Dr Helena Webb is a Senior Researcher in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford. Helena explores how people interact with technologies in different kinds of setting and how social action both shapes and is shaped by innovation. We talk about responsible innovation, opportunities for positive change, and running ethical hackathons in Zimbabwe.
Understanding the ways in which our lives are shaped by technological innovations.
Activist?: Yes and no. I want to do social good but need to be open to be criticised.
Motivation: Opportunities to find out and see into different contexts
Advice: Go with what you are interested in and go with that flow.
Lucy Pei is a PhD student at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at University of California Irvine. Lucy was volunteering at a literacy centre for resettled refugees and could see problems with the things she and others were doing – even though they we doing it properly. This led to her paper We Did It Right, But It Was Still Wrong: Toward Assets-Based Design. We discuss how interventions often fall short of delivering lasting impact in resource-constrained contexts,and the need for different ways of thinking about impacts, and different time scales.
Wholly different ways of doing science interventions
Kathy New is a researcher at Lancaster University on the socio-digital sustainability team. With a background in ecology and teaching and in the charity sector, Kathy is interested in social justice in energy markets, particularly the links between food poverty and fuel poverty.
If we’re looking for my golden thread, I would have to say values, positive values.
How to meld science, ethics and philosophy into one lovely, agreed, positive way for the planet.
Education to make a positive difference to lives of vulnerable people.
Success: Empowering women
Activist: Yes. I am active – if I see a problem I try and change it, don’t accept what is.
Superpower: Listening, asking questions
Motivation: Possibility of new day. Positivity.
Challenge: Finishing PhD
Miracle: For people to be kind to each other.
Advice: People know what is the right thing to do.
Ann Light is Professor of Design & Creative Technology at the University of Sussex and Prof of Interaction Design, Social Change and Sustainability at Malmö University, Sweden.
Ann is a qualitative researcher specializing in design for social wellbeing, participatory design and social innovation, with a particular interest in creative practice for transformations to sustainability. She also studies how grassroots organizations use design.
How do we democratise futures?
Together as a force
Looking at how we can dwell together better
Systems to empower better human nature
Thought experiment workshops – we’re all in it together
I don’t work well from a position of hopelessness
How do we change the message? There’s a beautiful, kind, gentle…party going on
How things get connected and in balance
Something to hope for
Definition: Dwell together well
Superhero: Collectively we’ve imagined how things could be different
Activist: Yes, that’s my identity
Motivation: Realising potential
Miracle: Something for people to hope for.
Advice: Take that first act, find person who believes and do it together.
Professor Valentine Cadieux is Director of Environmental Studies and Director of Sustainability at Hamline University in St Paul, Minnesota. She studies collaborative knowledge practices related to food, agriculture, and land in the context of settler society cultures in Canada, the United States, and Aotearoa New Zealand.
Incentivised to explore the woods behind my house.
How to colloboratively define rural environments
Imagination of wilderness
People describing themselves as “rural people at heart” but don’t know any farmers.
Questions around what keeps people in the city when they’re living in rural areas?
Say your objectives out loud – in time you can hear them
Embedding sustainability across the curriculum
Validating what people are doing already.
Pieces of sustainability that dwarf the carpooling. Social justice, transformative change.
Sustainability has been “owned” by the environment, but more and more people are realising that it’s the connection to people – social justice, processes of change – that makes that special.
Institutions of higher learning promote value sets that are more consumerist than they intended. So we have to teach them (students) what is excessive.
Making food access and food liberty a part of being educated.
Students are so anxious about the future of the world. We’ve seen a huge reduction in scare tactics – they’re scared already, we have to present positivity as a message.
Permission to do the things you find pleasure and joy in.
Matt Lawrey currently serves the community as a second term Nelson City Councillor. He is also the creator of New Zealand’s popular cartoon on family life, The Little Things. We talk about he brings from his background in the media, and how he is working to achieve a thriving green society for his family.
How do we design our city for thriving?
Encouraging people to look to the positive.
Our biggest problem is a lack of imagination
How do we fire people’s imaginations?
