tisdag 31 maj 2022

May roundup



This is also unfortunately a testament to the fact that I haven't blogged very much during the last few years because blog post #500 was published way back in January 2018. That's more than four years ago (while the gap between #400 and #500 was instead less than 18 months). I certainly hope blog post #700 will be published before the end of 2023 rather than at the end of 2025...

These centennial blog posts have been an occasion to stop, reflect and write a text about writing texts, but I won't do that this time. Since it's the end of the month I will instead (just as I did a month ago) do a roundup of things that happened in May that didn't merit full blog posts of their own (but that could have).

May Roundup

- Explorative Drama Workshop - Teaching for Sustainability in Higher Education with Eva Österlind (May 10)

Eva Österlind, Professor in Applied Drama

Me and my colleague Leif Dahlberg participated in an autumn 2021 two-day course at Stockholm University about using drama to teach sustainability in higher education. The course was very interesting and it resulted in me inviting Eva Österlind to visit our research group and give a talk earlier this year (in February). This talk created a lot of interest in our group as well as this excellent hands-on three-hour workshop. Ten persons attended, we learned a lot and we had a lot of fun! Here's the description/invitation:

An overarching purpose for all teaching is to facilitate connections between the content and each individual student. When it comes to climate change, it is a challenging topic for both teachers and students, due to the magnitude of the problem and the existential threat. In order to address the subject, but avoid simplistic approaches or defensive responses like denial, Drama for Learning seems promising.

From the global dimension to the individual 

The core idea with this drama workshop is to address the Big Issue of Sustainability with open eyes and mind without diminishing the scale of the problem – and avoid feelings of hopelessness or psychological defences. Another purpose is to explore the global – individual dimension, and begin to sort out questions of accountability. What is possible for a single person to do, and what requires decisions on a political level? The intention is that all participants acknowledge the global threats, stay open for individual responses in terms of thoughts and feelings, become more aware of systemic challenges, and still find energy to consider choices and actions within their own reach.

The workshop is designed for university students/adults with no previous drama experience, and will take 3 hours. To address the content, no specialist knowledge is needed, although it is possible to qualify the discussions by having students prepare (lectures, readings) on the topic.

Our guest teacher for the day, Professor in Applied Drama Eva Österlind, teaches Drama in Teacher Education, leads a Master program in Drama and Applied Theatre and tutors PhD-students. Her research focuses on the potential of Drama for Learning and especially Drama in Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education. Our research group is very interested and excited to work together with Eva to develop our education and this is something that will 100% happen during the next academic year!


- Collective rhizomatic analysis workshop (May 14)

Workshop participants were welcomed by an organized mess!

Eva Österlind's phd. student Julia Fries participated in and taught in the autumn 2021 two-day course I wrote about (above), and she invited me to participate in an experiment/workshop, a "collective rhizomatic analysis" (with inspiration from Deleuze and Guattari). A dozen researchers participated in the workshop of which half had a drama background and the other half had a sustainability background. 

It was a fun, but also a strange workshop where Julia both presented material she had previously collected but also used the workshop itself to collect new material. She even invited workshop participants to become co-authors of a future article. (I declined because I have too much to do and didn't understand what exactly the topic of the article would be and how I could contribute.)

An interesting coincidence is that her thinking have many points in common with our research project Beyond the Event Horizon (that I have recently written about on the blog here and here), e.g. of using methods from drama to imagine a better more sustainable future as something that we have already attained and then explore and probe what that results in in terms of both thoughts and feelings. 

Julia's advisor, Eva Östergren (see above) also participated in the workshop but took the role of an observer.


- Stand-up final exam (May 15)

I have previously written about the course in stand-up comedy I have taken during the spring and as all things must come to an end, so too did this. It ended with a final exam where we performed on stage in front of invited guests that we (the course participants) ourselves had invited.

I asked at the second to last occasion and the teacher said that we should invite as many as we could, since we would never have a better and more kind audience who would want nothing but to support us by laughing at us. So three days before the show I went bananas and invited lots and lots of people. There were thus 20 persons in the audience who came there because of me and they might in fact have constituted the major part of the audience!

It was great but also very different from the kind of talking I'm used to (lectures and seminars) and I learned so much. I have since listened to stand-up at Big Ben, a pub that has stand-up every day of the week and where I will stand on the stage after the summer (I was inspired after visiting them and I have already written new material for that occasion)!

I have also participated in another event twice in May, "public speaking". It has nothing to do with stand-up but still shares characteristics and it's organized every Sunday in central Stockholm (including during the summer!). 

- Universities total climate footprint - walking the talk (May 19)

I participated in an online Zoom seminar on "Universities total climate footprint – walking the talk" that was organized by the The Nordic Association of University Administrators (NUAS) interest group for sustainability and the Nordic Sustainable Campus Network (NSCN).

I unfortunately could not listen to the whole seminar but found a talk by Danish phd student Thomas Stridsland from Aarhus University about "Danish universities' joint work on total climate footprint accounting" very interesting!

The connection to my research is of course our Flight research project. Flying constitutes a substantial part of universities' CO2 footprint and it's interesting to listen to universities' (methodological) challenges of trying to figure out how to measure their total CO2 footprint.

- The invisible dinosaur (May 22)

Nina Wormbs, KTH professor in history of technology.

Our science + art + communication project "From Homo Sapiens to Homo Colossus: Visualising our energy footprint" was on national Swedish Radio! It was my KTH colleague, Nina Wormbs, who talked about it in the weekly news show "Godmorgon Världen" [Good morning World]. Nina had previously sent a draft of the talk to me for fact checking and I also had some suggestions for how to make the project and our results more compelling. She took my advice and did a stellar job of explaining it!

The episode is almost 5 minuts long and it's called "Den osynliga dinosaurien" [The invisible dinosaur] and it is available here (NOTE: it's in Swedish). My project colleagues are: Mario Romero (KTH visualization center), Åsa Andersson Broms (The Royal Institute of Art), Per Hasselberg (The People's Movements for Art Promotion/Konstfrämjandet) and Belinda Retourné (Changency).

