lördag 30 april 2022

April roundup


This blog post summarizes could-have-been blog posts from April, i.e. some of the things that happened in April but that did not merit blog posts of their own (but that could if there had there been fewer other things happening). 

I wrote a March roundup blog post a month ago so this the second in the series. It might become a regular genre of blog posts or it might not, the jury is still out.

April Roundup

- Adrian Friday will be a SF Lab Scholar in Residence this autumn (April 1)

Me and Elina sponsored an application from professor Adrian Friday (Lancaster University) to come to KTH later this year and it was approved! The application was sent to the cross-disciplinary research centre Digital Futures and their Scholar in Residence program which "aims to provide scholars at non-Swedish universities with financial support to enable short and longer-term visits to the Digital Futures environment (minimum 1 month, maximum 12 months)". You need to be an associate or full professor to apply and the funding covers housing, travel and other costs associated with the residency (but not salary). Upcoming deadlines for the program this year are June 6 and September 5 (hint, hint; get in touch if you would like to visit us!). 

Adrian is Professor of Computing and Sustainability since 2015 and was Head of School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster between 2017 and 2021 but is now on a sabbatical and will visit us for a month sometime after the summer (in August and September). We have met Adrian many times and me, Elina and Adrian also wrote a paper together back in 2016, "Limits to the sharing economy" (pdf). From Adrian's proposal:

"Adrian Friday is Professor of Computing and Sustainability at Lancaster University, UK. My work focuses on how ubiquitous systems, data and empirical studies reveal the environmental and energy impacts of everyday life, and offer new and more sustainable ways of doing. I am passionate about understanding the relationship between the digital and the future, and how to promote sustainabilty. My collaborative and multidisciplinary projects in this area have focused on various sites of energy demand aligned with 'digital futures'. These have included energy use in the home, thermal comfort, sustainable food shopping ('rich and healthy life'); and understanding last-mile logistics to promote sustainability ('smart society'). My ongoing projects are focusing on environmental and social justice for gig economy, and a significant new programme exploring a combined statistical, machine learning and qualitative approaches toward net zero from energy and IoT data, co-designed with commercial stakeholders.

Possible collaborative activities aligned to digital futures during my visit could include:
  1. Presentations, engagement, and mentorship of research students on topics relating to sustainability and digital futures (energy demand, impacts of ICT, thermal comfort, digitally mediated services).
  2. Joint author papers, for example repeating and extending research into academic flying practice [2], bringing a point of comparison from UK data.
  3. Explore specific funding opportunities, likely as part of Horizon Net Zero/ smart society calls.
  4. Contributing to the design of a new sustainability Masters programme, leveraging my 10+ knowledge and experience of research in this area.
We are extremely happy Adrian has chosen to visit us on his sabbatical and we are also thankful for Digital Futures Scholar in Residence program that made his visit possible! This will obviously be a topic to return to in the blog later. 
Welcome Adrian!

- Invited talk, “Academic mobility - Who gets to fly?” (April 8)

An unnamed high-flying division at the KTH Department of Learning in Engineering Sciences
Each post-it note represents an employee and each poker chip represents a one-way trip 
(green = short trips, red = medium-length trips, black = intercontinental trips)

On April 8, I gave a Higher Seminar, “Academic mobility - Who gets to fly?”, at the KTH Department of Learning in Engineering Sciences

Academic flying constitutes a large part of KTH's total carbon emissions. We need to reduce our flying if we are to reach our own climate targets, but how? To start with; who at KTH flies when, where and why? And how can we reduce ”unnecessary” flying? Welcome to a seminar about academic flying and the (many and varied) challenges of reducing academic flying.

I was invited by an old acquaintance, Associate Professor in Engineering Education Development Kristina Edström. She had read our open access book chapter "Who gets to fly?" and invited me to give a talk based on that text. While the first hour was open to all (at the Department), the second (Q-and-A) hour was reserved for phd students who took her course. The Department of Learning in Engineering Sciences consists of four divisions, "Learning in STEM" (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), "Digital Learning", "Language and Communication" and "The House of Sciences". Most participants came from the first division and a few from the second.

The most impactful part of the talk was when I presented the participants with data of their own divisions' flying in 2019 (the last year we flew like there was no tomorrow). It took quite a lot of time to prepare the data - but it was worth it! The image above comes from the division what flew the most at the Department of Learning in Engineering Sciences.

Parts of the Zoom talk was recorded and I asked Kristina for a copy. She thought it was easiest for her to put it on a USB stick and pass me by. When she delivered the USB stick only an hour or so after the talk, she told me how much they had enjoyed the talk - and especially the fact that they could see their own data (image above). My talk would surely be the number 1 topic to chat about at the lunch table the coming week and she also gave me a huge bouquet of flowers! 

What we realized only later was that I believe she stated that the talk had convinced her that a Very Big International Conference she helps organize from now on should be held online every second year. I would need to confirm this but if that is what she said, then our project has had a huge impact in terms of decreased CO2 emissions due to the outsized footprint of such conferences.

- Roch and Hamilton-Jones visited SF Lab (April 19-22)

The Sustainable Futures Lab had two guests from France, Emile Roch and Daphné Hamilton-Jones, visit us for a week. Emile and Daphné are Master Students in Design Research at the Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris Saclay, Télecom Paris (Institut Polytechnique) and ENSCI Les Ateliers, and while they study in Malmö for the whole spring term, they came to visit our research group at KTH for a week. This is how they presented their research interest and themselves when they gave a talk to our research group:

Title: Exploring Co-design for Sustainibility through Design Fiction

Our work: Responding to the environmental crisis as an individual demands agency. Hoping to facilitate the creation of that agency in individuals looking to have a real impact on this crisis, we have created a workshop using the stereotypical trope of the island. In our collaborative design fiction, participants work together to create tools for their survival. In that fictitious space, participants practice at responding to their basic needs through fictitiously embodied practice, collaboratively. The historical  tradition of codesign in Swedish culture offers an interesting perspective for this kind of practice. Our work aims to investigate these questions throughout the time we are spending in Swedish cultural and academic communities.

