This ICT4STEPCHANGE workshop explores the meaning and role of engagement, its potential for change, and how ICT4S can contribute to that.

This workshop proposes an alternative approach, one that takes its inspiration from transition science and the related transition movement. Assuming this, how can ICT4S set an effective strategy for sustainable intervention?

The main agenda of this workshop is to encourage a step-change in the way that computing tackles sustainability, encouraging transitions, systems thinking and more holistic approaches. The workshop aims to: 1) uncover the potential for step-change through the lens of transition theory and systems thinking, 2) create dialogues between different academic disciplines and industrial partners to encourage best practice for computing in terms of environmental and socio-ecological responsibility and 3) discuss directions that encourage step-change in the way that computing approaches sustainability as a problem.

On the basis that sustainability problems are not amenable to single-point interventions (because they are both wicked and numerous), we need a step-change in how we approach ICT4S. Rather than trying for separate interventions for every aspect, or for passive awareness, focus needs to be placed upon engaging people to affect worldviews. This deeper engagement might be through community conversations, through reflection and so on. This workshop explores the meaning and role of engagement, its potential for change, and how ICT4S can contribute to that.

So what is wrong?
Whilst ICT4S aims to promote sustainability, more sustainable practices, and ways of doing, environmental impacts linked to ICT (both domestic and industrial) continue to escalate across the planet. There is a large focus in the community on efficiency gains in digital technology alongside increasing bandwidth, these works are often not discussed in terms of planetary boundaries.

By framing sustainability in a certain way, you can end up ignoring other important effects. How can ICT help biodiversity loss? massive global inequities? or even local problems such as why the logs are transported on the road instead of the adjacent train track? Ethics and sustainability are rarely as simple as choosing between an obvious good and an obvious bad.

Wicked problems, intergenerational time scales, and complex systems are not amenable to the short term, positivist intervention approach of most ICT research. The world is beset with wicked problems, but as Andy Read describes, “the wickedness of problems is no excuse for standing by” [http://sustainablelens.org/?p=590].

So what could computing’s response be?

Rather than your hypothetical “one good decision per month”, we need to be thinking about every decision, every action contributing to a system operating under ethical principles. Sustainability provides a framework for expanding ethical reasoning to a complex world.

This workshop aims to encourage step-change in ICT4S to tackle more gritty and challenging questions, such as:

  • How do we avoid designing more “technofixes” for technology and focus on the harder questions around socio-ecological transformation.
  • What are the hard choices that we might have to face in terms of ICT availability, given that the development, iteration, and retrofitting of technology is expensive in terms of environmental impact?
  • Are the skills of ICT, computing, or Informatics professionals and researchers correct for the tackling sustainability, given that impacts on society and the environment are often “invisible” or “inconsequential”. Do we require a different way of thinking (e.g. systems thinking)?

Who should come to the workshop?
The workshop will be of interest to researchers and practitioners in HCI and related fields such as Software Engineering and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. You might be experienced in ICT4S or new to the field. We also welcome participants from disciplines such as geography or sociology who could contribute to the political and community engagement aspects, learn what ICT4S has to offer, and build transdisciplinary partnerships.
The workshop will be open to anyone and will not require any submission.

Attendees are welcome to provide a short (1 page) expresion of interest to the organisers, but this is not mandatory. These should be emailed to the organiser @ o dot bates at lancaster dot ac dot uk.

Attendees will be expected to present a 2 minute Pecha Kucha describing themselves, their work and their interest (or ideas) for the workshop.