On the latter (alright, and on the first) I spend a lot of time in the last months. I went to the Interactive Institute this semester, a design research institute with studios all over Sweden. From Stockholm, I worked on the EU-funded CELSIUS project in which the Interactive Institute was one of 21 (!) European partners.
The goal of the project is to demonstrate the advantages of district heating. It is a highly energy-efficient system with many possibilities, for example in using residual heat from industry, transportation systems (such as subways), et cetera. The Interactive Institute was brought into the project because of its user-centered approach.
District heating is controlled centrally. For apartment residents- for instance- this means the janitor of the building decides what the temperature of the building will be – quite a different situation as to having your own thermostat!
To understand this change and to design for it, I researched what people do to stay warm at home and how this differs in the EU-countries. It was interesting to see how the (often much more technical) partners responded to such a zoomed in and human centered approach. I got to go to London to execute a part of my research there. It made the semester even more international. All of that, while having licorice within reach. Perfect!