About Emile : Formerly trained in professional computer science studies I decided to reorient myself toward a more critical and academical practice. I specifically looked into design that surround the notion of agency through my technical perspective but more and more by the designer point of view.     
About Daphné: Trained in multidisciplinary design in London, I worked as a pedagogical designer before transitioning towards design research. I am particularly interested in the place of design in democratic practices and sustainability, convinced that one cannot exist properly without the other. Imaginaries of the Environmental crisis, fiction and co-design offer a response to this that I am eager to explore today.

They set up meetings with many members of our group, but since they also sat in my room, I also had several conversations with them throughout the week. They also visited a Hoffice event in my home. It was very nice to have them with us and I hope to meet them again, for example at some upcoming conference.

- Popular Science lunch lecture, “Who gets to fly? in the KTH Library (April 25)

I showed this image to the audience but am not sure I was allowed to do it. Nor to post it here
This information might be sensitive in several different ways according to KTH's Data Protection Officer.

I gave a lunch lecture at the KTH library (Web infoFacebook event):

KTH has ambitious goals for decreasing CO2 emissions from flying – but few governmental agencies fly more than we do. So how can we decrease our flying?

This particular talk had a twist since I only talked for 15 minutes and was then followed by 5-minute "rebuttals" from Rosa Lönneborg, KTH's Research Data Coordinator, and Robin Roy, KTH's Data Protection Officer. I then had 5 minutes to answer them before we opened up for questions from the audience. 

The KTH Library had invited me to give this lunch talk a long time ago and I had specifically suggested they should invite these two persons so that we could discuss issues having to do with "GDPR, research data, ethics etc.". I ended my 15-minute talk by handing over these questions to my discussants:
  • Do the poker chip visualization display information that is sensitive?
    • Who should be allowed to see this data?
    • Was it wrong to show it here?
    • Would it be wrong to use non-anonymized data?
    • Would it be wrong to make the data publicly available?
  • Can I as a researcher ask KTH not to disclose info about my flying
  • If so, how can KTH reach its climate targets?

I ended the talk by summing up the differences in perspective and the resulting clash between 1) following the (GDPR and other) rules (little will happen and the easiest thing is not to even try), 2) trying to change the rules (an arduous and slow process where changes could take years of effort with no guaranteed success) and 3) doing what is necessary to actually solve the problem (decreasing KTH's CO2 emissions from flying). My conclusion is this: it could be that no one wants us to fail to reach our climate and CO2 reduction targets - but that will still be the result if we stick to the rules/restrictions about who is allowed to see what "sensitive and potentially integrity-invading" info. Like where I (as a civil servant) fly in my line of duty. 

Is this sensitive data and can I an employee choose who will see it or not?

Expert Workshop on "Digital Sufficiency: A new perspective on digitalization as a driver for sustainability? (April 26)

It's quite embarrassing to write about this workshop because while I was invited and signed up two months in advance, I was extremely surprised when I got an email on April 25 welcoming me to the workshop on Digital Sufficiency "tomorrow". I then realized I had mixed up the dates and blocked time in my calendar two days later, on April 28. That meant I couldn't attend the workshop despite having looked forward to it. 

So I had to opt out of the workshop with short notice and this was a real pithy since I had in fact read the book that the workshop organizers Steffen Lange & Tilman Santarius had written ("Smart Green World? Making Digitalization Work for Sustainability"). 

- Our Limits paper was accepted (April 30)

Our paper "On the environmental sustainability of Ai art(s)" has been accepted to the Workshop on Computing within Limits (LIMITS 2022). The paper is written by Petra Jääskeläinen, André Holzapfel and Daniel Pargman. We are all at KTH and Petra is a phd student (we share room) whose advisors are André (main advisor) and me (co-supervisor). 

Petra is a relatively new phd student (she started to work at KTH in the autumn) and this is her first paper (as well as her first paper as first author). Petra works in a research project that André leads, "Ai and the Artistic Imaginary: Creative-Ai Technology in Sustainable, Ethical and Legitimate Practice". Here is the paper abstract:

"A wide variety of creative practitioners are currently exploring the use of Ai in their work processes, for instance in poetry, music, performance and visual arts. In this paper, we discuss the relationship between Ai and sustainability in general, but focus on the relationship between the emerging area of Ai art and sustainability in particular. We highlight the importance of pursuing research concerning the sustainability of Ai art and take initial steps towards understanding how Ai art practices may save or waste resources. Based on online fieldwork, we provide a conceptual approach that can be used to map the environmental sustainability of Ai art and use the resulting framework to analyze the environmental impact of three specific cases of Ai artworks. With this paper as a basis, we hope to elicit awareness among scientific and artistic communities about the environmental sustainability of Ai art."

- Beyond Stockholm+50 (application) (April 30)


KTH has a Climate Action Center that was launched at the beginning of the autumn. The "KTH Climate Action Centre is a multidisciplinary research centre where we work together to speed up climate action in synergy with the UN Sustainable Development Goals". Me and my colleague Elina are somewhat involved (Elina more than me) in their activities. 

The Climate Action Center recently launched its first call for smaller projects. The projects must address Climate Action, meaning solutions for advancing climate mitigation or adaptation, and they were looking for project applications that either proposes new projects or that adds a “climate lens” to an already existing project. The call also invited project proposals "addressing the communication of research-based climate action knowledge to different target groups" and one of the criteria for evaluation project applications was: "Does the proposed project communicate research based knowledge to the public or stakeholders in order to raise awareness and speed up action?" We think our application, "Beyond Stockholm+50", fulfills those goals and we handed in our 3-page application on the very last day (April 30):

This application is connected to but separate from the science + art project described above. During the beginning of June, there will be a high-level UN meeting in Stockholm, Stockholm+50. In relation to that meeting, there will be numerous activities that are organized by civil society and other actors, including the City of Stockholm. We have been invited by the City of Stockholm (through project leader Helene Mårtenson), to in cooperation with the City of Stockholm and Kulturhuset (Stockholm House of Culture) be part of the upcoming Stockholm+50 activities at Sergels Torg and in Kulturhuset in central Stockholm during June 2-5, and we have already participated in a planning meeting together with the City of Stockholm and other actors. We would more specifically design, develop and implement a 2-hour workshop format (multiple times) as part of the Stockholm+50 event and in cooperation with the City of Stockholm and Kulturhuset.

