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Problematizing Sustainable ICT
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences, Industrial Engineering & Management.
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

How should we understand the relationship between information and communication technology (ICT) and sustainability? Generally, it is assumed that while ICT products contribute to many environmental and social problems as they are produced and disposed of, the potential of using ICT to achieve a more sustainable society is immense. However, despite the fact that such a discourse is favored not only in the industrial but also in the political and academic spheres, we have yet to see this presumed sustainability-related potential of ICT fully exploited.

This thesis argues that conventional assumptions and understandings related to three abstractions in sustainable ICT research and practice – namely the technological, the social, and the sustainable – contribute to an overly optimistic discourse of sustainable ICT, which favors certain research approaches and practical applications. Adhering to such a discourse risks reinforcing, rather than breaking loose from, an unsustainable status quo. Through problematization, this thesis aims to unveil and challenge such underlying assumptions and understandings, based on insights from the social sciences and philosophy. New assumptions and understandings of sustainable ICT research and practice are suggested, and contribute with a perspective that among other things emphasize the ontological inseparability of the technological and the social, implying an anti-essentialist position embracing the value-ladenness and value and meaning mediatory aspects of such phenomena. The normative contributions include theoretical and methodological approaches to sustainable ICT design and sustainable ICT entrepreneurship – identified as two central practices for sustainable ICT to promote sustainability – that aim to mobilize politically charged discourses of our being together with each other, technologies and nature in order to facilitate collaborative action towards sustainable futures. This thesis should be seen as a critical contribution to fields interested in sustainable ICT, such as ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) and Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction (SHCI).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2019. , p. 133
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1769
Keywords [en]
Sustainable ICT, Sustainable human-computer interaction, Green IT, Problematization, Sustainable entrepreneurship
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified Human Computer Interaction Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Engineering Science with specialization in industrial engineering and management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-375131ISBN: 978-91-513-0565-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-375131DiVA, id: diva2:1282900
Public defence
2019-03-15, Häggsalen, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-02-26 Created: 2019-01-27 Last updated: 2019-03-18
List of papers
1. ICT and environmental sustainability in a changing society: The view of ecological World Systems Theory
Open this publication in new window or tab >>ICT and environmental sustainability in a changing society: The view of ecological World Systems Theory
2015 (English)In: Information Technology and People, ISSN 0959-3845, E-ISSN 1758-5813, Vol. 28, no 4, p. 758-774Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to discuss the role of information and communication technology (ICT) for promoting environmental sustainability in a changing society. Isolated studies exist, but few take a holistic view. Derived from a Marxian tradition, the authors propose Ecological World Systems Theory (WST) as a holistic framework to assess the environmental impact of ICT. The theory is adapted responding to theoretical critiques of absence of change, namely state-centrism and structuralism.Design/methodology/approach– Theoretical study. Empirical examples derived from already published literature.Findings– Ecological WST focuses on the unequal distribution of environmental degradation, sees technological development as a zero-sum game rather than cornucopia and holds that technology is often seen as a fetish in today ' s society. The findings are that popular discourses on ICT and sustainability are since the 1990s becoming increasingly cornucopian, while conditions in the ICT value chain are less cornucopian.Research limitations/implications– Theoretical contributions to Marxian critiques of ICT, with more environmental focus than earlier Marxian critiques, for example Fuchs’ work. Develop a theoretical framework for ICT and sustainability which could be compared with works of e.g. Hilty, Patrignani and Whitehouse. The work is mostly based on existing empirical studies, which is a limitation.Practical implications– This theoretical framework implies that unequal environmental degradation in different parts of the world should be taken into account when assessing environmental impact, for example by means of LCA.Social implications– The framework brings together questions of environmental effects of ICT and global justice.Originality/value– The authors apply a rarely discussed theoretical framework to ICT and environmental sustainability. By doing this the authors suggest how the discourses and the value chain of ICT is intrinsically tied to the world system.

