Collaboration in Sustainability Vision  Samuel Mann, Lesley SmithOtagoPolytechnic,Dunedin, New Zealand<br />
As a society we have to learn to live in a complex world of interdependent systems with high uncertainties and multiple le...
http://computingforsustainability.wordpress.com<br />http://sustainablelens.org<br />
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Collaboration in Sustainability Vision

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This paper examines the collaborative underpinning of sustainability and suggests the adoption of collaboration as a basis for developing a Sustainable Lens.

A Sustainable Lens can be seen at multiple levels: a goal for an actual object (similar to the soldier centric SCENICC); a description for wider efforts in sustainable computing; a plea to recognise that all computing needs to be considered as part of a sustainability ethic; or as a conception for an internal heads-up display.

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  • This paper examines the collaborative underpinning of sustainability and suggests the adoption of collaboration as a basis for developing a Sustainable Lens. A framing reference of sustainable practice is used to provide direction to a consideration of the relationship between sustainability and collaboration. This is then used to prompt a discussion of research implications. This paper examines the collaborative underpinning of sustainability and suggests the adoption of collaboration as a basis for developing a Sustainable Lens.
  • As a society we have to learn to live in a complex world of interdependent systems with high uncertainties and multiple legitimate interests. These complex and evolving systems require a new way of thinking about risk, uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance. These systems require that we can think simultaneously of drivers and impacts of our actions across scales and barriers of space, time, culture, species and disciplinary boundaries.
  • Imagine you had a pair of glasses that had a sustainability mode. This mode meant that you looked at the world through a “sustainable lens”. What would you see? These lenses wouldn’t merely be green tinted glasses like the ones from the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz
  • Instead, think about the analytical eyes of the Predators (robots) in the Terminator movies. These eyes scan the landscape, identifying threats, analysing options and proposing actions. In late 2010 ‘Terminator Vision’ took a major step towards becoming a reality when DARPA released a request for the development of Soldier Centric Imaging via Computational Cameras [2]. SCENICC proposes an augmented reality system for soldiers in war situations. Among other goals, DARPA describes “Automated Threat Detection and Mitigation” and “Multi-Platform Collaborative Imaging” systems that include “imagery (that) may be analysed automatically in real-time to determine the existence/location of interesting objects (e.g., a person carrying a weapon) within a soldier- centered one kilometre sphere of influence and a suitable alarm could then accompany an image of the potential threat”.  We do not discuss here the ethics of spending on military hardware, rather the intention is to borrow from the compelling image of the SCENICC/Terminator Vision and use it to begin to consider a potential Sustainable Lens. It is noteworthy that DARPA recognises the role of collaboration in SCENICC. This has two aspects, first the technical benefits of devices operating in conjunction (with units on other soldiers, drones etc), and second the support for the team of soldiers working as a cohesive group (including analysts and commanders back at base). In this paper we explore the potential for development of a Sustainable Lens with a particular focus on the implications and potentials of the collaborative aspects of the problems and the solutions.
  • As we go about our daily lives we are good at avoiding threats - we can see the pothole and drive around it. We are good at recognising impacts and taking action - we can see when our child has cut her knee and offer care and sympathy. We can also see the relationship between our actions and the consequences - when I push on a pile of blocks I can see them tumble to the floor.
  • We’re not so good when the threats are hidden (such as poison in a stream). We’re not good when the action and consequences are separated by time or space, or when the effects are cumulative or bedevilled by a myriad of complicating factors. Such factors are inherent in sustainability - we cannot easily see the impact of our actions on generations to come, or how our situation is affected by decisions made on the other side of the world, or how seemingly innocuous behaviours multiplied across society result in possibly irreparable damage to our connected socio-ecosystems.  Our way of seeing the world frames our behaviour, as does the context of our skills, knowledge and occupation. No matter what our discipline, we need everyone to act in a sustainable manner. So what could a Sustainable Lens contribute to anyones’ discipline? to their understandings? to the behaviours expected of being a sustainable practitioner in any specific discipline? The answers lie beyond the almost trivial, the things that every worker should do (recycling office paper, walking up stairs etc), but with harder questions about the nature of the trade or profession.