While we aim for creating a workshop format that works for youths and young adults for the Stockholm+50 activities in the beginning of June, our project has a tail that extends all the way until the end of the year and the project can be divided into four phases:

Phase 1 (May). In cooperation with the City of Stockholm and Kulturhuset, design and develop a Homo Colossus workshop format and contents aimed at 14-25 year olds for the upcoming Stockholm+50 activities in central Stockholm.

Phase 2 (June). Implement the workshop format (multiple times) as part of the City of Stockholm's and Kulturhuset’s Stockholm+50 activities. Phase 2 also includes observing, analyzing and redesigning the workshop format from one day to the next at the Stockholm+50 activities, as well as documenting workshop activities.

Phase 3 (early autumn). Analyse the experiences from the Stockholm+50 activities and work together with Tekniska Museet (or another museum) to (re)design a workshop format that could be used with school classes that visits the museum. In phase 3 we aim to together with Ingemar and Esther “transfer” and incorporate the Augmented Reality app from the Formas project into the workshop format.  Since our own students at KTH also fall within the target group of 14-25 year olds, we would furthermore in parallell adapt the workshop format and use in our own education at KTH.

Phase 4 (late autumn). Based on experiences from phases 1-3, design a final “kit” with materials and instructions on how to use the workshop format. Teach/hand over the workshop kit to museum personnel so they themselves can host and lead workshop activities for visiting school classes without support from KTH. It will furthermore be possible to formulate bachelors and masters thesis proposals that our students could do in relation to this project during the spring of 2023. e.g. perform user studies at a museum or further develop, adopt and integrate the Augmented Reality app and the workshop format.

- Books I've read (April 30)

I have read very few books this month for two different reasons. The first is that my workload has been very heavy (at times extreme) and I haven't been able to muster enough energy to read on my way to KTH or when I go back home (by subway). The second is that since I started my course in stand-up comedy, I have used the subway ride (and other short breaks) to write, enhance and practice my stand-up routine again and again and again. I have in fact only finished two books during the month of April and that is little in comparison to my usual tempo.
  • Jem Bendell & Rupert Read (eds) (2021). Deep Adaptation: navigating the realities of climate chaos
  • Ami Hallberg Pauli (2018). Stand up Handboken


torsdag 28 april 2022

My career as a stand-up comedian


Me, learning the secret secrets of stand-up. 
Here joking about transgressing boundaries and not knowing where the limits are.

Life is't fair - my career in stand-up has at this point been postponed by two years - but is now back on track because I recently started an evening course! I in fact signed up for an intensive week-long course two years ago and wrote a blog post about it in January 2020 ("Starting up my second career (in stand-up comedy)"). I listed several reasons to take that course, and the best reason is still this:

4) After modern capitalistic industrial society inevitably succumbs to the mounting pressure of the inescapable climate catastrophe, people will need to be cheered up now and then; a career in stand-up ("will entertain for food scraps!") will thus become an obvious fall-back option when it no longer is viable to be a researcher and a university teacher. Also, stand-up is more fun and less back-breaking than tilling the soil.

This prediction (again from January 2020) sadly didn't come play out due to Covid:

I expect that you can book my new show before or otherwise after the summer. To make the magic happen, do get in touch with my agent and then get in line.

The one-week intensive course I signed up to would have been possible to attend (in Feb 2020) but for the fact that it was cancelled due to insufficient interest. I therefore signed up for another course (March 2020), but it was cancelled due to the Covid outbreak. I'm not sure what to make out of this and I have in fact considered the possibility that higher powers don't want me to stand on the stage. It could be that I have set out on a dangerous path...

I went to my first class a week ago and I was hooked. I've taken several courses in improvisational theatre, but immediately recognized that it's stand-up and not improv that is my thing! We were asked to prepare 3-4 minutes of material for the first class. It didn't have to be particularly funny, but it should represent material we wanted to work on during the course. I talked for a few minutes (about exactly the topics I mentioned in my 2020 blog post) and then directly got feedback from the teacher that blew my mind away. It was on point and it cut through the crap; here's the set-up, the punchline should always be last (to build up tension) and a minimalist ethos should guide what comes between the set-up and the punchline. Take away all qualifications, explanations, detours and everything else that doesn't build towards the punchline. It's that simple, but it can still be a difficult lesson to learn for a researcher who is used to support every statement and slowly and methodically build up an argument. The logic of the argument might be unassailable - but as a joke it fails miserably.

Here's an example: I exchanged all my material between the first and the second class and one part of the new act was to enumerate a list of things that characterizes an incel. It was an instant and huge relief to realize that could say whatever I wanted (that builds towards the joke) instead of having to read the Wikipedia article and do an hour of additional desktop research in order to put together an itemized list ("according to Schmelzerpfeffer et al. (2021), "incels" are characterized according the principles that were laid out in..."). You can instead basically just make shit up ("Schmelzerpfeffer") and get away with it - as long as it builds towards a joke and it gets laughs. It could be that the more absurd, the better and it's the laugh that is the currency, but it's elusive and hard to get hold of for rookies like me (to get smiles are easier). 

Stand-up is anyway so much my thing that I will create brand new material for my third class (next week) and have also started to write new material also for my fourth class. Compared to most of my classmates, I'm probably insanely over-ambitious since I think about and work with my stand-up routine every single day, but I really feel I need to get the most out the class and out of the excellent feedback we get from the teacher, Malin Appeltofft. The other seven course participants joke about political correctness and woke culture, religious upbringing, social anxiety, defective boyfriends, being an immigrant from Germany, mental illness and riding trains.

When I explore a new topic I start by writing down ideas for jokes in a google document. Something I find stupid, fun, or weird is a good start, but exaggeration is your best friend and exploring ways to make it even more stupid, fun or weird is a fun activity in itself. Over the course of a few days I then add passages and jokes, change the order and fine-tune by adding, changing or subtracting sentences, formulations and individual words. To find the joke is a process that starts with some promising raw materials (an idea I have thought about, or a feeling that it's possible to find a joke in something that recently happened to me or that I read/heard about). I then have to do the equivalent of what a diamond cutter does to uncover, get at and refine the joke. And sometimes I fail to get the joke-in-waiting to fulfill its promises and it has to be shelved or discarded. 