Keywords
Green computing/Green IT, Socio-technical theory, Literature review, Power, Critical theory, Theory building
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Research subject
Engineering Science with specialization in industrial engineering and management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-267400 (URN)10.1108/ITP-09-2014-0219 (DOI)000370546200003 ()
Available from: 2015-11-22 Created: 2015-11-22 Last updated: 2019-01-27Bibliographically approved
2. Gamification for Sustainability: Beyond the Ludo-Aesthetical Approach
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Gamification for Sustainability: Beyond the Ludo-Aesthetical Approach
2016 (English)In: The Business of Gamification: A Critical Analysis / [ed] Dymek, M. & Zackariasson, P., Abingdon: Routledge, 2016, 1, p. 163-181Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In recent years, using elements from game design in nongaming contexts, gamification, has become a major trend within the industry (Deterding et al. 2011). If we put our trust in Jane McGonigal, consultant and author of the book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (2011), gamification has the power to save the world due to its potential to promote desirable behaviors. Al Gore, former vice president of the U.S. and environmentalist, argues that gamification can be effective not least within the area of environmental sustainability, where saving the world is the ultimate goal. By gamifying ordinary life practices, such as recycling, energy saving and sustainable consumption, games could be “the new normal” (Gore 2011). Although gamified solutions have not been developed to a great extent within the area of sustainability yet, appli- cations that promotes energy-efficient behavior, make recycling fun and help us travel more eco-friendly do exist on the market today.

In this chapter, we aim to describe gamification for sustainability and its challenges for developers and researchers. Furthermore, we will situate it in relation to other ways of promoting sustainable consumption, such as through raising awareness and visualization. In contrast to these two meth- ods, we argue that the main difference is that within gamification, positive, enjoyable and fun affects are mobilized in order to promote the desirable behavior. Although we tie in to the idea of using affects for the promotion of sustainable behavior, we believe that only focusing on positive affects may not be the right way for sustainable gamification. By turning to theories of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), we are able to introduce new ways of conceptualizing affects in the gamification discourse. We argue that in addition to fun and enjoyment, negative or neutral affects such as anxiety could prove productive for gamification for sustainability. As games could be seen as an extension of traditional media such as books or movies (Murray 1995), we further suggest that most gamified applications fail to include important aspects that could prove useful for provoking these productive affects. By drawing on narratological game theory and combining these ideas of games with our philosophical backdrop, we develop a model for conceptualizing approaches to gamification for sustainability. We pro- pose that developers and businesses should seek alternative vistas among a plethora of opportunities presented in this chapter, rather than the most prevalent approach at present (which we call the ludo-aesthetical approach) when developing gamified applications for sustainability. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Abingdon: Routledge, 2016 Edition: 1
Series
Routledge Advances in Management and Business Studies
Keywords
Gamification, Spelifikation, Sustainability, ICT4S, ICT and Sustainability
National Category
Media and Communications Philosophy, Ethics and Religion Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-310698 (URN)113882416X (ISBN)978-1138824164 (ISBN)
Available from: 2016-12-19 Created: 2016-12-19 Last updated: 2019-01-27
3. “We Started Building Green IT Back in the 1970s”: Making Sense of Sustainable ICT through Organizational History
Open this publication in new window or tab >>“We Started Building Green IT Back in the 1970s”: Making Sense of Sustainable ICT through Organizational History
2018 (English)In: Sustainability, ISSN 2071-1050, E-ISSN 2071-1050, Vol. 10, no 8, article id 2668Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Traditionally, research related to Sustainable Information and Communication Technology (Sustainable ICT) has focused on the technological aspects, but there is an emerging stream of research, which looks at Sustainable ICT from the viewpoint of the social sciences. In this paper, we build on and contribute to this research by emphasizing the role of history in the shaping of Sustainable ICT. Rather than seeing the importance of history as pure technological determinism or path dependency, we draw on the historical turn in organizational studies to highlight the idea that history is malleable. This implies that organizational actors can reshape their past from the present, thus creating new conditions for the future. To highlight the importance of this theoretical conceptualization of history, we present a case study of the Nordic ICT company Tieto, where the heat recovery system of the Älvsjö data center (finished in 1978) was reconceptualized as “green” following the Green Information Technology (Green IT) trend in 2007. This way of theorizing organizational history could be used more widely within research into Sustainable ICT in order to understand why Sustainable ICT has become what it is, which also implies that we can re-interpret this history to shape the future of Sustainable ICT.

