Neither climate change nor anyother sustainability challenge willbe addressed at a single point. Whilesustainability “leverage points”may exist, many are in the handsof policy makers—whose handsare tied by social norms, politicalinertia, and industry lobbyists. Therecent explorations of “practice” insustainable HCI constitute strongsteps toward grappling with thismultiscalar complexity. When welook at individuals through the lensof practice, the ways in which theirbehavioral choices are constrainedbecomes more clear. This realizationmotivates us to consider waysSHCI researchers might supportbroad efforts to make changes tolarger systems such as institutions,infrastructures, and policies.
Workshop participants alsoidentified four practical challenges todeveloping and supporting the stepsoutlined above: ( 1) the difficulty ofcollaboration, especially across fieldsand sectors; ( 2) the perceived benefitsof short-term, one-off projects duein part to the one-year conferencepublication cycle; ( 3) the blind, one-step review process in our mostprestigious publication venue, the CHIconference, limiting engaged dialogueand learning between reviewersand authors; and ( 4) the difficulty offinding support for action researchand other socially oriented work fromresearch-funding agencies and ourhome institutions, many of which areoriented toward technologically novelsolutions. As initial steps in addressingthese challenges, the SIGCHI HCI &Sustainability Community (HCI&S) isorganizing two projects: a communitypre-review process for submissionsto the sustainability track at the CHI
2015 conference and a collaboratively
maintained HCI&S online “knowledge
base.” We believe these projects will
help address some of the barriers to
more engaged and effective SHCI
research. Yet more fundamental issues
loom. Workshop participants identified
four of particular relevance to future
• the tension between sustainability
and the aim of economic growth that
supports and orients, if implicitly, the
industry of which HCI is part
• the tension between the need to read
broadly, think deeply, and collaborate
widely, and the need to act quickly
• the tension between respecting the
values of users and preventing users
from acting on values whose enactment
• the relationship between technology
and sustainable social change.
We postpone discussion of thesechallenges to a future publication. Butwe note that while they may appeartheoretical or abstract, they haveconcrete consequences.
The complexity and urgency ofsustainability issues present significantchallenges for HCI. But by readingand collaborating widely, specifyingsustainability goals, engaging withlong time scales, and building andinforming the design and use of systemsin people’s everyday lives, we believesustainability research in HCI couldcontribute significantly to practicalefforts to achieve sustainability andaddress environmental issues of realimportance. These adjustments callfor change in our own institutions andpractices. While we do not know yethow to address all the barriers to moreimpactful research, the SIGCHI HCI &Sustainability Community has begunprojects to help address some of them.And we believe that all of the barrierswill prove surmountable. At the sametime, the goal of contributing directlyto sustainability efforts presents anopportunity to collectively reflect ondeep but ultimately practical questionsabout the aims of HCI as a field.
We thank the participants of the CHI2014 sustainability workshop, theresearchers who have contributed tosustainable HCI, and everyone who hassupported our participation. This articleis based in part on work supported bythe National Science Foundation underGrant No. 0644415.
Bonnie Nardi, Jutta Willamowski,Eli Blevis, Eric P. S. Baumer, BillTomlinson, Daniel Pargman, Samuel
DOI: 10.1145/2651820 COPYRIGHT HELD BY AUTHORS. PUBLICATION RIGHTS LICENSED TO ACM. $15.00
Mann, Chris Preist, Xinning Gui, JulietNorton, Elina Eriksson, Daniela Busse,A. Marie Gilbert, Oliver Bates, RobertBrewer, and Sebastian Prost.
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M. Six Silberman is a Ph.D. student in theDepartment of Informatics and the Centerfor Research in Sustainability, Collapse-Preparedness, and I T (RiSCI T) at the Universityof California, Irvine.→
Lisa Nathan is an assistant professor in theInformation School at the University of BritishColumbia.→
Bran Knowles is a postdoctoral researcherat Lancaster University, where she recentlygraduated from the High Wire Centre forDoctoral Training.→
Roy Bendor is a research associateat the Centre for Interactive Research onSustainability (CIRS) at the University of BritishColumbia.→
Adrian Clear is a senior researchassociate in the School of Computing andCommunications at Lancaster University,where he is a member of the Socio-DigitalSustainability (SDS) group.→
Maria Håkansson is an assistant professorat Chalmers University of Technology.→
Tawanna Dillahunt is an assistantprofessor in the School of Information at theUniversity of Michigan.→
Jennifer Mankoff is an associate professorin the Human Computer Interaction Institute atCarnegie Mellon University.→