Since I only have to talk for 3-4 minutes (which turns out to be around 400 words), I don't have any problems whatsoever to come up with jokes. The most boring part of the process is however to memorize the material verbatim. To have it all memorized and then work with the delivery (including pauses and gestures and trying out how to emphasize specific words) is much more fun, but I still have a lot to learn here. With little routine it is very hard to know in advance what an audience will understand/think/feel, and I can authoritatively say that after two classes I am not yet fully trained. 

But I could definitely imagine standing on the stage at a rookie club after the course ends. Or at that event you will organize next month. I do believe I could have a niche as dinner entertainment at scientific conferences (or departmental Christmas dinners etc.). I've attended more than my fair share of conferences and academic events and my assessment is that the competition isn't very fierce not to say nearly non-existent so this might be space I can monopolize!

This image used to be a placeholder at very the top of this blog post.
It was replaced after I thought to ask stand-up classmate (and citizen) to take of photo of me in class.


söndag 24 april 2022

Hoffice (home office)


Hoffice with Tina, Martin, Arjun, Elina, Daphné, Emile and me (empty chair)

Hoffice (home office) is an excellent concept that was started in 2013 by Christofer Gradin Franzen. My kitchen table (and balcony) became a pop-up office for a day this past week when I invited my colleagues to come and work in my home (here's a good Swedish-language description of the methodology). I'd say most people mostly worked with tasks that required reading and writing (including mail etc.) in work sessions that were interspersed with coffee breaks. More specifically we initiate 40-minute silent work sessions that are preceded by "pledges" that we follow up (e.g. "for the next 40 minutes I will work with revising and shortening the paper I will submit to a conference next week").

I really like the Hoffice concept and it works well for our (extended) research group. It also for example means I get to meet with Tina now and then (see image above) - despite the fact that she doesn't work at KTH any longer and have few reasons to go there and meet up with old colleagues. It's also nice to meet your colleagues in a different setting and in a different way than what we usually do. Finally many things can be worked out or new ideas can be generated when many people work together or when you meet someone you haven't talked with much lately. I would want to extend the invitation to Hoffice a bit broader (e.g. to other friends I have in Stockholm) but haven't figures out how to practically make that happen without setting up some cumbersome administrative structure. Perhaps I should announce an upcoming Hoffice among my friends on Facebook (but not to the whole world)? 

This was anyway the second Hoffice during the month of April when I invited colleagues to my home, and I have scheduled two more full-day Hoffices in my home during the month of May. We meet between 9 and 17 and then have lunch together in one of the nearby restaurants. Sometimes people can only come for half the day and that's ok as long as there is space left around the table.

I currently operate on the assumption that 8 persons can fit around my maximally extended kitchen table - because I only have 8 kitchen chairs. But it could in be possible to squeeze another few persons in if I had a few more chairs or if it's ok for some to sit in the sofa or the chaise longe or on the balcony. There has this far only been 7 persons attending the April Hoffices. 

I have considered using the official Hoffice Stockholm Facebook group to "fill up" a Hoffice event if few colleagues of mine sign up, but it also feels silly to write an "ad" and offer a workspace for, say, an additional two persons, so I will have to think a bit more about that. But nothing stops you from signing up to the Hoffice Stockholm Facebook group and then organize a Hoffice of your own around your kitchen table (or attend someone else's)!

Looking through the blog, I was reminded of the fact that I submitted a paper (actually an "extended abstract") about Hoffice to a conference 5 years ago, "Strangers are welcome: hosting pop-up offices in the Hoffice network". It was written together with a master's student, Emma Lundin, whom I supervised when she wrote her thesis and we then wrote the extended abstract together. It was accepted, but we had to retract it because in the end it turned out none of us could go to the conference and present it. But the abstract in fact describes Hoffice neatly and here's the two paragraphs that are most relevant to this blog post:

Hoffice was started in Stockholm at the end of 2013 and it is based on offering the possibility of working for free in other people’s homes. Hoffice helps people arrange impromptu “home offices” where hosts share their kitchen table and other workspaces resources (internet connection, microwave oven and not the least their company!) with people who can “book” a seat for the day. The purpose of these work events is to create free workspaces as well as social, structured and disciplined work environments that allows individuals to benefit from others’ support and intelligence. While Hoffice groups nowadays exist in many different cities and countries, the Stockholm group is the largest and most active group with almost 2000 members and multiple Hoffice events being organised each week.

In order to organise Hoffice events, many resources must come together of which some are more obvious than other. There must of course be a sufficient number of members, suitable dwellings and a digital (online) platform that supports the coordination of the activities in question. Other, more intangible resources must also exist such as trust in strangers, goodwill to open up your home to others and a belief in the Hoffice idea itself. It is hard to know what the greatest bottlenecks are, but one thing that is crucial for making Hoffice work is the presence of enough people who have the resources and the will to open up their homes to others by hosting Hoffice events.

Karin Bradley and me also used Hoffice as one of three cases in our paper "The sharing economy as the commons of the 21st century" back in 2015. Here's the (open-access) published article and here's a blog post about the article. We submitted the article in November 2015 and it was published 20 months later, in July 2017.


onsdag 20 april 2022

Sustainable Futures Lab (SF Lab): We have renamed our research group!


Image: Brainstorming a new name for our team/research group

On January 1, 2020, I wrote a blog post, "2019 - the year MID4S levelled up". That blog post included the history of our team - a team which, during the last few years, has turned into a research group with a portfolio of ongoing research projects.

In a blog post from December 2013 ("MID4S - MID for sustainability"), after we had had our second annual kick-off, I wrote that the team started in mid-2012, but we only named ourselves MID4S (Media Technology and Interaction Design for Sustainability" at that end-of-the-year 2013 workshop. 