Questions that make people feel uncomfortable.
Getting more people thinking that engagement is the normal thing to do.
Nature gives us everything we need for free, we just need to respect that.
Giving people something to embrace.
My success is about using my voice to amplify those of others.
Definition: What works for me is how do we continue to live without killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Superpower: Resilience (hammer, reject, reject, push, push, push – eventually good ideas come to surface). And speaking out, even when I know it would cost me.
Activist” Wary of the term. Certainly activist energy to give to local government. An important part of change is to take a lot of people with you. Just winning the point doesn’t make change happen.
The voices of the future are only going to get louder
This conversation was recorded in Nelson in April 2019.
Cal Egan is a researcher at Edinburgh Napier University investigating intersections of permaculture and digital design and technology. He is developing Lions’ Gate as a regenerative ‘blended space’ as a space for exploring urban permaculture and as a place to explore the role of technology in a thriving future.
I wanted to know why things were
We’re trying to be a bit provocative, but in a way that is beautiful and works
It’s about the relationships, the things you can’t see, the living engine, we have to enrich that.
We need to learn how to grow a different sort of abundance
Come hither, we’re reconceptualising our spaces – a permaculture garden in an urban setting, re-establishing a wildlife corridor, a food forest that is a place for sustainability.
Provoking to action
We’re at the interface of permaculture and computing. Both how computing can help permaculture, but perhaps more how permaculture helps computing, design, business. Dourish’s knowledge of space.
A place to slow down. Hurry up and slow down. How do we overcome information anxiety?
Living more thoughtful. Social relations. Stripping our crazy world back to reality.
Computing can learn about a different sort of design process. One focused on growing the substrate, on energies – personal and biophysical, and boundaries and edges. A process that starts and ends with care of the planet.
Care of the planet – that’s what makes me happy.
I decided to be a very vocal person.
We’re working towards a self-sustaining system, circular food, water management, performance – we’re a Fringe venue. We’re making an interactive throne that tells stories, bringing people into spaces. With a “horrible mode” if air pollution is bad it may lock people out.
A place of calm yet we have to provoke, I want it to be dangerous.
Advice: Plant seeds – take over the neighbourhood. Follow your heart and intuition.
Recorded at ICT4S and ACM Limits at Lappeenranta, Finland.
Nándor Tánczos describes himself as a Dad, social ecologist, educator, permaculturalist and a Whakatāne District Councillor. Others describe him as New Zealand’s first Rastafarian MP and one our our first Green MPs. We talk about what drives him, how he became socially active (radicalised in Darlington!), his new project – social permaculture, and our bigger goal – to recreate our society and culture as a homeotelic culture.
We need to be better at imagining and rehearsing paradise
That awoke me to the potential – a transformation of consciousness.
The soft infrastructure is just as important for well-being
Social permaculture – how do we apply ideas of permaculture to regenerating society?
We need to avoid ecology becoming a reductionist science.
I’ve been inspired by Goldsmith‘s concept of homeotelic – to maintain and enhance the integrity of the whole. The default behaviour of any healthy part of the system serves to maintain and enhance the integrity of the whole. Human culture was – Goldsmith calls it the vernacular culture – and can be homeotelic – but in our industrialised culture the default behaviour of human individuals serves to undermine and degrade the integrity of the ecological whole. Our industrial society is hetereotelic. It was a real moment for me, realising that the task is to recreate our society and culture as a homeotelic culture. So it’s about mindset.
This whole reality is our collective creation – we can change it.
There’s a profound shift taking place.
Superpower: ability to work with different people
Challenge: Writing. We need people to be painting how things could be different.
Louise Shaw describes herself as an earthbuilder, a teacher, a gardener, a mother (and new grandmother). She and her family live near Whakatane where we talk about building soil and regenerating ecological systems.
We need to change our view of capital, a bigger picture, a longer picture – soil is our capital, we need to build and improve that.
I can’t be self sufficient unless I’m living in a sufficient world
Ordinary but extraordinary
The more you start making (our impacts) visible, the more ugly it becomes. We’ve become good at hiding that, but we need to fix the ugliness.
