tisdag 28 februari 2017

The sharing economy as the commons of the 21st century (article)


An article that Karin Bradley and me wrote wrote quite some time ago, "The sharing economy as the commons of the 21st century", has finally been published and is available online as well as as a pdf file (nicer formatting) for free. It's published in the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, in a special issue on Sharing Economies? Theories, practices and impacts (edited by Anna Davies, Betsy Donald, Mia Gray and Janelle Knox-Hayes).

It seems our article was published online 10 days ago, on Feb 18, but I only found out about it now, when a reference to the article was published by Google Scholar. I have (apparently, in some way) set up an alarm for when articles of mine are published/included in Google Scholar and learned about it through this mail:

The special issue has a bunch of other articles that look interesting and that are available as advance copies online. I do however notice that our article is the only one that is available under an open access license and this fact together with the topic of the special issue, "Sharing Economies?" can easily give you lots to think about... Karin's project payed 2000+ Euro for the privilege of publishing it under an open access license and that means the article can be disseminated freely for non-commercial use, can freely be used in education, can freely be published on our homepages etc.

These are the lead time for publishing an article in a scientific journal:
- Karin saw the original call for papers for the special issue all the way back in April 2015 (22 months ago)
- A 500-word abstract ("pitch") for the article was submitted in June 2015 (more than 20 months ago)
- An 8000-word article was submitted in November 2015 (more than 15 months ago)
- The final version of the article was submitted and accepted for publication in June 2016 (more than 8 months ago)
- An advance copy of the article is available online as of February 2017

I have to admit I don't know exactly how these things work but I believer the article will be published (printed on paper) in CJRES 2017, no.2 - which is not out yet. I don't know but I hope I will eventually get a copy of the printed journal.

This article - believe it or not - came out of an EU application that did not receive any money ("SHARE IT: Tools for sustaining not-for-profit grassroots sharing initiatives"). That application was written by Adrian Friday, me, Elina Eriksson, Airi Lampinen and Karin Bradley and it was handed in back in April 2015. I have since written a conference paper about the sharing economy together with my co-applicants Elina and Adrian ("Limits to the Sharing Economy" - available as a pdf and presented at Computing within Limits 2016), and now this journal article together with my other co-applicant Karin - so a lot has definitely come out of the application for me. I have discussed writing something together with Airi about the sharing economy and that might just happen later this year...

Here's the abstract of the article:

The sharing economy as the commons of the 21st century 

Karin Bradley and Daniel Pargman

This article aims to make a contribution to the debate on how contemporary collaborative commons, as part of the wider sharing economy, can be understood and supported. Three cases of contemporary commons are analysed: a DIY bike repair studio, a pop-up home office concept and Wikipedia. The article shows how the design principles developed for governing natural resource commons are only partly applicable to these contemporary commons. It also illustrates the differences in these types of commons in terms of the nature of the resource being shared, scarcity, barriers to entry and how rules are formulated and upheld.

Keywords: commons, sharing economy, collaborative economy, digital commons, design principles, for-benefit sharing platforms

fredag 24 februari 2017

Financing my upcoming sabbatical in Barcelona (application)

Three years ago I went on a sabbatical to the US for six months and I'm planning to go on another sabbatical to Barcelona during the first half of 2018 (which I have written about once before on the blog). The largest crux of financing a sabbatical is my own salary. If I was willing to live for half a year without a salary, then I could go on a half-year long sabbaticals whenever I wanted to. Since I in fact have accumulated overtime (a lot), I have come to the conclusion that I can, without taking too much of a financial hit, go on six-month sabbatical to "catch up". I'm not sure my accumulated overtime will cover the whole six months though and there are also other (non-salary) costs associated with going away, e.g. increased costs of living when you live elsewhere temporarily. When we went to the US, it was for example absolutely necessary to have a car (for six months). In the end, it is of course better to go on a sabbatical and have better financial support.

As it so happens, KTH (generously) supports researchers/teachers by centrally funding a limited number of us to go on sabbaticals each year and I just handed in my application to become one of a dozen such recipients. I have no idea how tough the competition is but I have given the outmost care to the application I just handed in to the Dean of the School of Computer Science and Communication. Getting the grant is a two-stage process; I first have to be the one or one of the (supposedly few) candidates that my Dean recommends and I then have to compete with candidates from other Schools at KTH.

