Categories
computing energy

Energy literacy

Robert Brewer

An intuition of  what is a kilowatt hour..it’s a fundamental thing about our society that you need to know now.  And people’s intuition tends to be stunningly bad.

Dr Robert Brewer  is a postdoctoral researcher on the EcoSense and Virtual Power Plant for Smart Grid Ready Buildings and Customers(VPP4) projects in theComputer Science department of Aarhus University in Denmark, with a focus on residential energy-use behaviors guided by sensor data.    For  several years Robert was an entrepreneur in Hawaii then for his PhD he developed the Kukui Cup, a gamified energy challenge for university dorms.

Talking points:  

An Inconvenient Truth was a turning point for me, I’d always considered myself green – tried to recycle and so forth – but An Inconvenient Truth made me feel ‘this is what I should focus my life on’, my research, why should I do my research on something else when I can do my research on something I feel passionately about.

It is common that people have the attitudes and knowledge about the importance of sustainability but that societal structures are such that it is very hard sometimes to put these into effect.

Sometimes people want to express energy as – say number of hamburgers or miles driven and , but … understanding what a kilowatt hour is, or having an  intuition of  what is a kilowatt hour…. is the same as you should really have an intuition of what kilometer is, or a kilogram.  It’s a fundamental thing about our society that you need to know now.  And people’s intuition tends to be stunningly bad.

People focus on things like their phones as ‘energy hogs’ and are concerned about charging their cellular phone, but the refrigerator uses vastly more energy than their phone does, even including the infrastructure, because the refrigerator is on 24/7 for the rest of your life.

I looked at energy literacy and energy use.

When people ask us how much electricity we (the challenge saved), we say that’s the wrong question, we hoped that there would be significant energy savings, we didn’t see that but the fact that there was so much variation shows us that trying to compress the entire behaviour of these floors into a number – into kilowatt hours – is just a bad idea. That’s driven my change in perspective to this practice orientation, you need to understand whats going on in the dorms in a way that we didn’t have the opportunity to find out.

Some game action was clearly not sustainable – camping out rather than using the measured dorms.   Other game techniques had social benefits such as more time visiting other floors.

A better measure of success is engagement and energy literacy.

A key is not just to reduce energy use but to shift its time of use – to reduce large peaks.

We need shifts in sustainable computing that are scaleable, sticky and multidisciplinary.

Scalability: Since the scale of sustainability is a multi-generational issue, that’s going to take really big changes…to get the scale we need to have tools and services that scale.

Sticky:  We need to have ways that keep people engaged. There are lots things that look and sound really cool when you first see them…but people use it a lot when they first got it, but then the device makes mistakes and the people think its working and the novelty has worn off.

If it’s primarily novelty that’s keeping you involved, you’ll find out that the novelty wears off. You need a reason to come back.

We’re mixing the practice orientation with a rich set of sensors into what we hope is a virtuous cycle.

Take a look at the resources you are using…it goes back to building the intuition of what you are using.

Categories
computing

Changing mindsets

Bran Knowles

Values are malleable, the more we are exposed to “it’s good to care”, the more likely we are to care that way. The more we pander to the selfish – “acting this way is protecting your wallet”, this is distracting to the cause.

Bran Knowles argues that green computing that focusses on saving money through efficiency gains – either of computing systems themselves or behaviour change motivated largely by saving money – is actually doing a disservice to sustainability. She says the focus on individualist rational behaviours appeals to a selfish motivation and we need to flip those frames on their head.

Since we recorded this conversation Bran has graduated with her PhD. Dr Bran Knowles is now a post-doc at Lancaster, focussing in on several projects including working with WWF-UK and Common Cause to produce a white paper that explores higher impact routes that sustainable computing may take in the future. She’ll be presenting a note at CHI this year called Rethinking Plan A for Sustainable HCI.

Talking points:

If we stopped and thought about what matters, we could get by with less.

