2025 fictional abstracts – role of computing in sustainable development

Posted on December 11, 2014


Image based on elements from pictogram2.comThis is such an interesting challenge.  Ten years is within research horizons, close enough not to get distracted by hoverboards but far enough away to think outside the box.   I’m going for a positive vision, then trying to work out the steps to get there.  Imagining all my current research has bourne fruit is quite liberating.  Now we just have to make it happen.

Call for fictional abstracts to Critical Computing 2015 – Contribute to the paper “Critical Alternatives 2025: The role of critical computing in sustainable development”

The upcoming fifth decennial Critical Computing conference  with the theme Critical Alternatives “calls for contributions and debates focusing on, proposing, presenting, discussing and building alternatives related to information technologies from a quality of life perspective”.

We are standing on the brink of fundamental changes that promise to decrease quality of life as we know it (e.g. climate change, peak oil, decreased economic growth, uneven distribution of wealth etc.). According to Rockström et al. (2009), we have already exceeded several of the nine proposed planetary boundaries that together define a “safe operating space” for humanity. Humanity’s operating space should however not only be safe, it should also be just and Raworth (2012) has expanded the planetary boundaries model to also include eleven indicators that together form a social foundation for a “safe and just operating space” for humanity.

Besides currently failing to satisfy all of Raworth’s (2012) eleven indicators, it is now also abundantly clear that we need to drastically decrease CO2 and other GHG emissions. Some researchers argue that we have at the most 10 years to act before we risk passing one or several irrevocable tipping points that would make the planet much less habitable than it has been during the last 10 000 years (McKibben 2011). So, 10 years from now, what should have happened?

We hereby invite contributors to submit fictional abstracts (150-200 words each) that describe research that has been conducted and that will be presented at the 2025 sixth decennial Critical Computing conference for inclusion in our paper “Critical Alternatives 2025: The role of critical computing in sustainable development”. This paper will be written in the vein of similar design fiction (Bleecker 2009) papers that describe “current” or “recent” developments – from a future vantage point (e.g. Baumer et al. 2014, Penzenstadler et al. 2014). Your fictional abstract could for example assume desirable (or less desirable) future outcomes for 2025 and then use backcasting to describe and draw upon “what happened” during the period 2015-2025. For further information we strongly suggest that prospective contributors look at the Penzenstadler et al. paper “ICT4S 2029”.

But, is academia itself up to the challenge? Are current structures for conducting research (organization, choice of research problems, funding, salaries, academic freedom, publishing practices, measurements, incentives, credentials, qualifications etc.) flexible and radical enough to come up with the necessary solutions? Are our current structures for going from knowledge-creation to real-world action powerful and fast enough? And, do current political and economic structures provide us with appropriate and suitable mechanisms for solving the problems that humanity faces today?

In this call, we assume that current research structures are suboptimal or even dysfunctional in relation to the challenges that humanity now faces. We propose that radical research solutions also require radically altered research settings. We thus extend a second challenge to prospective contributors: in addition to your fictional abstract, please shortly outline how research settings will change to foster the kind of radical research your fictional abstract requires. Or alternatively, how would you like research settings to change to provide you with optimal conditions to conduct the research you dream about doing?

Your accompanying “research setting” can, but does not need to be visible in your 150-200 word fictional abstract. We do however want all prospective contributors to write an accompanying note (100-800 words) where you propose how the research setting has changed (so as to make the radical research described in your fictional abstract possible). You can write from your heart – this text does not need to be backed up by academic references. We do not plan to quote from your research setting, but we will draw on and incorporate ideas from the research settings into the paper to flesh out the background and to better organise and tie various fictive abstracts together.

Each first authors of a fictional abstract that is included in the paper will also be invited to become a co-author of the full paper. All authors will be acknowledged in the paper, where the fictional abstract will be attributed to the authors.

Here is a short brief for prospective contributors. Your task is to:
• Think up a credible or at least possible (albeit not necessarily desirable) future society
• Think about some kind of ICT product/system/solution/research that is used for sustainability purposes in that society.
• Shape (sketch/model) a fictive future research paper.
• Squeeze all of the above into a 150-200 words long summary/paper abstract. Less is more!
• Radical research solutions also assume radically altered research settings. Such settings could be hinted at (in the abstract), but should be appended in the form of a 100-800 words long text (“research setting”).

The deadline for submitting fictional abstracts is Tuesday January 13, 2015. Please send your fictional abstracts to hci4sustainability@gmail.com

Abstracts will be selected for inclusion in the full paper based on their ability to represent a diversity of guiding research visions, their potential to excite or provoke, the space allotted by the submission format, and the likelihood of engendering conversations about sustainability and critical computing. The resulting paper “Critical alternatives 2025: The role of critical computing in sustainable development” will be submitted to the regular review process of the Critical Computing conference.

Finally, don’t forget that Another world is possible!

– Elina Eriksson, Dept. of Media Technology and Interaction Design, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
– Daniel Pargman, Dept. of Media Technology and Interaction Design, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
– Josefin Wangel, Dept. of Environmental Strategies Research, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
– Vincent Lewandowski, Dept. of Media Technology and Interaction Design, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden


Baumer, E. P., Ahn, J., Bie, M., Bonsignore, E. M., Börütecene, A., Buruk, O. T., … & Yip, J. (2014). CHI 2039: speculative research visions. In CHI’14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 761-770). ACM.

Bleecker, J. (2009). Design Fiction: A short essay on design, science, fact and fiction. Near Future Laboratory, 29.

McKibben, B. (2011). Eaarth: Making a life on a tough new planet. Random House.

Penzenstadler, B., Tomlinson, B., Baumer, E., Pufal, M., Raturi, A., Richardson, D., … & Chitchyan, R. (2014). ICT4S 2029: What will be the systems supporting sustainability in 15 years. In Second International Conference on ICT for Sustainability 2014 (ICT4S’14). Atlantis Press.

Raworth, K. (2012). A safe and just space for humanity: can we live within the doughnut. Oxfam Policy and Practice: Climate Change and Resilience 8(1): 1-26.

Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, F. S. Chapin, E. F. Lambin, T. M. Lenton, M. Scheffer, C. Folke and H. J. Schellnhuber (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461(7263): 472-475.