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Hacking for Sustainability

Time: Mon 2014-01-27 10.00 - 12.00

Location: Room F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26

Subject area: Medieteknik med inriktning Medieteknik och grafisk produktion

Doctoral student: Jorge Luis Zapico Lamela , Avdelningen för Medieteknik och interaktionsdesign

Opponent: Elaine Huang, Department of Informatics University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Supervisor: Marko Turpeinen

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Welcome to Jorge Zapico's Thesis Defense on the 27th January 2014, 10:00-12:00, Room F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH

Opponent: Dr. Elaine M. Huang (University of Zurich)

Examining Committee: Dr. Marko Nieminen (Aalto University), Dr. Viveka Palm (KTH), Dr. Chris Preist (Bristol University), Dr. Per Lundqvist (KTH, reserve)

Supervisors: Marko Turpeinen, Nils Brandt.

Chair: Olle Bälter.


ICT for Sustainability is a growing research area looking at the potential of information and communication technologies for contributing to sustainability. The existing work in this area can be grouped in four main categories: The optimization of existing systems using ICT, the dematerialization of cultural assets and presence, the use of technology for behavioral change, and the support of sustainability practice and research. Within this research area, this thesis focuses on exploring how new technologies and approaches of working with data, such as APIs, mashups, crowdsourcing, open data, and dynamic visualizations, can be applied to sustainability and sustainability practice.

This thesis follows a research through design method, where applications, prototypes, and events were created and released following an iterative design process. Five different design artifacts or “hacks” are presented and analyzed together as a portfolio. This collection of artifacts is a practical exploration of the research questions and it embodies the results. Based on the created artifacts, this text argues that the new technologies and paradigms coming from ICT can transform how sustainability work is performed, by changing the way that sustainability data is created, shared and visualized. This new “data-driven” approach is characterized by a bottom-up way of data gathering, automatic data collection and crowdsourcing, a real time orientation, a focus on transparency and openness, dynamic and interactive visualizations, and new approaches to innovation. These characteristics create new opportunities for making sustainability practice more effective and broaden its impact, but they also create new problems and increase existing risks.

Finally it is argued that while information and communication technologies are usually treated as tools, these innovations in ICT for Sustainability are not only technological, but also cultural. The hacker ethic values connected with computer technologies, such as an open way of sharing knowledge, the focus on creativity as a driving force, and a hands-on approach, are key for understanding this research area and an important part of the contribution from ICT to sustainability.

Link to thesis here