Digital infrastructures for sustainable urban environments

Digital infrastructures for sustainable urban environments

This autumn, I have the pleasure to be teaching at the Digital Leadership masters programme at the Department of Applied IT. The course that I am involved in is the Digital Infrastructure course where we learn about infrastructures as a socio-technical phenomena. The literature ranges from the seminal work by Susan Lee Star, to intriguing text by Brian Larkin in Cultural studies, to more information systems oriented text from Ole Hanseth, as well as insights from the PD-community with texts by Helena Karasti.

After an initial theory-block course participants move into a design-block where they are exploring how digital infrastructures might be designed to improve sustainability in urban environments. This design challenge is run in collaboration with WHITE, one of Swedens most prominent architect agencies.

The design challenge is super open-ended and the students are therefore adopting design thinking and human centered design in order to explore the problem and identify possible solutions, such as increased democracy in local planning processes, urban farming and hyper local food production, digitally  adjustable streets, safety solutions in the home-sharing economy, incentive driven road-taxes, and several other great ideas.

HCD workshop DL.jpg
Prototype of an autonomous urban farming infrastructure

Using design thinking in an academic course is not without problems. For example, do we have any studies showing that design thinking and its various practical methods work? Thankfully, we have a great study by Micheli, Wilner, Bhatti, Mura & Beverland showing that design thinking is not unproblematic, there is a lack of evidence of its usefulness, along with a not too solid theoretical foundation. The authors highlights the need for more studies of practice and they indicate that the community of practice perspective could be a good foundation for further explorations.

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Micheli, P., Wilner, S. J., Bhatti, S. H., Mura, M., & Beverland, M. B. (2018). Doing Design Thinking: Conceptual Review, Synthesis, and Research Agenda. Journal of Product Innovation Management.

Amazing students designing mobile technology to support eduction i emergency contexts

Amazing students designing mobile technology to support eduction i emergency contexts

Since January, twelve brilliant bachelor students have been working on two projects that address how to improve the possibilities of providing eduction in emergencies. Their case has been forced migration and more specifically the challenges caused by the refugee situation in Jordan. The project started based on the experiences of my work with Jamiya in delivering a programming course in a refugee context.

The students has been working in two teams focusing on different aspects of technology support for eduction in a refugee situation. The teams have based their work on Design Thinking and employed Human-Centered Design Methodology in order to ground their designs on the stories and perspectives of people that live as refugees in Amman and in Zaatari. In this work Jesuit Refugee Services in Amman, and other domain experts have provided valuable input to the teams. Data collection for the inspiration- and evaluation phases has been achieved by interview sessions with individuals in the Swedish asylum system, remote collaboration with individuals in Jordan as well as during field visits in Jordan.

Today the two teams made their final presentations and proved that they are skilled designers and developers able to approach, explore, design and implement solutions that has the potential to make a difference.RemoteClassroomTeamPhotoWide

Each team consists of fantastic individuals with a background in the industrial design programs and computer science. This mix enabled the teams to not only explore innovative design ideas but also to construct clever mechanisms and materialize working solutions.

Team 1: Herman Carlström Erik Jansson Alice Johansson Filip Larsson Magdalena Lindén Oskar Samuelsson

Team 2: Carl Albertsson, Axel Aringskog, Nils Arvidsson, Billy Astorsson, Ajla Cano, Matilda Wikström

The results from the two design studies will be used as input and starting points for follow up interventions and in future development work on a mobile platform for eduction in emergencies.

It has been a pleasure to be the supervisor of these brilliant individuals.


Herman Carlström Erik Jansson Alice Johansson Filip Larsson Magdalena Lindén Oskar Samuelsson (2017) Education in Emergencies – Designing a mobile solution to improve access to tertiary education in Jordan. Bachelor thesis, Chalmers University of Technology [pdf]

Carl Albertsson, Axel Aringskog, Nils Arvidsson, Billy Astorsson, Ajla Cano, Matilda Wikström (2017) Remote Classroom : A Mobile Learning Platform for Education in Emergencies. Bachelor thesis, Chalmers University of Technology [pdf]

ISCRAM Summerschool phd-students innovate crisis response work

During this week, 10 phd-students have participated at the ISCRAM SUMMERSCHOOL organised by prof Caroline Rizza at Telecom Paris Tech. Today the different groups presented their work. Inspiring, fun and provocative ideas.

It was fun to see that the Design-camp that I held yesterday gave lots of input for their work.

Design av insats: MSBs insats i Nepal ‘designas’ om…..

Idag kan vi läsa på att den tidigare planerade insatsen med sök och räddningsteam till jordbävningsdrabbade Nepal justeras. Vid en första anblick kanske denna justering inte är något att orda över. Men i ljuset av hur internationella insatser kan resultera i att fel resurser, materiel och kompetenser skickas iväg är dagens besked mycket glädjande.

I nyheten på kl 13:03 kan vi läsa om att insatsen designas om utifrån de behov som OCHA fått besked om från den Nepalesiska regeringen.


