designing for behavioral change for the purposes of sustainability

30 Apr 2008 - 12:36pm
5 years ago
8 replies
3288 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/susdesign/design-behaviour/index.htm

This site, "Design | Behaviour" (from the UK) seems really interesting.
They don't talk about IxD, but it really sounds like they are using core
facets of IxD theory and practice in the work being explored.

We had an event here in NYC where we looked at IxD and Sustainable Design a
few months ago and this work seems to be right on target with many of the
talking points in the conversation.

Here at Moto we are looking at this stuff and in another article posted on
Experientia today was work that Nokia is doing as well:
http://www.experientia.com/blog/homegrown-nokias-new-design-thinking-on-sustainability/

Is anyone else around here applying IxD and other captology methods or just
rethinking IxD for the purpose of "green"? Curious.

-- dave

--
David Malouf
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixda.org/
http://motorola.com/

Comments

1 May 2008 - 8:46am
Nick Quagliara
2007

The other day at work I was thinking about this. I came to the
realization that at work our designs are sort of incidentally
'green'.

I work on software for nonprofits. The software I work on supports
resolutions of 1024 x 768 and above. By supporting lower resolutions
(although few of us are going to want to go back to 800 x600),
customers don't have to buy new monitors. Although, I'm not sure
what the power consumption difference is between a brand new LCD and
older monitors.

I wouldn't call this Sustainable Design since it is lacking the
element of intent, but I wonder in what other other ways we might be
incidentally green.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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1 May 2008 - 12:40pm
.pauric
2006

I have serious reservations that the proposed 'behavioral shaping' can
result in what is ultimately needed: a better educated consumer.

Most of the suggested solutions on the linked site:
http://tinyurl.com/5sws5e follow that same thinking. They're either
new features or add-on products continuing the churn in consumer pass
through. It is hard to fault product like the Watson:
http://tinyurl.com/6myoed though I find it ironic the proposed
solution is a device that uses energy to display how much energy you
are using, never mind the oil, copper, heavy metals etc that were
needed to make it. Will it encourage people to switch off items like
they're 42" flat screen? yes.. but does it solve the hard fact that
we're living well beyond a 3 Earth footprint? People will still buy
the more energy efficient 64" HD with bluray etc etc screen when it
becomes cheap enough.

It irks me when the term 'green' is used to imply a system is somehow
better for the environment. More often than not the term is a
marketing gimmick indicating the new version is, at face value,
slightly less bad than the previous and so if you care about the
environment you should upgrade and dump the old one in the bin.

Take the example of the Power Saving feature in any operating system.
Its generally thought of as a 'green' option.. resulting in less power
consumption. However, this encourages the user to leave the machine
in standby mode.. consuming more power than is needed.

You will never see car manufacturers promote the virtues of walking as
a way to reduce how much you have to spend at the pump... how does
that help sell cars? We're conditioned to thinking that by buying a
Prius we're somehow saving the planet. The introduction of hybrid
SUV's on the market in the US is indicative of the magnitude of the
paradigm shift in consumer thinking needed.

Einstein "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking
we used when we created them.". Lets be realistic here, we cannot
'design' our way out of this problem.

Maybe I'm a little too cynical but the linked site seems to propose
how to make the best of a bad job... how to create new products that
are marginally less bad that the previous version... and in some cases
the proposal simply adds to the problem - consumption of resources.

I would suggest that if a designer truly feels like saving the
environment.. get a job as an educator.
http://tinyurl.com/36oca8

The world needs less 'stuff'... not new systems that consume
decreasing resources at a slower rate... that still leaves us in a
zero sum game... albeit a slightly longer one.

//rant off

On a slightly lighter note, watch Saving the Planet by George Carlin
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eScDfYzMEEw

1 May 2008 - 2:26pm
Dan Lockton
2008

Glad this has come up, as I'm actually researching this very area -
Design for Sustainable Behaviour - coming from a background of
developing a general method for suggesting behaviour-changing design
techniques applicable to different problems, and then applying them
to environmental and sustainability issues.

I've been blogging about this since 2005 -
http://architectures.danlockton.co.uk - but only recently started
active research for a PhD, and broadened the focus slightly from the
original concept of 'architectures of control' (which implies a
slightly more sinister/negative motive) to the idea of 'design with
intent', i.e. designers/planners envisaging some intended 'target
behaviour' that is desirable for users, and then creating
products/systems/environments which guide users towards that
behaviour. There are examples from many disciplines - architecture
and manufacturing engineering in particular - as well as the more
obvious interaction design and product design techniques. This is
very much an interdisciplinary field: in truth, the entire
advertising industry and law enforcement are also 'designed' to
shape 'user' behaviour, and some of the approaches used can be
translated into design suggestions.