  • Imagine a forestry worker - let’s call him David - attending a chainsaw maintenance course. As part of that course the chainsaw operators are taught all about being careful when changing the chainsaw oil, not spilling it and collecting it for recycling. The first task for the Sustainable Lens, then is to see the opportunities to practice such skills. What is going to matter, perhaps more so, is what our David does on the first day when, after a morning of carefully changing oil, he is roundly abused – ‘just chuck it in the stream, you’re holding up the whole gang’. How might a sustainable view of the world help here? How would he respond if told that his selfishness is preventing a colleague earning money needed for a child’s lifesaving surgery? And what do we expect our David to do when told to go and chop down the last kauri (a NZ native tree - let’s assume our David’s Sustainable Lens recognised it!). The answer isn’t as simple as saying no (he’ll get fired and someone else will chop it down), nor is as simple as saying ‘yes’ (surely unsustainable). Nor is the answer something about integrated catchment management – such material is perhaps considerably outside the purview of our chainsaw operator. Instead the answer is something about polite questioning and discussing alternatives. David’s problem can be further extended by considering that most problems are not of the “last kauri tree” variety, rather, the 999th kauri tree (i.e. a tragedy of the commons problem). Recognising the significance of the tree is also something that is not going to happen by accident.
  • Equivalent scenarios abound in every discipline. Take, for example, the role of procurement within computing. Every year major organisations purchase hundreds if not thousands of computers. How will the Sustainable Lens help when the IT manager is told to ‘get them off the back of a truck this year’, or told to buy something she suspects is has child labour implications, or to choose between several competing suppliers, all touting apparently green credentials. Clearly one of the things we expect our Sustainable Lens to be able to do is to recognise if something is unsustainable, or distinguish degrees of sustainability. This has two aspects, they need to recognise and deal with greenwash, and they need to understand the implications of the potential purchase in terms of systemic thinking.  We have previously explored the chainsaw scenario with a group of building trades lecturers. They agreed with the premise that their graduates should act as sustainable practitioners, but that this would not extend to changing any behaviours that they considered unsustainable. It is, they say, vital to the safety of the building process, that you do exactly as you are told on a building site. Fair point, but this is in itself a value position – that of safety. We further explored the ramifications of safety. What would we expect our David to do if instructed to climb on an unsafe structure? He would be expected (required even) to object to this immediate threat. Clearly, in the area of safety everyone on the building site is empowered to manage their own safety. The same applies if they see someone else doing something dangerous – they are required to intervene. So, let’s say they are instructed to do something unsustainable – maybe hide some heavy metal in material destined for landfill, or to order rainforest timber – the timescale of the threat might have changed, but it is still there.  We don’t have actual answers for what people should do in these everyday situations, clearly the line is blurred. While the wobbly ladder poses an immediate peril, sustainability may have an equal threat – but only if seen through a lens of different spatial and temporal scales. Acting sustainably is not a (relatively) simple matter of changing ones driving habits or reducing home electricity consumption.
  • Several authors have noted the piecemeal and limited understandings of sustainability inherent in much of the sustainable computing literature [4], [5] [6], [7]. While sustainability is considered in genres including persuasive, technology and ambient awareness, what constitutes sustainable behavior is fairly general, often with predetermined desired behaviours. In 14 citations of [8], almost all are limited in scope to singular resource reduction (primarily energy consumption in the home). This does not reflect the reality of sustainability in our highly complex, uncertain, value-laden issues facing a resource constrained world.  A necessary component of the Sustainable Lens is resource visualisation (eg [8], [9] etc). Such visualisations, though, are just the beginning. It is our contention that much of this work falls short of adequately recognising the complexity of sustainability – in oversimplifying the issues and the responses.
  • As an example, consider a simple visualisation of the energy required to manufacture and run a laptop. If we could see this as smoke, if our computers were dirty and emitted the smoke from 400 grams of coal per day [10], would we perceive them differently? Would we be more vigilant about turning it off when not in use? Would we use it less? Would we value it more? Hopefully we might reconsider decisions about upgrade cycles and try to extend its functional life. We might seek a laptop designed for upgradeability rather than planned obsolesce. We might even investigate a different model of computing ownership. Unfortunately, a simple visualisation does little to promote these activities. We really need our Sustainable Lens to have a context of action ([11],[6] and ongoing transformation ([12]). A further limitation of such visualisations is an inability to represent the complexity of sustainability. Bonanni’set al.’s [13] work on open source supply chain mapping takes life-cycle analysis in a different direction - instead of focussing on energy independent of geography, they examine transparency of the supply chain with disclosure of materials and processes and where they occur. For some components on Bonanni’s map you don’t have to look very hard to find the sustainability issues, for others you can speed the search by adding key search phrases such as environmental degradation, human rights injustice, war, pollution and so on. Imagery of a smoking laptop provides a direct visualisation of one component of sustainability. While energy/smoke is admittedly useful as a integrator, it does not provide a visualisation of those killed in the Congo, nor the environmental and social effects of the copper from the huge open cast pit and smelter in Chuquicamata Chile (nor the contribution of the mine to Chile’s economy) and so on through the list of 43 components. Nor does it give any indication of the cumulative impact of millions of laptops.  While the Sustainable Lens must include ecovisualisation, this must be only the start of our efforts. The sustainability literature is looking to the computing field for support as the “sites and spaces of environmental controversy relocate to information” [14].