- Decreased CO2 emissions from researchers' flying - what could Formas do? (May 30)

This is a talk that has been long in the making! I can track mails about this talk more than two years back, but the proposed talk was postponed several times due to Covid complications. We picked up the thread again and started to plan for the talk three months ago, back in February! Perhaps it was good that we waited because we nowadays don't just have intriguing results, but in fact also a message and perhaps even a challenge for Formas.

Formas is a government research council for sustainable development. They hand out 1800 MSEK per year (1 SEK ≈ 0.1 € / 0.1 $) and has a portfolio of ≈ 2000 ongoing research projects. We love the fact that they support research, but since (some) research is carbon intensive (because researchers fly a lot), we suggested Formas should do their part to reduce the CO2 footprint of research. So we suggested they should ask for a CO2 budget for travel when researchers submit grant applications. Formas would then be able to calculate a new metric (CO2/MSEK) for how research funds they hand out is used and take that into account when they evaluate the research grant applications. Just asking for an estimate would most probably have a self-cleansing effect among sustainability researchers asking for funds to support sustainability research

There is in fact a great example of this already happening since the large research programme Mistra Sustainable Consumption have formulated a climate target for travel, e.g. the emissions from travel should not exceed 0.5 tons of CO2e per full-time equivalent per year. It's 2022 and all (sustainability) research should be able to do the same!

- Bureaucrat mingle (May 30)

The bureaucrat's ten key words (left) and one of the key words, "curious" (right)

I thought it was hilarious when my union sent me an invitation for a "bureaucrat mingle". Since KTH is not only a university but also formally a governmental agency, I am employed by the state and can thus pass as a bureaucrat. I wanted to check out other bureaucrats and see if they (we!) were as boring as they (we!) are reputed to be.

My verdict is partly "yes" in terms of interests (many people knew a lot of rules), but they were also very interesting and the event was nice. A well known Swedish historian, Gunnar Wetterberg, gave a talk where he lauded bureaucrats. The union handed out a small booklet that he had written, "The bureaucrat's ten key words", and the key words were: 1) In the citizens' best interest, 2) Reflection and development, 3) Competence and knowledge, 4) Curious, 5) Brave, 6) Independent, 7) Integrity, 8) Legal certainty/rule of law, 9) Good judgement and 10) Responsibility.

- Last SF Lab meeting for the spring term (May 31)

We had our 10th and last team/research group lunch meeting on May 31. We would surely have had another meeting if not for the fact that many of us will be at a conference in Bulgaria in mid-June. 

We changed our name from MID4S to SF Lab this spring! We had grown out of "Media Technology and Interaction Design for Sustainability" and are now instead the "Sustainable Futures Lab"! Also, we are at the cusp of announcing our new blog (see image above).

Here is a very short summary of the spring term in the form of a list of the many great guests we had who visited us and gave talks at our team meetings:

- Martin Lindrup (PhD student at the Computer Science Department, Human-Centred Computing group, Aalborg University, Denmark) talked about "Insights about meaningful data in environmentally sustainable food consumption".

- Eva Österlind (Professor in Applied Drama, Department of Teaching and Learning, Stockholm University) talked about "Teaching for Sustainability in Higher Education - Interactive Drama Workshops".

- Emile Roch & Daphné Hamilton-Jones (Master Students in Design Research at the Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris Saclay, Télecom Paris (Institut Polytechnique) and ENSCI Les Ateliers) talked about "Exploring Co-design for Sustainibility through Design Fiction"

- Ola Leifler (PhD, Linköping University, Department of Computer Science) talked about "Reorientating an academic career to become an agent for meaningful change to societal transformation".

- Katka Katerina Cerna (Senior lecture at MDI/Applied IT, Gothenburg University) talked about "Co-design of enabling entanglements: fostering connection between people through (plant) care and sensing technology"

- Books I've read

This is yet another month when I only had time to read two books. This is less than I usually read but I again have to blame stand-up comedy. It really took a lot of my time and in particular the time when I commute. I usually reserve that time for reading, but have spent the last month thinking about stand-up, memorizing and revising stand-up texts, practicing my stand-up performance in my head and so on. The two book I read in May were anyway:

  • Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay (2020). Cynical theories: How activist scholarship made everything about race, gender and identity.
  • Peter Boghossian & James Lindsay (2019). How to have impossible conversations: A very practical guide.


onsdag 25 maj 2022

Spring 2022 bachelor's theses


An interactive installation could for example be placed in KTH's library.

I have supervised five bachelor's theses during the spring term and the students just handed in their theses to the examiner. The students work in pairs so these 10 students will have one last chance to correct or change their thesis after the examination (next week), but the version they just handed in is what will be examined and graded (pass/fail), so it's pretty official. 

I usually supervise two groups of students but I had only one group this year. Having 10 students (5 theses) is on the other hand a quite large group. Three pairs worked with thesis proposals that came from my/our Flight research project ("Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations"). That means I have been both "client" as well as "advisor" and I present these three theses first. 

I have used the students' thesis abstracts as a starting point for the texts below and have shortened and simplified them, but then also added text when I felt it was necessary and also added images as I have seen fit. DO NOTE that despite the fact that these "processed abstracts" use "we" (signifying "we the students"), I have made significant changes compared to the real abstracts (primarily by shortening them but sometimes by clarifying things etc.).

The last time I wrote about the bachelors' theses I supervised was in 2020. I supervised two groups of students and wrote two blog post (one about each group; Flight theses and Homo Colossus theses).

KTH’s Fastest Professor: An Analysis of Academic Flying (Vivi Andersson & Gustav Sundin)

This thesis is inspired by KTH professor Metsola van der Wijngaart's proposal regarding academic flying, i.e. "only fly if per 0.1 ton of CO2e you emit, you spend one efficient workday at your destination". This perspective focuses on emissions per day of traveling and thus differs from (only) looking at an individual's total emissions. Based on an anonymized data set of all 2019 air travel at KTH, we analysed academic flying at KTH in terms of "emission speed" (CO2e per travel day). This thesis thus examines 1) the top 10 KTH employees who have the highest emission speed (CO2e per travel day) and 2) the 10 "top emitters" who fly the most (who rack up the most air miles and have the highest total CO2e emissions). If these groups differ, what are the travel patterns that underlie these differences?

