Bonnie Nardi, Bill Tomlinson, Donald Patterson
Over the past several years, there has been a movement afoot within the academic community to develop new ways to teach sustainable HCI. These efforts have taken a step away from incremental or individualistic forms of sustainability, which focus on issues such as efficiency, persuasive technologies, and behavior change. Instead, they are addressing societal and systemic forms of sustainability, with an awareness of the need for both the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, global limits, and the idea that the growth characteristic to industrial civilization for several centuries may not be infinite.
In this Special Topic, we present three papers that address different aspects of this domain. In “At Odds with a Worldview—Teaching Limits at a Technical University,” Daniel Pargman and Elina Eriksson describe a sustainability course where many of the ideas are directly at odds with the core premises of the graduate-level technical degree program in which it is embedded. The course actively seeks to challenge students’ worldview. They discuss how they handled the unconventional demands of such a course.
Bill Tomlinson, Donald Patterson, and Bonnie Nardi contribute “Teaching Global Disruption and Information Technology Online,” which is similar in spirit to Pargman and Eriksson’s work, but aimed at an undergraduate audience. As with Pargman and Eriksson’s graduate course, “Global Disruption” seeks to challenge students’ default ways of understanding the world. Rather than primarily engaging students at a professional level, the course incorporates many topics within students’ educational and personal contexts, with the goal of helping them see some of the problems that are embedded in the nature of industrialized society.
In “Computing Education for Sustainability—What Gives Me Hope?”, Sam Mann goes one step further, speaking from within a longstanding engagement with the computing discipline to suggest that perhaps computing may not be well suited to delivering a sustainable future.
Taken together, these three articles present a new way to think about the relationship between sustainable HCI and education: At the very least, students should be challenged to confront the difficulties embedded in the ways they live in the world, and they might also consider that computing, in its present form, may be too deeply embedded in those difficulties to be a productive leverage point for an intervention.
Bonnie Nardi is a professor in the Department of Informatics at UC Irvine. She is interested in social theory, political economy, collapse informatics, and a few fun things like video games. She is the author, with Hamid Ekbia, of Heteromation and Other Stories of Computing and Capitalism (MIT Press, 2017). email@example.com
Bill Tomlinson is a professor of informatics at UC Irvine. His research interests include ICT for sustainability, computing within limits, computational agroecology, crowdsourcing, and computer-supported learning. firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald J. Patterson is an associate professor in the Math and Computer Science Department at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. His research lies at the interface of ubiquitous computing, artificial intelligence, and human-computer interaction. email@example.com
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