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Merry Summer!

Merry belated midsommar to our dear readers – both to old followers and to people who are new to the KTH Transformative Humanities Blog! If you have spent some time in Sweden, you are certainly no stranger to the phenomenon of extensive summer holidays. Following this custom, the blog will also go into summer hibernation, offering a little bit of rest to chief editor Sofia Jonsson and myself – co-editor Achim Klüppelberg. The blog will be back in August, posting informative texts, reports from events, hints on new publications from our division, and opinion-pieces on research and societal questions.


Deer on Nämdö, 2023.

When I joined the editing team in December 2o2o, Sofia and me thought about ways to continue to promote the research at the division of History of Science, Technology and the Environment. Some of it was relatively successful, while other things turned out to be fairly uninteresting to our readers. Editing a large blog like this one, is always a developing endeavour. As we editors continue to learn what works and what not, we always tried to be open for current events, new developments in the research landscape and surrounding academia.

It was an inspiring, curious, and teaching experience, of having been part of this journey during the last two and a half years. I am writing this sentence in the past tense, because I will end my job as co-editor today, after having created 76 posts in total. I am grateful for this opportunity and I hope that my contributions were deemed useful by our readers.

All the best and goodbye to you, the future editing team, and the blog as a whole!


… in the archipelago, 2023.


PS: Don’t forget to subscribe!


New Publication: Investigating potential effects of mobility and accessibility services using the avoid-shift-improve framework

Division researcher Katarina Larsen has published a new article together with her co-authors Hampus Berg Mårtensson and Mattias Höjer, both from the Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering (SEED) at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The text with the title “Investigating potential effects of mobility and accessibility services using the avoid-shift-improve framework” is published in Sustainable Cities and Society, Volume 96. It is already available online, and will be published in a physical format in September this year.

Check it out here!

Profile picture of Katarina Larsen


Mobility services and accessibility services could contribute to reduced car-dependency and a more sustainable transport system. However, uncertainty remains regarding what the effects will be and further research is needed.

In this paper we examine potential effects on passenger car-travel in an urban context. To do so, we actuate the Avoid-Shift-Improve (ASI) framework using a System Dynamics approach and develop thematic Causal Loop Diagrams. We draw on the findings from a literature study and workshops engaging actors involved in creating visions and planning for the future of mobility and accessibility services in Stockholm, Sweden. The effects discovered are categorized as direct, enabling and structural/systemic, using a retrofitted version of the Three-Levels Model.

Contributions include the mapping of mechanisms through which the services can have positive and negative effects in relation to ASI, demonstrating a high degree of interconnectedness. This includes potential synergetic and competitive relations between the services. In addition, the approach gives insight to potential cumulative impact of the services, relatable to Mobility as a Service, including ‘user near’ effects regarding, e.g., commuting and leisure travel, as well as systemic and structural level effects. A discussion is conducted on the implications for actors and policy-makers.


Mobility service; Accessibility service; Mobility as a service; Sustainable urban mobility; Avoid-shift-improve; Car travel; Climate change; Environmental sustainability; System dynamics; Three-levels model of effects

“I Still Do a Lot of Good” by Nina Wormbs

Division professor in history of technology Nina Wormbs has written the very interesting essay “I Still Do a Lot of Good” for the Rachel Carson Center Review on 23 May 2023.

Profilbild av Nina Cyrén Wormbs

In this piece, Nina discusses the frequently occurring instances of cognitive dissonance that emerge once one does critically engage with the climate crisis we are in right now. How do we justify the things we do and which we know will further harm the environment? How do we relate towards flying in academia? How large is the influence of economic thought in our own evaluations of these instances?

If you want to know more about these questions, go ahead and read the piece here!

Demonstration, London, Demo, Aktivist

Upcoming Final seminar: Streams, Steams, and Steels: A History of Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Risk Governance (1850-1990)

A warm welcome to another upcoming final seminar at the division!

Doctoral Student: Siegfried Evens, Doctoral Student, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment
Supervisor: Per Högselius, Kati Lindström, Anna Storm
Opponent: Markku Lehtonen, Social Scientist, University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona

Time: Tuesday 2023-06-13 13.15 – 15.00

Location: Big seminar room, Teknikringen 74D (floor 5), Division of History of Science

Language: English


Siegfried Evens in front of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant in the USA.