A lot has happened since then and this is not the place to summarize it all, but, we have for some time felt that we have grown out of our name, MID4S, which suffers from the fact that the name makes very little sense if you don't already know that MID is the name of our department ("Media Technology and Interaction Design"). The "4S" ("for sustainability") certainly comes out of the fact that many of us had attended the first International Conference on ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) in Zürich in early 2013 (the upcoming Eighth ICT4S conference will be held in mid-June in Plovdiv, Bulgaria). 

MID4S works well internally at our department, but the problem now is that we need to be able to talk about  and present our research group with people outside our own department, outside of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and with people at other universities (including abroad) and "MID4S" then just doesn't cut it and that we have grown out of it. 

I think we started to discuss a name change in the autumn but it has only seriously become an item on the agenda this year. We had a team meeting in the beginning of the year that resulted in (I kid you not) 30 proposed names that team member Minna Laurell Thorslund documented (the majority of the suggestions came from her). It's great to have options, but how do you go from 30 names to one?

I don't know how you would go about but we are researchers so we advance slowly and systematically. We thus obviously created a short list of criteria to use for evaluating the various suggestions ("Suggested requirements for the new name"):

  • Easy to say/pronounce 
  • Easy to remember 
  • Easy to understand 
  • Not too long! Is an acronym good?
  • Conveys the scope of research that we do
  • Conveys the driving force/stance/values of what we do 
  • Creates a clear association between our team and the greater context of our work 
  • What is missing at the department?
  • How can we “brand” ourselves all the way from the division to “the world”
  • Possible to use both internally and externally (MID4S is bad as nobody understands the name outside of MID)
Some might feel that a list with 10 different criteria is exaggerated, but during the last month us sloth-like academics have moved into supersonic overdrive!

Individual workshop preparations before our March 24 Reboot (documented as part of this blogpost) included figuring out our personal favorite and formulating a justification of our choice of name. Rob Comber then shepherded us through a step-wise process where we concluded that our name should start with "Sustainable" or "Sustainably". The advantage is that you can then zone out or go to sleep after you've heard the first word but still know something about what we do. It was considerably harder to figure out what comes after "Sustainable" (see the image at top). Is "computing" (broadly interpreted) what we do and something that can unite all of us? After a long process that involved many persons we finally landed on "Sustainable Design Lab".

The very day after, co-team leader Elina Eriksson suggested a name that came to her when she was out running and team member Leif Dahlberg (who was absent from the Reboot) contributed with yet another name. That meant we had ballooned from one to three names again and before our April 5 MID4S team meeting I sent out these following instructions:

We had a physical "MID4S Reboot” 10 days ago and I wrote a little about it in this blog post. This was a meeting only for the people who currently work at the Division of Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID) and one of the things on the agenda was to choose a new name for the group.

We did choose a new name, ”Sustainable Design Lab”, but after the meeting, two new suggestions appeared so there are now three suggestions:

  • Sustainable Design Lab
  • Sustainable Futures Lab
  • Sustainability Lab

At tomorrow’s MID4S meeting, the main point will be to discuss what name we should choose. While everybody is welcome to listen and talk [...], deciding upon a new name is the main action point on the agenda and if it comes to voting, then only people who currently work at the department have a vote!

It still proved too painful and to make the final choose at that meeting, but we did manage to remove "Sustainability Lab" from the shortlist. Elina then put it to a vote among the MID4S core members (in our Slack channel) that very same day, but a few persons were very slow at responding so it wasn't until yesterday that Elina finally put her foot down and announced that our new name will from now on be "Sustainable Futures Lab" (SF Lab).

We will from now on use this name and we will also start a new team blog. We have a plan for making the blog a hip place to go instead to learn more about what we do instead of a stagnant backwaters - which for the most part is what our current blog has turned into. We might migrate a small part of the contents of our current blog, but will for the most part start with a clear slate.

So there it is. 
The king is dead - Long live Sustainable Futures Lab!

måndag 18 april 2022

ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) Reading Group


Image: On Friday this past week we discussed an extremely interesting book in the ICT4S Reading Group

I briefly mentioned the ICT4S (ICT for sustainability) Reading Group in a recent blog post. The Reading Group (book circle) is a spin-off from the second ICT4S Summer School that was held in August last year. I was one of the five organizers of the Summer School but it was fellow co-organizer Jay Chen who came up with the idea and took responsibility for hosting and coordinating the Reading Group.

We have met once per month - a breakneck speed for reading academic books for most folks - but you don't have to join all meetings and can instead pick and choose what books to read and which meetings to join. There have been seven meetings since the Reading Group started (Sept-Dec and Feb-April) and the eighth and last meeting for the academic year 2021-2022 will be held in mid-May.

The Reading Group exists in the form of a mailing list, an online collaborative document (padlet), regular votes for what books to read next and of course the actual monthly meetings when we discuss the books. We seem to have stabilized at around 10 participants per meeting (down from 20 or 30 and the very first meetings when enthusiasm ran high). The books we have read and discussed this far are: 

Autumn 2021:

  • Jason Hickel - Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World (2021)
  • Lance Bennett - Communicating the Future: Solutions for Environment, Economy and Democracy (2021)
  • Kate Raworth - Doughnut Economics: Seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist (2017)
  • Wendy Liu - Abolish Silicon Valley: How to Liberate Silicon Valley From Capitalism (2020)


Spring 2022:

  • Sasha Costanza-Chock - Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need (2020)
  • Tim Jackson - Post Growth - Life After Capitalism (2021)
  • Jem Bendell & Rupert Read (eds.) - Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos (2021)
  • Steffen Lange & Tilman Santarius - Smart Green World? Making Digitalization Work for Sustainability (2020) - NOTE: to be discussed on Friday May 13 at 17.00 Central European Time (08.00 Pacific Time)

Out of the eight books/meetings, the last meeting hasn't happened yet but I have read and participated in six of the seven meetings (the December book didn't fit my schedule). 

Looking at the books in the list above, you would be excused if you thought this was a reading group about economics (or ecological economics or heterodox economics). Only one out of of the eight books decidedly treats ICT head-on (Lange & Santarius). Two other books are slightly more peripherally related to ICT and more related to business/society (Liu) and to design (Costanza-Chock). Out of the eight books, I had personally read three books before and independently of the Reading Group (Hickel, Raworth, Lange & Santarius). It was in fact me who proposed we should read Lange & Santarius and the suggestion to read Bennett was also mine (I had wanted to read it but hadn't yet at the time). Author Lance Bennett in fact joined us when we discussed his book!