People talk about better life not a lesser life, and it’s true, we’re so rich it’s awesome.
We can’t just be self-sufficient, we have to be community sufficient.
Positive, but shit-scared.
There’s so much learning in every single day. These things add up to big things.
Superpower: Doing it. Sniffing out other people doing it. A virtuous circle and community.
Dr Morgan Williams is Chair of the Cawthron Foundation, is on the NZ international councils of the WWF, the National Energy Trust. We discuss his background in ecological systems science, from Antarctica to Fiji, and from North Canterbury farm through being the second Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to his ongoing work.
The research challenges are actually in understanding us – Homo sapiens. All the ways they interact, their decision making processes, their valuing systems, their moral structures and everything in that realm – that’s where most of the effort has to be.
Our understanding of the physical world is racing ahead of our ability to reconstruct our values and belief structures to keep up with the changes that we need.
It’s a real challenge if you have a conservative view on life, then reshaping the language about how you utilise resources – which is what sustainability is all about – and recognising the science that says this tiny blue planet does have limits and we as a species can overthrow those limits.
We’re not particularly good at working out where the limits are, nor how we share the division of resources between all peoples.
How do we get to a society where we more fairly share the resources available?
A much greater level of equity across society really does help everybody understand it improves the chances of all of us surviving and maintaining a better lifestyle without trashing the planet.
I don’t think there’s enough going on in a policy and investment sense to involve people in society who are really finding life hard…questions such as emissions are off their radar as the day-to-day is what they rightly have to focus on.
(Green without social) Far too simplistic. It comes back to equity. If we’re going to get on top of how do we as a species walk more lightly on the planet, you’ve got to work out how do we have a fair access to resources. It’s not just liters of water, or sunshine, it’s resources that we generate and provide through every facet of our society – access to music or health, housing…
Asking the hard questions…has elements of representing the future.
The problem with the whole notion of being fair and living within budgets of a small planet, is putting that into a political framework.
The value of an office such as PCE is to till the landscape a way ahead of the policy of the day. Its real value is to be seeding thinking, being an evidential thought-leader, putting out the evidence on the landscape a way ahead of where any government is at.
(Can we democracy our way out?) Good question. The evidence to date is with difficulty. There’s so much evidence that when we get to these big wicked problems we get tensions, and we get a Brexit, Trump in the Whitehouse.
(Can we business our way out?) Business – all the mechanisms of provision of goods and services for society – has to be part of it. There’s no question that we can empower a whole lot of innovation and adaption and a whole lot of smart people , but how do we do that in a way that has a moral compass that is 100% better that those that have shaped Facebook and so on.
(On profit motive) They have to stay in business but there are groups of businesses around the planet who are working for values other than profit, things are shifting and they have to keep shifting. There has to be viability there, but the notions of what is viable needs to change dramatically.
Journey of living within limits
Looking more and more at the drivers – what the things that we are doing as a species that putting all the pressures? (the breakdown of systems).
Goal areas, mostly aimed at saving something, that’s appropriate, a mitigation model. But when you look deeper, it’s a capital problem.
Young people are quite rightly saying “this is our future we’re talking about”. Their leaders are going to inherit some pretty tough spaces. I’d be getting my boots on and starting to kick some tyres too.
We have to have conversations and actions that we can craft a sustainable world, we lift the expectations we can deal with the turbulence, we’re going to have to get hold of the tiger and believe that we can make a difference, and we’re going to have to go fast. And we can.
Sustainability: Activity through endless generations. That’s really asking whether the resilient characteristics of our ecological systems, our atmosphere, our species mixes…can they evolve to deal with this turbulence? It’s not about saving species, it’s about saving the capacity of ecological systems to change at the pace that the pressures are generating. Resilience is quite an important word here. Resilience of the ecological system to change.
Have they found the Narnia door? A totally different way of thinking, of talking.
Superhero: might be useful.
Activist: I didn’t until last year.
