July 2020

Busy week for Ensemble at ICT4S

Recently, a number of us attended and/or presented at the 7th International Conference on ICT For Sustainability (ICT4S), a key forum for discussions around digital technology and sustainability. The event should have been hosted in Bristol but, because of COVID-19, the event went fully virtual.

Emily Winter presented a paper on ‘Transdisciplinary Research: Lessons Learnt from a Research Sprint on Digital Technologies and Flood Risk Management’. This was a result of the study she led on looking at how well our agile methodology worked during our first sprint cycle, looking at flood risk management, with a particular focus on support for transdisciplinary research and engagement with stakeholders. She actually had to present the work twice given the format of the event that allowed people to attend different combinations of sessions that ran in parallel. This led to a rather strong feeling of deja-vu when it came to Q+A time.

Gordon Blair also gave a keynote at the event, much to his surprise. The organisers contacted him at the end of the previous week to see if he could stand in as one of the keynotes had to be cancelled… talk about an adrenaline rush to get ready on time. His keynote was partially inspired by Charles Dickens, and drew heavily on the body of work carried out in Ensemble, with the title being ‘A Tale of Two Cities: Reflections on Digital Technologies and the Natural Environment’. The talk considered the two sides of contemporary digital technologies including the Internet of Things, cloud computing and data science/AI, considering the benefits of such technologies in supporting the work of environmental sciences, but also the substantial drawbacks in terms of the carbon footprint of such digital technologies.

Overall, this was an excellent event. Although virtual, the organisers went to great lengths to provide a rich conference experience, with plenty of in depth discussion going on in Slack channels, and also the chance to informally chat to attendees in virtual coffee slots. This is also a very interesting forum for Ensemble going forward given their rich heritage of taking a critical perspective of ICT and sustainability. The papers and talks are all available online, including Emily and Gordon’s presentations (see links below).

Gordon’s presentation: Keynote A Tale of Two Cities – Reflections on Digital Technology and the Natural Environment

Emily’s presentation: Agility in Transdisciplinary Research