away no matter what president or which political party runs the country. While we stare at the crest of the waves, the real shape and strenght of the wave depends on forces that act far below the surface. While this 2009 video about Obama's feats is hilarious (but do note the implicit critique of the massive financial crisis bailout!), it is unrealistic to expect so much from one individual even if he happens to be the president of the United States of America.

So I don't think Donald Trump (or anyone else) can "make America great again" - but I'm pretty sure that it's relatively easy to make things worse and that he will be great at that (i.e. at making things worse). I think the best Trump can hope for is to "kick the can" in front of him for another four years and hope that someone else draws the short straw and has to handle (or fail to handle) the problems the US will be facing at that time. I'm here thinking of poor Herbert Hoover who had the great misfortune of being the president of the United States of America during the onset of the Great Depression and who was widely blamed for it. A "Hooverville" was a shanty town built by homeless people in the US during the Great Depression and millions lived in them. Not a great way to be remembered. Hoover is also "one of only two Presidents (along with William Howard Taft) and President-elect Donald Trump, who had neither been elected to a national political office or governorship, nor served as military generals"

Just imagine if Trump will be remembered for something equally disgraceful ("Trumpvilles"?) five and ten and twenty years from now? The only thing I worry about in this context is that Trump in some way manages to dodge that bullet by adeptly pointing fingers at and "inventing" scapegoats left and right. As to the problems facing the US, there is not lack of factors to choose from. One of the more frightening pieces I have read is a recent text by British academic and journalist Nafeez Ahmed who, with Trump on his way to the White House, might be on to something when he points out "that the American establishment is now at war with itself" and that "the establishment is fracturing":

"now it’s not just minorities — Muslims, refugees, Mexicans or Black people — who are Otherized. For the first time in American history, mainstream establishment figures and movements are brutally Otherizing each other. ... It is no coincidence that this process of social and political polarisation is accelerating in what has suddenly been recognized as an era of ‘fake news’, or ‘post truth.’ ... We are witnessing, participating in, embodying the breakdown of the information age ... Information is in overproduction, and the more we are saturated with it, with social media and news reports and multimedia stories and soundbites and expert commentary, the less we collectively understand the world around us."

It's a pity his new book, "Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence" is so slim and still so expensive (thanks, Springer!).

A final example of someone focusing on the undercurrents instead of on the crest is the work of historian Allan Lichtman - who has correctly predicted the results of each of the last nine US election (e.g. each election since 1981). He can call the winner months and sometimes years in advance and sometimes even before both candidates have been chosen. He does so by looking at 13 key measures (true/false questions) of which only two have anything whatsoever to with the specific candidates, e.g. if the white house candidate or the challenging candidate is a charismatic, once-in-a-generation candidate or not. I heard a totally amazing podcast (28 minutes) with him and I very much recommend it. Lichtman tunes out during the election year and doesn't even follow any of the issues the media focuses on!

So peeking above the edge of my academic burrow hole, this is what I see and these are my two cents. And let's hope the world hasn't crashed and burned four years from now with Trump at the helm in the meanwhile. But enough with politics - my next blog post will of course once more treat academic matters.

torsdag 22 december 2016

Lord of the Ring (paper)


Three months ago I wrote a blog post about an abstract we had just submitted to the 9th [Swedish] Pedagogical Inspiration Conference. The abstract was accepted, we wrote up the short paper and submitted it in the beginning of November. My colleague, Björn Hedin (first author) presented it last week. I'm the second author and the third author is Olle Bälter.

We had a discussion already at the time when we submitted the paper and came to the conclusion that the old title ("Dummerjöns"/"Blockhead Hans") should be changed. The title was problematic as it might sound demeaning even though it really isn't - but you might only know that if you go back and read the original H.C. Andersen fairy tale.

The new title of the paper is "Sagan om examensringen – en akademisk tragedi" [Lord of the graduation ring - an academic tragedy] and the paper is already available online (pdf file). The paper treats two different phenomena:

1. A student who had zero aptitude for studying but 100% aptitude for cheating and "social hacking" and who hacked his way to his bachelor's degree (although it took six rather than three years).

2. How the academic system and its administration can (or fails to) be both "service-minded" to ordinary students while simultaneously stopping those few students who ruthlessly exploit the system. I guess there is a connection of sorts to one of my more popular blog posts ever, a piece that I wrote more than five years ago called "Can a student fail at a Swedish university?"

In this paper we describe some of this particular student's strategies, including a strategy we call "mail tsunami" (self-explanatory!). The student had at the end of his studies sent more than 1500 emails to three persons; a teacher in the program, the program director and the director of first cycle (undergraduate) education at the KTH School of Computer Science and Communication. He also sent emails - but not as many - to other teachers and administrators. How should such behavior be handled? Can an institution of higher learning brand a student as a querulant and refuse to answer his emails after the first 1000 have been answered? Can you at all do that as a civil servant? Whose backing do you need to make such a decisions (if at all possible)? These are the kinds of question this paper raises but we truly have no idea of what the appropriate answers might be - we just want to raise the topic and make it available for discussions.

The paper is only 1700 words long, it fits on a single sheet of paper and it still manages to get a lot said. I can wholeheartedly recommend it as it should be of interest to all teachers at institutions of higher learning. It is however written in Swedish and that's just the way it is. If you want to read the paper but can't read Swedish, well, how about finding a venue for us to publish it in English?

tisdag 20 december 2016

Sustainability and Media Technology line-up (course)

I try to publish complete lists of (guest) lectures in mine and Elina Eriksson's course DM2573 Sustainability and Media Technology and I managed to do that two years ago but didn't last year (due to my extended blog absence). This blog does contain the line-up of this year's course as well as some reflections about giving the course (see further below). The course has moved around a little since last year and it is now given during the second rather than the first half of the autumn term (from Sept-Oct to Nov-Dec). The course ended last week and below is the 2016 line-up for our course (15 lectures + 1 panel).

------------ DM2573 - Sustainability and Media Technology - lectures ------------

Daniel Pargman (Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Media Technology, KTH/MID)
"Course introduction"
"Sustainability and Sustainable Development - On concepts and issues"

Elina Eriksson, Ph.D., Researcher at KTH/Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID),
"Climate change and planetary boundaries"
- Clara My Lernborg, Ph.D. student at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE)
"Economic sustainability – Green economy, sustainable markets, or business case for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?"