While there is a difference between persuasive feedback (as with
captology/persuasive technology) and outright coercion, I would argue
there is a continuum between them. 'Harder' interaction design
techniques such as forcing functions or control poka-yokes are
somewhere in between.

Things to consider include whether the target behaviour benefits the
user directly (e.g. reducing electricity use saves the user money as
well as helping society) or serves another entity's interests. A
system which 'persuades' a user to save electricity by rationing
kWh supplied to a neighbourhood does not necessarily benefit
individual users, but may benefit society. This is where the ethical
nub seems to be.

The idea of the research is initially to develop a method (similar in
concept to TRIZ - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIZ - though less
complex) for suggesting applicable design techniques relevant to a
range of different target behaviours. This will (hopefully) be useful
to designers, engineers, planners and so on. The second stage will be
- focusing on environmental behaviour problems - user-testing
prototypes of some of the products/systems suggested by the method,
and measuring how successful they actually are. What human or
technical factors limit the effect on behaviour change? Do some users
become frustrated by devices which shape their behaviour? And so on...

If anyone's interested, there's a review paper introducing the
research, accepted for the International Journal of Sustainable
Engineering here -
http://danlockton.co.uk/research/Making_the_user_more_efficient_Preprint_hyperlinked.pdf
(PDF, 160 kb) - and I'll be presenting this (very short) introduction
- http://danlockton.co.uk/research/Design_with_Intent_Preprint.pdf
(PDF, 169 kb) - at Persuasive 2008 (http://persuasive2008.org ) next
month.

The Nokia research looks interesting and I look forward to
investigating it further! I understand Pauric's arguments, and to
some extent agree, but educating users is part of the point of much
of the research in this area. We could build devices which silently
adapt their modes of operation to save energy, but there seems no
reason why they can't do this obviously and help educate users at
the same time; getting users explicitly to _choose_ energy saving
modes is even better, as the natural 'commitment & consistency'
cognitive bias would help reinforce this behaviour.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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1 May 2008 - 4:08pm
.pauric
2006

apologies, the previous post from Boston IxDA was from me. Wasnt paying attention )o;

pauric

1 May 2008 - 4:06pm
Boston IxDA
2008

Thank you Dan. Before I go though your blog and paper I wanted to say
the crux of my pessimism stems from my viewpoint that consumer desires
rarely align with the greater good. We are still very much in the
'culture of the self'.

I struggle to think of opportunities where conscientious design
avoids breaking ease of use, they make awkward bedfellows. Not to
say it cant work, just hard for me to see how every socially
responsible designer can apply behavior conditioning as a design
methodology without creating in products that appear to Nanny the
user.

I see the somewhat overtly controlling nature of behavior shaping a
pitfall. Especially given the very products that need to educate the
user of their consequences; cars, power hungry consumer electronics,
etc.. are pitched to our lowest common desires. SUVs made from
recycled materials, optimized to slowly accelerate to reduce petrol
consumption?

Its just not why people buy this crap.

I feel that until carbon production is taxed in to the bottom line of
product margins, behavior shaping currently runs contrary to most
design requirements. Until the greater good becomes a business
incentive I'm afraid the designers hands are tied.

That all said I still think we're past the point of no return and
sleepwalking our way in to uncertain waters.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=28577

1 May 2008 - 7:00pm
Alexander Baxevanis
2007

A couple of days ago somebody wrote something very wise:
http://www.openthefuture.com/2008/04/the_earth_will_be_just_fine_th.html

"The grand myth of environmentalism is that it's all about saving the Earth.
It's not. The Earth will be just fine. Environmentalism is all about saving
ourselves."

What environmentalists are "fighting" for is the survival of the human
civilisation, at least an arbitrarily defined part of it.

And with regards to educating consumers - assuming that people can make a
goal out of "saving the environment" is assuming that the user of a word
processor has got a goal of defining styles. People's goals are to
live/love/work/play/communicate/whatever, just as the goal of a Joe X.
Typist is to make a line of text look bigger, and the easiest way may be to
increase the font size rather than finding to applying a "heading" style.