Besides some supporting material (my CV, a letter of invitation), my application is 1200 words long and it fits on two pages (e.g. on a single sheet of paper). I have spent a lot of time shaping and massaging the text - I have in fact spent a lot more time on these two pages than I spend on writing 2-3 pages of text for a scientific paper. I have also spent time reading and mulling over the KTH webpage that specifies what the purpose of the financing is, what KTH wants to accomplish with making these funds available and what criteria will be used to evaluate the application. The stated purpose of funding these sabbaticals is to:

- give greater visibility to KTH researchers'/teachers' mobility
- create exclusiveness, which is also a merit for the individual
- give teachers an opportunity to progress in their personal development
- reward excellence in research
- encourage innovation in KTH activities

That's a lot of different things at the same time, e.g. encourage innovation, encourage (and reward) excellence in research and teaching, help eligible employees progress in their career and in their personal development, make KTH a more attractive employer etc. Recipients are then selected based on two criteria:

- Excellence in research, education and interaction with society [companies, public organisations, NGOs etc.].
- An account of how the sabbatical can renew and deepen the [research] group's activities and KTH's research activities.

That means I have had to work towards these goals in my application and I have tried to hit as many buttons as possible. As an applicant I am also asked to write about the reasons for why I want to travel and include a project plan that describes planned activities and clarifies how the trip will develop me as an individual as well as KTH's research activities. I found this particular part to be tricky as we are talking about producing a "project plan" for events that haven't happened and won't happen for a year. I chose to instead described a few of the "projects" I will work on during my sabbatical and instead of spending too much time in the future (making airy promises and trying to sound convincing about why it - future tense - would be right to grant me funds), I chose to instead emphasize some of the concrete effects of my previous sabbatical, e.g.:

"I went on a sabbatical for six months in 2014, visiting the Laboratory for Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction (LUCI) and the Social Code Group (SCG) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). 
A large number of activities have benefitted from what I learned and from what I brought with me home from that sabbatical both in terms of research and eduation. In terms of research, I have since co-authored six papers with ex-UCI colleagues (two additional papers are currently under review). I have also been the co-chair of two international workshops/conferences together with my ex-UCI colleagues (Computing within Limits 2015, 2016)."

I also made use of this blog to support some of the statements I made in the application and since it's a requirement to report back to KTH's president in writing after the sabbatical, I'm especially happy about this formulation:

"As to reporting back on activities undertaken during the sabbatical and increasing the visibility of staff exchanges, I would continously write about the sabbatical during the sabbatical on my academic blog (danielpargman.blogspot.se). I have in fact continously written (for the most part twice per week) about all my academic activities during the last six and half year – including those activities undertaken during my sabbatical at UCI three years ago(4)."
4. See for example http://danielpargman.blogspot.se/2013/11/uc-irvine-next.html, http://danielpargman.blogspot.se/2014/01/university-hills.html, http://danielpargman.blogspot.se/2014/02/i-met-joseph-tainter.html, http://danielpargman.blogspot.se/2014/04/culture-and-data-in-digital-field.html, http://danielpargman.blogspot.se/2014/05/exploratorium.html.

As I have now handed in the application, there's not much else I can do besides waiting - although I have no information at all about when they make a decision about who will get funds and who won't.

I here offer one last quote from the application since it could be of interest to readers of this blog:

"Planned activities are still under development but [my host] and me have discussed the possibility of me giving a ph.d. course while visiting them. I also have extensive plans for writing research papers and articles during my sabbatical and I certainly aim to explore possibilities of co-authoring papers together with [local] researchers as well as laying the foundation for joint EU research grant applications. I am currently involved in two research projects that both end in December 2017 and I am convinced there will be plenty of leads for writing up results from these two projects during my sabbatical. I have however decided that it is even more important to do somthing uniquely suited to being on a sabbatical and that is to write a book. My previous sabbatical was primarily financed by working in a research project at a distance. While that certainly was a privilege, I would very much look forward to the opportunities and the added freedom that earmarked KTH funds would bring."

söndag 19 februari 2017

ICT and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (CFP)


Me and a bunch of other people organized a workshop, HCI and UN's Sustainable Development Goals: Responsibilities, Barriers and Opportunities, at the NordiCHI conference back in October. It was a great workshop and we were approached already before the workshop was held by Carlo Giovanella, the editor in chief of an online peer-reviewed open-access journal, Interaction Design & Architecture(s) (IxD&A) about putting together a special issue on that topic - to which I agreed. Technically it's not going to be a "special issue" but rather a "focus session" and the difference is that a focus session has fewer articles than a special issue (3-5 instead of 6-9). Also, we would have had to wait another six months for a slot for a special issue.