Pella Thiel, The Transition Network and Common Cause,

Daniel Pargman, KTH/MID
"First-order effects of ICT and Obsolescence"

Cecilia Katzeff, Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction at the KTH School of Architecture and the Built Environment ,

- Åsa Minoz, founder and senior partner of ModigMinoz
"Collaborative economy – innovating for a better society?"

- Tobias Forngren: co-founder of Freelway
"Navigate the rough sustainability-waters as an entrepreneur"

- Hanna Hasselqvist, Ph.D. student at KTH/CSC/MID
"ICT and social practices"

- Jens Malmodin, Ericsson Research
"Sustainability at Ericsson - Using technology in smart ways to become more sustainable"

Elisabeth Ekener Petersen, PhD at KTH/FMS,
"Social sustainability and ICT"

- Concluding panel discussion"Images of the future"
ModeratorDaniel Pargman, KTH/MID. 
Malin Forsgren, Senior Advisor at the consultancy firm 2050
Mikael Höök, Associate Professor in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development at Uppsala University
- John Howchin (ill, could not attend), Secretary General of the Ethical Council for the First, Second, Third and Fourth Swedish national pension funds

- Belinda Hellberg, sustainability consultant at 2050
"The split-brain experiment – integrity maintenance in an activist, political and corporate environment"

Daniel Pargman, KTH/MID
Wrap-up of the course and gripe session


The course is mandatory for Swedish students who want to earn not just a master of science degree but also the Swedish engineering degree ("civilingenjör"). This year, for some reason, there were very few international students who joined the course. As the course wound down, I found out why. It had not at all been advertised to these students (who study "media management"). It will not only be listed for that group of students next year but will in fact be "recommended" so we hope to get more non-Swedish students taking the course (which always adds to the discussions).

This year we had a huge stinker hit us less than halfway in to the course. Instead of one group of students, we had two and the smaller group (10%) could for some reason not hand in their assignments. Even worse was the advice we got from IT "support". We received instructions for how to merge these two groups (with the promise that all our problems would then disappear). It was weirdly simple to merge the groups with the right commands but after the merge nothing was the same. The new group did not have access to any of the supporting materials (literature etc.) and none of the students could now hand in their assignments. We managed to reach the same state we had had before the merge with some extra effort from the teachers to link things up and reconnect everything back to normal - but we still did not manage to fix the problem that the merge was supposed to fix even as the course ended. Half a dozen had to submit their weekly assignments by sending a mail with an attachment instead of using our learning management system. That sucks.

Me and Elina like to reflect upon our course and have read up and written a number of academic papers about it. We have in fact written (and published!) no less than three (pedagogical) papers during 2016, namely:
- Pargman, Hedin & Eriksson, "Patterns of Engagement: Using a board game as a tool to address sustainability in engineering educations" (huge pdf - search!). On our use of the board game Gasuco in our course
- Eriksson, Pargman, Björklund, Kramers & Edvardsson Björnberg, "Sustainable development for ICT engineering students - “What’s in it for me?”" (pdf). Finding similarities and difference between our course and the two other KTH courses for ICT students.
- Pargman & Eriksson, "At Odds with a Worldview - Teaching Limits at a technical university" (text). On the contradictions of teaching sustainability at a technical university.

We have not only written about our course this year but have also used the course as a vehicle for conducting research on "energy metaphors" (Homo Colossus and Energy Slaves). The results will make it into various texts next year and I will definitely get back on this.

One final reflection: I have at times wondered how I, personally, contribute the most to making the world more sustainable and the short answer to that questions is by giving this course. We have an audience of 60 to 80 students who have decades of working in the industry in front of us so this is our shot at changing the way they think and if we can just reach a few students each year, that ought to have a much larger effect than specific change we can do in our own lives. So me and Elina have discussed how to work with a single course in a engineering programme that has ≈ 39 other courses so as to have a maximum impact, and I think we are on to something. And it's not only us, but the students also seem to think so since they refer to a "before" and an "after" the course. Each student submits a question each week - a proposal for a topic we should discuss at the seminar. Some of the questions for the last seminar were:

- "Do you feel that you have changed, in terms of sustainability, after taking this course? If your answer yes, in what way? If your answer is no, why do you think you haven’t?"
- "What is the biggest impact this course has had on you?"
- "Since the beginning of this Sustainability course, have you engaged in conversation about sustainability issues with your families/relatives/friends? What are the challenges that you have?"
- "After all we've learned during the course, do you think we can decrease our impact on
the environment to sustainable levels before it's too late or are we doomed?"


söndag 18 december 2016

The (Un)sustainability of Imagined Future Information Societies (paper)


My last blog post was about a paper I wrote that was accepted to the CHI 2017 conference. Well, I had another paper accepted to CHI, "The (Un)sustainability of Imagined Future Information Societies" (written together with my co-authors Elina Eriksson, Mattias Höjer, Ulrika Gunnarsson Östling and Luciane Borges). The paper hasn't been accepted outright but is rather "conditionally accepted" and the note of acceptance came together with this formulation: "Conditional acceptance means that you must fulfill the set of revision requests ... from your Associate Chair. This means that the Associate Chairs will check the final version of your submission to see if you have followed their specific recommendations".

We had of course planned to make these changes anyway but it is certainly interesting to see that someone will actually check on us and make sure we do what we have promised to do! The deadline for the final, camera-ready version of the paper is January 6.

With the exception of this introduction, the rest of the blog post (below) was written back in September, right after we submitted this paper.

---------- ...So now for some time travel this text was written back in September:

I just submitted my first full CHI papers for ages. It's usually the case that I have a crushing course load at this time of the year, but as courses sometimes move around, this year I only had one course to teach during the first half of the autumn term and there was thus some space open for paper-writing in my not-as-busy-as-usual calendar.

The paper is a quite heavily rewritten version of the paper we submitted to the Future Scenarios special track at the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI 2016) back at the end of May. The competition at the Future Scenarios tack was pretty fierce (around 30% of the submissions to the special track were accepted), and the paper was rejected despite the fact that it got a high overall rating. The final judgement was "Borderline, but somewhat closer 'accept' than 'reject'") but that was apparently not enough back then and taking the competition into account.