Just att uttrycket ‘designas’ används i nyhetstexten är spännande då det signalerar att insatser och organisering av insatser av naturen är föränderliga. De som planerar och leder insatser behöver kontinuerligt stämma av och vid behov justera inriktningen och åtgärderna för att svara upp mot identifierade hjälpbehov. Design är verktyget för att hantera en föränderlig omvärld. Att designa om en insats redan innan ett team har skickats iväg skall alltså ses som mycket positivt. Att begreppet ‘designas om’ användes i texten gläder kanske främst en del akademiker med stort intresse för ledning och samverkansfrågor. Men i grund och botten är användningen av större betydelse än rent akademiskt då det innebär bättre förutsättningar för ett lyckat insatsarbete.

Small scale field-experiment for improved situation reporting

Today, I had the opportunity to study a small yet powerful field experiment at the County Administrative Board of Västra Götaland. The county administrative board has a geographical responsibility for crisis preparedness and crisis response at the regional level. The field experiment took place at the county administrative board’s newly designed situation room facilities.

At the field experiment, the TiB-organization (the duty officers) tested new ways of conducting multi-actor situation reporting conferences. In a series of small scale, yet cleverly designed, sessions, the duty officer invited three different fire & rescue services, the police, the paramedic organization, the national 112-organization, the traffic authority and the Swedish meteorological and hydrological institute to participate in a multi-actor situation conference.
Until now, such conferences have mainly been done in the form of a multi-actor teleconference, where verbal reports are the mechanism for sharing information. But today, the multi-actor conference was mediated using collaborative tools, opening up for a richer set of mechanisms for information sharing.

The field experiment provided several insights regarding the delicate balance of striving for improved communication capabilities while at the same time keeping a strong attention to avoid the addition of unwanted side-effects. The session today also showed how a cleverly designed field experiment can be accomplished without creating a hyped expectation bubble that most experiments rarely are able to fulfill. The county administrative board presented great skills in running a field experiment that was nicely embedded into the ongoing discussions on how to further improve multi-actor situation reporting.

Many thanks to Marcus Green, Charlotta Källerfeldt, Maria Göransson for arranging the event, and also many thanks to Malin Lintzen, Per Marklund, and Per-olof Hårsmar (SMHI) for the experimental design.


Twitcident: Delft University takes the lead in making use of social media for incident response

Delft University is now taking the lead in innovative design when it comes to making use of social media for incident response. A group of researchers with Fabian Abel, Claudia Hauff, Geert-Jan Houben, Richard Stronkman and Ke Tao focusing on Social Semantic Web research have now launched a great innovation called Twitcident, where they harvest social media insights after an incident has happened. Read more about the research at:

Additional information could also be found at:
Blog: (in Dutch)
Twitter: @twitcidentapp

  • Fabian Abel, Claudia Hauff, Geert-Jan Houben, Richard Stronkman, Ke Tao. Semantics + Filtering + Search = Twitcident. Exploring Information in Social Web Streams. In Proceedings of International Conference on Hypertext and Social Media (Hypertext), Milwaukee, USA, 2012 [pdf]

In relation to the above work, I would also like to promote the following papers:

  • Johansson, F.; Brynielsson, J.; Horling, P.; Malm, M.; Martenson, C.; Truve, S.; Rosell, M.; , “Detecting Emergent Conflicts through Web Mining and Visualization,” Intelligence and Security Informatics Conference (EISIC), 2011 European , vol., no., pp.346-353, 12-14 Sept. 2011 [pdf]
  • Sitaram Asur and Bernardo A. Huberman. 2010. Predicting the Future with Social Media. In Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on Web Intelligence and Intelligent Agent Technology – Volume 01 (WI-IAT ’10), Vol. 1. IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, USA, 492-499. DOI=10.1109/WI-IAT.2010.63 [pdf]
  • Ginsberg, Jeremy, Mohebbi, Matthew H., Patel, Rajan S., Brammer, Lynnette, Smolinski, Mark S., Brilliant, Larry. Detecting influenza epidemics using search engine query data. Nature. 2009/02/19/print. Macmillan Publishers Limited. [pdf]

Users must have the app preinstalled in case of an emergency – or maybe not!

A well-known problem for everyone with a smart idea regarding how people could make use of innovative apps in case of an emergency or crisis, is the fact that people need to have these apps already installed ready to be used in critical situations. However, most people will never face an emergency or a crisis which means that most people will never bother to “pre-install” nice to have apps that most likely never will be used.

This means that app developers and solution providers must be come up with better solutions than just saying:

“People must understand that they have much to gain if they download our great app and have it ready at hand if they end up in a critical situation”.

Just recently, we have seen insightful approaches of solving this problem by designing apps that are made available when they are needed and only if they are needed. This means that app developers and solution providers have taken a new look at the well-known and standardized “sign-up -> receive user info -> get started and add details”.

Instead of using the above approach, innovations are emerging targeting what could be called a simplified user credentials approach. This means that apps could be designed using a range of new models concerning the role and need for user-id. When we design for “instant and short time use”, it opens up for radically different use cases and a potential for a much larger diffusion of apps in emergencies and crisis.

I hope that we at the Crisis Response Lab, in the near future, will be able to show a few examples of how these new approaches could be materialized.