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Energy Sustainability: Ubiquitous Technologies, Social Practices, and Cultures of Participation

One day symposium on Tuesday, December 21, 2010 

Energy sustainability has become a highly relevant social requirement, both for work places and households. There is a growing body of knowledge focused on understanding consumer’s habits and supporting them in reducing their domestic carbon footprint. In the workplace, we can identify two so far rather distinct approaches (1) research that focuses on optimizing formalized production processes and investing into energy efficient equipment (2) research which looks at the workers’ practices in energy usage and support their conservation practices in a bottom-up manner. We anticipate that these approaches will converge.
An important underlying theme is the changing perception of energy consumption. Traditionally consumption was understood to happen mainly passively at the end of a centralized network of producers. By contrary, energy sustainability requires active participation of the consumers interacting with a network of decentralized producers (smart grid). The consumer gains an active role (presuming), be it by developing more efficient energy consumption practices, or even by becoming a local energy producer. In enabling the prosumer and coordinating between energy production and consumption, appropriately design IT plays a major role.
The rise in social computing (based on social production and mass collaboration) has facilitated a shift from consumer cultures (specialized in producing finished goods to be consumed passively) to cultures of participation (in which all people are provided with the means to participate actively in personally meaningful problems). These developments represent unique and fundamental opportunities and challenges for rethinking and reinventing the future of Human Computer Interaction (HCI).
Innovative technological developments are necessary for cultures of participation, but they are not sufficient. The deep and enduring changes are not just technological, but social and cultural as well, so socio-technical systems are necessary. Cultures of participation are not dictated by technology—they are the result of incremental shifts in human behavior and social organizations, including design, adoption, appropriation, and adaptation of technologies to the needs of the participants.
The symposium will be discussion-oriented and all participants are encouraged to be active contributors. One objective of the symposium will be to identify some grand challenges at the intersection of Energy Sustainability and Human Computer Interaction.

Background: The University of Siegen has established the first master program in Human Computer Interaction at a German university in last fall. The program has an enrollment of some 20 students. More information about the Master program can be found at: