torsdag 23 juni 2016

This spring's crop of master's theses


I have been the advisor of five master's students who have been writing their theses during the spring term (January - June).

One student of mine, Emma Lundin, presented here master's thesis last week and it's called "Designing social platforms for sharing - A study of the Hoffice coworking network". I have written about Hoffice ("Home" + "Office") now and then (for example here and here) but this is the first real study (ever?) of the Hoffice "movement". I here choose the easy way of presenting Hoffice and her work - by pasting version 0.9 of Emma's thesis abstract below (she will hand in the final version soon).

More information about Hoffice can be found at it's website (English version) although there seems to be a problem with it right now(?). If there is a problem with the website, I instead recommend the Fastco article from January 2015 which made Hoffice spread like wildfire to dozens of cities in several continents. This all happened due to Swedish journalist (and later Hoffice promoter) Agneta Lagercrantz' texts about Hoffice.

My other three master's students who also started working on their theses in January have all been delayed due to a combination of 1) living in an uncooperative world (all have hade difficulties recruiting informants) and 2) of not being 100% focused on their theses (working part time by the side or reading another course in parallell). Instead of presenting their theses before the summer (June), they will present them after the summer (in September). That will require them to work unsupervised (without support) for two months, but they have at least collected all the materials they need (conducted all the interviews etc.) so now it all depends (only) on themselves. All three could (in principle) lock themselves into a room and finish it all by writing up the thesis (text) by themselves. The three students and the preliminary titles of their theses are:

- Sam Ajami, "Designing for Sustainable food shopping"
- Isaac Rondon, "Eco-Visualization for amateur energy work"
- Robin Chanapai, "Winter is coming - Designing an ICT service for a PV net-metering scheme adapted to Swedish conditions"

Another student, Anton Lundström, started to write his master's thesis halfway through the spring term, in March, and the plan is for him to finish his thesis by the middle of the autumn term (October). The preliminary title of his thesis is "How can Sustainable ICT-projects be classified? Evaluating and applying a Taxonomy for Sustainable ICT-projects".

I am the advisor of all five students but each student also has a "principal". The principals for our master's students are most often a company that wants something done and the student will then have a company as their principal besides their academic advisor. For all five of "my" students, the principal this time around is a research project (or an individual researcher - me - who wants something done). It just so happens that I am then not just the advisor but also the principal for three of these students:

- Emma has worked in a research project that never was - we wrote a research grant application last spring but it wasn't approved and so we didn't get any money. Perhaps our chances are better next time around taking into account all that we have learned through Emma's thesis?
- Sam works in/for a research project called "Design and data for Sustainable Lifestyles – opportunities for change" where I am the project leader together with Cecilia Katzeff.
- Anton works "for me" with a task that is not part of a research project. The task instead represents an inquiry that takes a specific article and a specific model its starting point (Kentaro Toyama (2015), "Preliminary thoughts of a taxonomy of value for sustainable computing").

All five theses have to do with ICT and sustainability. They are furthermore all written in English and will all eventually be available on the web. Emma's abstract will have to do for ow though:

Designing social platforms for sharing - A study of the Hoffice coworking network

The sharing economy, or collaborative consumption, refers to peer-to-peer sharing of goods and services coordinated through a community-based online platform. Collaborative consumption platforms are used for sharing of our under-used assets, e.g. our homes, tools, and vehicles, and can bring social communities together. Through sharing we use our resources more effectively, and contribute towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Hoffice was started in 2013 in Stockholm and promotes the concept of working for free in the homes of others, and is getting a lot of attention around the world. This not-for-profit network helps people arrange home offices, where hosts share their residence with people who, through Facebook, can reserve a seat for the day. The purpose of these work events is to create free workspaces, with the possibilities for social, structured and disciplined environments, while allowing individuals to benefit from the support and intelligence of others. This research aim to study the hosts in the Hoffice network to find ways to explain the key driving values, as well as barriers and fears, and apply it to a new tailored platform in order to motivate more people to host work events. The central research question is furthermore How could well adapted social platforms increase motivation for people to engage in the collaborative consumption as exemplified by Hoffice?

Six semi-structured interviews with past host from 2014-2015 were conducted to gain qualitative answers about how an online platform can be developed in order to motivate Hoffice members to become hosts, for the first time or more often. The questions were divided into three different sections; Background, About Hoffice, and Online platform. Observations were performed with a purpose of understanding the structure of a Hoffice event, and to gain a better understanding of the users needs and behaviors. After a first version of a prototype was developed, evaluation and user testings were completed with the interviewees and the founder of Hoffice.

Results show that communication, offline and online, is important when people engage in collaborative consumption, and Facebook has a great impact on people when communicating and spreading information. Although Facebook is not a preferred platform for a sharing service due to its restrictions, its instability when planning and arranging events, and no data can be stored. All services that involve sharing should also consider and support geographical location features. Moreover, to show appreciation is important. People find motivation from feeling liked and appreciated, and want to feel that what they are doing is making a positive impact on other people's lives. Finally, it is important to have clear rules and guidelines for monitoring members behaviour, otherwise uncertainties will occur. 

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