  • Spaceship Connections (see source map)Inherent ambiguitymultiple perspectivesAll in Together: Perhaps the most famous metaphor in sustainability is that of Buckminster Fuller [15]. He considered the earth as a spaceship with a limited set of resources that cannot be resupplied except for energy from the Mothership Sun. Most importantly for us, he saw us as crew, “there are no passengers on Spaceship Earth” [16]. Acting as a sustainable practitioner [17] is not an optional extra or something for a few experts or heroes, it has to be integrated into every discipline. The goal is to ensure it becomes a normal part of everyday business, even if normal business is very different for each profession. The ‘new business as usual’ needs commitment across the board. This means we expect sustainable behaviour from everyone because everyone has both a vested interest in a sustainable future, and is entirely complicit in the need for sustainability. With everyone involved, the task fits collaboration perfectly, a “purposeful, joint effort to create a solution” [18]. 1.1 Life is a Collaboration Bonanni’set al.’s [13] work on supply chains highlights the nature of the connectedness of our lives as a massive collaboration. Our collaborative lives affect and are affected by what happens on the other side of the world.  2.1 Wicked Problems The sustainability journey is described as a “wicked problem” [19]. This means it involves complexity, uncertainty, multiple stakeholders and perspectives, competing values, a lack of end points and ambiguous terminology. It means dealing with a mess that is different from the problems for which our current tools and disciplines were designed. Wicked problems mean unique decision situations that cannot be easily reversed, for which there are contradictory certitudes, and without a clear set of alternative solutions [20]. These persistent and insoluble problems have redistributive implications for entrenched interests. Working in this area means collaborative, multidisciplinary thinking.  1.5 Multiple Perspectives Sustainability is by definition inherently ambiguous. It requires judgement of impacts across generations, species and continents – there are no rules for this, only guidance and values. It is not possible to define sustainable versus unsustainable ([21] defines perfect sustainability as unachievable). Rather than using contestation and uncertainty as “obfuscation or a displacement activity guaranteed to ensure that transformative action is deferred” [22], [23] argued that the very vagueness has “enormous canvassing and heuristic capacity if it is systematically and systemically used as a starting point or operational device to exchange views and ideas”. Instead of a tightly defined metric, the very nature of sustainability has “many faces and features”.  Even on occasions in which there is no significant scientific uncertainty over physical effects “there may typically be strong ambiguities over the choice of indicators, the framing of metrics, the setting of satisfactory levels of protection, and the relative weighting to place on different forms of harm” [24]. Sustainability, then, requires that we collaborate.  1.4 Collaboration with the Environment Sterling [25] describes a fundamental change in sustainability education. Beginning in the 1970s, the focus was on ‘education about sustainability’. Now a fundamental shift sees a focus on the ‘education for sustainability’. The authors here contend that a similar shift is required in computing [26]. In such terms, instead of collaborating about sustainability, we contend that the need is for collaboration for sustainability. While it is usually accepted that collaboration is with other people, we extend this to assert collaboration with the environment.  The ecological and sustainability literature makes little distinction between human and bio-physical systems. Human and ecological systems are viewed as tightly and inextricably linked [27] in fields such as Human ecology [28] and concepts such as The Human Ecosystem [29]. In short, humans are a part of nature.  2.2 Multiple Scales Sustainability requires a systems approach. People need to have awareness that their actions will have impacts. These impacts may be intended and unintended, across scales: temporal, spatial, social, and have positive and negative effects. They need to understand forms of relationships (hierarchies, partnerships, feedback) and that humans form part of a complex web. Systemic thinking emphasises patterns, trends and feedback loops. This means our Sustainable Lens needs to be able to operate on multiple scales simultaneously. We are collaborating with both our ancestors and future generations. 2.3 Empowering Collaboration There is a considerable literature in the sustainability arena on behaviour change. Most of this has progressed little beyond persuasion through argumentation [30]. It is our argument that a Sustainable Lens that relies primarily on providing confrontational information would falter. Instead we suggest a collaborative approach based on motivational interviewing would be more fruitful [31]. Multiple Working Modes: Stages of Sustainability Awareness Different people have different perceptions and understandings of sustainability. Such differences have to date been poorly accommodated in sustainable computing ([32], [6]). We see the need to communicate across these divides as an opportunity for collaboration.  Stages of Action Willard describes stages of organisational sustainability maturity [33]. Woodruff describes ongoing trajectories of sustainability rather than a simple discrete and bounded action [12]. Collaborative support for the sustainable practitioner needs to adapt to changing understandings. Our Sustainable Lens needs to facilitate a coevolution of problem – both in interpretation and artifact [18].