What we need is a change in mindset

(On gamification in sustainability) It’s the goal of game that matters, if we’re not directed to improving the environment, you’re not really changing anyone’s thought patterns that might ultimately lead to long term change

If it’s about scoring as many points as you can, whether or not you do to trick people into being more environmentally responsible, that’s not going to spill over into additional behavioural change for the cause of the environment

If you think of people as selfish (a rational actor, selfishly motivated), you can only get so far. Think of people as you do your friends, I know my friends care about many things – they are multifaceted, the more you talk with them about the environment, the more they begin to understand – to care – but we are not taking that approach to the strangers we design for.

Values are malleable, the more we are exposed to “it’s good to care”, the more likely we are to care that way. The more we pander to the selfish – acting this way is protecting your wallet, this is distracting to the cause.

If you make feedback technology that visualises how much money you save by switching off the lights for example, that’s just reinforcing the selfish mentality.

If you encourage people that the only reason to change their behaviour is to get some financial reward for doing so, then this damages their potential for opting to doing that for other, more altruistic reasons.

I’m working on design patterns that adopt dramatically different frames.

Categories
computing design psychology

Designing for people

Some technologists want to create a seamless future…I ‘m not one of those, I think it’s useful that parts are nubby – some parts leave room for error or space for adjustment, some room for learning behaviour.

Han Pham is Future Cities Experience Strategist, at the Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities.

HanPham

Talking points:

If you only ask users about your product, they’ll only tell you about your product – we need to be able to step away from the screen.

Before we bring in our life-changing solution, we have to realise that people survive without it – this can be uplifting and challenging together.

We’re designing for how people behave, at an individual level but also considering what does this mean at the community level?

Sometimes you want to make it invisible, sometimes you want to see detail

Sometimes you ask people about the future, and they think about the future as inevitable and they think about it as this glossy surface thing that’s going to come their way whether they like it or not, and it’s not very porous – there’s not a lot of transparency. People are frightened by this – there’s a sense of helplessness.

We are not just designing things, we’re designing how people learn. If we can create frameworks for how they understand something – with frameworks that are sticky and that work for them – builds an expectation of how things should work. We can make use of that learning window so products and services can change how people think.

Users don’t necessarily want to carry an identity card that says ‘I’m a sustainable person’…they are them

Incremental changes can be a sea-change.

Sometimes a sea-change is finding a pattern of behaviour that not only the lead adopters are going to adopt

(are you an activist) Yes, I say to technology companies, people have a place.

Categories
computing

An activist agenda

Ben Shneiderman by  John Consoli University Maryland

If someone is not speaking up then we should be worried

Ben Shneiderman has had a huge impact on everything we do. A father of the field of Human Computer Interaction, Ben is Professor for Computer Science at the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab. Ben pioneered the highlighted textual link in 1983, and it became part of Hyperties, a precursor to the web. Ben is the author of Software Psychology: Human Factors in Computer and Information Systems (1980) and Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction (5th ed., 2010, with C. Plaisant) and Leonardo’s Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies (MIT Press), won the IEEE Award for Distinguished Literary Contribution in 2004.

What you probably didn’t know is that Ben has strong views about the role of activism within Human Computer Interaction, “we have”, he says “an enormous opportunity to make a difference…the very nature of Human Computer Interaction is an activist agenda”.

We should expect as mature adults and professionals to be engaged in making a better world

If someone is not speaking up then we should be worried

This conversation was recorded after we spoke at a panel on activism at CHI 2013 “CHI at the barricades: an activist agenda?“. Ben highlights some challenges for us to continue to go beyond the technical, and to build sciences around social processes:

We need to shift towards human centred sets of metrics that looks at the number of megacontribs, terracollabs, and petathank-yous.

How do we create a language and metric of the human experience of technology that goes beyond bits and bytes and looks at human questions of trust, empathy, responsibility and privacy?

The problems we face …require technical solutions to be informed by a sensitivity to the social

Thinking with new language is the way we transform ourselves.

How can we enable marginalised individuals and communities to have a voice?

How can we build in leadership structures?

Changing the language we use and the way we engage with people could make a difference

Categories
art computing

Experiencing changing trajectories

Steve Benford

Deliberately and systematically creating uncomfortable interactions as part of powerful cultural experiences

Prof Steve Benford is Professor of Collaborative Computing at The University of Nottingham’s Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub. He is the first ever academic to take part in the new ‘Dream Fellowship’ at the BBC. Steve’s work on understanding trajectories through experiences provides us with insights into understanding and behaviour change. Working at the interaction of art and science, Steve focusses on pushing boundaries and engineering compelling experiences. His work into uncomfortable interaction may lead us to better ways of supporting societal change.

