I recently wrote a blog post about the workshop proposal, "Computing within Limits: Visions of computing beyond Moore’s law" we submitted to the 4th International Conference on ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S). The papers deadline for the conference was extended by two weeks but has now passed, but not before I (yesterday) submitted a paper to the conference, "Next generation screens: Breakthrough or suboptimisation?".
The paper has quite a history, it was submitted to the ICT4S conference two years ago, but was at that time rejected. The title back then was "Green websites for next generation screens: Energy savings and agency" and I of course wrote a blog post about it. That paper, in its turn, builds on a bachelor's thesis of two then-students of mine (now co-authors), Edward Ahlsén and Cecilia Engelbart. The paper back then tried to (apparently not too successfully) reframe their thesis but when I reread the paper, I definitely have sympathy for why it was rejected. That paper showed promise but was a little confusing and didn't really know what conclusions it wanted to draw.
The new-and-improved paper has used the ICT4S 2014 paper as a starting point but has substantially developed and reframed it. I estimate that about half of the new paper consists of recently written text and the point of the new paper is actually quite different from the 2014 paper. To sum it up, I feel that the argument that is made in the new paper is better written, more well-crafted and is significantly more forceful and interesting too. I hope the reviewers will agree. Below is the paper abstract, but first a quote from the paper's discussion:
"we can unequivocally conclude that a switch from one screen technology to another would have a truly insignificant impact in the larger whole. This conclusion is supported by juxtapositioning MacKay (2009), who states that the average European consumes 125 kWh of energy per day (ibid., p.104), with the trivially small energy requirements of a modern smartphone. Fully charging an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy SIII consumes 9.5 Wh and 12.3 Wh respectively (Fisher 2012). Doing so once per day for a year adds up to 3.5 kWh and 4.5 kWh respectively. These figures are also comparable with the corresponding figures of the more recent iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (Fisher 2014), despite the latter having significantly larger screens. As mentioned above, the possible energy savings are dwarfed by the massive amounts of energy that is used in the process of manufacturing the smartphone. It has been estimated that the embodied energy of a smartphone is in the order of 1 gigajoule (GJ), or, 278 kWh (Raghavan & Ma 2011). That means that the energy that has been used to manufacture the phone corresponds to charging the phone once per day for upwards to 70 years!"
Here is the paper abstract:
Next generation screens: Breakthrough or suboptimisation?
Technological developments in screen technologies pitches the thinner, brighter and energy-stingy OLED screen as a possible replacement for today’s television, computer and smartphone LCD screens. An OLED screen does not consume any energy at all when it displays the color black, but the potentially large energy savings can unfortunately evaporate and instead turn to losses when white is displayed. There is thus a mismatch between on the one hand the energy profiles of OLED screens and on the other hand user habits and current webpage design practices. This example thus raises important questions about system boundaries and about how to evaluate sustainable (or “sustainable”) technologies.
We conducted a pilot study of user acceptance of alternative, OLED-adapted color schemes for webpages. We briefly discuss the results of the study, but primarily use it as a starting point for discussing the underlying questions of where, or indeed even if it makes sense to work towards realising the OLED screens’ potential for energy savings. Moving from LED to OLED screens is not only a matter of choosing between competing screen technologies, but would rather have implications for hardware and software design as well as for the practices of web designers, end users and content providers.