  • 2 With environmentMultiple scalesEmpowering Stages of awarenessStages of actionTogether those are trajectories
  •  Without attempting a comprehensive agenda, it is worthwhile to structure research directions, highlighted by the previous discussion. The Sustainable Lens (and indeed wider sustainable computing) can take lessons from both collaboration literature (groupwork) and sustainability related participatory activities (eg landscape planning).  It could be seen that these two fields are not disparate: Dix notes a shift from instrumental to intelligence and mediated interaction [34] and Fisher added awareness to reconfigure single user experience to support collaboration [35], while Shaw argues that “progress towards climate change mitigation and adaption seems to be more likely if credible information is localised, visualised and co-constructed” [36].
  • Dix et al. describe appropriate intelligence as “doing good things when it works and not do bad things when it does not” [34]. It should not, Dix argues, interrupt. This is a challenge for the Sustainable Lens - many of the activities we carry out need this very interruption.  The amount of support and depth of engagement to support sustainable practice is also an interesting question for future research. There is a clear trade off with complexity of models and engagement with degree of participation. These will vary for different sustainability scenarios ([46] [47]).
  • The Sustainable Lens will need to combine and visualise data from multiple sources across multiple scales of space and time. This is not new but the tools required are not simple and rarely applied in participatory or real-time situations [48]. Interesting questions are raised about the exposure of models used and requirements for a code of ethics for such developments [49].
  • In developing collaborative systems [34] suggests a process of imagining what a human helper would do, and, “while not trying to pretend to be human, still seek technology which behaves similarly, including leveraging interactivity”. This has worked in CommityViz [53] where study participants valued interaction with a facilitator narrative.
  • Participation is fundamental in sustainability.
  • This can be seen in participatory modelling, participatory multiscale scenario approaches [36], public participation GIS [23], and community engagement with climate change [38]. This field is inherently collaborative and can be seen in relation to Arnstein’s ladder of participation [51]. Such collaboration lifts sustainability above a “thou shall not…” perspective to one of equal partners examining options for the future (described by Frame as “post normative articulating situations of social choice [52]).
  • (participation and visualisation combined) Robinson describes participatory backcasting [46] that: allows stakeholders to express views; has transparent assumptions; has an intensively participatory nature of scenario building; and focuses on transition to a desirable sustainable future. The success of [46] can be seen to be a result of the integration of participation and visualisation through collaboration for sustainability (see also [53] and participatory assessments [54]).
  • A usual assumption of computing development is that problems can be clearly specified. In The Virtues of IgnoranceVitek and Jackson [55] argue that a “knowledge-based worldview is both flawed and dangerous…Since we’re billions of times more ignorant than knowledgeable, why not go with our long suit and have an ignorance-based worldview?” The upshot of this premise is a whole different way of looking at the world: “What would human cultures look like, and how might we interact differently in the world, if we began every endeavor and conversation with the humbling assumption that human understanding is limited by an ignorance that no amount of additional information can mitigate?”. In practice this means that our Sustainable Lens needs to support situations where there is no right answer.
  • Redström argues technology is inherently persuasive. This introduces ethical concerns [56]. It is clear the Sustainable Lens cannot operate without reflection on values and principles – and this must have a collaborative basis. Any discourse about sustainability is essentially an ethical discourse [57]. So is sustainability just ethics rebranded? AtKisson [69] argues that systems thinking involves much more than understanding simple physical chains of cause and effect. One must also understand the decisions that are taken either to change those causes or to respond to their effects Emmanuel Lévinas [58] emphasised the importance of the existence of the “other” (other persons) the interaction with whom plays a crucial role in the creation of our selves. Helping others and having a responsibility for them allows us the chance to move beyond ego. For Lévinas responsibility is threefold; having enough knowledge to be able to respond appropriately, the ability to choose the good response, and an obligation to care for the other person. Bosselman essentially extends the “other” to include “concern for the non-human natural world” (interspecies justice or equality) [57]. Jickling [59] uses the term “more-than-human world” and writes of what makes us noble.
