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A thesis project that puts sustainability issues on the map

Master’s student in interaction design, Sanna Klefbom, thinks that the best things about doing her thesis project at RISE are opportunities for collaboration, freedom to explore own interests and a distinct societal perspective. “RISE works with what’s happening here and now, and how to further develop it. So the focus is always on the present and future,” says Sanna.

Sanna first got introduced to RISE and the area of interactive design when she was getting her bachelor’s degree. Then, she got the chance to do an apprenticeship at the RISE Technologies for Interaction Unit. After the apprenticeship, she remained in contact with her colleagues. One of them was László Sall Vesselényi, who saw an opportunity for Sanna to do her thesis work within the project that he was involved in himself, Virtual Gothenburg Lab.

“We designed it so that Sanna could do her thesis work in parallel with what we were doing. That way, we could all benefit from each other,” says László. “She got to explore many different aspects before deciding what she thought would be most interesting to research,” he says.

In the Virtual Gothenburg Lab project, RISE is collaborating with academia, industry and the public sector to increase usability of the city’s digital twin, Virtual Gothenburg. The digital twin is a 3D copy of the city, which can be used to understand its needs. It is used in urban development initiatives as a way of gaining insights and making well-informed decisions. There are several pilots being run within the project and RISE is leading the one on social sustainability in city development, which is studying sustainable, equitable urban environments. This was an issue that Sanna found particularly interesting.

“The framework for my thesis was how the digital twin could be used for social sustainability issues. The digital twin shows what’s going on in a city, how things are right now and how it might look in the future. It doesn’t show why it’s that way though. That intrigued me. This idea then evolved into my research question: How can virtual Gothenburg become a place where social and cultural values can be raised in a dialog with residents and the City of Gothenburg?”

The thesis project resulted in a prototype of an app.

Sanna’s research question resulted in a prototype of an app linked to the digital twin, where residents can share their experiences and feelings about various places in Gothenburg. The posts are then shown in AR (Augmented Reality) for other residents using the app at those places. 

Together with the quantitative data that exists in the digital twin, the more qualitative data collected in the app can supplement and highlight other types of issues.

“The app can be a tool for residents to represent a place. In this way, everyone can participate in expressing different perspectives on the identity of a place so that it is not only part of the discussion, but also part of the qualitative data in the digital twin,” she says.

Focus on freedom and collaboration

Sanna says that the best things about doing her thesis work at RISE are the ability to collaborate, freedom to explore and the distinct societal perspective.

“I was part of the team, but also got to set my own direction and explore my own interests. My colleagues expressed that "you do your thesis project, we are here for you as inspiration and with our expertise" which gave me both freedom and support. I also got to interact with external stakeholders. It was exciting to see how this interaction goes and to work with design, based on everyone’s needs,” she says.

“I got a great deal of inspiration from the other designers and researchers. RISE has an interdisciplinary approach, which was quite evident in the work we did at all times. Of course, there is also the societal perspective. RISE works with what’s happening here and now, and how to further develop it. So the focus is always on the present and the future,” says Sanna.

What are your best tips to future thesis students?

“If you get the chance to work with a company or organization outside the university, go for it.  You gain so much from that! Make use of all the experts around you, utilize that resource and ask a ton of questions. Oh, and don’t save the writing until the last minute either!” says Sanna.

What is your favorite innovation?

“The recycling system. The more I think about it, the more it fascinates me. Such a simple system, which has changed the behavior and culture about how we view waste. It contributes to a more sustainable society and altered approach on what to do with something once you are done with it. This is social innovation, which has changed behavior for the better,” she says.

Make a difference with your thesis project

At RISE, we welcome more than 100 thesis project students each year, across a wide variety of fields. Do you also want to do your thesis at RISE? See all possibilities: We like students