Giovanella characterized the journal’s focus as relating to 1) computer science, 2) social innovation, 3) design and 4) education. This all adds up to a general focus on “designing the future”. It also seems IxD&A specifically target workshops (like ours) and entice workshop organizers to sign up for putting together special issues or focus sessions for the journal.

IxD&A publishes four issues per year and the acceptance rate is around 30% for special issues and focus session. It is indexed by Web of Science and Scopus. I don't know if it's a thing but I just don't know how to react to the fact that a journal that has "design" right there in the name also has a webpage in such stark need for improving the design of its webpage (here's for example the IxD&A archive).

The deadline for submitting articles to our focus session is June 30 and the articles will be published in IxD&A in November this year. The editors for the special issue are me - Daniel Pargman (KTH Royal Institute of Technology), Neha Kumar (Georgia Tech), Mikael Anneroth (Ericsson Research) and Elina Eriksson (KTH Royal Institute of Technology). There is some more info about the editors at the bottom of this blog post. Do also note that the focus of the workshop was HCI & the SDGs while the special issue concerns ICT & the SDGs - so the focus has shifted slightly and has now become broader.

Below are the most relevant parts of the Call for Papers - the full CFP together with some further instructions can be found here.


Sustainability is the most important global challenge for the 21st century. While interest in sustainability is increasing within computing, it is not particularly difficult to claim that we currently do too little, and perhaps at times also the wrong things. It can be daunting for researchers to tackle global problems such as climate change, famine and biodiversity loss (Steffen et. al. 2015, Raworth 2012), to name just a few of the large issues the world is and will continue to grapple with during the remainder of this century. Still, developing a sustainable society does not refer only to “other” (non-computing) areas such as transportation, heating and food, but also to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) since ICT has become an integral part of all areas in society. But how does ICT contribute to a sustainable society, and, what are we aiming for?

In September 2015, the UN formally adopted a set of global goals the succeeded the  Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015). The new Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs, see further https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) consist of 17 overarching goals, aiming at accomplishing sustainable development for people and the planet by 2030. The SDGs thus address ecological as well as social and economic sustainability and they are to a higher extent also applicable to the whole world rather than just to the developing countries in the global south. Since the Sustainable Development Goals are more ambitious and broader than the Millennium Development Goals it however also becomes more difficult to measure and track progress.

In this IxD&A focus session, we want to engage everyone who is interested in working towards a sustainable future in terms and using the UN SDGs as a starting point. How can ICT be inspired by, and contribute to these goals? What should we do more of, and, are we doing the right things (Brynjarsdottir 2012, Silberman 2014, Knowles 2014)? In what areas should we form partnerships in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and with whom should we form these partnerships? This IxD&A focus session builds upon a workshop that was held at the NordiCHI 2016 conference (Eriksson et. al. 2016)

Topics of Interest

We particularly welcome contributions that not only describe a particular study and relates it to the SDGs but that also critically engages with the relationship between ICT and the SDGs. We welcome contributions from (but not limited to) HCI, interaction design, design, STS and ICTD. For further questions, please contact the editors.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

• ICT solutions that engages one or more SDGs
• Work that critically discusses important topics not covered by the SDGs
• The Interconnectedness of the SDGs in relation to ICT
• Bridging global goals (SDGs) in terms of scaling and operationalizing them to make them possible/easier to address
• The challenge of working with long-term goal in the context of ICT which emphasizes speed and results
• On possible tensions and contradictions between different SDGs
• The connection between socio-technical systems and the SDGs
• Methods for monitoring progress in reaching the SDGs (for example utilising Big Data).