Our analysis shows that these two lists differ significantly, with only one individual having a top 10 position in both lists. Those with high emission speeds often made a small number of trips that were often long distance, sometimes in business class, and had a short duration (e.g. traveling far and staying away for only a few days). Top emitters had made a larger number of trips, but a few short-distance long-duration trips lowered their 2019 average emission speed. Our conclusion is that emission speed can provide a different perspective compared to total emissions, and that the CO2e-per-travel-day index can be used to analyze individual trips to find candidates that might represent "unnecessary" trips, e.g. trips that could or should be avoided.

Top 10 KTH employees who have the highest emission speed (from 1200 to 650 kg CO2e per travel day). Professor C (third column) is the only person who are both this list and the list of top 10 emitters at KTH (clocking in at 21 000 kg of CO2e emissions from business trips during 2019).

Professor D is the top polluter at KTH with total of 53 000 kg of CO2e emissions from business trips during 2019. With 32 trips made during 2019, this professor has more than twice as large CO2e emissions as the second highest polluter.

Visualizing flight data for heads of departments: A tool to decrease academic flying (My Andersson & Fanny Erkhammar)

To live up to the promises made in the Paris Agreement, all countries and all organisations need to reduce their flight-related emissions. Universities (including KTH) are among the top polluters among Swedish governmental agencies. We have therefore built a prototype of a visualization tool with the aim of providing KTH heads of departments with an overview of their departments' flying. We more specifically asked "how can we, by visualizing flight data, help KTH heads of departments get an overview of their department’s air travel for the purpose of supporting decision-making that can help reduce the carbon emissions?". 

We performed interviews with participants from the target group, developed a prototype and then performed user tests with the target group. Participants were interest in the tool and came with suggestions about additional functions they would like to have. The study also however showed that the implementation and use of a tool such as this is not currently relevant due to the lack in clear guidelines from KTH about individuals or departmental CO2 emission reduction targets. This means that heads of departments currently have no foundation upon which they can base their decisions on. Such guidelines need to be developed and integrated into the tool for it to be of use to KTH heads of departments.

A large department with dozens of employees. Color = total CO2 emissions, height = number of trips. The blue figure represents KTH's goal and dark red = > 5 times more emissions that KTH's (blue) goal.

The head of the department can zoom in on individual employees. Orange windows in the plane = number of trips made this year. Grey bar (right) = average emissions at the department.

80-20: A visualization of business travel habits at KTH (Jackie Hellsten & Saga Oldenburg)

Aviation releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and it is the norm in the academic world to travel around the world to network and to spread one’s research results (and CO2 into the atmosphere). This does however not align with global attempts to lower emissions. To break the norm of flying, discussions must be held about how universities can lower their emissions from aviation. At KTH, 20% of all scientists currently contribute to 80% of all researchers' flight-related CO2 emissions. 

Our aim has been to investigate the following question: “In order to evoke reflection and discussion regarding the uneven distribution of carbon dioxide emissions from aviation amongst scientists, how can an interactive installation be designed to achieve this?”. The thesis uses Research Through Design and critical design to examine this question. Multiple interviews were held with employees at different universities in Sweden to test and evaluate how effective the prototype installation was at evoking discussion. Users guessed how aviation-related emissions are distributed amongst KTH researchers (in the installation's interactive interface) only to then have the actual distribution visualized (with dramatic effects) and where the goal was to invoke reflection through the addition of a number of provocative elements. The interviews indicated that the installation would be successful at evoking reflection and discussion about the distribution of aviation-related emissions if it were to be placed in a public space at the university.

This screen is an invitation to use the interactive installation.

The interactive installation could for example be placed in KTH's library.

The installation invites you to guess about the distribution of CO2 emissions from flying for three groups at KTH (based on 2019 pre-Covid data, see the image below); low-fliers, medium-fliers and super-fliers (in green, orange and red, and with the latter group representing 20% of all KTH researchers.

This Lorenz curve describes the distribution of CO2 emissions from flying among 2600 KTH researchers in 2019. These (yet-unpublished) research results comes from the Flight research project (see above) and constituted input to this thesis. In the previous image someone guessed the distribution of CO2 emissions from low-, medium- and super-fliers were 20% - 30% - 50%. The real distribution is 0% - 20% - 80%.

This is KTH with a blank slate at the beginning of a year.

This is KTH at the end of the year, not reaching our CO2 emission reduction targets.


The flight tower doubles as a ruler (with percent of current emissions to the left and absolute numbers - tons of CO2 - on the right side of the ruler/flight tower). The red flag represents KTH's targets for CO2 emissions from flying eight years from now (in 2030).

Adding social comparisons to carbon footprint calculators? A study in comparisons of carbon footprints between individuals (Malin Lundstedt & Marcus Gåhlin)

The Paris Agreement stipulates that average emissions of CO2e per person should be reduced to below 1 ton in 2050. In 2019, the average Swede's emissions from transport alone accounted for 1,7 tons of CO2e. Carbon footprint calculators are used to calculate an individual’s carbon footprint. Some calculators have added social comparisons (between individuals or within a group). This functionality is promising but further studies are needed and we have investigated how to add social comparisons to climate calculators' carbon footprint of transport. We more specifically examined four sub-questions among people with a strong interest in sustainability:

  • Their attitude towards finding out their carbon footprint from transport.
  • Their attitude towards comparing that footprint with others.
  • What influences their attitude.
  • What their attitude is based on.

In this qualitative study, 9 people who were intensely interested in sustainability participated in semi-structured interviews. The results showed that they were less interested in the footprint from transport and much more interested in their total carbon footprint (and how to reduce it). There was an interest in comparing their emissions with others, but this interest was also affected/tempered by 1) the level of detail in the carbon footprint (touching on privacy issues), 2) who you compare with (friends, strangers) and 3) your own emissions compared to the average. 