That is why this dissertation will focus on exactly that: the water that runs through our nuclear power plants. Water is so important and obvious to the safety of so many power plants not only nuclear ones that it barely goes unnoticed. Indeed, the history of nuclear power contains a striking paradox. Water is the key to a normal functioning nuclear power plant and to preventing nuclear accidents. Yet, up until now, the history of water is largely absent from the history of nuclear power, and especially nuclear risk. In contrast, there is a longstanding scholarly tradition of studying nuclear fission and radioactivity.

But this dissertation is about more than just water. By focussing on water streams for the analysis of nuclear safety, other relevant elements open up as well. While water streams are essential, there is no nuclear power plant in the world that generates electricity because of it. Electricity is generated because of the steam caused by the boiling of that water. The generation of steam is coupled to the science and engineering practice of thermalhydraulics a field with a long and important history, dating back to the early days of industrialisation and mechanical engineering.

As I will show, much engineering and political effort in the nuclear sector and outside of it has been devoted to the management of pressure and temperature in steam equipment, such as boilers and pipes. All of this was essential to prevent the pressure from mounting too high, causing catastrophic explosions. In turn, the management of all this water and steam is also very reliant on the material that this equipment is made of. And that material is steel. A very robust material, steel is wellequipped to
withstand the tremendous pressures and temperatures necessary to generate power. However, as
with almost any material, it can decay, crack, brittle, and break. A major theme in this dissertation will therefore be the continued effort to improve and regulate steel and the work of metallurgists and material engineers in doing so. Streams, steams, and steels; that is in many ways the essence of
this dissertation.

Excerpt from Siegfried’s final seminar text, pp. 12-13.


A pressure vessel at Shippingport Nuclear Power Station in the USA.

Gender and Technology course – featuring the student posters about trouble with gender biases in technology

Did you know that AI generated photos depict women in a more sexualized manner than their male counterparts? Or that KTH’s own learning platform Canvas should include queer inclusive pronouns? Have you heard about the pill for men and why it has been a long time in the making? And did you know that some scientific fieldwork is only accessible for certain groups of people?

Those timely and thought provoking topics were addressed by the students in this terms poster presentation session in the Gender and Technology course. Click on each picture below to get a full size readable PDF!

Check out the poster ‘Digital Space – Whose Representation’. The group analyzed queer technology in our society, specifically in online identities and used Canvas and Linkedin as examples. This poster has some real world impact because it addresses KTH’s learning platform. The students are invited to talk about their results concerning CANVAS in the ABE schools working group for gender equality, diversity and equal treatment issues (JML).

The poster ‘Gender and Medicine – Female Contraception’ addresses the injustice women have faced in the medical world. The students found that contraceptive research and testing has been dismissive of female health struggles, while male contraceptives are tested more rigorously and introduced with great caution.

‘AI Generated images’ addresses the biases that are embedded in algorithms used by AI technology. The students found that AI generated images of male and female avatars are sexist. They discovered that with the same prompt female avatars showed more skin while male avatars were depicted as astronauts or scientists.

Another student group worked with ‘Intersectionality and fieldwork’ asking how fieldwork could be adapted to become more inclusive. The students suggested some remedies, like using remote sensing technology for observation in the field and introducing code of conducts to improve the working environment during fieldwork.

‘Artificial intelligence and data feminism’ discusses how algorithm developers can become more aware of their own biases in order to counter-act discriminatory gender representation on the internet. They group found some possible solutions to counter-act invisible biases by increasing transparency and participation in developing AI algorithms.

I hope that those posters are food for thought, for not only the Gender & Technology class of 2023, but all students and employees at KTH who are interested in promoting and maintaining are more inclusive, open and nurturing learning environment for all of us.

A special thanks to the students of the Gender & Technology class of 2023.

Profile picture of Tirza MeyerAuthor Tirza Meyer, course responsible teacher for Gender & Technology, 2023.

Upcoming Events in Doctoral Education

On 30 May, 1.15-2.45 pm, Alicia Gutting will have her final seminar with the title “The Nuclear Rhine” in her doctoral education. It will take place at the division, in the big seminar room. Alicia’s discussant is Timothy Moss, Senior Researcher at the Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys), based at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.

Alpine Rhine on the border between Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Photo: Alicia Gutting


On 02 June Ulrika Bjare will have her defence with the title “The autonomy of science – governance, organization, and enactment of university research”. It will take place at 10 am at KTH in Room B2, Brinellvägen 23 in Stockholm. Her Opponent is Charlotte Silander from Linnéuniversitetet. The defence will take place in Swedish.

You can also join the defence digitally via Zoom.

Ulrika has published her thesis on Diva. You can find it here.