Something that has been slightly stressful for me is that we have sometimes decided on the next book(s) to read very late, thereby reducing the time available to order the book and to read it. I prefer to buy books in batches and would thus have liked more foresight. I have therefore hounded Jay so that we will choose which books to read for the autumn at the last meeting before the summer. I would then order the books and might also read one or more already during the summer. 

Out of the books above, I can wholeheartedly recommend Hickel as well as Bendell & Read. They were both amazing. Hickel has a way of explaining very complex matters in simple yet convincing ways and I can easily see students reading parts of all of his book. Bendell & Read was also amazing since they present arguments I have seldom seen elsewhere (e.g. "Deep adaptation is an agenda and framework for responding to the potential, probable or inevitable collapse of industrial consumer society due to the direct and indirect impacts of human-caused climate change and environmental degradation").

Also very good and well worth reading are Bennett, Raworth, Jackson and Lange & Santarius. I didn't read Liu and I didn't think much of Costanza-Chock for more than one reason; while the basic ideas were intriguing, I found that the book was quite extreme in how these ideas were presented and developed and didn't agree with some of the conclusions and suggestions. I also felt like parts of the book did not represent very good writing as they were boring. It sometimes felt excruciating to read with pages upon pages of arcane "who's who" lists that could only be of interest to those activists and groups mentioned in the text, or possibly to a "community historian" who want to track down detailed info about matters that are of great interest only to very few people. 

On the whole, the Reading Group has been great though! The experience of coordinating your reading and then discussing the book you just read with others increases the value of reading a book, and I have surely, due to the added value, read books that I wouldn't have read otherwise. This text thus ends with an invitation: if you want to join the Reading Group, do send an email to Jay Chen (jchen@icsi.berkeley.edu) with "ICT4S Reading Group" in the header!


söndag 10 april 2022

Edu-Rail (application)


Image: Imagine a multi-day rolling academic conference where you take a break to catch up on your reading in this train carriage (it looks like a paining, but is in fact a photo from The Blue Train in South Africa).

I recently "slipped" into an application, "Edu-Rail", that was handed in earlier this week. The principal investigator (PI) is professor Per-Anders Hillgren at the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University. In this blog post I will write about 1) the research grant application, 2) the Vinnova call for "future prototypes" and 3) the project partners.

The goal of the project is to: "Gain better knowledge of how research work can be carried out during train journeys and create a vision and concrete solutions for how this can be made possible." Here's the longer (250-word) summary of the project:


The international research community rely on knowledge exchange, where researchers criticize and build further on each other’s work. This often take place through international conferences and scholars have had privileges to travel a lot. Although the pandemic has facilitated the development of more online events, many researchers emphasize the importance of physical meetings. In the suggested scenario, the flight industry has not succeeded to become carbon free. The Universities in Europe have therefore invested in Edu-Rail, a jointly owned train company with daily departures between the north and south, and the east and west of Europe.

The train offers opportunities to host academic work such as seminars, workshops and smaller labs and supports the emergence of multi- and interdisciplinary research where scholars can network and exchange knowledge during the journeys. In the scenario Edu-Rail started as jointly owned by the European universities, but later evolved into an experimental cooperative directly owned by the European research community. The onboard facilities, maintenance and services are all characterized by collaborative services and an extensive sharing culture. The purpose with this project idea is to balance a tough future (Scenario 4) that limit our opportunities to travel, with a concept that can offer services that is not present in today’s transport systems.

Edu-Rail will be prototyped through service- and co- design and scenarios that elaborates on possible implications and values. It will also be tested through a train journey where a group of researchers will engage in research by holding seminars and workshops. The material will then be used at public seminars to discuss the future of work travel.

The research project is small - it will run for just three months between mid-August and the end of November this year. The process of handling the applications is thus also unusually short and we'll know if the application will be granted money already before the end of April. While the project is small (both in terms of time period and money), the burn rate is quite high, e.g. a lot will happen in short amount of time and the application consists of no less than six different activities. One of the very first activities is to prototype Edu-Rail by organizing a train-bound six-person two-day miniature research conference (with seminars and workshops) in September. The train trip will contribute to the creation of knowledge about "lived and embodied experiences of how research work can look like on a train".

This is reminiscent of the Norwegian Centre for Energy and Climate Transformation's (CET) "conference train" back in October 2019. CET organized the conference "Beyond Oil: Deep and Rapid Transformation" in Bergen October 16-17, but the conference was preceded by a separate 7-hour train ride + conference from Oslo to Bergen on October 15. The conference train had its own conference committee (people we should obviously talk to!) as well as a very ambitious program with three talks/debates/discussions: 

  • "Low-Carbon academic practices: what does cultural change look like?"
  • "Embodied knowledge: How can the arts deepen the scope of academic engagement" 
  • "What is the role of academia in supporting deep and rapid culture transformations in relation to climate change?"
The Centre for Energy and Climate Transformations also has a very ambitious "Low-Carbon Travel Policy" that more institutions should look at and be inspired by! 

I'm part of three of the six project activities, including the train trip as well as an activity that I myself am responsible for - organizing an international workshop in mid-September (more info on that later). I will in fact make two business trips to the continent by train in June and August/September - so I would bring some recent and concrete experiences of extended train trips with me into the project. 

Some of the questions we aim to explore in the project are: How can the research community continue to exchange experiences when we can't fly the way we do today? How can we travel sustainably in the future? How can work and travel be better integrated? How can academic culture be developed in an Edu-Rail scenario?

The project is really fun and it fits very well together with my research project "Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations". We only look at (CO2 emissions from) air travel in that project and do thus not spend a lot of time looking at current alternatives to air travel (e.g. trains, video conferencing), but this project represents a really interesting way of prototyping what travel in a low-flying academy could look like 10-20 years from now. Thinking about an academy where we have stopped flying altogether was also the topic of a workshop I participated in back in 2016, "Fly or die", and many wild and exciting ideas came out of that exercise (and are documented in this blog post!).

