måndag 18 december 2017

Sustainability and Media Technology line-up (course)

I aim to publish a list of all (guest) lectures in the courses I give - like the recently-published list of guest lectures in my course on The Future of Work/Work of the Future. So this blog post has a list of all the lectures in my recently-finihsed course Sustainability and Media Technology (DM2573) and here is the line-up from last year's course (which was mostly the same, only three lectures were brand new for this year). The course ended on December 15 and below is the 2017 line-up for our course (15 lectures + 1 panel discussion). The blog post also has some personal reflections about this year's course further down.

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

1. Daniel Pargman (Ph.D., Associate Professor in Media Technology, KTH/MID)
"Course introduction"

2. Daniel Pargman
"Sustainability and Sustainable Development - On concepts and issues". The lecture will be an introduction to the concept of sustainability and sustainable development. The lecture will introduce different issues, definitions and perspectives on sustainability and sustainable development and how these contrast each other.

3. Elina Eriksson, Ph.D., Researcher at KTH/Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID),
"Planetary Boundaries and Climate Change". This lecture concerns climate change and planetary boundaries. We will go through the natural science background to climate change; the carbon cycle, green house gas emissions and the effect on life on earth if the global mean temperature increases.

4. Daniel Pargman
"Global resource challenges and implications for ICT and media". You have by now heard lectures focusing on the meaning of sustainability and challenges regarding climate change (CO2 emissions, global environmental challenges etc.). I will try to convince you that resource challenges and a global "energy crunch" will pose a more immediate concern than the (possibly more serious, but also acting on a longer time horizon) challenge of climate change - even though these two issues are tightly linked.

5. Erika Öhlund, PhD candidate, Södertörn University
"Natural resources and economic development". It seems like the world’s ecosystems become more and more depleted although the global income keeps increasing. Why is it like this? Do we just need to become a little bit richer to be able to save the environment? Is it possible to disconnect GDP growth from natural resource use? Maybe we need to redesign our economies so that all humans can flourish within the limits of the Earth.

6. - Daniel Pargman, KTH/MID
"First-order effects of ICT and Obsolescence". The first part of the lecture will concern first-order effects. In terms of direct, first-order effects of ICT, nothing positive can really be said in regards to their effect on the environment. The second part of the lecture provides an overview of obsolescence and of how Sustainable HCI research can address this, focusing on the interaction between user and device in the design of consumer electronics

7. Pella Thiel, The Transition Network and Common Cause,
"Important and importanter - on values for transition". The transition to a resilient society is not all about energy, transportation and organic food. Maybe more important are our values - what we deem important, desirable and normal. This workshop will provide an approach to exploring the importance of the values that underpin concern about many social and environmental issues.

8. Daniel Pargman, KTH/MID,
"Who is pedalling when you are watching kittens on youtube?". Energy is invisible. So how can we even start to contemplate changing our behaviors and using less when we don’t really have a visceral feeling for how much energy we use in the first place? This lecture introduces two concepts that help bridge that mental gap and that help us in making the invisible visible; "homo colossus" and ”energy slaves”.

9. Cecilia Katzeff, Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction at the KTH School of Architecture and the Built Environment.
"A design perspective on sustainable practices and energy use". The lecture will circle around the general theme of sustainable practices, what is meant by sustainable practices in relation to energy consumption and especially in relation to electricity use. The lecture will also explore how interaction design may play a role in creating sustainable practices and examples of design concepts will be provided

10. Rob Comber, ERCIM Fellow at the Swedish Institute for Computing Science (RISE SICS).
"Designing for collective action". In light of the wicked problems of environmental and social sustainability, this lecture introduces designing for collective action as a driver for change. Using case studies of design, the lecture will highlight the ways in which designers and engineers can support communities in affecting change.

11. Fredrik Östlin, founder and CEO of off2off
"Smart resource management with digitalization in public and private organizations". A lecture where you will listen to a sportsman (discus) who got tired of throwing things around and instead took the idea he got while being employed by Värmland’s county council and founded the company off2off. Off2off has become a mature digital startup with sustainability as its business idea by making re-use possible within and between organizations.

12 Jens Malmodin, Senior Researcher at Ericsson Research
"Sustainability at Ericsson - Using technology in smart ways to become more sustainable". The lecture will give an overview of how Ericsson addresses sustainability both from the environmental, social and economic perspective and with examples from ongoing projects and business activities. The lecture will primarily focus on the use of environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for mobile broadband technology and in a broader perspective for the whole ICT sector.

12 Elisabeth Ekener Petersen, PhD Social Life Cycle Assessment, KTH School of Architecture and the Built Environment,
"Social sustainability and ICT". This lecture will provide you with a brief introduction to the concept of social sustainability and the engineer’s role in (socially) sustainable technological development. The first part of the lecture discusses different approaches to social sustainability, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the idea of a ‘safe and just space for humanity’ (Raworth 2012). The second part will introduce tools for including social sustainability aspects into engineering practice.