Profilbild av Ulrika Bjare


New Book from the GRETPOL-project

Later this year, Janet Martin-Nielsen‘s new book, A Few Acres of Ice: Environment, Sovereignty, and Grandeur in the French Antarctic” will be published by Cornell University Press. This book stems from the GRETPOL project which took place at KTH Stockholm and the University of Stavanger over the past three years.

Janet Martin-Nielsen

A Few Acres of Ice is an in-depth study of France’s complex relationship with the Antarctic, from the search for Terra australis by French navigators in the sixteenth century to France’s role today as one of seven states laying claim to part of the white continent. Martin-Nielsen focuses on environment, sovereignty, and science to reveal not only the political, commercial, and religious challenges of exploration, but also the interaction between environmental concerns in polar regions and the geopolitical realities of the twenty-first century. She details how France has worked (and, at times, not worked) to perform sovereignty in Terre Adeìlie, from the territory’s integration into France’s colonial empire to France’s integral role in making the environment matter in Antarctic politics. As a result, A Few Acres of Ice sheds light on how Terre Adeìlie has altered human perceptions and been constructed by human agency since (and even before) its discovery.

A preview of the book is available on the publisher’s website!

Interview with Tirza Meyer: The Ocean – a contemporary history

A yellow sea cucumber on the seabed
A “gummy squirrel” sea cucumber, Psychropotes longicauda, living at a depth of 5,000 meters. Image courtesy of the DeepCCZ expedition/NOAA
Tirza Meyer is a contemporary historian and a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Philosophy and History, who has come to devote her work to the ocean. After studying how the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was negotiated, she is now dedicating her time to the question of how we have discovered, and continue to discover, life in the ocean, a very contemporary development.

To an historian, the contemporary period begins at the end of the second world war and – at least for Tirza Meyer – stretches some distance into the future. In her own academic history, the law of the sea has played an important role. It started when her supervisor at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway invited her to work on a project about deep-sea mining. That led to a dissertation about the role of Elisabeth Mann Borgese in making the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,UNCLOS, a reality and creating regulations for using the resources of the sea.

A woman in a black blouse and
Tirza Meyer

“After the war there existed an international community with the United Nations, the human rights, and ideas of internationalism. By giving resources for everyone to share the idea was that the world could become more just.”

Last year, Tirza Meyers published a book about Elisabeth Mann Borgese’s years-long work with UNCLOS. Her own work has also resulted in her being a member of a reference group for the Norwegian delegation to the International Seabed Authority, ISA, an autonomous international organization, through which states parties to UNCLOS organize and control all mineral-resources-related activities in the Area for the benefit of humankind as a whole.

”Based on my knowledge of the development of the convention on the law of the sea, I can comment on what may happen in the future. In my field, my colleagues and Istudy the past to understand how things are developing and how they may continue to develop in the future.”

Marine protected areas and mining that threatens biodiversity

As recent as in March 2023 negotiations were concluded on the Treaty of the High Seas to protect the ocean, tackle environmental degradation, fight climate change, and prevent biodiversity loss, an addendum to UNCLOS in an area that wasn’t well known during the 1970s and 1980s when the convention was negotiated. When ratified by at least 60 states the addendum will enter into force, enabling large marine protected areas on the high seas and require assessing the impact of economic activities on high seas biodiversity.

A group of people posing for a photoshoot
Tirza Meyer (in white and green) with colleges at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania. Photo: Hanne Nielsen

This year the ISA wants to reach a contract for the exploitation of minerals from the seabed. So far deep-sea mining has only been done as small-scale trials but the new contract can lead to large-scale seabed mining, something that is problematic in many ways and that is portrayed as a necessity since there will be a large future demand for minerals, not least for the green transition.

“I believe many biologists who work with the deep sea agree that we first need to gather information before mining, that risks devastating large areas, should take place. It is a very inflammatory issue, as a historian I can only comment on how we ended up where we are today.”

Costly research at enormous depths

Tirza Meyer has turned her eyes to the contemporary history of deep-sea research and she focuses on the abyssal and hadal zones, the part of the ocean – most of it – that is deeper than 4 000 meters and that has been named after the Greek word for bottomless and the Greek mythological underworld. She recently returned from a research trip to Australia.

“The research institute in Perth that I visited had been able to have access to a research vessel and a submersible thanks to funding from a wealthy individual. That is both interesting and problematic. One can speculate about how their research had been affected if he had decided to use his money on something else. A lot of the research is also funded by companies that want to mine minerals and that need knowledge about the seabed.”