While the new paper has the exact same title, it has actually been developed quite a lot due to us taking some of the critique we got from the NordiCHI reviewers onboard. Another difference is that the NordiCHI paper could only be 10 pages long including citations while CHI papers can be 10 pages long excluding citations so our new paper swelled from 9 to 10 pages and the number of references ballooned from 27 to 53 in the new-and-improved CHI paper. Yet another difference is that the paper was submitted to NordiCHI as a future scenarios (design fiction/futures studies) paper that "happened to be" about sustainability. This time around it was instead submitted as a sustainability paper that "happened to be" about design fiction (and futures studies).

The paper is written by me, Elina Eriksson, Mattias Höjer, Ulrika Gunnarsson Östling and Luciane Borges (all at KTH Royal Institute of Technology with the latter three working at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment). The paper combines (compares, contrasts) design fiction with future studies and the first two authors are more of CHI/design fiction persons while the latter three are futures studies persons. The paper is the first public presentation of the five scenarios I wrote about for the very first time back in a blog post back in June 2013. What can I say, we've been unlucky with our scenarios submissions - both this paper and a longer journal article have been rejected. Well now this paper was accepted and we are rewriting the journal article and aiming it at another journal.

Here's the 150-word abstract for the paper,

"The (Un)sustainability of Imagined Future Information Societies"


The pathway to a sustainable society is not clear, and we will need to consider different developmental possibilities. This paper describes the results of a research project in the intersection of HCI and Futures Studies as well as in the intersection between “the future information society” and sustainability.

We discuss examples of what future information societies could look like and what the impact of these societies would be in terms of sustainability. The main stakeholders in this research have been bureaucrats, planners and policymakers, and the overarching goal was primarily to influence planning processes at the regional (Stockholm, Sweden) level. We here present parts of the rich body of materials that were developed in a research project over a period of several years with the aim of describing and evaluating the sustainability impact of possible future information societies. We also discuss some of the lessons learned and what HCI and design fiction can learn from from Future Studies in general and from this project in particular.

torsdag 15 december 2016

Sustainability through Disintermediation (paper)


With the exception of this introduction, the rest of the blog post (below) was written back in September, right after we submitted this paper to the CHI 2017 conference (also see the previous blog post). As of a few days back we now know that the paper has been accepted to that particularly selective conference! We are not required to but we do have the opportunity to brush the paper up over Christmas as the deadline for the camera-ready paper is January 6. One of the things we will do is to change the title of the paper into "Means and Ends in Human-Computer Interaction: Sustainability through Disintermediation". My perhaps favorite reviewer ever started his/her review of our paper as follows:

"This was a joy to read, and I personally learned a lot from reading it. It makes an important contribution to the field of sustainable HCI - both by providing such a great synthesis of previous work in the area, and by providing a new rubric researchers can use to identify high impact HCI work that addresses sustainability. Moreover, the paper does a fantastic job of communicating a mature understanding of sustainability - and indeed much of the value of the paper is in how the authors manage to bring together such a diverse set of references in presenting this understanding of sustainability."

---------- Now for some time travel as this was in fact written in September:

I submitted a paper to to the CHI conference back in September, "Meeting Human Needs by Other Means: Sustainability through Disintermediation". The paper is written by Barath Raghavan and me.

The most "heavy" stuff I have written about sustainability have been written together with Barath, e.g. "Rethinking Sustainability in Computing" (pdf) back in 2014 and "Refactoring Society" (pdf) earlier this year (2016). This is another instalment in this series of heavy and for the most part theoretical papers. The two most prominent keywords for connecting the paper to suitable reviewers were "Sustainability" and "Design Methods".

This paper can be seen as the long-awaited (or at least long-time-ago promised) follow-up to our 2014 NordiCHI paper "Rethinking Sustainability in Computing". We promised to write a paper that took the theoretical stance we presented there seriously and that went on to suggest what the implication and the recommendations for design were, but, it turned out our criteria for what constitutes sustainability (in that paper) were so stringent and tough that it was hard to recommend people to build any systems at all... Well, this time around we actually do have some recommendations as to what systems we in HCI ought to build when taking sustainability into account. On the plus side: there are now concrete recommendations. On the flip side: the recommendations are still very tough and many won't like to ponder the recommendations nor the implications.

The paper has thus been brewing for a long time (years), but it was put together in a frighteningly short amount of time. The schedule for putting it together was in fact brutal and Barath took on the major part of the work load. Also, he was the first author of the paper and I was already writing on two other papers for CHI. But we both worked really hard, especially as we got near the deadline and while I had other (writing project) commitments, Barath had a baby who didn't allow him a proper night's sleep. Altogether it seems like a miracle that we managed to get the paper together in time and that the result became as lucid as it is. Oh, and if you wonder, here's how we introduce and define the term "disintermediation" in the article:

"Disintermediation involves the re-engagement of entities— removing intermediaries—in a sociotechnical system. It is more accurately viewed as a re-design approach, since it focuses on redesigning existing systems that have potentially-undesirable layers. Thus applied in user-centered design, the role of disintermediation is to identify layers within a system that can be removed while retaining the key functionality of the system, and without diminishing the system’s usability or usefulness to the user."

And here's the 150-word paper abstract:

Meeting Human Needs by Other Means: Sustainability through Disintermediation


There has been an increased interest in broader contexts from ecology and economics within the HCI community in recent years. These developments imply that the HCI community should engage with, and respond to concerns that are exter- nal to computing yet profoundly impact human society. In this paper we observe that taking these broader contexts into account yields a fundamentally different way to think about sustainable interaction design, one in which the designer’s focus must be on a) ecological limits, b) creating designs and artifacts that do not further a cornucopian paradigm, and c) fundamental human needs.

These contexts can be challenging in practical HCI work but we propose that the design rubric of disintermediation can serve as a unifying approach for user-centered design that meets the ecological and economic challenges outlined in prior work. After discussing the potential impact of disin- termedation, we perform a critical analysis using this design rubric to several key application areas relating to fundamen- tal human needs.

tisdag 13 december 2016

CHI conference review process

I submitted no less than three papers to the upcoming CHI conference in Boulder, Colorado and I wrote a blog post about it in September, almost three months ago. CHI is of course The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - "the premier international conference of Human-Computer Interaction". Let's just say it's a Big Thing for people in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and it's notoriously hard to get your papers accepted to the conference. Beyond submitting three full papers, I also reviewed five paper for the conference. This blog post is about that process (both of submitting and of reviewing paper for CHI).