People still get along pretty well with sloppy word processing (or coding)
practices, partly because we've devised ways to minimise the cost by
offloading the work somewhere else - does outsourcing ring a bell? We've
managed to do the same in the food chain by the way, see below:

http://www.psfk.com/2008/05/local-food-processed-in-china.html

Until one of those things drastically backfires, we're going to continue
along the same lines.

Cheers,
Alex

On Thu, May 1, 2008 at 6:40 PM, pauric <pauric at pauric.net> wrote:

> I have serious reservations that the proposed 'behavioral shaping' can
> result in what is ultimately needed: a better educated consumer.
>
> Most of the suggested solutions on the linked site:
> http://tinyurl.com/5sws5e follow that same thinking. They're either
> new features or add-on products continuing the churn in consumer pass
> through. It is hard to fault product like the Watson:
> http://tinyurl.com/6myoed though I find it ironic the proposed
> solution is a device that uses energy to display how much energy you
> are using, never mind the oil, copper, heavy metals etc that were
> needed to make it. Will it encourage people to switch off items like
> they're 42" flat screen? yes.. but does it solve the hard fact that
> we're living well beyond a 3 Earth footprint? People will still buy
> the more energy efficient 64" HD with bluray etc etc screen when it
> becomes cheap enough.
>
> It irks me when the term 'green' is used to imply a system is somehow
> better for the environment. More often than not the term is a
> marketing gimmick indicating the new version is, at face value,
> slightly less bad than the previous and so if you care about the
> environment you should upgrade and dump the old one in the bin.
>
> Take the example of the Power Saving feature in any operating system.
> Its generally thought of as a 'green' option.. resulting in less power
> consumption. However, this encourages the user to leave the machine
> in standby mode.. consuming more power than is needed.
>
> You will never see car manufacturers promote the virtues of walking as
> a way to reduce how much you have to spend at the pump... how does
> that help sell cars? We're conditioned to thinking that by buying a
> Prius we're somehow saving the planet. The introduction of hybrid
> SUV's on the market in the US is indicative of the magnitude of the
> paradigm shift in consumer thinking needed.
>
> Einstein "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking
> we used when we created them.". Lets be realistic here, we cannot
> 'design' our way out of this problem.
>
> Maybe I'm a little too cynical but the linked site seems to propose
> how to make the best of a bad job... how to create new products that
> are marginally less bad that the previous version... and in some cases
> the proposal simply adds to the problem - consumption of resources.
>
> I would suggest that if a designer truly feels like saving the
> environment.. get a job as an educator.
> http://tinyurl.com/36oca8
>
> The world needs less 'stuff'... not new systems that consume
> decreasing resources at a slower rate... that still leaves us in a
> zero sum game... albeit a slightly longer one.
>
> //rant off
>
> On a slightly lighter note, watch Saving the Planet by George Carlin
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eScDfYzMEEw
> ________________________________________________________________
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>

2 May 2008 - 9:30am
Fred Beecher
2006

I have been doing user experience design for the Web and software for many
years now, but until recently have not had the opportunity to design
physical products, so "sustainable design" is a new thought on my mental
table. I'm currently enjoying its exotic flavors, although I'm not sure what
much of it is. : ) So apologies for any ignorance or obviousness displayed
below.
On Thu, 1 May 2008 14:06:57, Boston IxDA <boston.ixda at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Thank you Dan. Before I go though your blog and paper I wanted to say
> the crux of my pessimism stems from my viewpoint that consumer desires
> rarely align with the greater good. We are still very much in the
> 'culture of the self'.

I'd agree with you there, erm, Boston. Most of our consumption is mindless.
Most of *my* consumption was mindless, until I started thinking about it.
I'm not sure people are ready to do that... and I'm absolutely sure our
economy is not set up to do that. How I've managed my own is to think about
my needs and define parameters for them.

I'll admit to being an Apple fanboy. But I don't own an iPhone. And although
I nearly salivate every time someone whips one out, I will not buy one until
my criteria are met: It must have 3G, 32GB of storage, and support stereo
Bluetooth. At that point, the device will meet not only my immediate needs,
but my *needs for the forseeable future.* If I buy one now, I know I will
want to get rid of it and buy a new one when these new features are added.
I've thought of other features that may be added in the future, but I really
don't care about those. So if, e.g., GPS is added after I buy my iPhone, I
won't care.

Obviously, I've spent far too much time thinking about this, and as an IxD
I'm hyper-aware of how I (and others) use technology. I think it will be
*incredibly* difficult to get the majority of humanity to adopt a similar
attitude. Most people just don't care that much. And on top of that, our
economy depends on mindless consumption. If everyone did what I do, a lot
less stuff would get bought and our economy would collapse.