Keywords
Sustainable ICT, Green IT, Organizational history, Sustainable Data Center
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Engineering Science with specialization in industrial engineering and management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-365902 (URN)10.3390/su10082668 (DOI)000446767700084 ()
Available from: 2018-11-15 Created: 2018-11-15 Last updated: 2019-01-27Bibliographically approved
4. An Intuition-Based Approach to Sustainable ICT: Insights from Eco-Ethica
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An Intuition-Based Approach to Sustainable ICT: Insights from Eco-Ethica
2019 (English)In: Tetsugaku Companion to Japanese Ethics and Technology / [ed] Thomas Taro Lennerfors, Kiyoshi Murata, Springer, 2019, p. 181-200Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this chapter we draw on the Japanese philosopher Tomonobu Imamichi in order to further develop our understanding of the relationship between Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and ecological sustainability. Our main contribution is an intuition-based approach to design for sustainability, which, for instance, means to design ICT products in a way that invokes feelings of wastefulness or misuse if used in an unsustainable manner. In contrast to persuasive approaches – which have mainly focused on raising awareness, nudging decisions, or stimulating positive behavior through gamification – we rely on the human tendency to unconsciously and effortlessly formulate mental heuristics or intuitions, when exposed to consistent feedback. The claim is that people can learn to associate perceptual cues with environmental impact, and by that will be empowered to make more sustainable choices. Based on the implications of Imamichi’s Eco-ethica, we suggest that this approach can be more fruitful for encouraging sustainable choices than both awareness raising and behavior manipulation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2019
Series
Tetsugaku Companions to Japanese Philosophy, ISSN 2662-2181, E-ISSN 2662-219X ; 1
Keywords
ICT, Sustainability, Intuition-based, design, HCI, Imamichi, Eco-ethica
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
Research subject
Ethics; Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-372894 (URN)978-3-319-59025-7 (ISBN)978-3-319-59027-1 (ISBN)
Available from: 2019-01-09 Created: 2019-01-09 Last updated: 2019-04-26Bibliographically approved
5. The Individual-Care Nexus: A Theory of Entrepreneurial Care for Sustainable Entrepreneurship
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Individual-Care Nexus: A Theory of Entrepreneurial Care for Sustainable Entrepreneurship
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Sustainable entrepreneurship has recently been identified as a promising force to push a sustainable business paradigm shift. To understand and promote sustainable entrepreneurship practice is therefore seen as a key challenge for researchers and practitioners. However, critics have argued that the sustainable entrepreneurship research is heavily reductionist, in the sense that it assumes an independent and rational entrepreneur, while focusing on the nexus of individuals and opportunities. In this paper, we problematize these assumptions and offer an alternative theory based on ethics of care. We introduce the individual-care nexus, where individuals are assumed to be dependent, emotional, and relationally connected. This theoretical development leads to new ways to more accurately grasp the nature of motivations, emotions, traits, and practices in sustainable entrepreneurship. We illustrate our theory with an empirical case of a sustainable entrepreneur within the Green IT movement in Sweden between 2008 and 2017. We argue that our theoretical take on entrepreneurship can both advance research in sustainable entrepreneurship and provide sustainable entrepreneurs with a new vocabulary.

Keywords
Sustainable Entrepreneurship, Ethics of Care, Mothering, Green IT, Emotions, Motivations, Traits, Care practices
National Category
Economics and Business
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-372918 (URN)
Available from: 2019-01-09 Created: 2019-01-09 Last updated: 2019-01-27

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Output format
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