Circular Thinking in Sustainable HCI: Revisiting the Link Between Invention And Disposal
In his seminal paper on Sustainable Interaction Design, Blevis presents, as the first principle, the link between invention and disposal; a new invention should also consider what would become obsolete as a result of that invention . We argue that this link is also a form of circularity: every new invention should integrate its own disposal. Disposal can mean in this context recycling, reuse, repair, redistribution, remanufacture or refurbishment. Integrating disposal in inventions forms the basis for a whole new range of design approaches, such as design for repair/repairability –, design for recyclability ,  and design for circularity , .
Circularity, in the form of circular design and circular economy, is perceived as central to realising sustainable production and consumption, one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) . Furthermore, circularity is seen as the next big think in design, but the challenge facing these initiatives is that circularity focuses the attention on the end-of-life phase in the life cycle of a product. What happens in between invention and disposal, in terms of social and environmental sustainability, and how to delay disposal, may be pushed to the background.
The objective of this workshop is to explore circular thinking in sustainable HCI. We situate this objective within our central aim to contribute to sustainability in general and sustainable development, as perceived by sustainability frameworks such as the SDGs, the Planetary Boundaries , , and Doughnut Economics ,  in particular. How can circularity support social and environmental sustainability in the life cycle of a product – from resource extraction to manufacturing, use, and then disposal? Is circularity only about materials? How should we consider circularity in terms of the ‘invisible’ actors and infrastructures that sustain a circular product or service? Can there be circular use and users? How does a circular service look like? How do we design for these purposes? Do we need new design methods or approaches?
The aim of this one-day workshop is to explore circularity as a principle of sustainable HCI. The planned activities are as follows:
- In a show and tell for sustainability – session, workshop participants discuss an object or material that represent their work in sustainable HCI. These will be short, 2-3 minute presentations of a variety of artefacts, such as sketches, prototypes, parts of and whole digital devices, components, materials, etc., describing, consisting of, or embedded with materials of information technologies (duration 60 minutes).
- In a mapping session, we will first create a large circularity map, showing the different aspects of circularity in sustainable HCI, based on the contributions of the workshop participants (duration 90 minutes).
- In an exploratory design session, we use the artefacts of the first session and the aspects of circularity identified in the second session to explore circularity in sustainable HCI. We will collaboratively create different patterns with the artefacts and aspects of circularity, giving form and shape to how circular thinking can contribute to sustainable HCI (duration 60 minutes).
- In a critical reflection on circularity, we will map some of the findings of activity 3 on the life cycle of he mobile phone, the most iconic digital device of this time. The Circular Design Guide  asks: “What if you could redesign everything?” How would a circular mobile phone life cycle look like? In this hands-on session we will use our own mobile phones to kick-start our exploration. During this reflection we will also address another important question: for whom and for what does it matter that we re-design the mobile phone? (120 minutes).
The overall workshop approach is Critical and Speculative Research through Design .
You can apply to the workshop by submitting a position paper (pdf format!, 1-3 pages), which should include the following:
- Briefly describe your HCI research interests and/or briefly describe your sustainability work.
- Shortly describe your reflections on circular thinking in sustainable HCI
- An image of the artefact you will bring to the show and tell – session
- A short description of the artefact and how it may contribute to circular thinking
If there are many prospective applicants, the workshop organizers will strive to put together a diverse set of participants from the research community as well as from industry. Submissions will be reviewed based on quality, originality, and their potential contribution to achieving workshop goals. We expect to include 15-25 participants.
Image credit: http://www.greatrecovery.org.uk/
Keywords: Circular Design, Circular Service, Life Cycle Thinking, Mobile Phones, Sustainable HCI, Sustainable ICT, Sustainability, Sustainable Interaction Design, Green IT, UN Sustainable Development Goals.
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