An example of output from a climate calculator - in this case the climate calculator Habits.

Examples of social comparisons from Strava (a training app, left) and Svalna (a climate calculator, right).

Proposal (prototype) of a profile view in a carbon calculator for travel.

Proposal (prototype) of a group view for comparing your carbon footprint for travel with others.

LCA on E-sports in Counter Strike (Henric Andersson & Nathalie Lock) 

Competitive gaming, E-sports, have become very popular, including an interest in watching competitions live and a massive interest in watching competitions over the Internet. Something that has garnered less interest is the environmental impact of these events. No life cycle assessment (LCA) of an E-sports event has been published this far, so it is impossible to say anything specific about the environmental footprint/impact of these massive events. 

We have aimed at helping to create the foundation for making a life cycle assessment of an E-sports event. Our case is a very large 13-day event around the very popular e-sports game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). The event we chose was the Pro Gaming League (PGL) Major in Stockholm 2021. Our main question is: how can 1) system function, 2) functional unit and 3) system boundaries be chosen in order to carry out a LCA of the PGL Major Stockholm 2021? This is to a large extent a literature study but two persons with deep expertise in the field have also been interviewed (the head of the national Swedish CS:GO team/captain of The Swedish E-sports Association (SESF) and the head of sponsorship (both e-sports and traditional sports such as football and ice hockey) at SESF's main sponsor Svenska Spel). 

The proposed choices (system boundaries etc.) we made resulted in a model that includes the majority of everything that occurs within the arena during the 13-day event, as well as flights, electricity consumption and water consumption from the hotels.

Earlier LCA studies of specific events provided input and inspiration, including a study of the environmental footprint of holding a three-day international academic conference (Neugebauer, Bolz, Mankaa & Traverso (2020), "How sustainable are sustainability conferences?–Comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment of an international conference series in Europe". Journal of cleaner production, 242, 118516). 

Proposed model for studying the environmental footprint of holding a thirteen-day E-sports event.


Besides the five bachelor's theses that I have supervised (above), my colleague and phd student Aksel Biørn-Hansen has, during the spring term, also supervised two master's theses that have been written within the Flight research project (Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations):

"Exploring the Problem Space of Implementing a Cap and Trade System in a flight-intensive academic institution" by Leo Bergqvist and "Plan, visualize, realize - a tool for budgeting and following-up a carbon budget for heads of division at a fly-intensive organization" by Albin Matson Gyllang.


söndag 22 maj 2022

Counterfactual thinking as a strategy for engaging with desirable futures (paper)


I recently wrote the first-ever blog post about our research project "Beyond the event horizon: tools to explore local energy transformations", but the blog post was for the most part about the prehistory and the run-up of the research project. This blog post instead treats the first output from that project in the form of an scientific article. We recently handed in a draft version of a full article to an upcoming conference that will be held in Gothenburg a few weeks from now.

The Nordic Environmental Social Science Conference (NESS) at the University of Gothenburg is primarily a "container" for upwards to 20 parallell 3-day "workshops" between June 7-9. Participants attend one single workshop for the duration of the conference. 

The Nordic Environmental Social Science Conference (NESS) workshops follow a standing session format, which allows for substantive discussions on research in progress. The conference invites scholars from multiple disciplinary backgrounds in environmental social science. The overall objective of the workshop is to facilitate and encourage collaboration between younger and more established scholars.

I got an invitation to submit a contribution to the workshop "Imagining transformation: Urgency, emergency and hope in a time of multiple crises" from one of the workshop organizers (Alexandra Nikoleris, Lund University) already at the end of October last year. The Call for Papers (full pdf here) was very interesting:

Living in an era of multiple ongoing crises – climate change, mass species extinction, pandemics, economic instability to name a few – requires that the imagining of alternative futures is encouraged, to enable a perception of how actions in the present can shape the world to come. There are a range of ways in which such transformations can be imagined, for example as scenarios, creative design, fiction, participatory performances, or experimentation. While diverse in their aims, they all invite us into a world that is different to the one we experience today, and help us rethink the crises that unfold in the present. But how can such imaginations of transformation catalyse the forms of political, economic and cultural responses required to move beyond, and out of, these crises? Which are the techniques of imagination that become most effective for certain audiences, in certain contexts? How do different narratives, and the techniques by which they are employed become engaging? What are the dangers and advantages with a multiplicity of stories and hegemonic visions? Papers that reflect on these and similar questions are invited to this workshop. Both theoretical/conceptual contributions and reflections on empirical cases of specific interventions are welcome.

The workshop invited papers about (among other things) "exploration of different techniques of imagination" and "participatory future-making", so the fit with our research project was excellent. We therefore submitted a 300-word abstract in December and found out it had been accepted to the workshop a few months ago. We then had until May 20 to write a (draft of a) full-length article (5000 - 10000 words), and we just submitted our 7000-word article, "Counterfactual thinking as a strategy for engaging with desirable futures" this past week! 

The authors are Minna Laurell Thorslund, Daniel Pargman, Elina Eriksson and Mia Hesselgren (the exact order of the authors has not yet been determined). Our article will be discussed at the conference and we will then have the opportunity to improve it. The workshop organizers in fact hope to be able to publish workshop submissions in a special issue of the journal Futures. I have not seen any of the other papers. but some of the (preliminary) titles are very intriguing:

  • Artists on climate change: imaginations of futures 
  • Effects and Effectiveness of Climate Imaginaries
  • Beyond the Fossil Era: Post-fossil pedagogies and speculative futures in Swedish education
  • From imagining utopia to enacting it: a role for Utopian Demands?
  • The 8th continent

Although I would have liked to go to Gothenburg, my son graduates from high school during the very same days, so only Minna will attend the conference and represent our research project.

