Jorge Luis Zapico

Doctoral thesis in Media Technology and Graphic Production

KTH, Stockholm, 27th January 2014

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Green Hachathon

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TRITA-CSC-A 2013:16
ISBN 978-91-7501-973-4

Oponent: Dr. Elaine M. Huang (University of Zurich)

Examining Comittee: Dr. Marko Nieminen (Aalto University), Dr. Viveka Palm (KTH), Dr. Chris Preist (Bristol University), Dr. Per Lundqvist (KTH, reserve)

Supervisors: Marko Turpeinen, Nils Brandt.

Chair: Olle Bälter.

Questions? Contact me!


ICT for Sustainability is a growing research area looking at the potential of information and communication technologies for contributing to sustainability. The existing work in this area can be grouped in four main categories: The optimization of existing systems using ICT, the dematerialization of cultural assets and presence, the use of technology for behavioral change, and the support of sustainability practice and research. Within this research area, this thesis focuses on exploring how new technologies and approaches of working with data, such as APIs, mashups, crowdsourcing, open data, and dynamic visualizations, can be applied to sustainability and sustainability practice.

This thesis follows a research through design method, where applications, prototypes, and events were created and released following an iterative design process. Five different design artifacts or “hacks” are presented and analyzed together as a portfolio. This collection of artifacts is a practical exploration of the research questions and it embodies the results. Based on the created artifacts, this text argues that the new technologies and paradigms coming from ICT can transform how sustainability work is performed, by changing the way that sustainability data is created, shared and visualized. This new “data-driven” approach is characterized by a bottom-up way of data gathering, automatic data collection and crowdsourcing, a real time orientation, a focus on transparency and openness, dynamic and interactive visualizations, and new approaches to innovation. These characteristics create new opportunities for making sustainability practice more effective and broaden its impact, but they also create new problems and increase existing risks.

Finally it is argued that while information and communication technologies are usually treated as tools, these innovations in ICT for Sustainability are not only technological, but also cultural. The hacker ethic values connected with computer technologies, such as an open way of sharing knowledge, the focus on creativity as a driving force, and a hands-on approach, are key for understanding this research area and an important part of the contribution from ICT to sustainability.


This dissertation is as a blend of a monograph and a compendium. Existing publications have been updated and included as chapters inside the text (the chapters where the publications have been used are written in brackets). The included articles are:

Zapico, J.L., Turpeinen, M., Brandt, N. (2010). Greenalytics: A tool for mash-up life cycle assessment of websites. In Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Informatics for Environmental Protection. Shaker Verlag, Aachen, Germany. (Chapter 4A)

Zapico, J.L. Turpeinen, M. Guath, M. (2011). Kilograms or cups of tea: Comparing footprints for better CO2 understanding. In PsychNology Journal 9(1), pp.43-54. (Chapter 4C)

Zapico, J.L. Sayan, B. Bonanni, L. Turpeinen, M. Young, S. (2011). Footprinted.org: Experiences from using linked open data for environmental impact information. In: Proceedings of 25th EnviroInfo Conference – Innovations in Sharing Environmental Observations and Information. Schaker-Verlag, Aachen, Germany. (Chapter 4B)

Zapico, J.L. Pargman, D. Ebner, H. Eriksson, E. (2013). Hacking sustainability: Broadening participation through Green Hackathons. International Workshop on EUD for Supporting Sustainability in Maker Communities. IS EUD 2013, June 11-13, 2013, IT University of Copenhagen, DK. (Chapter 4E)

Other previous publications have been used as material throughout the text:

Zapico, J.L., Turpeinen, M. (2009). Climate Persuasive Services: Changing behavior towards low-carbon lifestyles. Proceedings of Persuasive 2009: Fourth International Conference on Persuasive Technology, Claremont, CA, 26-29 April 2009, ACM Digital Library.

Zapico, J.L., Spikol, D. (2009). Designing Mobile Persuasion: Using Pervasive Applications to Change Attitudes and Behaviors. In: Sharing Experiences with Social Mobile Media. Proceedings of the International Workshop in conjunction with MobileHCI 2009, September 15th 2009, Bonn, Germany. Pp 11-16.

Zapico, J.L., Brandt, N., Turpeinen, M. (2010). Environmental Metrics: The Main Opportunity from ICT for Industrial Ecology. Journal of Industrial Ecology 14, 703-706.

Zapico, J.L. (2012). ICT and environmental sustainability, friend or foe? Book review at Journal of Information Technologies in Development 8(3):99-101.

Zapico, J.L. (2013). Hacking, openness and sustainability. Book chapter in: The Open Book, edited by Nissilä, J. Braybrooke, K. and Vuorikivi, T. The Finnish Institute Reaktio Serie #3. London.