14. Concluding panel discussion"Images of the future"
ModeratorElina Eriksson, KTH/MID. 
John Howchin, Secretary General of the Ethical Council for the First, Second, Third and Fourth Swedish national pension funds
Mikael Höök, Associate Professor in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development at Uppsala University
- Elin Bergman, responsible for corporate partnerships at WWF Sweden and a board member of the circular economy network Cradlenet.
- Daniel Berg, Ph.D. in Economic history (Stockholm University)
Daniel Pargman (primary role: to connect panelists' answers to literature and previous guest lectures in the course.
Course participants have been presented with a variety of images of the future. This is a discussion between invited guests who are expected to have widely differing ideas and opinions about the future, and about the future of sustainability. Can we imagine a future sustainable society? What would it look like? What are our chances and what is our best course of action in attempting to reach that future? Furthermore, what is the role of ICT and media in relation to these questions and issues?

15. Belinda Hellberg, freelance sustainability consultant.
"The split-brain experiment – integrity maintenance in an activist, political and corporate environment". Some people know exactly where they belong, in what context they want to work and in what way they want to influence society. Others spend their time constantly balancing conflicting ideals, processes and goals. How do you find the equilibrium between intrinsic passions and professional beliefs? Belinda has spent the last 10 years driving sustainability issues in the business community, civil sector and political world and she has developed an interdisciplinary approach towards environmental and climate challenges. She will share her experiences and strategies on how to succeed in a conventional environment while at the same time trying to changing the system.

16 Daniel Pargman, KTH/MID
Wrap-up of the course and gripe session. What happens now - when the course ends? What can you do now?


This was the 6th time we gave the course and it feels like we have perfected the course so that it runs smoothly from year to year. By now we only do minor adjustments to the format but we of course change and update the literature from year to year. Since we finished the course by offering the students an anonymous online course evaluation, I will cherry-pick some of the most positive quotes (only 30% have answered the course evaluation though):

- It's mostly the reading that takes times since there are a lot of litterature, but they are interesting and the workload is evenly distributed so it didn't feel that much working hours in total.
- Definitely made me more interested in sustainable development and I could consider taking more related courses.
- I really liked the seminars where I felt that the atmosphere was really open and the conversations were good.
- The course was fun, interesting and challenging.
What advice would you like to give to future participants?
   - Have an open mind and challenge your conceptions no matter if you are an environmentalist or skeptical towards the environmentalists, it makes the course more fun and you will learn more.
   - To read all the litterature because it's super interesting!
   - There is a certain culture in the course that you will bring with you when it's finished. Embrace it.
- Over all I really liked the course and even though the subjects are very heavy, I still always liked coming to the lectures and seminars. Elina and Daniel really managed to make the course interesting and their personalities and ways of teaching didn't make the course depressing even though the content was quite depressing at times.
- The best course I’ve taken so far with my 3,5 years at KTH. Interesting subject, best course structure that spreads out the workload during the whole period and awesome inspiring teachers and guests.
- Amazing panel debate. Some good guest lecturers! Elina and Daniel were both good.

I don't know that I need to say a lot after all that praise. Students really liked the seminars and they started with the excellent questions the students submitted (one question per student per week). While I filtered away all negative comments (answering the question "how could the course be improved?") they mostly discuss the amount of literature and hone in on the fact that students feel they don't get enough teacher feedback on drafts and on seminar papers. With almost 70 students taking the course, that is a task that is unmanageable during the course and we look at all the hand-ins only after the course has been finished. This year we however got some good advice during the course wrap-up and that is to hire an ex-student to have a look at the weekly draft papers and comment on them. That is actually an excellent idea and we already have a student who volunteered to be our teaching assistant (TA) for next year.

As apart from last year we had many international students this year, including from Finland, France, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Moldova, Russia, USA and Indonesia.

I also have to say that the panel debate might have been the best ever in this course and at least one student agreed. He approached Elina after the panel and said the panel was the single best event during all of his five years as a student at KTH. I also understood the panelists themselves really enjoyed the panel and I hope we can get all of them to come back next year!

I hope that the course made some small difference to all the students and a big difference to some of them (see further below). I also hope many students were inspired by the course and choose to either 1) read the follow-up course Sustainable ICT in Practice (DM2720), choose to work on a sustainability-related topic in the project course next autumn (DM2799) and/or choose to write a sustainability-related master's thesis in 2019.

Me and Elina like to use our teaching on Sustainability and ICT in general and this course in particular as fodder for academic reflections and we have by now published more than half a dozen papers on that topic. Since we taught the course last year, we have a new text out in the just-published (edited) book "Digital Technology and Sustainability" called "On the Inherent Contradictions of Teaching Sustainability at a Technical University". Looking at last year's blog post about this course, I found this delightful reflection of mine that I chose to quote/republish:

"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."

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