Since the process is double-blind and very rigorous, I did not divulge any information at all about my contributions back in September but I can now state that two of my papers were accepted. That's a lot. No less than 2424 papers and notes (short paper) were submitted to the conference and around 25% were accepted. The acceptance rate does not tell the whole story though as this is the conference where the premier researchers in the area send their best work - so I'm really happy about the outcome and would have been happy also with "only" having had one paper accepted. I will follow up this blog post with two additional blog post about the two papers that were accepted to the conference.

Here's this year's timeline for submitting a paper to CHI:
- Sept 21 - deadline for submitting full papers (lots of work just before this deadline)
- Nov 18 - reviews ("preliminary decisions") are sent back to the authors
- Nov 23 - deadline for a rebuttals. As an author, I have the chance to answer the reviewers and explain how I plan to fix the problems they have pointed out.
- Dec 12 - notification of acceptance/rejection

I adhere to the same deadlines as a reviewer but the process is of course inside-out; I work as a reviewer during those periods when I can relax as an author. I more specifically wrote reviews and argued with other reviewers in mid-November and then agreed or butted heads with my co-reviewers in the beginning of December.

Writing three papers at the same time was very stressful back then - ages ago (September). Fortunately I was the first author of only one of these papers. After submitting, there is not much to do but to wait and hope you were allocated "good" reviewers. They don't necessarily have to agree with you and they don't even have to like your paper, but you do want them to be open to your ideas and for them to treat them fairly. I won't say more about the papers that were accepted since I will write separate blog posts about them following this one. As to the paper that was rejected, we are already making plans for how to rewrite it and where and when we will submit it to another conference. We really like the paper and think it has potential despite the fact that it was (quite narrowly) rejected. I strongly suspect that the paper could have been accepted had some other reviewers been allocated to review it - there is certainly an element of randomness and chance in the review process since there are so many reviewers and so many papers in play. It's also harder when you take a risk and write something that is outside of the fold/breaks the mould. Worse is that you can rewrite a paper according the the feedback you get and then the next time around get other reviewers who have other ideas about what is lacking in your paper. The worst case scenario would be if these new ideas contradict the feedback you got a year ago (and have since then acted upon). Submitting to a conference can be tough at times.

For the five papers I reviewed, it was often the case that there were three reviewers and a "super-reviwer" (an "associate chair" - AC) and then a second associate chair who popped in to look at the paper. So if every reviewer had five paper to review (like I had) and there are AC's that roam around and look at a considerably larger number of papers, well I guess there must altogether be almost as many reviewers involved as there are papers submitted to the conference. Perhaps there were as many as 1500 to 2000 people involved in the process of reviewing papers for this particular conference. That's a huge undertaking. I'd say the time and care that is poured into the process of judging papers in quite amazing. That does not mean the outcome will aways be the "right" one, but the effort to review these papers is not just large - it's humongous.

I reviewed papers last year and there was a paper I liked that some other reviewers were not equally fond of. I did not have time to engage in the review process after I submitted my initial review and the paper was in the end not accepted to the conference. I have since - and due to this incident - promised to make and effort and stand up for any paper I really like. This in fact happened to one of the five papers I reviewed this year. Me and reviewer #3 kind of turned on each other and it sort of became personal. I liked the paper a lot and gave it top grades while the other reviewer disliked it immensely and gave it a really low grade. And then we fought over who was right. I'm now very curious about the outcome of this process as I don't currently know if the paper in question was accepted or not.

The bad news is that I will have to work quite some with the two accepted papers during my vacation (or "vacation") since the deadline for the final, camera-ready paper is on January 6. The good news is that I will go to Boulder, Colorado and to the CHI conference in May 2017 for the first time in three years. I will for sure take the opportunity to join a workshop (or two) in the days preceding the main conference. 

torsdag 8 december 2016

Future of computer games - invitation to final presentation & book intro (course)


This is a two-for-one blog post (re-using an earlier invitation as a template). First an open invitation to next week's (Dec 16) final presentation of "The Future of Computer Games / Computer Games of the Future", followed by the introduction to the limited-edition book we are publishing on that topic.

December 16 final presentation at 13.00-16.00 in lecture hall Q1

You are invited to the final presentation in the course Future of Media. This year's theme is The Future of Computer Games and Computer Games of the FutureSign up here!

The course is given for the 14th year and I think this year's presentations might be the best and the most ambitious ever. It is also the last ever as we are currently ushering in a new master's program where this course will be replaced by another project course. Do note that the 11 project groups 
span a very wide area and will present concepts, ideas and scenarios that, for example, treat the future of pervasive games, e-sports spectatorship, movement-based games, mixed-reality boardgames, gamification of everyday life - and more!

Here are nine trends for the next 5-15 years that we have identified and that has had an impact on the scenarios of different project groups [further developed in the book introduction below]:

- Increased digitization of traditional media
- Gaming becoming normalized
- Game market developments
- Augmented and mixed reality
- Virtual reality
- Holographic projections
- Sensors galore
- Big data
- AI and machine learning


/Daniel Pargman & Malin Picha


Book introduction, "The Future of Computer Games"

This book is the result of a project course, “The Future of Media”, given at the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

Information, communication, media, and media technologies have become increasingly important in today’s society and in people’s everyday lives. Media technology can broadly be characterized as technologies and methods for supporting communication between people across distances in time and space.

The KTH Royal Institute of Technology has offered a Master of Science in Media Technology since 1999.

The Future of Media

In the project course “Future of Media”, advanced graduate students in Media Technology and Media Management explore the relationship between technology, economy and social factors in processes of technological innovation and development.

The course load corresponds to a third of a semester and runs throughout the autumn semester. This year, 2016, the course is given for the 14th time, and for the sixth time in English, with participating international students. A special effort has been made to document the work, and to make the results of the course available on the Internet. The results include this book, “The future of computer games”, a webpage, as well as concrete practical “design representations” such as for example movies and prototypes that have been created by different project groups within the course. The results of not just this year’s course, but of previous as well as successive courses are available on the internet at

This year’s theme: The Future of computer games and computer games of the future

Each year, the theme of the course is different, although it always deals with a topic related to media and the future. Past themes have for example included The Future of TV, The Future of Books, The Future of Music, The Future of Radio, the Future of News, the Future of the Sharing Economy and the Future of Storytelling. This year’s task has been to analyze, reflect upon, review, refine and further develop the Future of Computer Games and Computer Games of the Future from a media technology perspective.