Daniel Pargman is an associate professor at the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID) at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. He is also affiliated with the VINN excellence research Center for Sustainable Communications (CESC). He is interested in energy research and social science, teaching sustainability and Computing within Limits. He blogs at danielpargman.blogspot.com and he was an organizer of the workshop “HCI and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: Responsibilities, Barriers and Opportunities” at the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI’2016).

Neha Kumar is an assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, with a focus on human-computer interaction for global development. She received her Ph.D. from the School of Information at UC Berkeley in 2013, and was a postdoctoral scholar crossing disciplines at the University of Washington's Computer Science and Engineering department and at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. She combines computing, design, and ethnographic expertise to research the adoption, design, and use of mobile technologies towards stronger community infrastructures, social and technical.

Mikael Anneroth holds an Expert position at Ericsson Research, focusing on the Human and Society perspective of ICT. He is member of the management team for the Ericsson Research Area Sustainability and the driver of several external research projects in the area of Sustainability‚ User Experience design, Society impact of ICT and the transformative effects of digitalisation

Elina Eriksson is an assistant professor in HCI with a specialization in sustainability at at the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID) at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. She is doing research at Green Leap and the KTH Centre for Sustainable Communication (CESC). Her current research projects concerns ICT for Urban Sustainability and an exploration of energy futures. She was an organizer of the workshop “HCI and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: Responsibilities, Barriers and Opportunities” at the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI’2016)


torsdag 16 februari 2017

eSports and professional game play (article)

Me and a Daniel Svensson wrote and presented a paper, "21st century sports: Movements without movements" at a smaller, local cultural studies conference in Sweden a few years ago. The paper was the result of a side project and while we both really liked the paper, none of us have given enough time and attention to getting it published afterwards. I for one decided that the MULTI.PLAYER 2 games conference in Münster two and a half years ago was my last computer games conference and the other Daniel was busy writing his ph.d. thesis at the department of History of Science, Technology and Environment at the KTH School of Architecture and the Built Environment). He presented it just before Christmas and it's called “Scientizing performance in endurance sports: The emergence of ‘rational training’ in cross-country skiing, 1930-1980” (pdf available here).

So while we both liked the paper and thought it had potential, nothing came out of our wish to publish it either at a computer games conference/journal or at a sports venue (we were at one point for example looking at the European College of Sport Science conference and journal).

Until now, that is. I recently saw an invitation to a special issue that fit our paper perfectly. While I had not heard about the journal before, the International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS) is, according to "the Norwegian list" an OK journal. Here's (parts of) the Call for Papers (bold text fits us especially well):

CFP:  eSports and professional game play

The purpose of this second special issue is to investigate the rise of eSports.

Much has happened in the area of professional gaming since the Space Invaders Championship of 1980. We have seen live Internet streaming eclipse televised eSports events, such as on the American show Starcade.

Authors are invited to submit manuscripts that
· Examine the emergence of eSports
· The uses of streaming technology
· Traditions of games that support professional players – chess, go, bridge, poker, league of legends, Dota 2, Starcraft
· Fan perspectives
· Professional player perspectives
· Market analysis
· Meta-analyses of existing research on eSports
· Answer specific questions such as:
How should game user research examine the emergence of eSports? 
Should we differentiate pragmatic and hedonic aspects of the game? 
What are the methodologies for conducting research on the elderly identity, and the uses and design of games for the elderly?


Mission – IJGCMS is a peer-reviewed, international journal devoted to the theoretical and empirical understanding of electronic games and computer-mediated simulations. IJGCMS publishes research articles, theoretical critiques, and book reviews related to the development and evaluation of games and computer-mediated simulations. One main goal of this peer-reviewed, international journal is to promote a deep conceptual and empirical understanding of the roles of electronic games and computer-mediated simulations across multiple disciplines. A second goal is to help build a significant bridge between research and practice on electronic gaming and simulations, supporting the work of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

We have made only minimal changes to our paper and felt compelled to write a note explaining that none of the authors have followed the games research scene during the last few years but were more than willing to to follow any suggestions from the reviewers about texts/papers they think we should read up on. For more information, please see this earlier blog post about the paper as well as the just-written abstract:

