It’s hard to imagine emerging technologies without questioning their relationship to sustainability. This theme carries across all of our projects within ETLab through work that is sensitive to global goals, local policies and environmental and cultural narratives. We investigate emerging technologies by considering their production, consumption and waste systems.
Sustainability and design are both dynamic, open-ended areas of practice that continually shift. These demand our understanding and critique through research that attends to everyday experience, while exploring new visions of future possibilities that support emerging technologies, social and environmental ecosystems.
A commitment to sustainability is developed both through response to our research partners in industry, charity and policy sectors, and as part of our academic scholarship. Our work seeks to advance new and existing debates, practice and interventions through attention to research that attends to everyday experience, realistic visions of future possibilities and how emerging technologies might be part of these.
Our focus on sustainability is widely represented: in seeking to intervene towards creating sustainable energy futures; in investigating the possibilities of new mobilities services, electric vehicles, and alternatives to air travel; in understanding health and wellbeing as forming part of sustainable futures; and in asking how future shared environments might be sustainable, in terms of environmental and social equalities and our relations with other living species.
Simultaneously, other ETLab projects directly address the relationship between sustainability and technology by considering how new (and older) technologies have cultural and environmental implications. From their design and manufacturing life stages, towards processes of repair and reuse, before becoming e-waste materials and resources for emerging circular economies. Throughout the life trajectories of technologies, we seek to ensure that sustainability awareness is at the forefront of our theoretical discussions and practical approaches through participatory design and research.
Our projects are conducted through ethnographic and generative design approaches in collaboration with members of the public, research partners and industry stakeholders. We uncover tensions, negotiations, and goals for sustainable developments and turn these into design opportunities to intervene at critical points. This applied research approach to the sustainability of emerging technologies includes analysing, and when needed, reformulating: system designs, product designs, and political narratives resulting in situated shifts in practice, education programs, academic reports, and policy recommendations. The dissemination of our design research outcomes, including publications, video documentaries, workshops, collaborative engagements, design prototypes and academic courses, has a wider impact in reaching local and global audiences.