computing visualisation

Seeing ecosystem services

Barbara Hock

Beyond clumsy scientific interfaces lies the opportunity to produce visualisations that link knowledge to values

Barbara Hock from Scion Research specialises in environmental spatial analysis and modelling. Her current research involves visualisations for sustainable forest management.

Barbara is interested in making science more accessible in ways that relate to people’s values. The ability to see models of ecosystem services and to do so in a way that includes people, is one of the goals of Sam’s Sustainable Lens research agenda. How awesome does he think that is? Very.

Talking points:

If we could take data and make it relevant in the settings where people are, how they interact with the land

People starting to value ecosystem services – we can help with that

People expect quick results, with the speed of data, and annual reports, but sustainability is a long term deal.

(Am I an activist?). No. I consider I’m more like leading from behind. These are the things that are very useful for people, to know about and to able to access. I have skills in technical areas, and knowledge in social areas, so I can combine them to create this space that provides a better overall understanding. And that can help people in whichever forum. In the end we work towards better life and lifestyle – that’s a good driver. Things that facilitate that, that’s great.

If you enjoyed this, you might like:
Beth Karlin transformational media and commuication research

Olaf Schroth participatory collaborative planning through visualisation.


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

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.

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.

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.

computing game design

Gaming reality

Carlo Fabricatore Ximena Lopez


Reality is already gamified, the dynamics could give us levers for sustainability

Worcester-based Drs Carlo Fabricatore & Ximena López have developed a model for considering computer games through a sustainable lens (paper).   This combines Carlo’s background in game design with Ximena’s experience in Educational Psychology.  We talk about what makes a good game, explore how these characteristics cross to promoting changes in wider society.  How, for example could we make use of mastery, challenge and reward in sustainable behaviour change in our gamified reality?

Resources:   Stefan Kreitmayer’s 4decades is described.  Here’s the Sustainable Lens interview with Stefan.

First in a series of four on the interplay of gaming and sustainability.

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.

behaviour change computing media

Transformational Media


A lot of voices when they’re not in unison are just noise, but when they are in unison they can be a chorus.

Beth Karlin is director of the Transformational Media Lab within the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at University of California Irvine.

We talk about social action campaigns, documentary, using new information and communication technology to understand and empower environmental change, and what we can learn from psychological perspectives in communication research.

computing creative commons food permaculture


Active in both the Permaculture in New Zealand and the creative commons movements, Danyl Strype describes himself as a permageek. We spend an enjoyable hour wallowing in sustainable IT (without mentioning virtualisation).

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.


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.

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.

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.


Dr Gilly Leshed and Dr Maria HÃ¥kansson

Dr Gilly Leshed and Dr Maria HÃ¥kansson 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.


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.

computing education environmental entrepreneur

Joe Davy and Martin Hyslop


Joe Davy and Martin Hyslop are first year students in Information Technology at Otago Polytechnic. They tell us how they are taking control of their own learning – with a sustainable twist.

Martin’s references:

Griffiths, M. (2010). Internet abuse and internet addiction in the workplace. Journal of Workplace   Learning, 22(7), 463-472. doi:10.1108/13665621011071127

Griffiths, M. (2003). Internet abuse in the workplace: Issues and concerns for employers and     employment counselors. Journal of Employment Counseling, 40(2), 87-96.

Hsi-Peng, L., & Wang, S. (2008). The role of internet addiction in online game loyalty: An exploratory  study. Internet Research, 18(5), 499-519. doi:10.1108/10662240810912756.

Patterson, R.  (1997). Can users get addicted to the internet? Canadian Medical Association.Journal,  157(6), 785-786.

Shane’s number of the week: 4.4 That’s 4.4 million hectares approved for fracking in New Zealand. A recent report (Journal of Groudwater) found that local groundwater would be likely to be polluted by fracking chemicals – even in areas of so-called impermeable rock.

Sam’s joined up thinking: Sam is very proud to be introducing his students.


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

computing education

Dr Michael Goldweber

Computational thinking needn’t be restricted to commerce or abstract maths, Dr Michael Goldweber dreams of a time when people wanting to make a positive impact choose computing as a career.

Dr Goldweber says that students are looking to make a positive social impact. We can do this without sacrificing rigour within the discipline by using social good as the motivating examples in courses. Dr Goldweber teaches at Xavier University in Ohio. He was in New Zealand as keynote speaker at CITRENZ, and in Dunedin to speak at Otago Polytechnic.

Shane’s number of the week: 5. OK, its a fraction: 5 out of 8 tuna species at risk of extinction.

Sam’s joined up thinking: Social translucence is the basis on which Mary Barreto connects visibility, awareness and accountability (entire interview with Mary >>)