21st century sports: Movements without movements 

Modern sports have gone through a process of “sportification”, moving from loosely regulated games and play towards becoming progressively more managed and regulated. Computer games have correspondingly gone from being a leisure activity for kids and teenagers to becoming a competitive activity, “esports”, with international competitions and professional players. We argue that there is a tight connections between the sportification of traditional (physical) sports and modernity just as it is possible to see the emergence of “21st century sports” such as esports as portending a post-modern society. There are naturally many differences, but also significant similarities between traditional sports and 21st century sports as both move towards standardized, rationalized, medialized and commercialized competitive arenas. In this article we explore both the similarities and the differences through the lens of sportification.

söndag 12 februari 2017

The food, the environment and the worms (seminar)

One of the two research projects I work in, "Sustainable practices and data: Design and opportunities for change" (SPOC) organized a Swedish-language 4-hour workshop/half-day seminar this past week on "The food, the environment and the worms: How do we design a better food system?". Which sounds better in Swedish due to the alliteration ("maten, miljön och maskarna").

While the project also involves ICT and design, the seminar focused more exclusively on food and sustainability and we had two great invited speakers, Gunnar Rundgren (farmer, author) and Karin Wendin (professor). We also took the opportunity to present our research project (my colleague Cecilia Katzeff did that) while I was leading and hosting the event. See the invitation below for further information.

I thought both talks were great but will only discuss Gunnar's talk here. He was the main speaker and he has just come out with a book (published in both Swedish and English), "The great eating disorder". He brought a few copies and I bought my own copy of the Swedish-language book. Gunnar's talk was choke-full of facts and I am sure he could have talked for much longer had we given him the chance. I found three threads running through his talk, namely 1) the connection between the food system, technological developments and social practices, 2) the connection between the food system and energy and 3) the overarching connection between economic incentives and the food system (also workings its way through points 1 and 2). Examples of each is:

- How dinner habits changed changed together the microwave oven. One example is the microwave oven that portended the death of social eating due to the fact that it was no longer necessary to gather around the table and eat the same food at the same time. Another is refrigerated boats/containers that revolutionized what food we put on our plates (food miles etc.).
- The modern (industrialized) food system is optimized for minimizing hours (work time) per calorie produced and we do a lot of things that does make sense economically but that on the whole is really very stupid (e.g. we waste a lot of energy). We use very large amounts of energy for fertilizer, pesticides, agricultural machinery, food processing, transportation, refrigeration and cooking.
- The underlying driving force is of course money (economic incentives) and it leads us down a one-way street of bad (and sometimes immoral) decisions. Optimizing the breeding of cows so that their udders fit milking machines (but not any longer human hands) makes sense only during very specific conditions and leaves few options should the electricity be cut for a longer period of time. Optimizing yield by breeding chickens and wheat that are 100% dependent on human "care" seems deranged when you realize how fragile (and how much energy inputs) current food production practices are.

Something around two-thirds of the seminar was spent listening to the talks and the last hour was spent on a small-group exercise where groups were tasked with thinking about visionary change to the food system in the near future. Accepting that our current food system is unsustainable, how do we design a new food system? More specifically, "In the year 2030, we will..." We suggested a range of topics (including the topic our second speaker talked about, i.e. changing our diet to eating insects) and asked the groups to think about about best case scenario. We also asked them to limit themselves and to think about one solution to one problem. Finally we also listed three questions to get the group discussions going. In 2030:
- Where does the food come from?
- How do we produce food?
- How do we eat food?

We finally encouraged the groups to not shy away from formulating bold, radical ideas that were provocative! We had five groups working on different concepts in parallell but I will settle for discussing the results of my own group. I teamed up with Gunnar Rundgren (a fountain of detailed information about the food system) and we were joined by master's student Andrea. Here's the task I suggested and that my group worked with:

- Historically, agriculture has delivered upwards to ten times the energy out (in the form of the energy content of the food) compared to energy in (human and animal energy invested in agriculture). One farmer could potentially produce food for himself and for upwards to nine other persons.
- Modern industrial agriculture instead uses upwards to ten time more energy (fertilizer, pesticides, agricultural machinery, food processing, transportation etc.) than it delivers and this only works because (fossil) fuels contain so much energy and have been so cheap for so long. A tractor uses a lot of energy, but that energy has been very inexpensive compared to the time (salary) of the farmer who sits in the tractor. We thus subsidize agriculture energy-wise as we constantly strive towards optimizing productivity (food out) per working hour.

