Small logo of ETH main building ETH Zurich : Computer Science : Pervasive Computing : Distributed Systems : Education : DR HS2020

Digitalisation and the Rebound Effect – Seminar HS2020

Dr. Vlad Coroama

Time and place

Thursdays, 14:15 - 15:45, Room CHN G 22

Introduction session

An introduction to the seminar was given on Thursday the 17th of September 2020 during the first class. Seminar topics were assigned to students during this session.

All seminar topics have been assigned. Students who are interested in the seminar but have no topic assigned can still follow the seminar online but cannot gain credit points for the course.

Maximum number of participants and prioritization

A maximum number of 11 students can be admitted to the seminar. The seminar is aimed primarily at D-INFK Master's students as well as Bachelor's students still in need of a seminar for their Bachelor's program, who will be given priority. Should empty spots remain, second priority will be given to younger Bachelor's students, third priority to Doctoral students. Should the need in either of the categories arise, a random generator will decide upon participation.

Special Corona measures

The seminar aims for, and starts with, the physical presence of attendees. All of the social distancing and other measures listed in ETH's 'Schutzkonzept Lehre' (and in particular the compulsory wearing of masks) will be respected. Outside noise level permitting, the seminar will be held with open windows for better ventilation. According to the instruction of the rector, there will be no break, so we finish latest at 15:45, to allow for more ventilation between classes.

Anyone with flu-like symptoms should of course not attend the seminar; virtual participation will be arranged. If required by the dynamic circumstances, the seminar will switch to either a hybrid mode (in which participants can attend both remotely or in person) or fully virtual mode.


The goal of the seminar is to learn about the impact of digitalisation on energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and environmental sustainability in general, with special emphasis on the subtler implications of rebound effects.

Furthermore, students will also be familiarized with reviewing scientific literature, delivering a scientifically sound presentation respecting the allocated time, and producing a scientific report.


The seminar consists of talks given by students on selected topics, followed by subsequent discussions led by the instructor.

Seminar attendees select a specific topic within the broader context of current research and prepare an oral presentation. As a starting point, the students are assigned 3-5 important papers in their topic but they have to collect complementary materials and compile them together. Oral presentations must be planned for 30-40 minutes. Each presentation will be followed by a technical discussion as well as a short feedback session on the quality/style of the presentation. Each student also has to write a short essay on the selected topic. Essays must be composed using a given template and must be 3-4 pages long (including figures, tables, and references). The essay is due in 3 weeks after the presentation. The quality of this essay will be evaluated and considered for the final grade.

In addition to studying the selected papers only, the students should do independent literature research, and should summarize the whole topic in their presentations and essays.

The seminar will be held in English. Presentations and reports must be in English.


Please use the following template for your report. For the presentation, you may use the (slightly overloaded) ETH presentation template, or a simpler slide template of your choice.


The final grade is based on:
  • 60%: quality of the presentation – includes content (topic coverage, problem emphasis, limitations), organization/structure, slides, delivery (enthusiasm, clarity of talk), length (w.r.t. the allocated time) and the answers to questions from the audience.
  • 30%: quality of the essay – includes content, structure, and language.
  • 10%: involvement in the seminar (i.e., participation in discussions and feedback sessions after each presentation).
Students who successfully complete the seminar will be awarded 2 credit points (ECTS).


 #  Date  Category  Topic  Speaker  Moderator
  I.   17.09.2020  Intro & admin  Introduction to the seminar / assignment of topics  Vlad Coroama   –
  II.   24.09.2020  Developing and delivering seminar presentations
 Some hints on writing scientific reports
 Vlad Coroama   Noah Hiltpold
  1.   01.10.2020  Setting the stage  How can digital systems help saving energy and carbon?  Isabelle Frodé (slides)  Lukas Käppeli
  2.   08.10.2020  Rebound effects: definition & types  Diana Steffen (slides)  Toni Bruchseifer
  3.   15.10.2020  The direct energy consumption of digitalisation  Larissa Schrempp (slides)  Isabelle Frodé
  4.   22.10.2020  Savings vs. rebound effects
 in specific domains
 Sharing economy  Thórhildur Thorleiksdóttir (slides)  Diana Steffen
  5.   29.10.2020  Autonomous vehicles  Thierry Backes (slides)  Adrien Chabert
  6.   05.11.2020  Machine learning)  Adrien Chabert (slides)  Thórhildur Thorleiksdóttir
  7.   12.11.2020  Teleworking (with special emphasis on the Corona situation)  Adrian Jenny (slides)  Thierry Backes
  8.   19.11.2020  Zooming out and conceptualising  Skill rebound – a qualitatively new type of rebound?  Noah Hiltpold  Larissa Schrempp
  9.   26.11.2020  Limiting factors: applications with no or little rebound  Olivier Bitter (slides)  Adrian Jenny
  10.   03.12.2020  Existing trade-offs between environmental and societal goals  Lukas Käppeli  Noah Hiltpold
  11.   10.12.2020  Are rebound effects unavoidable or are there effective countermeasures?  Toni Bruchseifer  Olivier Bitter
  III.   17.12.2020  Overarching conclusions  –  all seminar participants  –


The list of topics is provided below.

ETH ZurichDistributed Systems Group
Last updated November 27 2020 11:02:21 AM MET hs