This is the first time we write about the counterfactual/allohistorical workshop methodology we have developed in the research project and that we by now have used in a number of workshops. In that way it was an easy paper to write (we have so much to say about the topic), but it was also hard to write because we are all pressed for time at this time of the year... 

Here's the abstract to our just-submitted draft paper, "Counterfactual thinking as a strategy for engaging with desirable futures":

Given that the world’s multiple crises take place elsewhere and elsewhen (e.g. not right here and not right now), it is hard to engage with them and go from knowledge to action. We become paralyzed – think of a rabbit caught in the headlights – when it comes to formulating radical alternatives. It is painful for all of us - albeit to varying degrees - to step away from our own comfort and formulate, willingly accept and mentally inhabit low carbon practices and lifestyles. How can we break away from practicalities such as norms, politics, professional roles and built infrastructure, which limit our thinking and prevent us from discovering futures that are not merely extensions and timid variations of business as usual?

In this paper we describe how we have developed a workshop methodology, using counterfactual scenarios of low carbon societies. This methodology is promising for concretizing and bringing urgently needed societal transitions closer to people and their communities. By collaboratively imagining an alternative, more desirable present – a sustainable society that could have been – workshop participants are freed from practical aspects of modern life and the modern world. Furthermore, the participants also explore what needed to happen in the recent past in order to reach that more desirable present. When brought back from the counterfactual world, the participants are introduced to the notion that what they have formulated is a blueprint for what must actually be done in the decade(s) to come. We have run the workshop in two local settings, and our experience so far is that addressing hard issues as if they have already been fixed in an alternative, more desirable present, and then imagining what we “did” to fix them in the recent past, is liberating and generative of ideas for action.

This is a key paragraph from the Background (about Counterfactual Scenarios) and a compact description of what we have been up to for quite some time:

A central tenet in allohistorical narratives is the establishment of a divergence, a point in time where the world took a different turn (Duncan 2003). After a divergence has been established, the second and larger task is to explore the “timespace cone” (Gilbert & Lambert 2010)) of ripple effects that follow from that divergence. The process of establishing a divergence in the past and then “unconditionally” exploring the ripple effects forward in time is equivalent to “a forecasting exercise that is set in the past”, or, what Bendor et al. (2021) refer to as “recasting”. We are however interested in exploring normative scenarios, much like what is done in backcasting exercises (Wangel 2011) where a future desirable goal is posited and the (research) question becomes one of exploring how we can steer or veer away from business as usual in order to reach that more-desirable future. The equivalent counterfactual/allohistorical version of a backcasting exercises is to posit a more-desirable alternative present (of for example a more sustainable Sweden of 2022) and work our way backwards to a point of divergence in the past from which we chose a better path - a path that led to a more-desirable present. This is what Bendor et al. (2021) refer to as “pastcasting”, e.g. a backcasting exercise that is set in the past and that ends up in the present (albeit an alternative more-desirable present).

Here is a key paragraph from the Method section of the paper:

The process of developing the workshop format can be divided into three phases, or “loops”. In the first loop, we gathered initial knowledge and used this knowledge to create a prototype workshop format. The second loop involved testing and developing the prototype workshop format. In the third loop, we have held the workshop multiple times in its intended context (e.g. with local participants in different parts of Sweden). We describe the three loops below as well as outcomes of the third loop and of running a number of workshops in different parts of Sweden. The work process has been extensively documented mainly through a collaborative research diary that we revisited and drew from when we wrote this paper.


torsdag 19 maj 2022

SICT Summer School (Aug 29 - Sept 2)


The Third Doctoral School on Sustainable ICT (SICT) will be organized in Grenoble (France) between August 29 and September 2. I will go to Grenoble by train and I will be there for the duration of the summer school (do get in touch if you would like to coordinate your train trip to Grenoble and to meet up on the way there!). 

I will give a keynote talk on Monday and on Thursday and Friday I will run a six-hour workshop where we will work with Fictional Abstracts (200-300 words long statements about fictional research that has not yet been conducted). I have plenty of help planning the workshop primarily from my colleague Elina Eriksson, but also from my phd students Minna Laurell Thorslund and Petra Jääskeläinen, my ex-colleague Tina Ringenson and from SICT 2022 organizer Jan Tobias Muehlberg. Elina and Minna will not come to the summer school, but Petra will come to help organize the workshop and Tina and Jan Tobias will be there all week.

This is the third year in a row that the SICT summer school is held, but I didn't know about it two years ago, and I primarily learned about SICT it a year ago 1) because my colleague Elina and other people I know were invited as speakers and 2) because it sort of competed (nearly collided!) with the Second International Summer School on ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) that I helped organize. We even sent a mail to them to inquire how our two summer schools should relate to each other and got an interesting answer, which among other things said this (which contextualizes SICT and its history):

At first, we saw the SICT doctoral summer school as an opportunity to support different ways of thinking within our University [Université catholique de Louvain]. We saw it as a local response to support the need to consider sustainability challenges at the very core of our research. We have several professors and researchers motivated by socio-environmental challenges and the role of technological solutions we are working on every day.  

SICT2020 emerged from this context and COVID-19 pandemic forced us to move the date later as well as targeting only Belgian participants. SICT2020 focused mainly on extraction of materials, production and recycling impacts, almost not at all on the use phase impacts. We focused on the sustainability within ICT rather than using ICT for sustainability (similarly to the nuance between Green IT and IT for Green).

For the second edition (SICT2021), we aim at discussing more the use phase impacts but we keep a similar mindset.


even though SICT is fully run in English, we have close interactions with the French community (especially France, Belgium and Switzerland at the moment, Canada to come). For instance, we are in contact with Grenoble (university and CEA-leti) and other French universities/initiatives showing an interest on these topics. Several initiatives are also popping in there and we think that it would be valuable to increase connections for the benefits of the community. Regarding local collaborations, we are happy that KULeuven joined us for organizing SICT2021.