Modern agriculture thus delivers a lot of food and it certainly delivers in terms of food per hour invested/spent on farming, but it might use upwards to 100 times more energy per calorie-delivered-from-the-food-system compared to pre-modern (pre-fossil fuels) agriculture. So my question was: what would have to go away and what would into vogue if we voluntarily chose to, or involuntarily were forced to shift to an energy-efficient food system. More specifically, what would happen if we had to go from 10:1 to 1:1 in terms of energy inputs in the next 10-15 years? We can still use energy inputs, but only a tenth of what we use today per calorie delivered. What, for example could be learned from current or historical low-energy agricultural practices? Here are some of our suggestions in terms of what would have to go (out) and what would come back (in):

- Heated greenhouses and vertical farming in cities would go and root crops (carrots etc.) would come back.
- Feedlot operations would go and grazing would come back into vogue.
- A lot of overly detailed "unnecessary" regulation would have to go and small-scale operations would come back. Common sense permaculture principles would become very popular, i.e. output from one agricultural process would become input to the next process instead of (over-)specialization and monocultures.
- Cooking practices would change and raw food or food that does not necessitate cooking or heating would become more popular (or necessary).
- Global streamlining of the food system would become harder and diversity in terms of utilizing local assets/production factors would become much more important.
- Commodification of food would decrease and non-market food production would increase (producing of oneself or trading/giving away food to family or neighbors).
- Urbanization would stop and metropolis/megacity would decline. Instead we would see an increased ruralization, i.e. people moving back to the countryside (perhaps accompanied by land reform). More people living in the countryside would also help better close local nutrient loops, that is, people to a higher extent living and eating food grown locally instead of transporting food hither and dither.
- Food waste would of course decrease. Perhaps scraps would be kept and fed to chickens or pigs even in the cities?
- Refrigerated container ships would be out and sail ships would make a comeback. It certainly can't get cheaper than that - energy-wise - to transport food.
- Fragility would decrease and robustness would increase.

I think the exercise turned out fine and that the day was a success. Only after the event did I realize we could have disseminated the information a little more aggressively. I could had spread the information to the students who took our sustainability course before Christmas and my colleague Björn who will advise no less than six bachelor's students on food-related topics could have invited these specific students! That's a pity but all in all still a great seminar. Here's an English-language translation of the invitation:

The food, the environment and the worms: How do we design a better food system?

Our food system is dysfunctional. We do by all means get cheap food, but the environmental impact is large and progress sometimes goes in the right but sometimes also in the wrong direction! What are the problems and what are the proposed solutions? Can part of the solution be found in the use of design and information technologies that challenge and inspire everyone who cooks and eats food (that is, all of us) to change our habits at the supermarket, in the kitchen and by the planter ("odlingslåda") in a more sustainable direction?

Gunnar Rundgren is a farmer, author and consultant and he was a founder of the KRAV eco-label 30 years ago. Gunnar Rundgren recently published his latest book, "The great eating disorder: food, power, environment". He describes how our food system - from agriculture to food processing to trade and all the way into the households - do (not) work.

Karin Wendin is a professor of food and culinary arts at Kristianstad University and is also associated with the Swedish Technical Research Institute (SP). Karin Wendin has done research on the future of food - on eating insects as the tasty, nutritious and environmentally friendly alternative to meat - when space and resources become tight.

söndag 5 februari 2017

Party in my home

I have complained about the distance between me and my students several times on this blog. Back in 2011 I wrote a text about "the student-teacher gap" and I followed it up with a 2012 text about "Bridging the distance between me and my students". The latter text describes an experiment that later failed (but it hadn't and I didn't know it would fail at the time when I wrote the blog post).

My conclusion back then was that the only students I really got to know and that I had a personal relationship with were the (few) students to whom I was their bachelor's or master's thesis advisor. These students I actually did know (some) and I could quite easily write a letter of recommendation for them. It was very hard to write such a letter to students who instead took one of my courses together with 50 or 60 other students. This was not very satisfying neither for me nor my/our students (I presume). It felt like we passed each other by on conveyor belts that were moving in the opposite direction. My course was one out of many courses they took and I was just one out of many teachers. To me they were part of a constant stream of students who flowed through my courses and continued elsewhere - out of sight. Only a few students managed to make a strong impression on me. I have also realized that I hardly know anything at all on a personal level even about those few students who actually did made an impression on me.

