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?"


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