The Vinnova call for "Future prototypes" ("when the future comes to visit the present") is also very interesting. They describe their call as:

A project ... where Vinnova through new methods tries to understand and visualize objects from a possible future. Together with designers and visionaries, we want to create designs that stimulate dialogue about which direction we are going, and how we get there. The project is about creating future prototypes. Future prototypes are objects from the future visiting the present with the aim of creating thoughts, feelings and discussion about what society we want in the future and the best way to get there.

So some people at Vinnova are having a go at welcoming and encouraging Swedish researchers to do speculative design and we [e.g. the people working at Vinnova and possibly also researchers in the funded projects] "are coached by Elliot Montogomery, founder of Extrapolation Factory and teacher at Parsons School of Design, one of the world's leading organizations in speculative design" (linked 30-minute video by Elliot on "Thinking as a futurist). There is surely an interesting story behind this call - but it's hard to figure out how this came to be without inside info. It's quite clear that some people at Vinnova are very enthusiastic about speculative design and they have even set up a helpful page on "What is speculative design" (machine translated from the Swedish-language page). I very much hope the call will results in a success internally at Vinnova so that they will continue to fund research like this also in the future! I hope someone came in with an application for a Future prototype of Vinnova funding more Future prototypes...

The proposed research project, "Edu-Rail", is led by professor Per-Anders Hillgren who works in the research platform "Collaborative Future-Making":

"The Collaborative Future-Making research platform explores how we can envision inclusive and sustainable ways of living and thriving together. We do this through prototypes and discussions where people from all sectors of society are involved."

The project group consists of eight persons:
  • Three persons are associated with he Collaborative Future-Making platform at Malmö University. This of course includes the PI, Per-Anders Hillgren, and also his colleague Ann Light who in fact is part of the reference group for our research project "Beyond the event horizon: tools to explore local energy transformations".
  • One person is a sustainability co-ordinator at Malmö University and works with integrating sustainability into research and education. It just so happens that she is also the contact person at Malmö University in our recently-submitted research grant application, "Reduced emissions from business travel".
  • One person is a project leader for "Future work" (reskilling/Arbete i Framtiden) at Mötesplats Social Innovation (Meetingplace Social Innovation), a national knowledge node for social innovation and social entrepreneurship that builds capacity for a sustainable society.
  • One person is Head of Department at the School of Arts and Communication (K3) and a member of the Malmö University advisory board for Global Engagement (internationalization). 
  • One person, Stefan Holmlid, is a professor in design with a focus on service design at Linköping University. I know Stefan from when I was a phd student at Linköping University a long time ago, but we have hardly met since so I look forward to the possibility of catching up! 
  • I'm at KTH and I'm a "travel expert" in the application. I would in fact agree that that designation could nowadays be true and in particular if we specifically talk about (sustainability) problems and challenges that are associated with flying (rather than travel in general).
  • Two yet-unnamed project assistants (ex-students) will also be hired in the project to work on the Edu-Rail scenarios.

Image: Imagine organizing an academic conference on this train! Perhaps an academic speed dating exercise around two dozen tables? Do note that this is in fact the same train carriage as in the image at the top of the page.

onsdag 6 april 2022

My docent lecture (here it is!)

Image: The chaordic framework (Hock 1999)


I recently wrote a blog post about the process (in general) as well as a bit about my process of becoming a docent. The official decision (signature on paper) was taken om February 4, but the public memory of the event will instead be associated with the public docent lecture that was held on March 16. Here's the official invitation to my docent lecture:

Image: The invitation to my docent lecture (March 16)

The lecture was held in the KTH Visualization Studio and it was recorded (thank you Ingemar Markström and Björn Thuresson!). Even if you couldn't attend the lecture then-and-there, it's still possible to watch it on YouTube. Or you can watch it right here!

I guess this blog post could end here, but you won't get away that easy! I'm thinking I have various audiences and objectives (e.g. people to convince) at this point:

  1. You heard the docent lecture but would like to hear all or part of it again.
  2. You wanted to hear the docent lecture but couldn't at the time.
  3. Someone told you to watch it (see 1 or 2 above).
  4. You just stumbled in and needs to be convinced to watch it.

I believe I don't have to work too hard to convince people in category 1 and 2. For people in category 3 and 4 I can disclose that I originally wanted to call the docent lecture "Why KTH sucks - and how we can save it!". That's a title that could definitely intrigue and draw in an audience, but who knows, perhaps there are some people who work at KTH who don't have a sense of humor? In the end I got cold feet and renamed the docent lecture "Complexity, systems thinking, collective intelligence and stupidity", but the lecture still has same contents (the "stupidity" part of the title could be seen as answering the question "Why does KTH suck?"). I also posted a dozen questions in the invitation (see above) of which I in the end got around to answer (or grapple with) about half, including the questions "How big are you?", "Why can control be bad?" and "What is the downside of complexity?". See the lecture to learn the answers to these and other questions!

Much of the talk uses different variations of the image at the top of this page as a starting point for discussion about the relationship and tensions between "control", "order" and (creative) "chaos" - or between "management" and "innovation". 

Image: This is an illustration of an organisation that strives towards (the illusion of) control. This is however not an image of an organisation where innovation thrives.

A jumping-off point for these musings are (yet again) the course "Art of Hosting: Harvesting conversations that matter" that I took back in December. But I have to say (for the protocol) that I have been thinking about these topics for much longer and that I wrote a series of blog posts on more or less the same topics more than 10 years ago (in June 2011), e.g. The folly of our Education Assessment Exercises (EAE), Top-down vs. bottom-up, The paradox of planning and On the fallible nature of tests and testing

This is also a topic I have circled back to many times, including in a blog post from December 2011, Gripe session vs course evaluation, in two blog posts from September 2012: Writing research grants applications = wasted time? and My price tag, in the blog posts MID department retreat and reflections of organisation (June 2016), Open letter to my dean - spare us from excessive administration! (Aug 2016) and Leadership for associate professors (Dec 2017). And probably also as a sub-topic in other blog posts that I have forgotten about, including in the notes for a proposed blog post, "Bureaucracy 2.0", that was never finalized but that was/would have been heavily inspired by Jonas Söderström's Swedish-language book and his blog posts from back then (herehere, here and here) - and he keeps going with these brand new 2022 texts about idiocracy and documentation frenzy in the Swedish public school system (here and here).