Not that many years ago we had violent debates that flared up at regular intervals about the connection between computer games and violent behavior. Nowadays almost everybody plays computer games; from old grandmothers who play Wordfeud or Candy Crush Saga on their smartphones on the subway to hard-core gamers (PC or consoles) that spend a major part of their leisure time – and their disposable income – on gaming-related activities. The latest gaming craze to seize the world was this past summer’s hunt for Pokestops (“Gotta catch ‘em all”).

Everyone can use the commons, as long as there are enough resources left for everyone else. This implies that the commons must be sustainably managed. Here, of course, the theory around the commons connects well with the discussion of sustainability and sustainable development. The digital revolution creates a foundation for the modern form of the commons – in particular the digital commons with its non-rival resources that can be endlessly copied and shared. The Internet and people’s increasing access to this global communications network provides a necessary infrastructure to expand and innovate new services within the sphere of the digital commons. The digital commons also offer a chance to unite people who are concerned with the common good, such as environmental sustainability and the preservation of natural resources.

The place for games in our lives, in our economy and in our culture has been expanding for decades. From having been a small appendix of the toy industry, the games industry has had double-digit growth numbers for decades and the time spent in – and the fidelity of – the virtual game worlds we play with is so high that some researchers have playfully talked about people leaving their boring Earth lives behind in order to “emigrate” to Azeroth (e.g. Castronova 2007, “Exodus to the virtual world”). Perhaps it’s justified to say that a hardcore gamer to some extent “lives” on the planet Azeroth (in the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft) if a major part of her time is spent there rather than on Earth?

To sum it up, games are everywhere; on the Internet, in our phones, in the subway, in schools and libraries and in our living rooms. But where will games be tomorrow? What could “the future of computer games” and the “computer games of the future” look like? These are the questions that our students have explored in the course Future of Media!

In the course Future of Media, we have this year thought long and hard about technological, economic and social aspects that are connected to games and gaming – what it was (past), what it is today (present), and what it will become tomorrow (future). What effects do the internet, new forms of hardware and software and new gaming habits have on games and gaming? What are the effects on traditional media channels and traditional business models of games being developed and marketed in new ways? How will stories be told through games in the future? And how will games and everyday life be intertwined in the future? These are issues that have been discussed, leading up to our main question: what will games and gaming look like 5, 10 or 15 years from now?

No less than eleven groups of students have explored eleven different gaming futures during the autumn of 2016. The students presented their suggestions and the results of their projects in front of a live audience on December 16, 2016, but the results are also available here, in this book, as well as online,

A framework for all project groups has been to aim for a future that will happen sometime in the next 5-15 year, i.e. sometime between 2021-2031. All projects have also limited themselves to, or at least orient themselves towards, a Swedish (Western, relatively affluent) context. The proposed futures might, but do not have to assume large technological breakthroughs. Some technologies and ideas are already around today, or are being explored in research labs at this very moment, but might take many years or even a decade or more to germinate – to spread and take hold among a larger proportion of the population. The challenge might not always be to invent a purely technological future, but to imagine patterns of usage and new business models that emerge when current (or future) patterns of usage among small groups of early adopters spread to larger groups in our society. Despite the wide scope of different ideas being presented in these projects, there are a number of trends that the thirteen project groups have position themselves to.

Future of Computer Games trends

Below are nine trends that relate to the future of computer games and the computer games of the future. Each trend is important for at least one or a few groups and sometimes for several or many project groups.

1. Increased digitization of traditional media
Traditional media will continue to be digitized. Media forms that once was or still is “analog” will continue to be increasingly digitized. This trend encompasses music, radio, television, movies, newspapers, magazines and more.

2. Gaming becoming normalized
Games and gaming will (continue to) become a more widespread and socially accepted activity. Gaming will continue to be popular among children and adolescents and people who grew up with games will continue to play. Even the elderly have started to play games and games will therefore constitute an increasing part of an increasing number of people’s everyday lives.

3. Game market developments
With more gamers and more gaming, there will also be more games and more game genres. More money will furthermore be invested in developing games, more start-ups will have a shot at realising their visions, there will be more gaming studios and more games will be developed each year.

4. Augmented and mixed reality
The market for, and applications of augmented reality (AR) will explode - and this summer’s Pokémon Go craze was just a mild precursor. You will see reality as it is, but with overlaid digital information and images that only you (or perhaps fellow gamers) can see. Another “layer” is added to reality by watching it “through” your phone or by having your glasses project images “on top of” the real world. This mix of analog reality and digital illusions opens up possibilities to play games while taking a stroll or inside your own home.

5. Virtual reality
While AR a digital “layer” to reality, virtual reality (VR) replaces the analog information that reaches our senses with digitally manufactured information (primarily sight and sounds). Virtual reality headsets are slated to be The Christmas present for 2016 and the hardware (and software) will become increasingly affordable and widespread.

6. Holographic projections
Just as with virtual reality gear, also holograms - that project images that many persons can see  in mid-air - will become less expensive and more widespread, including being utilised for gaming purposes. 

7. Sensors galore
Sensor technology will progress in leaps and bounds. Sensors will be more numerous, they will collect more types of data more precisely and at a lower cost. Sensor output will be collected and analysed at greater scale and at at a lower price (see “big data” below) and the output of such analysis will be integrated (will become input to) AR and VR technologies (see above)

8. Big data
More data will be collected at a faster pace, for example from sensors (see above) as well as in the form of game output. Such (game) data could be used for game development purposes, but will primarily be used for analysing each individual’s interaction with each game (and perhaps game element) for the purpose of better tailoring and personalize games and player’s experiences of playing those game.

9. AI and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques (for example machine learning) will be utilized in ways and at a scale far beyond what is possible today. AI will work with big data generated by games (see above) and the primarily use will be to personalize games and player’s experiences of playing those game.

Future of media - work process
During an intense six-week long start-up phase (beginning of September – mid-October), the whole class read selected literature about computer games, worked with related issues in seminars, and listened to more than 20 guest lecturers from industry and academia. These guests had a variety of backgrounds, presented us with a wide variety of perspectives and gave us a well-rounded picture of the history of computer games, the present situation, as well as suggestions for trends and possible future developments.

At the end of this start-up phase, eleven project groups were formed around the course participants’ emerging interests. During the second half of the autumn semester, these groups independently explored different aspects of this year’s theme; The Future of Computer Games and Computer Games of the Future.