  • Scale is a recurring theme in sustainability – multiple scales of time and space nest around local contexts. A goal is to make the future seem more real, to recouple costs of mitigation borne by current generation and benefit of avoided harm accruing to future generations [38].
  •  Fortunately scale has also been used as a framework for collaborative technologies. Antunes et al. [60] uses time and place differences to define collaborative awareness as perception of temporal and spatial structures in group of peers. They define types of space – geographic (Cartesian and topological), physical (focus on mobility), virtual (conceptual topology), social space, and workspace – activities organised according to logical sets. Fisher and Dourish [35] described the social patterns of contact that emerge – between people. Changes over time are considered the rhythms and trajectories of collaboration. We argue that these ideas could be expanded to include collaboration with future generations (and then extended future for collaboration across scales for space and species).
  • Sustainable Lens will require an integration of underlying frameworks. A useful framework is that used to describe challenges in collaborative design [18]. This includes: Providing for actors who design;Creating understanding, balancing rigour and relevance;Ensuring ownership;Addressing the trade-off representational simplicity and usability and oversimplification… assuming away many aspects of the problem; and,Managing coevolution of problem – interpretation and artifact. Coming from the sustainability angle, Petzelet al. [11] describes the integration of the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) that leads participants through a process of understanding, defining success, guidelines to relate success to actions, evaluating actions against strategic guidelines, and considering tools to support these actions. Other potentially useful approaches are the transtheorectical model of behavior change [61] and the action competence cycle [23]. Extending the social ontology methods [62] [63] with mapping by sustainability dimensions, development lifecycle and spatial scales might be a useful approach.The Collaboration Engineering field looks for patterns in collaborations (e.g. Thinklets [37]). It would be worthwhile to attempt to describe sustainability in these terms. Care would have to be taken not to oversimplify and to always allow for different paths.
  • Communication is the basis of collaborative Sustainable Lens. It should: have engaging, accessible and understandable interactions [38] be inspirational and relevant (with careful use of familiar metaphors such as biomimicry [39]) position human as actors rather than stressors [40] combine human and biophysical information into a single coherent narrative (e.g. the social-ecological hotspots approach of [27]). allow people to drill ‘‘drill down’’ past the charisma (of the surface) and access the back stories [41] encourage and actively support sharing solutions and understandings [42] [43] Support situational awareness – directing attention, integrating elements to understand meaning of critical elements, and considering understanding of possible future scenarios [44] encourage creativity and curiosity represent uncertainty [45]
  • This paper has examined the collaborative underpinning of sustainability and suggests the adoption of collaboration as a basis for developing a Sustainable Lens. This is a significant step beyond the conservative incremental approaches described by much of the computing literature in the sustainability area. We recognise that this will be an order of magnitude transformation. A Sustainable Lens can be seen at multiple levels: a goal for an actual object (similar to the soldier centric SCENICC); a description for wider efforts in sustainable computing; a plea to recognise that all computing needs to be considered as part of a sustainability ethic; or as a conception for an internal heads-up display. For all of these, the basis in collaboration is clear and deep-seated
  • This paper has examined the collaborative underpinning of sustainability and suggests the adoption of collaboration as a basis for developing a Sustainable Lens. This is a significant step beyond the conservative incremental approaches described by much of the computing literature in the sustainability area. We recognise that this will be an order of magnitude transformation. A Sustainable Lens can be seen at multiple levels: a goal for an actual object (similar to the soldier centric SCENICC); a description for wider efforts in sustainable computing; a plea to recognise that all computing needs to be considered as part of a sustainability ethic; or as a conception for an internal heads-up display. For all of these, the basis in collaboration is clear and deep-seated
  • Collaboration in Sustainability Vision

    1. 1. Collaboration in Sustainability Vision  Samuel Mann, Lesley SmithOtagoPolytechnic,Dunedin, New Zealand<br />
    2. 2. As a society we have to learn to live in a complex world of interdependent systems with high uncertainties and multiple legitimate interests. These complex and evolving systems require a new way of thinking about risk, uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance. These systems require that we can think simultaneously of drivers and impacts of our actions across scales and barriers of space, time, culture, species and disciplinary boundaries. <br />
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    41. 41. http://computingforsustainability.wordpress.com<br />http://sustainablelens.org<br />

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