Elina apparently made an impression because she said something about Fictional Abstracts that made organizer Jan Tobias Muehlberg get in touch with her earlier this spring, but since she can't go we plan it together but go there in her stead. And I invite all phd students (and post-docs) to come to the summer school! I think it will be really nice and very interesting! I also personally look forward to meet other speakers although some of the confirmed speakers from North America (Jay Chen, Bill Tomlinson, Alan Borning) will surely participate remotely.

The theme is definitely provocative enough, "Rethinking the Roles of Information and Communication Technologies in the Anthropocene: Towards a Post-Growth World?", and the summer school is not limited to only engineers and computer scientists:

"Far from limited to researchers with an engineering background, the event wishes to promote trans-disciplinary interactions on ICT topics by bringing together individuals with a broad range of expertise."

Each day has a different theme and the five themes are:

  • Systemic view of ICT impacts and perspectives
  • Interdisciplinarity meets sustainable ICT for rethinking mobility
  • Between post-growth and degrowing science: how to research for the future?
  • Building bridges for practicing transdisciplinarity
  • Visions for the road ahead of ICT

I was blown away by the organizers' travel policy in the invitation as I have never seen anything like it before. What if all scientific conferences wrote this in the invitation:

*Logistics:* We plan for SICT 2022 to be an in-person event for the attending PhD students. Additionally, we invite all speakers that are willing and able to reach Grenoble, France, by train or public transportation to join us on-site. [...] If arriving by train or public transportation is not an option for you, we invite you to participate remotely via a digital conferencing solution for presentation and discussion that we will agree on with you ahead of time. Please note that we strongly discourage air travel for the sake of this event.

The program is now in place, but it is also evolving as new information is put into place. The cost of registering is 250 Euros until July 15 (travel and accommodation not included). Here's the official info to disseminate (slightly shortened by me):

Dear colleagues, dear researchers,

- Do you often wonder if our increasing numbers of electronic devices, gigantic data centers, and ubiquitous global networks support or endanger a future that is a sustainable and just world for everyone to live in?

- Are you interested in rethinking how we research, design, deploy, use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for a world within planetary boundaries?

- Are you curious to look beyond the established ways to do things and excited about a place to learn, discuss, and reimagine ICT research with fellow curious minds from different academic fields?

If these questions made you curious, we are inviting you to register for the 3rd Doctoral Summer School on Sustainable ICT (SICT) that is discussing the question: Rethinking the Roles of Information and Communication Technologies in the Anthropocene: Towards a Post-Growth World?

SICT 2022 will take place in-person from August 29 to September 02, 2022, at the Université Grenoble Alpes in Grenoble, France. All details are available on our website.

During SICT 2022, we aim to rethink the roles we grant Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to play for a future within planetary boundaries. Among all our technologies across the individual, collective, and industrial level, ICT are particularly striking in their duality of societal enablers (e.g., connectivity, access to data, and automation) and planetary damages from their lifecycles as well as political inaction due to green growth and decoupling illusions. We are far away from bringing the impacts of ICT (and technologies in general) into balance with our planetary boundaries, yet time is running out on us. Against this backdrop and with a post-growth mindset, we are setting out to question the road ahead for ICT and their roles in humanity’s necessary transition to sustainable societies in the 2022 edition of our doctoral summer school on sustainable ICT.

We engage you as PhD students from diverse fields in an inter- and transdisciplinary setting with talks, debates, and collective works to take on this challenge and rethink how we will research and use ICT in the future. For further information on the theme of SICT 2022, please take a look at our abstract.

Registrations are now open!

The registration fee covers SICT 2022 organizational costs, lunches, a social event, caffeinated breaks, and snacks in the morning. Please mind that transportation and accommodation are not covered by this registration fee, and you will need to make your own arrangements for this. We list accommodation options on our website. SICT 2022 will be an in-person event at Université Grenoble Alpes in Grenoble, France.

If you have any other question, feel free to contact us by email at info@sictdoctoralschool.com.

We hope to see many of you there!

Kind regards, SICT 2022 Organizing Team



söndag 15 maj 2022

The Climate Change Megagame (the after part)


I wrote a blog post before I played the The Climate Change Megagame (CCM) in the beginning of the week. I was very excited, the concept and the instructions were hilarious and I went overboard and ran with it. After I played the Megagame (all day Monday) I am not quite as enthusiastic, so this blog post will be an exercise in trying to understand what happened (including figuring out why I was frustrated).

The rules had already in advance stated that you shouldn't try to understand the whole game (it's too complex), but rather concentrate on understanding your own role and then "talk to people". I respect that but I found several different types of complexity that can't possibly have been part of the planned game experience:

- Technical platform complexity. Most people participated on location in Linköping but it was a hybrid game and I participated from Stockholm through my computer. I had not used Discord before - at least not for a task that was as complex as this, and there were unfortunately various technical issues with the platform during the first half of the day, including basic stuff like hearing what was said during the walk-throughs in the room where it all happened in Linköping. We also used a Miro board that I was comfortable with but that was very complex (see images below).  

- Hybrid meeting complexity. I can totally understand that people who are on location try to round remote (online) players, because it's a hassle to deal with us. I played a politician, but it was unclear why people would want to talk to me except to beg me for money to solve sudden emergencies that flared up in the game or to get money so their company could solve specific-problem-X. The instructions I had received indicated that it was important to me to have good relations with and try to influence the university and its' researchers, so I posted a message on the researchers' online message board two minutes after the game started. I tried again 45 minutes later but still didn't get any answer. One hour later I instead decided to start to profusely thank the researchers for having done what I had requested two hours earlier in the game (a decade or so had then passed in the game at that time). 

MÖGA is very happy that Linköping University decided to start up a slew of transition-compliant educational programs! The students from Linköping are doing miracles and we welcome even more transition engineers, transition economists, transition psychologists, transition teachers and so on! You are needed and you are welcome to continue the Good Fight for a better future for our children!

It is unfortunate but expected that there is some resistance to large (lifestyle) changes but as long as most people understand the need for these changes and work together to reach our climate targets, we are proud of the support from the generous, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth citizens of Östergötland!