The result of each group’s effort is a proposal and a scenario connected to the theme. These scenarios are presented as a chapter in this book (printed in a limited edition), as well as in a presentation that was held on December 16 in front of a live audience of more than 200 persons, consisting of younger students at the same educational program as well as teachers, guest lecturers and people from the industry. Documentation in the form of texts and other supporting materials can be found at

The texts in this book

The eleven scenarios that are presented in this book are not written in a purely academic form. They aim at being somewhere in between academic and a popular texts. These texts are meant to inform and entertain, but should also be grounded in references to relevant literature and the student's’ own original research and inquiries.

The chapters in this book have been produced as a part of a university course and under many constraints (including time pressure). We apologize for any remaining errors in the texts.


Daniel Pargman and Malin Picha Edwardsson,
Head teacher and assistant teacher for the course DM2571 Future of Media.

The teachers can be reached at the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID) at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

tisdag 6 december 2016

The Swedish Energy Agency's "Energy, IT and Design" conference

I'm working in a research project with the most complicated title ever; "Improved energy counceling and energy habits by Quantified Self Assisted Advisory". I mentioned the project briefly in the previous blog post. The internal acronym we use for the project is STEM - which in fact is an abbreviation of the agency that funds the project - The Swedish Energy Agency. Every year in December, they invite representatives from all the projects that are funded by their their "Energy, IT and Design" (EID) research program to a "program conference".

This year's program had presentations from no less than 18 research projects. I could only attend the first day of the conference and therefore missed about a third of the presentations. Most of the projects presented are ongoing but some were finished earlier this year (our project is funded until next summer). No less than 5 out of these 18 projects come from KTH (including CESC where I work and Green Leap - "a network for design and sustainable development" that is hosted by CESC). Another 3 out of the 12 project presented during the first day come of of the "Energy Design Studio" at the Interactive Institute Swedish ICT and I think there are many areas where our respective interests and projects overlap! Also, I know all three persons who represented and presented the Interactive Institute projects; Niklas Johansson (acting studio director), Anton Gustavsson and Stina Wessman. I got to know Stina recently when she attended our workshop on HCI and UN's Sustainable Development Goals at the NordiCHI conference in the end of October.

My colleague Björn Hedin is the project leader and he gave a 20-minute presentation of the project (I presented the project last year when he couldn't attend). I will not go thought his presentation but just briefly point out that he talked about some of the results from the project such as: 1) the great energy awareness educational tool and some of the results when we tested it on our students, 2) visualizing the indoor temperature by using ambient lighting and 3) "Grönkoll" (≈ Green tracking) for immediate, in-the-store feedback on the energy and CO2 footprint for foodstuff (by scanning barcodes). The latter project relies on a database that has been developed in the project and that is aptly called "Life Cycle Assessment of Food Database" (LCAFDB). Our acronyms are the best! Perhaps most exciting though (also to the audience) was the examples of work we will do this coming spring. Björn mentioned three projects and I'm sure I will come back to some or all of them later on this blog.

I will not summarize the program point by point but will instead discuss a five "extended thoughts" that were awakened during the day.

I attended a lunch seminar/workshop/kick-off at KTH last week (I might come around to write about it on the blog). They asked us to work in groups and discuss possibilities and threats (problems) with the proposed program and my first note said "Flying hither and thither", i.e. that we will fly a lot in our attempts to "save the world". So at that seminar I remember thinking "what if we put an internal price tag on airline tickets that was 2x, 5x or even 10x the regular price?". That would create incentives to fly less and we could use the money we put aside due to that "internal tax" for certain predefined purposes that we agree upon ("good stuff"). This idea came back to me when I listened to one of the Interactive Institute presentations. Electricity (and running water) is so inexpensive in Sweden that it's hard to justify husbanding it. But what if the price was 5x higher and the "extra money" was used/reserved for some specific purpose(s). Say that the money collected is used to lower the rent, i.e. your energy/water bills are 5x higher but most of the money collected comes back to your own wallet in the form of decreased rent. You might ask what difference it makes, but it does make a huge difference as your incentives to save electricity and water would skyrocket. It's even possible to collect that money in a housing association and distribute it back in some more or less "equitable" way that creates extra incentives to save, e.g. if you use less electricity than your average neighbor, that neighbor would in some small way subsidize your rent. What exactly "equitable" means in this context needs some additional thinking as one person living in a 100 m2 apartment has better chances of saving electricity compared to four persons living on the same amount of space (despite the fact that they today pay the same rent). Should the number of occupants in an apartment play a part in these calculations or only, say, the raw number of square meters? Again, the exact algorithm could be discussed but I think the principle is really interesting!

Following a discussion I had elsewhere, I proposed there was a tension between (political) decisiveness and "democracy". Decisiveness would correspond to forcefully showing the direction and getting things done. Democracy would correspond to discussions and individual decisions (think direct democracy). Is curtailing democracy necessary for getting things done? Do note that I do not equate "getting things done" with "getting the right things done"! It might also mean that inertia has its uses and that decisiveness can mean that we much more efficiently get the wrong things done. But we still get more things done if we are decisive than if we aren't. We already do trade away democracy for decisiveness when we choose representative democracy, i.e. when we choose our representatives and they make decisions we might not always agree with (or we would/might never get things done - which is exactly my point). I think it's possible to realize that decisiveness and democracy both can have advantages and disadvantages. Donald Trump certainly gives the impression of wanting to be decisive and that would perhaps be ok if not for the fact that much of what he wants to do are the wrong things. But I have on the other hand heard people say they would not object to being ruled by a benign green dictator... I hope I have managed to make a distinction between "steering" (decisiveness) and "freedom" (democracy) here. Freedom certainly sounds better but it might just mean that everyone can choose freely (like going away on weekend trips by plane every single weekend - which I personally disapprove of). And that less will be accomplished politically as many people will tend to pull in many different directions at the same time. My insight after listening to some random presentation though was how problematic "nudging" and "persuasive" systems can be in the space I have just sketched out if such systems try to steer people's decision while hiding that it is a form of (mild) steering. Perhaps the greatest nudger of them all is the system where people never come to realize they have been nudged? But the space for manipulation and deception (or of being accused of manipulation and deception) suddenly seemed infinitely large to me. My conclusion is that such attempts can harbor large possibilities of serious backlashes. So perhaps it's better to confront people with things they don't want to hear ("you are not allowed to fly more this year") rather than trying to gently nudge them into not flying as much? This reasoning could of course be applied to any area where nudging and persuation is used or has been suggested. Perhaps overtly raising the price of airline tickets (see above) or even outlawing "unnecessary flying" is a better and more fair way to affect change?