One of the ideas in the article about Nokia's thinking that Dave posted
contains an idea I think could help us alter this, the idea of the device
that is constantly upgradeable. I don't know the degree to which Nokia has
thought about this, but if we bought various "boxes" for different purposes
and "subscribed" to services that would deliver functionality, we could
still get the thrill of the new without having to throw something out. Yes,
stuff breaks and processors get faster, but as IxDs, I think we can do a lot
to design these services... feature/software upgrade paths, the ability to
swap out or upgrade components, change batteries, etc.

I think this is where we can do the most good.

I struggle to think of opportunities where conscientious design
> avoids breaking ease of use, they make awkward bedfellows. Not to
> say it cant work, just hard for me to see how every socially
> responsible designer can apply behavior conditioning as a design
> methodology without creating in products that appear to Nanny the
> user.

Nagware is bad. Flat out. So that's where we come in... how can we *make it
easy* to do the right thing? Like recycling. It wasn't very popular when we
had to separate different kinds of plastics, tin, aluminum, etc. But now,
most services allow us to put like materials together (plastic, metal,
paper) and *they* are the ones who sort it. This has made recycling almost
effortless and as a consequence it has taken off.

With what I've described above, my elaboration on Nokia's idea, that's
another opportunity. There's no nagware in that. If anything, it's a benefit
for the consumer. Instead of having to pay $200 for a new phone, they can
pay $50 to get a new processor installed or upgrade the memory. Of course,
if it's hard to do these things, they won't happen. If *we* make it easy,
they will.

- Fred

2 May 2008 - 10:32am
Dave Malouf
2005

So Fred, as a web/software guy i think you have more to offer than you think
you do, but I'll get to that in a minute.

I wish that guy who videotaped the NYC IxDA event on Sustainable
interactions would post his stuff already. I'm very upset he's flaked as the
event really highlighted well many of the issues.

A great example of interaction design that leads to behavior modification is
the simple inclusion of mileage info panel in a vehicle. The product itself
doesn't change, but the way people use that product has been shown to change
when such added instrumentation is added. The post-child of this experience
is even further exemplified in the panel that is included on a Toyota Prius
that shows you which engine is working when and why. They have shown that
drivers who keep it turned on are more susceptible to behavioral changes
than those who turn off the screen.

But back to "pure" software:
I won't have links so maybe others can provide them.
1) A plug-in that presents the carbon footprint of your air travel plans. it
works on Firefox. a great tool that doesn't nag, but provides data to be
converted to knowledge over time that can impact our decisions. The plug-in
connects to information that compares the airline footprint compared to
driving or train further engaging knowledge.

2) GoLoco is a web service that helps people find carpools. Purely done on
the web.

There are other examples like these that are not about nagging, but either
about teaching or about offering options.

I think that Pauric's perspective is both on target but cynical beyond being
useful. It is true that our economy is completely based on consumption and
unless we change the basic under pinnings of that, we can only go so far. A
great vid for learning more about this (I REALLY recommend people look at
this; it only takes 20min) is http://storyofstuff.com/ . It is one of the
best lessons in the impact of our economy on our world that I have ever
seen. Better than Al G.

I think there is a lot to be gained by buying "better for the environment"
products as opposed to "bad for the environment products". Yes, we have
learned that the prius is not the pure answer to the hummer, but it does
take certain steps in the right direction, as it is a part of a greater
whole of acknowledging change is necessary. There are many other examples of
this sort of "brand of change" that is going on that is worthwhile to enable
even if it is not solving ALL aspects of the problem.

BTW, having a "green strategy" is a growing requirement for enterprise
buyers of products and services. We at Motorola Enterprise Mobility are
being asked this all the time now. We are addressing this through supply
chain, through battery management, through changes in materials and
sourcing, etc.
We have a big advantage in that our average product lifecycle is about 3-10x
longer than consumer products. ;)

For those of us who are just in software/web, there are lots of questions to
ask ourselves:
1) Does doing the task on a computer really save us anything?
2) Is there a way to do the task on the computer that can reduce use? Heck,
can we reduce use by reducing the # or brightness of pixels?
3) Is there an opportunity in my system to engage people to change behavior
inside or outside of my system towards the end goal of "sustainability"

--
David Malouf
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixda.org/
http://motorola.com/

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