The university I describe above has become an "education factory" with the students as raw materials to be moulded. During the last few years, a few things have finally started to happen that have changed the situation fundamentally - at least on the master's level.

The first was my sabbatical at University of California Irvine three years ago. I was very inspired by sitting in Bill Tomlinson's lab together with for the most part his graduate students. Graduate students means master's students and ph.d. students. The big divide there was between studies at the bachelor's level and the master's level. Even though not all master's students continue to pursue a ph.d., the master's level studies were much more directed towards research (and interaction with ph.d. students and researchers) than studies at the same level is in Sweden. This also differs a lot from Sweden where there the big divide instead is between master's level students and ph.d. students - who are hired, get a more-than-decent salary, are covered by the social insurance system (get sick leave, parental leave etc.) and so on. It was very inspiring to see many examples of how master's students were part of the research effort to a much higher extent and how they were seen as an asset. I imagine it must be much more satisfying for the master's students to be involved in "real research" too.

The second was the fact that some students wanted us to continue to have regular seminars also after our course ended one and a half years ago. We continued to meet for half a semester and I wrote a blog post about it ("Student Sustainability Lunch Seminars"). It ended after a few months due to the extended Christmas break and due to the the fact that most students then started to write their master's theses and had other things on their mind. Still, it was very inspiring to have a student (August E!) stand up in front of the other students and query about their interest in continuing to meet and talk about sustainability also after the course ended.

The third and most decisive change is this year's switch to a new master's program in "Interactive Media Technology" where the new program replaces the two previous programs we had. Me and Elina have pitched two new master's level courses for the new program and the first has been developed ("DM2720 Sustainable ICT in practice") and is currently given to our first cohort of master's students in the new program. The second (yet-to-be-developed) course would have been given a year from now if not for the fact that I will be on a sabbatical then - so we will give next year a pass and start giving it the year after that. A new project course (replacing my project course "Future of Media") will also be given for the first time during the next academic year, but we don't know that much about it at this point. Finally our first crop of students in the new master's program will write their master's theses next spring (Jan-June 2018) and the difference between these students and those who do so now is that next year's students will have taken two of our courses on ICT and Sustainability rather than just one.

Having read one rather than two courses about Sustainability and ICT might not sound like a huge difference, but it is. The first course is compulsory and 50-70 students study it every year. The new course is voluntary and exclusive - only 17 students are taking it and that really does change everything. Now I have circled back to the main topic of this blog post - the relationship between me as a teacher and my students. With 14 out of 17 students being graduates of our previous course that we gave just before Christmas, I knew the names of every single students in our course already at the very first lecture. This means there is a foundation for a personal relationship with each student already when the course starts. The fact that there are few rather than many students means there is a different ambiance and much greater opportunities for interacting during breaks etc. Since these students are as close as it's possible to come to being "our" students, the clincher was that I invited them all (as well all members of our research team) to a cocktail party in my home this past weekend. Nine students from the course showed up (as well as some research team members) and we had a great time eating, drinking and talking until the last guests ambled away at 11.30 pm. It was also interesting to see my kids interact with the students - my oldest son talked to one of the students about his studies and with another student about computer games and my youngest son got very attached to a student and spontaneously gave her a big hug when she left.

I don't yet know what the "effect" of inviting my students to a party is but I imagine it's pretty rare for students to see the inside of their teachers' homes - I just assume it must have been a first for most or for all of the students. I didn't primarily invite the students to my home for it to have any particular "effect" but rather just because it seemed like a good idea - it's nice, we have the space and they are a manageable bunch size-wise. I do however imagine that one effect is that we will be much more proactive in recruiting master's students to write their theses in our research projects next year. It might be hard to headhunt and match students with specific tasks since we still don't really know what particular interests individual students have and how these interests of theirs could match our research projects. It could the be that the new project course (next year) might set them on a course that could be matched by tailored offers but at this point we'll just have to wait and see. A good start is that some students have chosen to join our research team's distribution list so we will have opportunities to better learn what their interests are from now on and they will also have opportunities to learn some about what it is we are doing during from now on.