To conclude, the researchers basically ignored me (or didn't notice me) because they didn't need me. But if they didn't need to talk to me and perhaps I didn't need to talk to them, who in the game did I actually then need to talk to and who actually needed to talk to me? This was not clear to me also after the game had finished. I even tried to use the media to "wake the researchers' up" in the game, for example by making this statement:

@Ferm Media  - Johanna G#4018 We have tried to reach the research community. Are they asleep? They don't read their message board and don't attend to us politicians - despite us picking up the bill for their ivory-tower navel gazing. That's at least what it seems like to us politicians because they are very non-responsive to the needs of the region and are apparently off doing their own things at the taxpayers' expense!?

- Linguistic and temporal complexity. It doesn't make sense to have a game with dozens of Swedish participants and a single player who participates remotely from nine time zones away who doesn't speak Swedish. I cooperated a lot with fellow in-game politician Bryan, but really, he shouldn't have been in the game. And perhaps I shouldn't have been in the game as a remote participant either. I was sometimes drafted to translate to my fellow politician Bryan (representing the political party "Forest Muppets"). He represented a different political party so me translating to him was perhaps not optimal, but we had a great cooperation during the first half of the game - mainly because the one representative from the third political party, Market Prophets, didn't show up at all due to illness. Forest Muppet Bryan predictably zoned out and dropped off halfway through the game very late at night or very early in the morning in California. Me summarizing what happened in the room in Linköping to Forest Muppet Bryan:

- This is a huge change but MÖGA can make it happen 

- The Forest Muppets are more than welcome to help us attain those goals, Bryan!

- Rule complexity. If you are going to play a complex game for a whole day, it's good to start off by going through the rules (or at least the parts I needed to understand). While there was a practice round of sorts, as an online participant I did not get enough help and was instead to a large extent left to my own wits to try to figure out how to play the game, what it was (really) about, what a politician in the game was supposed to do etc.

The three main tasks that I set myself during the game was to:

  • Understand how the game worked
  • Understand what I could do in the game that would make a difference
  • Role-play and enjoy myself
I only fully succeeded with role-playing. 

@Ferm Media  - Johanna G Policy statement for the media: Make Östergötland Great Again (MÖGA) and the Forest Muppets feel ready to take responsibility for trying to solve the climate crisis mess we are in. Market Prophets might not in fact be traitors, but their megalomanic growth-promoting policies are misguided and constitute a treason of generations to come!

I did come to understand that the Regional Council board was very important for me as a politician:

The regional council board is where me and fellow politicians negotiate about how to spend our money. 

Us politicians could only chose to invest in four different areas (food, goods, transport and housing) but these four areas turned into 8 "tracks" (yellow = research technological solutions or blue = research on lifestyle changes). These in turn became 24 pre-determined inventions that could be unlocked in the game. It's unclear to me exactly what effect "unlocking" an invention had in the game. These 24 pre-determined inventions can be compared to the more complex and nuanced political platform I had developed for my political party, Make Östergötland Great Again (MÖGA), before the game started (see my previous blog post):

1) Linköping University needs to urgently educate an "army" of "transition engineers" to help with the transition to a net zero society. And transition economists, transition teachers, transition psychologists, transition lawyers etc.
2) Shift from efficiency to sufficiency by immediately performing a carbon audit for the region (baseline data) and then decrease the region's carbon budget by (at least) 7% CO2 reductions year-on-year.
3) Create a local regional currency (possibly algorithmic, for example a GPS-aware currency that loses value the further you go from the geographic region). 
4) Universal Basic Income that is handed out to each citizen in the region but that can only be used to pay for locally produced products and services (see 2).
5) Policies that incentivizes the development of not-for-profit forms of business that instead works towards maximizing (regional) social benefit.
6) Compulsory one year long societal service for 18 year olds. It's possible to choose to do military service, to do unarmed military service (in, say, a school) OR to aim for "planetary stewardship service".

I think this made me into a difficult-to-please participant/politician - since these suggestions for the most part didn't match with how the game worked. Most of it would anyway probably have turned out to be utterly irrelevant to the game and how it was supposed to be played/played out. My reason for wanting to immediately get in touch with the research community in the game was because I wanted to order them to immediately do #1 in the list above. But even had I been more successful in getting hold of them, we could perhaps have enjoyed a bit of role-play and we might even have decided on a crash course in transition eduction - but it's doubtful even an army of transition engineers (etc.) could have made a difference in the game itself since the game was complicated but as far as I understand, couldn't really handle these types of initiatives well. An army of transition engineers could for example not have added new technological solutions to the regional council board above nor (easily) have made it less costly to develop certain (but not other) new technologies/lifestyle changes. 

My player briefing stated in the first paragraph that "Playing different actors in the region, we travel through the next three decades to lay the foundation for a sustainable region characterized by high quality of life. Hence the key challenges in the game is to reach net zero, and then negative, climate impact and adapt to climate change while maintaining or improving the quality of life for the population". 

When a city council member approached me (regional politician) about this or that emergency (flooding, climate refugees etc.), I tried to understand how big our budget was and it if was reasonable to meet the city council member's demands fully or partially. I sometimes role-played and said that "we can give you this much now and more next year" when I should probably have been more generous and just handed over the money, but I wanted to use money on my political platform (above), but was pretty sure my fiscal discipline did not at all benefit me in the game. In fact, I wasn't very interested in having these kinds of conversations at all - they were below my pay grade as a regional politician whose most important goal was to reach net zero emissions thirty years down the road. There was thus a tension between the short term (solve immediate problems) and the long term (reach our climate targets). I wanted to spend as little of my time as possible solving "practical" problems here-and-now and instead wanted to create policy and make decisions that would solve the stated "key challenge" of the game (net zero emissions by 2050). I let my coalition partner, Forest Muppet Bryan, handle many of these issues, but this was probably a mistake since I think he came out as more "kind" and got more votes that I did later in the game because he had "helped" people and I hadn't (as much). Later in the game, after Bryan had left, I made quick decisions, allocated money and specifically told city council members and others to "work out the details with the civil servants who worked for me" (just like a real politician would have done). 