In Tasmania, she met researchers working with under-ice observation. They work in inaccessible areas since it isn’t possible to drill through the polar ice and the instruments you send down under the ice tend to disappear. But there are great opportunities for discoveries. In 2021 researchers discovered the largest colony of fish nests in the world under the polar ice, with approximately 60 million fishes of the species Jonah’s icefish (Neopagetopsis ionah) over an area of 240 square kilometres.

”They discovered the area with a remotely operated underwater vehicle or ROV. I spoke with one of the people who made the discovery at a conference in London ”The Challenger Society Conference”. It’s a special world where you talk about how many species you have under your belt, that is how many new species you have discovered.”

New knowledge changes our view of the deep sea

The development has been fast and new species are discovered every time you send an instrument into the deep. Our idea of what the deep sea is has changed as we have gotten access to new technology that has changed our view of an area that we didn’t use to have access to.

illustration of a diver and a remotely operated underwater vehicle
Diver and remotely operated underwater vehicle. Illustration: Reviel Meyer

”Earlier a kind of dredge was used to collect fish from the deep sea. Then you didn’t know from exactly what depth the fishes came and they were also harmed when they were raised the the deep. One example of this is the fish barreleyes (Macropinna microstoma) which has a transparent head filled with liquid. The first description and drawing of the fish are from 1939 and they show a fish with a head that has collapsed in the lower surface pressure. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that a camera on an ROV revealed what it looked like in its natural habitat.”

Another example that shows how we are in the middle of an era of discoveries and new knowledge is that the first map of the Mid-Atlantic ridge was done as late as 1953 and that it’s not until the present day that we can map the seabed and measure the depth of the sea, using satellites and modern bathymetry. In the 1970s we also discovered hydrothermal vents, openings in the seabed with hot water mixed with minerals, and bacteria feeding on minerals through chemosynthesis, an alternative to photosynthesis, that was unknown until then.

”Apart from deep-sea research being very expensive and much remaining to be discovered, it’s also an international endeavour. I hope that we can learn more about the ocean together, without devastating it.”



Open Access to Sport, Performance and Sustainability

Is the strive for increasing performance and an ever-growing sports sector compatible with sustainable development? This is the key issue that the authors investigates in a new book: Sport, Performance and Sustainability, edited by Daniel Svensson, Erik Backman, Susanna Hedenborg and the Division’s Sverker Sörlin.

Sport, Performance and Sustainability examines the logic of “faster higher, and stronger” and the technoscientific revolution that has driven tremendous growth in the sports economy and in sport performance over the last 100 years.

The chapters provide valuable perspectives on the tensions between performance and sustainability. Co-authors include Sigmund Loland, Simon Beames, Itai Danielski, Andreas Isgren Karlsson, Jack Reed, Johan Carlsson, Isak Lidström, Bo Carlsson and Marie Larneby.

Sport, performance and Sustainability is publisehd by Routledge and written within MISTRA Sport and Outdoor – a research and collaboration programme to generate knowledge and solutions for increased sustainability in sport and outdoor recreation.

The book is due for printing now in May, but is also available open access online. Find it here: Sport, Performance and Sustainability

The Editors

Daniel Svensson is an Associate Senior Lecturer in Sport Management at the Department of Sport Sciences. He defended at the Division in 2016 with the thesis “Scientizing performance in endurance sports : The emergence of ‘rational training’ in cross-country skiing, 1930-1980,”.

Erik Backman is an Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy and Sport Sciences at the Department of Sport Sciences, School of Health and Welfare, Dalarna University, Sweden, and Associate Professor at the Department of Primary and Secondary Teacher Education, Faculty of Education and International Studies, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway.

Susanna Hedenborg is a Professor in Sport Sciences at Malmö University, Sweden, and the President of the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science.

Sverker Sörlin is a Professor of Environmental History at the Division  and a co-founder of the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory.


Sverker Sörlin Corresponding Member of The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters

The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letter, founded in 1742, is a learned society composed of elected members. In March the Academy elected Sverker as corresponding member of the Humanities and Social Sciences Class.

The task of the Academy is to strengthen the position of scholarship in Denmark and further inter-disciplinary understanding. The Royal Danish Academy has about 250 national members and about 250 international members. The members are prominent scientists within both the humanities and social sciences as well as the natural sciences. Each year, a number of new members are elected, and these members will then either belong to the Class of the Humanities and Social Sciences or the Class of Natural Sciences. In even years, 9 new members of the Class of Natural Sciences are elected. In odd years, 6 new members of the Class of Humanities and Social Sciences are elected.

Sverker was elected into the Humanities and Social Sciences Class, in recognition of his academic excellence.