No one has explained this outpouring of collective stupidity better than historian Robert Conquest, whose third law of politics sensibly and insanely states that "The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies".

I believe that I have written less about these topics during the last five years not because I have less to complain about, but because I have become more tolerant and/or found other ways to handle idiocy. By "more tolerant", it could be that I have become more laconic and have come to regard brainless adminstrations as a regrettable but inevitable part of the job, sort of like a farmer might regard bad weather, e.g. something unfortunate that is part of life and that has to be overcome with a minimal work effort. As apart from the weather (can't be fought), brainless administration can perhaps be resisted and then possibly with inspiration from "everyday forms of peasant resistance" (including foot dragging, lateness, false compliance, dissimulation, unpredictability, feigned ignorance, non-communication and so on). When it comes to "other ways to handle idiocy", it could be that I have developed better tactics or become more skillful at handling, rounding or evading brainless administration, or, that I have found alternative ways of personally handling brainless administration (e.g. humor, laughter, ridicule, derision, irony and carnivalistic irreverence). Such strategies don't solve the problem or change the world per se, but they make it easier to handle idiocy on a personal level. It could however be that I am now leveling up and raising the bar - since I will start a course in stand-up comedy later this month! I hereby vow to make this fight public, and I can already feel how the powers-that-be are starting to shake with fear at that scary prospect! More on this later - and don't forget to keep your eyes open for my upcoming Netflix Christmas Special where I mercilessly ridicule excessive administrative routines to an audience that roars with laughter!

My own suggestion for a goal worthy of striving for, "admin sufficiency", is (with inspiration from Lange and Santarius) instead:

  • As many rules as necessary, but as few rules as possible and
  • As much admin as necessary, but as little admin as possible
This is both my recipe for a better world and for "how we can save KTH"!

Oh, and I also made two abstracts for my docent lecture. This is the one I did not use:
Abstract: In his long-awaited docent lecture, Daniel Pargman will be spinning a complex web of cryptic obviousness, spanning a campus wide web of collective sensemaking, spamming a tight web of contagious nonsense, spoofing a comprehensive tale of counterfactual could-have-been’s, spearheading a singular contribution of clarifying visualizations, scouting a chaordic path to systemic intelligence and spurning the spurious idols of static stupidity. And more.
And while the abstract might be whimsical, the docent lecture doesn’t have to be. And whoever comes is the right people.


söndag 3 april 2022

Leading complex change processes (new course)


Two different visions of managing complex change processes

I recently wrote a blog post about an article of ours that will be presented at the upcoming ICT4S conference, "Addressing students’ eco-anxiety when teaching sustainability in computing education". That article came out of a "small pedagogical project" that was funded by the KTH School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). There was a new call for "small pedagogical projects" back in February and we (me, Elina Eriksson and Björn Hedin) handed in a new application called "Develop the course Leading Complex Change Processes (7.5 hp)". 

This past week we found out that the project will be funded and this means that me and Elina each can "legitimately" spend around 5% of a man-year/person-year (e.g. 2 weeks each) during the following 12 months on developing a new masters-level course. Björn's function is as a sounding board and he funds himself (being a sounding board is part of his new job as an "Associate professor in Learning in Engineering Science with a focus on Integrating Sustainable Development"). 

This course will be part of the new masters programme we are pitching - but the course could also be given as a stand-alone course if the masters programme is delayed, and the idea is thus that it will be offered to students after next summer (e.g. autumn 2023). The application was written in Swedish but I have translated some of the central parts:

KTH's sustainability goals for education indicate that we should not only teach students to know and understand sustainability problems, but that KTH students should also be able to lead the development towards an equal and climate-neutral society. But how can one “lead the development” if we now face several interconnected “super wicked problems” (Levin et. Al., 2012)? For some types of complex problems, traditional engineering methods have often proved to be as much of a problem as a solution, e.g. Sevareids lag, “The chief source of problems is solutions” (Raghavan 2015). It is thus possible to state that many of today's problems are the result of yesterday's solutions. We therefore need to think in completely new ways about "super wicked" sustainability and climate challenges.

We claim that far too many courses on leadership, project management and change (also at KTH) are based on a mechanistic, linear worldview which mainly presupposes that the complexity that exists in the world (including in terms of sustainability challenges) is manageable and can be captured and tamed by traditional methods (Snowden 2005). As an engineer, it is easy to look for solutions to complex problems by digging deeper, analyzing more and making more calculations. We instead believe that the global sustainability problems we face instead require other methods and completely new ways of thinking (Raghavan & Pargman 2016, Raghavan & Pargman 2017). The course we requesting funds for developing is about exploring and communicating these new ways of thinking, as well as training engineering students to use them practically. The course aims to learn by and together with the engineering students explore and co-create a journey from efficiency ("doing things right") to effectiveness ("doing the right things").

[...] The course is planned to be part of a new masters programme in digital transformation and sustainability. A large part of the course will be based on systems thinking (Meadows 2008) and complexity theory and it will especially be based on the Cynefin framework (Kurtz & Snowden 2003, Snowden 2005) as well as theories about chaordic organizations (Hock 1999/2022). In the course, the focus will be on leading co-creative processes (Quick & Sandfort 2014) with inspiration from MITx U.lab and Theory U (Scharmer 2018). In the spring of 2022, we (Daniel and Elina) participated as co-trainers in a commissioned/contracted course [uppdragsutbildning] at Karlstad University ("The Art of Hosting: Education and training in co-creative process management") which specifically focused on learning and collaboration in higher education. 

It's thus not unfair to say that we plan to develop and teach a 7.5 credit (10-week half time) university course about Art of Hosting - although the proposed course title "Leading complex change processes" makes it more socially acceptable and fitting in a KTH context! 

We are happy about the funds we got and very much look forward to developing and giving this course next autumn!

Two different visions of managing complex change processes

Two different visions of managing complex change processes

Two different visions of managing complex change processes

Two different visions of managing complex change processes

Two different visions of managing complex change processes