We trialled a first version of the sustainability reflection cards in an online workshop at Mozilla Festival 2022. After introductions, the 12 participants worked in breadout groups on Zoom and Miro to share their individual definition of sustainability.
We then introduced the card deck. This version consisted of 4 domains (ecology, economics, politics, and culture) with 28 cards in total. Each group had the same set of cards spread on in a dedicated working area. First, they decided on an existing technological device or system to ground the discussion in. We offered a few options to choose from, including Natural Language Processing (e.g., GPT-3), social media recommendation algorithms (e.g., TikTok), lithium metal batteries for electric cars, your own smartphone, your smart speaker, 3D printing, videoconferencing software, and digital currencies (e.g., Bitcoin). The selection of technologies represented current trends in technological development. Participants were also free to choose any other technology.
Next, they chose one card from the deck which they found particularly interesting, problematic, surprising or thought-provoking. The four groups chose:
Digital archives in relation to the question: "How does this technology contribute to people's wellbeing and mental health?"
Smartphones in relation to the question: "How well does this technology support or physical health?"
Digital delivery platforms in relation to the question "How does this technology impact our transport infrastructure?"
Cryptocurrencies in relation to the question "How well does this technology recognise differences across communities?"
Group 1 discussed the problems of losing access to digital platforms, for example, your own YouTube channel, inaccessibility of complex medial data (such as x-ray images) to patients in the UK, the lack of standards for medical data, and that access is not enough; data needs also expertise to be understood.
Group 2 felt that smartphones do not support our physical health well, as we are too distracted by our phones. Ordering food via our apps is too convenient. The dream of the quantified self movement is broken and was turned into data business rather than supporting people. In addtion, smartphones encourage the harmful extraction of natural resources.
Group 3 discussed that digital delivery platforms (such as for food or taxis) are overpowering local economies as they are backed by venture capital tech. They also questioned the transparency of ordering online versus going to a store.
Group 4 felt that cryptocurrencies reproduce the inequalities of the already problematic conventional banking system. They create a digital ownership culture and ignore the histories of social inequalities when it comes to digital access and financial capital. They use a language of decentralisation and personal freedom but ignore the harder social questions.
We enjoyed using the cards at MozFest for the very first time and got excited to develop them further.