Global Sustainable Development Goals in a Mediatized World

I’m delighted to take part in the upcoming symposium, Global Sustainable Development Goals in a Mediatized World, organized by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The symposium will take place April 4-5 in Vienna.

My talk is titled Transition or Transformation? The Meanings of Sustainability in a Mediatized World. Here’s the abstract:

As the risks of climate change become more severe and palpable, so do the challenges faced by society. One such challenge is the need to galvanize and consolidate wide public support for a rapid and just transition to a more sustainable world. However, underlying paths for such a transition are different understandings of what sustainability means in theory and practice: how it relates to questions of scientific knowledge, to notions of political agency and self-efficacy, and how it opens up to a plurality of futures. In this talk I will suggest that the different meanings of sustainability are informed and made concrete – are mediatized – by the digital, interactive technologies used to engage the public with sustainability. I will propose four such meanings, illustrate them with a variety of interactive media, and draw some conclusions in relation to the difference between policy-led transitions and publicly pursued transformations.

A few snippets from my talk were included in the podcast Makro Mikro (36:20-40:38). The podcast is in German.

CFP for CHI Workshop: Towards a Responsible Innovation Agenda for HCI

I’m helping to organize a workshop in the upcoming CHI conference in Glasgow. A detailed CFP can be found here, and the extended abstract can be downloaded here (PDF; 213kb).

Here’s the skinny:

In recent years responsible innovation has gained significant traction and can be seen to adorn a myriad of research platforms, education programs, and policy frameworks. In this workshop, we invite HCI researchers to discuss the relations between the CHI community and responsible innovation. This workshop looks to build provocations and principles for and with HCI researchers who are or wish to become responsible innovators. The workshop looks to do this by asking attendees to think about the social, environmental, and economic impacts of ICT and HCI and explore how research innovation frameworks speak to responsible HCI innovation. Through the workshop we look to examine 5 questions to develop a set of provocations and principles, which will help encourage HCI and computer science researchers, educators, and innovators to reflect on the impact of their research and innovation.

A Spectrum of Possibilities

At the conclusion of last year’s Interaction Technology Design (ITD) course, and in anticipation of Dutch Design Week 2018 in which we had two projects exhibited, our team produced a catalog of all 34 projects. The catalog can be downloaded here (PDF; 53mb).

This is the introduction essay:

The velocity, tenacity, and complexity that characterize our times raise a significant challenge for designers and for those responsible for their education: how can we prepare the next generation of interaction designers to tackle the complexities and uncertainties that we face today and will face in the future? What kind of tools, techniques, and knowledge are necessary to untangle existing, and reshape future, sociotechnical relations? How can we encourage young designers to engage in their tasks with creativity, purpose, social awareness, and responsibility?

These questions motivate the project-based design course, Interactive Technology Design (ITD), part of the Design for Interaction (DfI) MSc program at Delft University of Technology’s Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. The course combines futuring techniques with fast-paced, iterative prototyping, aimed at creating tangible interaction experiences of speculative futures.

We have leveraged the 2018 edition of ITD as a vehicle for challenging our collective assumptions about the future of cities and citizenship. When big data is touted as the foundation of “smart” cities, and when new technologies ranging from self-driving cars to genetic engineering are bound to impact every aspect of urban life, a critical view on the consequences of these developments becomes more relevant than ever. Taking future Rotterdam as a case study, and in collaboration with the Horizon-2020 CAPS project, Open for Citizens, 34 teams of ITD students have designed and prototyped interactive “tools for urban citizenship”. The resulting speculative futures presented in this book open our eyes to the effects that ubiquitous big data, combined with new futuristic technologies may have on the social fabric of our cities.

The site and ‘real world’ context for the course’s speculative exploration is a future Rotterdam. A diverse, dynamic city, Rotterdam is considered a hub of social and technological innovation – truly a future-facing city. At the same time, the city is struggling with serious dilemmas concerning cultural diversity, immigration, socioeconomic inequality, and more. Each group of students was assigned one of Rotterdam’s neighbourhoods and given an urban theme: energy, housing, health, natural resources, food security, and mobility. Groups explored their assigned neighbourhoods on fact-finding excursions, and used their findings to design prototypes that reflect the neighbourhood’s character and address its specific challenges. Early prototypes were exhibited and tested by locals during the Future Flux Festival.

All in all, the 34 projects featured in this catalog provide us with a glimpse of what the future may hold for Rotterdam, but they also provide us with a window into the future of design. As the projects make evident, future designers may still be expected to solve complex problems, but as those problems become more and more ‘wicked’ – hard to define and difficult to untangle – communicating the future in provocative, imaginative ways will become inseparable from designing sustainable solutions for it.

We hope you find the projects as thought-provoking and inspiring as we do.

Dreaming Forward (talk at Utrecht Winter School on Earth System Governance)

I’m delighted to take part in the Utrecht Winter School on Earth System Governance next week.

The 2018 Utrecht Winter School on Earth System Governance is designed to function as an incubator for early career researchers working with the new earth system governance research agenda. The aim is to critically reflect on the new research agenda and start taking it forward by facilitating early career researchers’ work connected to this agenda.

I’ll be speaking on a very exciting panel titled Anticipation and Imagination alongside Joost Vervoort (who’s also one of the Winter School’s academic directors), Maarten Hajer, and Aarti Gupta.

My talk is a first attempt to articulate what I find to be an important challenge for critical designers: making connections between the imagination as a faculty of the individual, and the more collective, social imaginaries. Here’s the abstract:

Dreaming forward: from the designerly imagination to social and political imaginaries.
Design is synonymous with the imagination. Designers imagine new products, new services, and new environments, how these could be used and by whom, and how they may lead to new, lucrative markets. Design is also quintessentially future-oriented. Designers appeal to the future as a means by which to concretize and test their ideas, effectively approaching the future as a container for innovation. But what happens when the designerly imagination takes social issues as its object? How are designers implicated in future-making or worldmaking, and how may the designerly imagination influence the more collective, social imaginaries? The talk charts initial answers to these questions by surveying the intersection of design, futures, and the imagination.


(Gustave Courbet, Paysage de Mer, 1869)

New book out!

My first book, Interactive Media for Sustainability, is now officially out and can be purchased on the Palgrave/Macmillan website. It is part of the Palgrave Studies in Media and Environmental Communication series.

From the publisher’s webpage:

Interactive Media for Sustainability presents a conceptually rich, critical account of the design and use of interactive technologies to engage the public with sustainability. Treating interactive technologies as forms of mediation, the book argues that these technologies advance multiple understandings of sustainability. At stake are the ways sustainability encodes the complexity of interrelated social and natural systems, and how it conveys the malleability of the future. The book’s argument is anchored in a diverse set of theoretical resources that include contemporary work in human-computer interaction (HCI), social theory, media studies, and the philosophy of technology, and is animated by a variety of examples, including interactive simulations, persuasive apps, digital games, art installations, and decision-support tools.