One presentation activated some thoughts I formulated last week at a seminar with my students. Many students realize we need to "do something" about energy, carbon emissions and the climate. But some students also take all practical concrete suggestions ("fly less", "drive less", "eat less meat", "use less energy", "don't develop those kinds of technologies") and put them in a box which they then label "back". The predictable next comment is that "we can't go back" (sometimes completed with some utterly meaningless catchphrase like "The Stone Age didn't end because humans ran out of stones"). It's hard to discuss concrete solutions or indeed even to budge someone just a little when every suggestion and every proposal is characterized as "going back". Who wants to go "back" instead of going "forward"? I am here talking about the connotations of the very words themselves - Lakoff & Johnson, Metaphors-we-life-by-wise. (From Wikipedia: "George P. Lakoff ... is an American cognitive linguist, best known for his thesis that lives of individuals are significantly influenced by the central metaphors they use to explain complex phenomena."). "Up" is good, "down" is bad. And "forward" is good while (going) "back" is bad. My conceptual breakthrough here was to adopt the use of the term "overdeveloped" for the kinds of affluent societies we live in instead of using the more conventional term "developed". The word "overdeveloped" implies that we have overreached, that we need to find an equilibrium at some "lower" level of consumption (etc.). That might not sound like a big change but it is. What some students (and many others) have termed "going back" can now instead suddenly be characterized as "going forward" - problem solved! This way of reframing the way we characterize our way of living and our lifestyles also imply that affluent societies in the Global North can learn important lessons from less affluent societies in the Global South, e.g. places where resources are husbanded due to the fact that they are more scarce. I like that! I will have to think some more on that.

I have heard and I have previously commented on the expression "data is the new oil". This expression took on additional dimensions when one project (from Interactive Institute, "Open Energy Playground") used data as a design material but where the data displayed during the presentaiton was just scrolling quickly over the screen (Matrix-like). "Data" wasn't entries in a database but a flowing river of characters. This firehose-like flow of data is of course connected to sensors and Big Data (and Facebook and filter bubbles and personalization and siren servers) but what shook me a little was the image of data as a running river rather than than as a huge filing cabinet with a near-infinite number of compartments. The question posed by the researcher in question in this project (Anton Gustavsson) was "how do you combine data from sensors in order to tell a story?". It really struck a chord with me. But what kinds of stories can you tell if your building material is raw data from sensors? Anton's example was that you can tell a story of people slacking off during the work week (attentive on Monday, cutting corners on Wednesday and having mentally checked out for the week on Friday afternoon). That's a story, I guess, but it's not a very exciting or compelling story. Are all the stories that Big Data will be able to tell us equally meagre and austere? It's hard to see any life-and-death, love-and-hate, good-vs-evil stories (that have captured the minds of listeners since the dawn of time) coming out of armies of sensors, big data and the processing power to crunch the data and visualize it... This made me think about the current project course I'm teaching and where my students are working on 11 different project about "The Future of Computer Games/Computer Games of the Future". One group is working specifically with Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, personalization and storytelling/emerging narratives. Their question is how you can use oodles of data about each choice you make in a game to personalize and enhance the story of the computer game - a story that has an auteur or many storytellers working together to deliver an experience and that still/also has a beginning, a middle and and end that is amazing and spectacular. Here's their project description (the final project will be presented on Friday December 16 - see this webpage for more information - you are welcome to attend!):

"Inspired by today’s shift towards adaptive gameplay, which generates such elements as weather, foes and entire planets depending on the player’s choices, we present the Omnius narrative AI system. Where previous game systems have focused primarily on improving the gameplay within a rigid story, we look to leverage the medium’s interactivity to make for a much more compelling and personalized narrative.

Rather than being directly responsible for a game’s plot, game writers using Omnius instead focus on such broader-scope narrative such as world building and characters. Additionally, they would have to decide which parameters to keep track of in the user’s play style, and how to adapt the game to make it as engaging as possible. With the rules and boundaries set by the designers and writers, Omnious helps players tell a unique and personalized story through their gameplay."

My last reflection came out of a talk that among other things discussed the lack of standards in the smart home. The researchers (from The Swedish Institute of Computer Science, SICS - now SICS Swedish ICT) and everyone else assumed that things start out pretty bad (all the relevant actors have different standards) but they eventually come together over common standards and protocols to exchange information. I personally see it as a sort of defeat when coordination is only accomplished by adding (expensive, cumbersome) layers of added complexity on top of something that didn't work originally. The researchers compared this with the nascence of the World Wide Web and the browser wars of the 1990's. Every single browser (Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer etc.) did things differently and it was impossible to write code once that would work for several or all browsers at the same time. This diversity (sprawl) has later been curtailed; when increasingly complex things have been made possible, standards have been developed that all browsers adhere to (but isn't it the case that there will always be now things the browsers can't agree on?). The researchers implied that it takes a decade or two decades for standards to evolve and smart homes/smart electricity therefore has some way to go before that happens. In the meanwhile we might want to command Apple's Siri to  turn the lights down but her answer today might (metaphorically) be "I can't turn down the lights because the light bulbs are manufactured by Philips and they don't take orders from me". So I was reminded of the story of the tower of Babel recently (don't remember in what context). Building that tower was off to a good start but later encountered insurmountable problems. Not being able to understand each other any longer, humanity was scattered around the world. I don't know what happened to the tower itself but perhaps we could agree on it "crashing". If not physically collapsing, then at least crashing in terms of it being a viable project with a future - kind of like a very large and complex software system that has internal problems and that is shut down before it's ever been launched. The story I hear about WWW/the browsers wars and of smart homes is that we are off to a shaky start but that the edifice we are building is solidifying as we go along. I have a hard time dressing that up in pictures in my head - it feels like we are rebuilding a ship while it is out at sea and that does not sound like a great way to do things, right? So my question is how to dress up such a process in a suitable metaphor or story? I would preferably like to find a biblical story that can explain how something that works passably at a later point in time (and through much effort and after long delays) step by step starts to work better and better. Moses walking for 40 years in Sinai between leading the jews out of Egypt and taking possession of the promised land has the delay part patted down but how about the "creating-value-out-of-nothing" part? Which reminds me of my colleague Ambjörn's idea of using excrement as the raw material for 3D printers. That idea holds the promise of revolutionizing our economic system by literally making it possible to have "shit in, value out".

