The Futures of Computing and Wisdom

Important Dates:
Where: The workshop will be held at NordiCHI 2018, Oslo
When:
Full-day workshop on Saturday September 29
Workshop submission deadline: August 20 (extended)
Notification
: August 25

Submission information:
Submission: 
In order to participate in the workshop, please submit a fictional abstract (250 words) as a pdf document that also includes your contact information – see this page for further information and guidelines about the submission.
Send your submission to <pargman@kth.se> AND <elina@kth.se> with the subject header “NordiCHI wise futures” on August 10 at the latest.

There has been an increasing interest in discussing the consequences of the technologies we invent and study in HCI research, including non-technical dimensions (societal, ethical, normative) (Mankoff et al. 2013, Pargman et al. 2017). This is also apparent in the surge of interest in Design Fiction during the last 10 years (Bleecker 2009, Tanenbaum et al. 2013, Dunne and Raby 2013). Design Fictions have traditionally emphasised near-future developments, implications and consequences, but what about developments that lie one or several decades into the future? If we want to think about and discuss how computing will affect and change society decades from now, the focus cannot be on the technology itself but rather on other types of question.

This workshop will invite participants to a dialogue on the futures of computing and wisdom. Wisdom relates to the dominant paradigms of knowledge, and elucidates what might be considered responsible and wise, and why. Through collaborative imagining, we will draw attention to the consequences of the technologies we invent and study in HCI, including non-technical dimensions (societal, ethical, normative). Deploying methods from Design Fiction we will project and reflect on the future of wise computing for 2068. Extending from the near-future projects of Design Fiction, we will deploy fictional abstracts to examine how computing, through future and imagined technologies and research on HCI, AI, IoT, and related studies on Big Data and Smart Technologies, will create, question, and reinforce ways of knowing, doing and living.

The workshop aims to develop a cohort of perspectives on the futures of computing and/for wisdom and to critically reflect on the assumptions, methods, and tools for enabling (and disabling) such futures.

To apply to the workshop, attendees will submit a “fictional abstract” – an abstract from a research paper yet to be written. Guidelines on writing and submitting a fictional abstract can be found here. Prior to the workshop, we will share these fictive abstracts, and, through peer reflection, unpick critical tensions in the advancement of computing over the next decades. By focusing on an end goal (“wisdom”) instead of on particular technologies in the present (machine learning, IoT etc.), we open up for discussions of what future(s) we want computing to support, what needs to happen for us to “end up” in certain futures rather than others, and what needs to be done in the present and in the near future to maximize the potential for our work to contribute to the creation of desirable rather than undesirable futures.

 

Advertisements

Guidelines for Fictional Abstracts

This workshop invites participants to a dialogue on the futures of computing and wisdom. We invite participants cast forward to 2068 to imagine the future of wisdom, and to reflect on how we got there. Whether you ponder the effects of climate change, ethical computing, capitalist and neo-liberal models of commerce and society, grassroots movements, big data or alternative paradigms for distributed systems, you are invited to think through the consequences of present and future advances in computing.

Your submission to the workshop should be in the form of a fictional abstract that is around 250 words long to which you add title and author(s) (real or possibly fictional). For more information and examples of fictional abstracts, see Baumer et al. 2014 or Penzenstadler et al. 2014 and please also have a look a few examples of fictional abstracts on this website.

The guidelines presented below may be helpful when writing your fictional abstract.  These guidelines were crafted by reflecting on the organizers’ collective experiences of writing, soliciting, reviewing, and curating fictional abstracts. We have – in another context – tried to identify characteristics of abstracts that wee found to be more effective or compelling as well as those that were less so.

Genre adherence. Consider the stylistic constraints of academic writing. Some will likely still apply in the future, though others may not. For example, citing work that will have been done in the future can both fit the genre and help situate this research in a broader future context. Intentionally holding some stylistic elements constant while slightly altering others can provide the “slight strangeness [that] is the key” (Dunne & Raby 2001, p. 62) to speculative design.

Specificity and Allusion. Nobody would write “When terrorists flew airplanes into skyscrapers in New York in 2001, the world was forever changed” in the abstract of a scientific paper published today. However, phrases such as “9/11”, “Given the rise of ideologically-motivated global terrorism,” or “With the changing nature of threats to national security,” might be more likely. Abstracts that allude to, without fully explicating, relevant background information about important events allows readers’ imaginations to fill in what is missing and to create the future world in which the abstract will exist (c.f. Wakkary et al. 2015).

Scoping. Research papers usually report on one problem at a time, and in our experience, abstracts often goes from compelling to confusing when they include a multitude of different concepts, invented buzzwords, or future trends. Similarly, deus ex machina style “happy endings” prove to be far less provocative than a single but well-explicated concept.

Pros and cons. Strictly utopian or dystopian scenarios often wind up unsatisfying and uninteresting (cf. Sterling 2005). More compelling are near-utopian scenarios that consider the costs at which certain measures have been adopted, as well as the losers, discontents, and resisters in such developments. Similarly, dystopian scenarios can be enhanced by consideration of  the winners, those who advocated for or benefitted from certain changes. In short, it can be effective to outline tradeoffs that future societies have collectively made.

Intentional Omissions. Beyond strategic vagueness, intentionally omitting certain details can make them all the more apparent. For example, an abstract that raises ethical conundrums but without problematising them can help spark debate. Such intentional omissions help highlight differences between readers’ and the fictional future authors’ values and normative assumptions.