Motivation: Seeing that you can make a difference. I’ve been encouraged by a lot of people. Having a partner in a life journey.
Challenge: Water security.
Miracle: Education. That we build into our education system how to relate, share ideas, recognise power of communities.
Advice: Think about your day to day life. Your impact, waste and so on, but it needs to be much more than that, so think about your purchasing, particularly clothing.
Jo St Baker is an award winning visual artist. We talk about the golden thread that runs through First Wave, Resilience: Land Sea Transition and works including Turtle Alaia, Wall of Perpetual Momentum, the various modalities of Requiem (Paddle Out) and the Surfing Sandman. Common to all this is an exploration of light and movement and water. When asked if she considers herself an activist, Jo says “gently – people listen to those who whisper”. Celebrating ever changing land-sea transitions, Jo brings light to edges, a reminder that we need to look after our fragile systems.
Jo works with “things that inspire me on a daily basis” and asks us to look differently, be true to yourself, pay attention, and keep swimming.
It seems everyone in the Eastern Bay of Plenty has a good word about Bill Clark and his many hats. He is a conservationist, entrepreneur, author, the energy behind the Onepu Community Recreation Park and the restoration of the Tumurau Lagoon, and is a Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor.
If you want more whitebait, you have to make whitebait habitat
It gives me a feel good. There’s so many naysayers out there that say if you build it they’ll break it, I accept there will be a little bit of collateral damage… but that’s only one person, there’s 99 enjoying it and looking after it.
Kia ora Bill, how’s our wetland doing bro? – that gives me a great deal of satisfaction
Service clubs: Saw the need for what they could achieve, and got out and did it.
An environmental activist, I don’t go out on the streets, I get out and do stuff.
Our governance and management systems…are working with value systems of yesterday, when resources seemed infinite.
We have yet to realise that our resources are not infinite and we can not carry on the way we are doing things and sustain ourselves on this planet – it’s as simple as that.
I like my life. Is see what I do in the environment is a form of creativity.
Tracy Scott is a conflict consultant. We talk about how her goal is to providing opportunities and processes for collaborative positive change. R
This conversation was recorded in Christchurch shortly before the tragic mosque shootings. Tracy describes how the moment of conflict isn’t positive but what can happen because of the conflict that can be, if we choose to let that guide us to learning and understanding. In the wake of the incredible tragedy we are seeing positive change, new learning, new understanding and even more connections and building of relationships. We plan to get Tracy back soon to discuss what we can learn from the positive community responses to what happened as we all find our way through to make some kind of sense out of it all. Kia Kaha Christchurch.
Conflict is a natural part of life
Conflict is opportunity
Empathy is probably our most important tool – consideration for somebody else
Self-empowerment is the real key
My focus is on a facilitated process (rather than the legislative, evaluative approach), it’s a journey, a community mediation model
My job is to open up the doors, people choose if they want to walk through them.
It’s a new paradigm, its OK to enter into a journey of conflict
Sustainability: Activity and programme is bigger than the person doing it.
Success: Spread of community moderation in New Zealand
Superpower: I read people really well.
Activist: Probably. I create change. It can be uncomfortable, change is about the unknown.
Motivation: Knowing it makes a difference. And I’m comfortable to say I’m good at it.
Building youth resilience, aligning with school curriculum. We need people to have this toolkit and to put it into play earlier.
Alex Davies is chef and owner of Gatherings, a Christchurch restaurant specialising in locally gathered and seasonal fare. We talk about his approach to food that is based on being considerate and in understanding the role of sharing.
This is the future of food, it has to be, there is no other option
Engaging with the seasons
Superpower: I cook for a living- I can feed people, share the warmth
We don’t have to push the message – the food is tasty, nutritious and it is expressive enough – but if someone wants to know more, then we’ll talk with them about where it came from and the story
I’m excited at the moment by Sumac – a middle eastern spice growing in the residential red zone – there’s a complex ecosystem growing right where people used to live
If you show respect for the land then you show it for the people
It’s about relationships
This conversation was recorded in Christchurch on the 8th March 2019.