Monday, October 1, 2012

Instructions for seminar 6 (Oct 4-5)

Seminar 6 will be held on Thursday Oct 4 (groups A/B) and Friday Oct 5 (groups C/D)

You should prepare for seminar 6 by reading a short paper (4 pages), listening to a podcast (60 minutes) and thinking about the seminar question (see further below):

The short paper you should read is:
- Baumer, E. and Silberman, M. S. (2011), "When the implication is not to design (technology)" (pdf file here). The paper was presented at the CHI conference last year (the largest and most prestigious conference in the field of Human-Computer Interaction).

The podcast you should listen to is: 
- This American Life #441 (July 2011), When patents attack! about "patent trolls" (read about the podcast here).
Note: The mp3 file is available in Bilda (Documents/Literature).

Background to the seminar question

You have read the literature and (soon) heard lecture 10 about "rebound effects". That lecture and the readings raise a host of uncomfortable questions about technological development, efficiency gains and rebound effects. 

Planned technological obsolescence, i.e. that things are constructed in order not to be durable, is of course very bad from an environmental point of view. Even worse is that what we regard as technological innovation partly resembles technological churn (or product churn) - we buy new products even before the old products wear out. But what can be done about it? Some of the suggestions are perhaps not very appealing:
- AT&T (monopolistic telephony service) renting out durable, boring, expensive telephones to relatively powerless consumers (as suggested by Owen, p.230-)
- Refrain from developing/using new technologies - or at least think about it twice or even three times (Baumer & Silberman)

When I originally listened to the podcast "When patents attack!" I was absolutely furious about patent trolls - and so will you be too. But later I explored a mental flip-flop. Are patent trolls not doing what every true environmentalist would want; decreasing the speed of innovation and increasing the price of the finished products? I have still not made my mind up about how to think about patent trolls. Are they despicable and should be chased away? What then would the effects be of a world without patent trolls? Or are patent trolls environmental heroes (in relation to the lecture 10 and seminar 6 literature) - decreasing "technological churn" without hardly using any physical resources at all? Are patent trolls clogging the legal system (and is that good or bad)? Are patent trolls modern-age Luddites - but fighting the system "from within" - with the tools and rules of the system itself? Your task is to help me grapple with these questions and to frame patent trolls ("non-practicing entities") and patent trolling in the context of environmental sustainability, technological innovation, efficiency gains and rebound effects.

The question you should think about is thus:
If we value innovations and economic growth, patent trolls are obviously (?) despicable. But are patent trolls villains or heroes from an environmental point of view? Or are they a little of both? How? Why?

It is assumed that you will be adequately prepared for the seminar. It is not primarily up to the teachers to in detail query and make sure that you have prepared - it is your job to convince us that you have. In relation to seminar 6, that more specifically means:

1 Read/listen to the materials for the seminar (above) as well as the texts for lecture 10.

Write a short "position paper" (around 1 page or 400 words - where you take a position on these issues) based on the question above. Please make sure that you in some way(s) refer to and make use of course materials in your paper. You should in your paper also 1) propose a question that you would like to discuss at the seminar or 2) propose an example of a rebound effect in the context of ICT and media (production, distribution, use/behavior). Please either use of seminar assignment template available in Bilda (/Documents) or otherwise look at the template and make sure you include the same information in your own position paper.

3 Upload your position paper to Google docs (or write your position paper directly as a Google document).The deadline for finishing your paper is Wednesday Oct 3 at 13.00. Post the link to your position paper in Bilda so other group members can find it (it worked ok for 15 out of 16 groups two weeks ago). Finally, read the other group members' mini-papers and leave at least two comments/questions on each paper! IMPORTANT: watch this instruction video to learn how to do these things if you are the least bit uncertain about these instructions.

Each seminar group (A-D) has been divided into three smaller groups (4-5 persons/group), see this previous blog post. You should thus only read and comment on 3-4 other person's position papers.

Do note that not preparing adequately for the seminar entails the risk of not receiving top points (2 p) for the seminar (which might naturally have adverse effects on your grades).

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