A few of us from SF Lab+friends have just been to the NordiCHI 2022 conference in Aarhus, Denmark, and wanted to share some of the things we saw, heard and thought about while there.
The 2022 edition of NordiCHI 2022 was themed “Participative Computing for Sustainable Futures”, and had a fully packed program of workshops, paper presentations, panels and critiques between 8-12 October. Below are some highlights from our trip to Aarhus.
NordiCHI was great! Seeing new and old friendly faces after the pandemic, discussing theory and sustainability, as well as hanging out with fellow KTH PhD students! Although I did not have a paper submitted, I did attend the doctoral consortium on Saturday. It was very nice and rewarding to get some feedback on my work, and also interesting to talk to some fellow PhDs and get some insightful tips from seniors.
Another highlight was the nice Sunday starting off with a tutorial on “Hands-on Introduction to Futures Thinking and Foresight with the Future Ripples Method” and then an afternoon biking around the city on rental bikes from Donkey Republic.
There were several interesting papers presented at the conference relating to my field which I truly enjoyed, for example ”Do they pass the woman test?”: Navigating and negotiating the gendering of residential solar panels by Maria Håkansson et al and Design Visions for Future Energy Systems: Towards Aligning Developers’ Assumptions and Householders’ Expectations by Hagensby Jensen et al.
NordiCHI 2022 was intense! I got to meet a bunch of interesting people within the sustainable HCI community and beyond, and also managed to see parts of Aarhus along the way. One of the top moments was participating in a workshop called “Eco-Joy: Imagining Sustainable and Joyful Food Eco-label Futures”, hosted by Gözel Shakeri, Frederike Jung, Ferran Altarriba Bertran, Daniel Fernández Galeote and Adrian Friday. It was a hybrid workshop with most participants attending online, in which we critically reflected on the state of the art of current eco-labelling and based on those discussions generated speculative ideas of how emergent technologies could contribute to crafting more effective and compelling eco-labels. There were some interesting discussions during the workshop and hopefully we can build on the outcomes in order to continue the conversation in the future.
I also presented a paper during the first day of the conference, titled “Exploring the Use of a Carbon Footprint Calculator Challenging Everyday Habits”, which is written together with Cecilia Katzeff and Elina Eriksson from KTH. It reports on an interview study with people who have used a gamified carbon calculator “in the wild”, and highlights a set of implications for the design of carbon calculators going beyond on/off-solutionism. The paper has gone through several rounds of reviews and rejections over the past two years - I am very happy that it is now published!
The conference program and papers covered a very diverse range of topics and you could really see some of the hot topics within HCI, such as work engaging with more-than-human perspectives. While I do not think much of the papers and critiques engaged with sustainability or properly addressed the climate crisis, there were some papers that caught my attention, such as “Postphenomenological Dimensions of Digitally Mediated Domestic Heating” by Michael Svangren et al, as well as “Exploring the experience of ethical tensions and the role of community in UX practice” by Ajit Pillai and colleagues.
Earlier this autumn I was approached by Katka (Katerina) Cerna from University of Gothenburg, asking if I wanted to co-organise a workshop themed “Designing for collective survival: Design fiction game for an apocalyptic world”, together with Vaso (Vasiliki) Mylonopoulu and with some input also from Marvin Landwehr (University of Siegen).It was the first iteration of a game aimed at exploring what role design and HCI practitioners could play in a potentially far away, apocalyptic future. It was a hybrid workshop with about 10 participants and used techniques from design, futures studies, storytelling and meditation. In the three rather unpleasant futures that we looked at, we discussed ethical aspects of who gets medical treatment and not and why, when equipment and medication are unavailable; worried about the survival of the artificially bred carrot fish, one of our only sources of food when all land and water is toxic; and the fight for land and food when hardly any jobs are available. In the coming weeks, we’ll be thinking of what to do next with the material and plan on writing a report.
For me, the final paper of the last critique session, presented by Marc Hassenzahl, was by far the most fascinating. It is a speculative fiction about the European Union’s Green Smart Directive or How ResourceConscious Smart Systems Saved the World, and “traces the impact of Green Smart in three everyday domains: laundry, mobility, and gardening. It shows that Green Smart led to a “decentering” of the human with beneficial effects on the planet as well as individual well being”, but also “fierce debates about ‘freedom’ and the ‘enslavement’ of humanity by technology, in everyday life”. By playing with the idea of allowing household technology to become part of a legislative infrastructure, the fiction exposes interesting angles on current ideas about freedom and surveillance in the context of a “green” transition.
At the very last day of the conference, the location of the next NordiCHI conference was revealed. It will be held in Uppsala, Sweden in 2024. During the presentation, the organisers presented a map of how easily accessible Uppsala is, planning for business-as-usual at the upcoming conference - aka flying. As a fairly local conference, being held mostly in the Nordic countries, and with a backdrop of the climate crisis, it is surprising that the NordiCHI community does not encourage alternative modes of transport and participation, especially when there are a lot of helpful resources and guidance to be had through for instance the flyingless network.
At KTH, nothing has been communicated as of yet about energy savings in response to the current energy supply crisis. However, at Aarhus University where the conference was hosted, all attendees were told to bring suitable clothing to keep warm as the university has lowered the indoor temperature to 19C.
All three of us, and many more of our KTH colleagues, travelled comfortably from Stockholm to Aarhus by train, with one stop in Copenhagen, and spent the 8 hours on the train working. We all thought Aarhus was beautiful. Picturesque lanes and parks, cute little houses, a lot of greenery and interesting architecture.