Over and out by yours truly. Not a great recounting of the program but rather an explosion of ideas that came out of the Swedish Energy Agency's program conference on "Energy, IT and Design". My colleague Elina wrote a short, matter-of-fact description of the event (including a link to the full program).


söndag 4 december 2016

Master's thesis proposals on ICT & Sustainability (2017)

I have written about the master's thesis activities that I'm involved in several times during the last six months on this blog:

We have now updated our team blog and it has upwards to 25 master's thesis proposals of which around 10 are brand new and the rest are proposals that have updated/brushed up. We have also removed 5-10 old proposals we did not think were that interesting or that aren't as relevant any longer. It is really very nice that many of these thesis proposals come from KTH research projects and from other non-KTH organizations! Although these proposals have been formulated with master's thesis students/projects in mind, I guess some (or perhaps many) could also work for students who will write their bachelor's theses (in pairs) this coming spring.

This blog post is in the end, I guess, basically an public information message (ad) for our new ICT & Sustainability thesis proposals. I will go one step further and here highlight three of the thesis proposals I have personally written.

The first thesis would be done in a research project that I work in and that is called "Design and data for Sustainable Lifestyles – opportunities for change" (SPOC). I'm the project leader together with Cecilia Katzeff. This particular thesis is also very interesting to one of the research project partners - The City of Stockholm.

Eating insects?

Many people think about sustainability when considering what food to eat. There are many reasons for why it makes excellent sense, from a sustainability point of view, to eat insects instead of cows or chickens and many people in other countries actually do. There is now research and practical work being done in Europe to get people to eat insects, for example by producing flour that is made of insects. The greatest challenge is “the disgust factor” but another important challenge is that people just don’t know how to use insects in their cooking. We want you to design a system (a prototype) that suggests suitable matches between different types of insects and types of food (caterpillars are apparently especially suitable to mix with eggs/omelettes). Your task is then to test and evaluate the prototype on a suitable target group of prospective users who care a lot about the environmental consequences of what they eat (we have suggestions of target groups).

This thesis would be done within a research project about food, ICT and critical design and might also involve some travel (for example to Nordic Food Lab in Denmark). The thesis will be done in cooperation with the City of Stockholm who has an interest in making better use of household food waste (which can be used as insect feed).

Please contact Cecilia Katzeff or Daniel Pargman for more info

The second thesis proposal relates to a project I have started and where I currently work with several other researchers (Jerry Mättä, Elina Eriksson, Ambjörn Naevä) in different subprojects. I have written about this project twice on the blog recently (here and here). We also had 60+ students work with this topic in a hefty seminar assignment in mine and Elina's course recently (and this will generate data to the project). Although this thesis proposal did not actually come out of a research project, I have come to realize that it could easily slot in or be assigned to a project I work in and that has the awkwardly long name "Improved energy counceling and energy habits by Quantified Self Assisted Advisory". My colleague Björn Hedin is the project leader and he who pointed out the overlap and the advantages of adapting the proposal to better fit the research project.

Homo Colossus

There are many tools that help you calculated how much CO2 you (and your lifestyle) emits. Instead of calculating how  much CO2 you emit, create a service that calculates how much you would weight if you were a (large) animal that had to eat as much energy that you – through your lifestyle – uses every day. The crucial formula you need to work with is: weight (kg)^3/4 * 0.08135555 = kWh/day. This work represents a way to calculate and visualize the footprint of our lifestyles and would constitute an alternative to Ecological Footprint Analysis and Earth Overshoot DayFor inspiration from other projects of how to visualize energy and carbon emissions, see, and SeeEffect.

Please contact Daniel Pargmanfor more info

The first thesis would. I'm the project leader together with Cecilia Katzeff. This particular thesis is also very interesting to one of the research project partners - The City of Stockholm.

The third thesis proposal would again be done in the research project "Design and data for Sustainable Lifestyles – opportunities for change" (SPOC). The thesis proposal is based on my fascination for IBM Chef Watson and the idea is basically to add (explore) another (sustainability) layer on top of the existing IBM Chef Watson service. Here's the proposal and I follow it up with some added thoughts about Watson including my inspiration for this thesis proposal.

Sustainable IBM Chef Watson

How can “IBM Chef Watson” be adapted to promoting sustainable food consumption practices? Today IBM Chef Watson uses state of the art AI to create novel recipes on the fly. Chef Watson combines foodstuffs that might not necessarily seem to go well together into recipes that actually do appeal to human taste buds with the help of a large database of recipes together with an “understanding” of what chemical flavour compounds go together. How can today’s service be developed by adding a “sustainability filter” (layer) to the software that will encourage more sustainable food practices through its choice of proposed recipes and/or by suggesting more sustainable foodstuffs as default alternatives? The thesis could explore this at a more conceptual level with an emphasis of interviewing different stakeholders (households, companies) or alternatively explore the concept by developing mock-ups and/or functional prototypes. 

Possible organisations to work with: Coop, IBM, Ericsson, Telia. 

Please contact Daniel for more info

I first heard about IBM Chef Watson when I listened to a podcast, New Tech City, in April 2015. The interesting thing was that two different podcasts worked together to try out IBM Chef Watson and they then recoded two different podcasts, one with a focus on the technology (New Tech City) and one with a focus on food/cooking (Sporkful). Here's how IBM Chef Watson was described by New Tech City:

"Basically, Watson takes everything scientists know about flavor and taste, and turns that knowledge into a recipe generator beyond the scope of human creativity. ... Developers built a system fluent in food chemistry, "hedonic psychophysics" (or "what we think tastes good"), and international cooking styles, then uploaded 9,000 recipes from the archives of Bon Appetit. They taught Watson to incorporate human feedback into its process, and worked with chefs from the International Culinary Institute to turn it into a viable product"

Other resources for this thesis are the articles that have been written about IBM Chef Watson in the Bon Appétit magazine. Yet another resource is the IBM Chef Watson cook book, "Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson: Recipes for Innovation from IBM & the Institute of Culinary Education" and perhaps also this book about the more general concept that the service builds on ("Cognitive Cooking" which is part of the more general concept "Cognitive computing"), e.g. "Smart Machines: IBM's Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing".

See our team blog for more info on other thesis proposals in ICT & Sustainability!