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Sharing The Design Authorship Of Sustainability

Towards co-creation of sustainable transport systems and practices

Time: Tue 2021-12-07 10.00

Location: Brinellvägen 26

Video link:

Language: English

Subject area: Machine Design

Doctoral student: Liridona Sopjani , Integrerad produktutveckling, Integrated Product Development

Opponent: Professor Sampsa Hyysalo, Aalto University

Supervisor: Professor Sofia Ritzén, Integrerad produktutveckling; Jenny Janhager Stier, Integrerad produktutveckling

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Any separation between technology and society can be claimed to be artificial. Technological material systems are intertwined with human everyday life practices and ways of living, values, and belief systems. When we design and develop new technological systems, we are also designing opportunities for new daily living practices to emerge. The involvement of people for whom new sustainable systems are intended, and who will be using and consuming the novel systems, is therefore crucial for industry and societies aspiring to reduce carbon emissions, energy use, and overconsumption of material resources. People are not just a resource for design, nor are they merely users or consumers of technology. Rather, they are knowing and changing subjects with complex everyday lives, who can (re)format the existing unsustainable systems towards sustainable ones in multiple ways and through multiple identities and roles. People are co-creators in the modes of living and the technological systems supporting them. This dissertation is about co-creation, a design and development approach that seeks to share the design authorship of sustainability and drive collective transition. The purpose of this inquiry is to study how multiple actors can co-creatively design and develop sustainable systems, and the potential of the outcomes to support transition. The context of the study is primarily transportation systems as socially-critical systems supporting everyday living. Socially-critical systems imply those products, services, and technologies upon which human everyday life activities depend. The study takes an interdisciplinary perspective by bridging participatory, democratic, and inclusive design approaches and innovation studies to develop theory towards co-creation of new sustainable systems. Six individual papers are appended presenting empirical results from three research cases set up as living laboratories in real living and working environments, involving multiple private and public actors. A mixed-method research approach using both qualitative and quantitative methods has been employed to gather and analyse empirical data.

Six main findings are discussed: 1) The form of involvement defines who co-creates new sustainable systems; 2) Both users and non-users contribute to co-creating new sustainable systems at various intensities; 3) Users are driven by similar concerns as developers to co-create new sustainable systems; 4) Common design language aligns co-creation process and actors; 5) Co-creation generates learning and strategic direction; and 6) Co-creation immerses people in behavioural changes by exposing them to the possibilities for change. Based on the findings, three main conclusions are drawn: first, that people can be involved in new systems in various ways whether or not they are users of the system. Through their use or non-use practices, people can give direction to new sustainable systems, and through every involved or uninvolved person, a new system is affected both positively and negatively; thus, both users and non-users co-create sustainable systems. This thesis finds that involvement in co-creation is neither binary nor a one- time occurrence. Rather, it is a spectrum of varying intensities regarding how individuals immerse themselves in and throughout a process. The second conclusion is that co-creation generates multi-dimensional learning and strategic direction for all involved parties. In addition, it immerses people in behavioural changes by exposing them to possibilities for change, thus building trust in new energy-efficient and carbon-reducing alternatives, validating the logistical workability of new sustainable systems and its true impacts, and stimulating further engagement in new sustainable system development. Thirdly, the co- creation approach is still new in practice and proves challenging from a managerial standpoint when common visions and objectives are not sufficient to align stakeholders. The results suggest that common design language, which uses both cognitive and physical tools to facilitate co- creation among users and stakeholders, supports co-creation by aligning both actors and the process. Finally, this thesis provides empirical support that people can be meaningfully involved in creating opportunities and possibilities for change, which challenge the present mechanisms used to influence societal behavioural changes, e.g. incentives and nudging. It suggests that design can foster the presence of people for whom the designed systems are intended, and do so in places where they are contextualised, e.g., installation of proto-designs in real living/working environments. Through involvement of diverse users and non-users, co-creation shows to be quite necessary not only to develop new transport systems, but also to increase the accessibility of sustainable transport innovations. Increased involvement in design and development of new systems could serve to delegitimise participation in the old systems.