In partnership with artists group Blast Theory, Steve and his team have worked on Desert Rain, a combination of virtual reality, installation and performance to problematise the boundary between the real and the virtual. Similarly, Uncle Roy all arround you explored social changes and ubiquity in the city.

In recent work, Steve has been involved in Conversation with Trees. This has brought together art and science around issues of climate change, providing compelling experiences and provoking responses through sometimes deliberate ambiguity.

Recorded at CHI13. Photo on this image cc Frank Boyd.

Categories
computing education

Levelling up: sustainability is the epic challenge

Daniel Pargman

As the lines between games and reality become blurred, sustainability is the epic challenge

Dr Daniel Pargman is from Stockholm’s KTH where he holds several roles in the School of Computer Science and Communication, the Department of Media Technology and Interaction, and is associated with the Centre for Sustainable Communication. He teaches courses on the Future of Media, and on Social Media Technologies.

A specialist in virtual communities, particularly those in games, Daniel has another side, a deeply sustainable side that until recently he kept hidden in the manner of Clark Kent. We explore how these two personas and professional lives are increasingly becoming integrated.

This is the last in a series of four on  the interplay of gaming and sustainability.

Categories
computing game design

Information ecologies

Bonnie Nardi

“Information ecologies, using technology with heart”- the heart refers to both bonding with technology and using for social good

As humans we are very attracted to technology, the amount of time we are spending starting at a screen is unprecedented in human history. How can we harness that relationship to facilitate the changes we need to make for a sustainable future. We talk with Professor Bonnie Nardi for some insights.

Recently inducted to the CHI Academy in 2013 , Professor Bonnie Nardi is an anthropologist working in Computer Science at the University of California Irvine. In this extended interview we talk about Bonni’s background in anthropology and social ecologies before going on to explore what we can learn from virtual game worlds for sustainable societal change.

Recorded at CHI 2013 (adding to the collection of Sustainable HCI), this is the second in a series of four on the interplay of gaming and sustainability.

Categories
behaviour change computing

Environmental impact of digital transformation

Chris Preist

 Helping people who are motivated by social good to frame it in terms business will understand.

Dr Chris Preist is Reader in Sustainability and Computer Systems at the University of Bristol.  In this role he is working on tools to “bridge the gap”, he hopes to help provide “a way of thinking about their concern for social good, into their professional lives”.

In this conversation we discuss how this came about in Chris’ career, this balance of technical work and deeper – perhaps spiritual – understanding.    He now teaches Sustainability, Technology and Business within a computer science degree.   Rather than a “litany of doom” he sees the courses as presenting ways of thinking about how to integrate social good with professional lives.

Chris and his colleagues are currently exploring crowdsourcing and gamification for the Close the Door campaign.   “Normification” is the key he says, what are the mechanisms for spreading changes of social norm?

He has worked in association with Forum for the Future, working with Guardian News and Media to investigate the environmental impact of their digital transformation, with particular reference to changes in business models and customer behaviour.  Prior to joining Bristol, he was Principal Scientist and Head of UK research on sustainable IT systems at Hewlett Packard Labs (HP Labs), Bristol.  In this role, he led a team of 6 researchers who carried out research assessing the sustainability impacts of alternative business models for the personal computer and digital printing industry, and information management and presentation of sustainability data to enhance decision making.

Categories
computing food

Time and plants

Dr Dawna Ballard is from the University of Texas. She studies how our working lives shape our experience of time in multiple ways, both personally and professionally. She tells us the industrialisation of time, with effects including fast-paced work environments, multi-tasking, long-term planning, and time-management issues. Noting the basis of sustainability as ethics extended over time and space, we talk about the construction and representation of time as a vehicle for our lives.

Juliet Norton is based at the University of Central Florida. She describes herself as a “grounded technologist”. Her proposal for support for domestic plant guilds is a novel application of sustainable computing.