Concrete research. Successful abstracts do not make use of sweeping statements about the past or of “how the world has changed during the last decade(s)”. Successful fictional abstracts instead imagine that specific studies have been conducted and that the main purpose of the abstract is to describe the results of the research that has been conducted.

These guidelines could be partly or wholly ignored if the authors believe that research on computing and wisdom is presented in a fundamentally different way 50 years from now. In that case, surprise us!

 

References:

Baumer, E.P. (2014). CHI 2039: Speculative Research Visions. In Proc CHI ’14. ACM, 761-770. Comment: the paper has 28 authors and is available as a pdf file here.

Dunne, A., & Raby, F. (2001). Design noir: The secret life of electronic objects. Springer Science & Business Media.

Penzenstadler, B. et al. (2014). ICT4S 2029: What will be the systems supporting sustainability in 15 years. In Proc ICT4S’14. Atlantis Press. Comment: the paper has 29 co-authors and a downloadable pdf file is available here.

Sterling, B. (2005). Shaping things. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.

Wakkary, R., Odom, W., Hauser, S., Hertz, G., & Lin, H. (2015). Material Speculation: Actual Artifacts for Critical Inquiry. In Proc 5th Decennial Aarhus Conference: Critical Alternatives (pp. 97–108). Aarhus, Denmark.

Example Abstracts

Below are three samples of fictional abstract. The first two are unpublished and were written for another purpose (for another theme and a much shorter time frame) than this workshop, but they can still stand as examples of how fictional abstracts can be written. The third abstract was published in Penzenstadler et al. (2014). For further information and tips about writing a great fictional abstract/submission to this NordiCHI 2018 workshop, see these Guidelines for Fictional Abstracts

Learning from the South: The “Reverse ICT4D” Movement from a Swedish Perspective

Bror* Daniel Pargman

Following the 2017-2021 spread of “The Greek disease” to most European countries, we have seen a surge of tinkering and hands-on innovative experimentation aiming to uphold a basic level of infrastructure for computing and networking in Sweden. This paper describes the reverse-ICT for development (RICT4D) movement from a Swedish perspective and compares it to the 20th century amateur radio movement (Bogdan 2003). We analyse the movement in terms of practitioners’ motivations, dividing them into 1) technological and experimental activities, 2) learning and knowledge production, 3) social and societal utility and 4) career options.

We furthermore take stock of three aspects of the Swedish reverse-ICT4D movement; 1) the DIY ethos and the emergence of the movement from the more technologically utopian 3D printer/maker movement, 2) the relationship between a modern small-scale energy system built on distributed intermittent energy sources and the movement’s technological and experimental activities and 3) the connection between the primary stakeholders; tinkerer-practitioners, government, industry (as it is) and academia.

With this paper we hope to foster a frank conversation about minimal computing in formerly-affluent countries struggling to maintain a functional ICT infrastructure despite endemic cutbacks in public spending and their consequent detrimental effects on infrastructure and research.

* This honorary Swedish title (“brother”) indicates that the author has joined an order of researcher-monks, living an ascetic life in order to wholeheartedly offer his services as a researcher to society.

 

Towards Techno-emergent Collective Moral

Mario Romero and Elina Eriksson

The 2022 IPCC report concludes with 98% confidence that our over-use of technology played a major role in climate change including the newly defined natural phenomena of Worldwide Oceanic Flash-Floodings (WOFFs). The 2021 WOFF, Acheron, claimed nearly a fourth of humanity and while this event’s magnitude has no precedent in recorded history, the relative scale of loss of life has been a trauma which humanity has suffered recurrently. Yet, Acheron presented a transcendental difference: evidence for a newly techno-emergent systemic global phenomenon which we call Collective Moral, empathy of individual humans towards humanity as a whole. This paper presents an ethnographic study in seven regions receiving Acheron refugees. The results provide powerfully compelling evidence that it was the bio-powered implanted nanophones (bipimps) that provided, together with Acheron, the necessary and sufficient conditions for reaching the critical mass of people to achieve Collective Moral. Nevertheless, while bipimps have been beneficial in terms of openness to refugees, voluntary aid, and self-sacrificing resource allocation, there is evidence that suggests a causal relationship between bipimps and a 17% increase of post-traumatic stress disorder leading to suicide among the people aiding survivors of Acheron. This report suggests that a way forward may be to incorporate mechanisms to attenuate the unexpected empathy effect of bipimps.

 

Mother Svea Vigilant: Lessons learned from a nation-wide anti-waste initiative

Baki Cakici, Daniel Pargman

In this paper, we analyze the widely acclaimed “Mother Svea Vigilant” initiative aimed at eliminating wasteful consumption in Sweden. The initiative was funded by the Swedish state between 2021 and 2026 to recognize and classify consumption acts by automatically monitoring commercial transaction logs from all Swedish households and combining them with data submitted by citizens’ smart-ID implants. From a technical perspective, we argue that automatic advisory methods such as scheduled comparisons of recycled mass versus the total mass of purchases in a given time period have created new possibilities of ensuring enthusiastic public commitment to monthly recycling quotas.

We also analyze the success of social aspects of the Mother Svea initiative such as the “See some waste, tell with haste!” program and the community-enhancing “tell (on) your neighbor” campaign. We conclude that Mother Svea and other comparable neo-Benthamite national ICT initiatives this far provide the only scientifically proven methods to stem CO2 emission through the combination of powerful technical and social motivators.

 

References:

Penzenstadler, B. et al. (2014). ICT4S 2029: What will be the systems supporting sustainability in 15 years. In Proc ICT4S’14. Atlantis Press. Comment: the paper has 29 co-authors and a downloadable pdf file is available here.