After the game was finished, I realized that it would have been much better for all involved parties if I had instead just been a puppet - a politician who only reacted to local emergencies as they happened, gave away all the money that was asked for (budget allowing) and settled for letting the game decide where and at what pace we were going on a strategic level. As far as I understand, the game just pretended to give agency to the players and instead was scripted to disregard any input from individual players that didn't fit the pre-made script. At one point I asked where all these climate refugees came from and if I really had to dish out money to pay for them every time I was asked to. I couldn't get a straight answer so I decided (in line with my Make Östergötland Great Again political party platform) to refuse to give any more money to help climate refugees:

@Ferm Media  - Johanna G. Make Östergötland Great Again (MÖGA) believe that the interests and priorities of Östergötland should go first. We understand the climate refugees' plight, but we have welcomed enough of them and are not prepared to accept any more. It's now time for our neighbors in Västergötland to step up and take responsibility! We will pay for ads communicating this message! From now on it's Östergötland first, Östergötland first, Östergötland first!

That was fun and I partly did it to see if this act of mine would upset the game's script, but it didn't have any consequences whatsoever in the game so my guess is that most of what I did had no effect at all on what happened in the game. Which made me fell powerless and frustrated. What was my role in the game? Was I just a pretty face? Why am I here and what difference can I make in the game, if most of what I say and do is ignored and/or irrelevant in relation to the game's outcome? 

I instead gradually came to a realization during the game - but especially after the game was finished - that forests and forestry apparently had been the key to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 - not food, goods, transport, housing or anything else. But there was no hint about the importance of forests in the instructions I received (except for the fact that a competing political party was called "Forest Muppets"), so I definitely felt cheated or even kidnapped into a storyline that I didn't know existed and failed to notice until the game was over. I don't personally see forests as the overarching key issue to solve the multiple sustainability challenges of the 21st century - but the game and the underlying model apparently do. I don't know how many of the other players had an inkling about this unexpected twist before or during the game?

So this and many other things made the game feel scripted to me. I felt like I didn't have agency and that my decisions didn't matter because a strong model about what sustainability is, and how we are to go about to achieve it had been built into the very fabric of the game. This model was not verbalized so I didn't notice it and couldn't prepare in any way (as a regional politician), but the model still pretty much determined the outcome of the game. That might mean that me and the other players could not affect very much at all in the game. Perhaps it wasn't really an interactive "game" at all, but some kind of lesson/class that just masqueraded as a game? This left me confused and I really have no idea why the instructions asked me and the other players to role-play - including adapting a specific "personality" and a "hidden agenda". Why role-play when everything that is important in the game was far removed from our role-play? My personal secret agenda was that I was an animal-rights activist. I don't know what difference that could have made in the game because I didn't find any opportunities at all to be animal-activistic. So I have no idea what difference this could have made in the game and the question then is why was I was given a secret agenda in the first place? There is so much I don't understand about this game experience...

My conclusion is that the game was exceedingly complicated, but not in the intriguing way I had hoped and had been led to believe beforehand (when I read the instructions). I understand that different stakeholders got different information and different objectives and that all players need to talk, negotiate, find overlapping interests and compromise - and that is  fun. But I don't see how any of that could have made a dent in the underlaying assumptions that drove the game in one (and in only one) pre-determined direction. That the game board was exceedingly complicated (see the images below) and the fact that I never really understood even the small part that was supposedly important to me as a politician (the Regional Council board, see above) is not a good thing. A game should be as complex as necessary but as simple as possible, and it is my conclusion that this game did not succeed on that account. It was, as far as I can tell, overly complicated for no particualar reason at all. It had boards and charts and rules galore (see images below, but there were more...), and while we were supposed to role-play and be imaginative, the game very much seemed to be overly static and scripted. This didn't make sense to me and there was a mismatch between what I thought the game was about (based on the instructions I had received) and the actual game (session). The instructions were humorous, open-ended and invited role-playing while the game itself seemed to be opaque, complicated, scripted and role-playing didn't much matter as individual initiatives didn't fit/were hard to incorporate into the gaming session.

The game was in the end very exhausting - a whole day online with background noise and a need to concentrate deeply floored me. We have previously discussed starting a course at KTH and have our students work together and/or in parallel with the students in Linköping, but I honestly don't know how that is supposed to work out based on my own experiences of playing remotely. I don't understand how two remote sites are supposed to cooperate. I do however understand that despite the fact that the gaming session wasn't great, the course might have been. To have students (re)design parts of the game means they have to learn a lot about climate change, agriculture, forestry, urban planning, economy and so on, even though I currently have few insights about the university course itself.

I do feel that Megagames could be interesting, but I can also imagine that it would be better for KTH to work with a game designer (just as Linköping does) but instead design a much smaller and simpler game that emphasizes player interaction and acting/role play, rather than aim for gratuitous complexity for (seemingly) its own sake. 

Regional map with 8 municipalities (only two were part of the game I played since there weren't enough players). I can not imagine what I would have done as regional politician had there been more municipalities in play. Perhaps each political party would then have been represented by several players?

Detailed map of farmland, forests and water in the region. Sometimes someone came to me to suggested that "tile F11 and G11" should be a nature reserve. I said "sure, I guess" - at least if it cost nothing or not so much. I didn't understand what difference a nature reserve made for the climate nor if it was money well spent from the budget I had to husband as a politician.

More information that was probably important for me to read about how the Regional Council worked. The card about how new laws are made was apparently deemed to not be relevant and I didn't really have time to read all the text. 

This, a scientific explanation of the Regional Board, was probably also important or at least useful for me to read, but I again didn't have the time (or the inclination) and it's not really reasonable to expect a player to read this during the game when so much else is happening.

I have no idea what this was but it seems that it could have been important for me as a regional politician.

This is an example of one of the 8 municipalities' board. Linköping was part of the game I played and it's the largest city in Östergötland together with Norrköping. The same 24 pre-determined inventions are on this and several other boards too.

Me as a populist politician. Vote for me!