Categories
computing

Information systems for societal challenges

Dr Lisa Nathan is Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (the iSchool@UBC). Lisa’s research is motivated by the high potential for interactions with information systems to have a long-term influence on the human condition. In this interview she tells us a bit of her background and then something of her research. Through a range of projects she investigates theory and method for designing information systems that address societal challenges, specifically those that are ethically charged and impact multiple generations (e.g., sustainability, colonialism, genocide), and information practices that develop and adapt as we use these systems.

This talk ranges from sailing in the Caribbean to genocide in Rwanda, and back again.

Categories
computing design

Joined-up thinking

Six Silberman. Wow. This is an insight packed interview.

Currently based in New York, Six works at the intersection of art, economics, design, computing, business, sociology (this list goes on). He has come around to describing himself as a systems analyst. This extended interview traverses full cost accounting for the life cycle, our fetish for growth, the search for frameworks for thinking bigger, power relationships, working collaboratively, creating space for reflection, the role of business in society, and the probability that we are at the start of an n-dip recession as parts of a collapse (he is a co-author on an award winning paper Collapse Informatics).

Six asks how we get back to a place where we recognise the importance of managing things we fundamentally cannot measure? We discuss the importance of systems thinking and ponder whether sustainability can be considered an emergent phenomena. Finally Six tells us his plans for connecting large scale discussions of sustainability to things we can actually do.

Categories
computing design

Stefan Kreitmayer

Stefan Kreitmayer is from both the Open University’s Centre for Research in Computing and University College London’s Interaction Centre. Stefan has a varied background developing interactive and reactive computer graphics for live performances and installations in collaboration with composers, directors, designers, and choreographers. Earlier activities included film music and sound design. Stefan tells us how this background led to the development of the 4decades simulation game. 4Decades is a game developed to enable large groups to explore and critique scientific models of global climate economics. It is based on a real-time dynamic simulation that teams interact with via distributed tablets and public displays.

Categories
computing

Dr Gilly Leshed and Dr Maria Håkansson

Dr Gilly Leshed and Dr Maria Håkansson are from Cornell University. They are exploring the how individuals and groups accomplish tasks and socialize and the roles technology plays in these interactions. Here they talk about their backgrounds and a farm family study which is funded by Nokia through the Nokia University Cooperation Fund.

Categories
computing

Dr Bill Tomlinson

Professor Bill Tomlinson is Director of the Social Code Group at the University of California Irvine. Author of
Greening through IT, Bill is the lead author on Collapse Informatics which recently won the CCC Sustainability Award.

Categories
computing

People make smart cities

Dr John C Thomas is a psychologist who has been a pioneer in the development of Human Computer Interaction since the early 1970s.  Most recently he helps lead the people side of IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative.  He was also a leader in the application of design patterns to computing.

In this web-only feature recorded at CHI2011 by Samuel Mann, John explores how patterns might provide a framework for developing sustainable solutions.

Some related resources:
Conference paper from IBM’s Sharon Nunes focussing on smart water “Not just because ‘we can’…but because ‘we must'”
John Thomas’s “Who Speaks for wolf?” pattern.
Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language

Categories
behaviour change computing

Mary Barreto

Mary Barreto works with the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute: a collaboration between the University of Madeira, founded by the University of Madeira, Madeira Tecnopolo, and Carnegie Mellon University. Mary is with the SINAIS project, the Sustainable Interaction with social Networks, context Awareness and Innovative Services.

In this web-only feature recorded at CHI2011, Mary talks with Samuel Mann about the ideas from her paper on social translucence.

Categories
computing planning visualisation

Dr Olaf Schroth

Olaf Schroth

Dr Olaf Schroth works for the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  CALP focuses on accessible solutions that bridge research and practice by bringing rigorous science and modeling, visualizations, innovative environmental design and participatory processes to community and landscape planning.

In this extended interview Olaf talks with Samuel Mann about participatory collaborative planning through visualisation.

Categories
computing peace

Computing for peace

Dr Juan Pablo Hourcade from the University of Iowa is the passion behind the hciforpeace.org.  In this fascinating interview he describes how this community is using computing technologies to promote peace and prevent conflict.

Shane’s number of the week: 1.5.   UN’s climate chief, Christina Figueres argues that the world should be aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius, rather than the weaker 2 degrees.