Our findings of written things related to the research focus.
Ok, so we're talking about 'the nudge factor', transformative design, behavioural design, etc. While Alexander in his presentation of the NUDGE book did raise critical questions about the whole attitude behind it, I'd like to point to an article in which the author worked out some of those criticisms in greater detail.
Published on SPIKED, Brendan O'Neill writes with wit and fury against the 'politics of the brain'. Whilst not specifically being about nudging in relation to sustainable living, the article might still teach us to be very careful whenever we try to impose certain desired behaviours to the user through design. I know, design is NEVER free of ideology and things are always intended to be used in certain ways and they foster certain behaviours or restrict them. But to declaredly aim for a certain 'correct' behaviour could be tricky, from a moral viewpoint as well as from the viewpoint of a liberally minded user, who would be put off by this design strategy.
In the words of O'Neill, the problem with the nudge state is "that it's alarmingly illiberal. Built on the idea that individuals are essentially irrational the elitist politics of the brain treats the mass of the population as not worth seriously engaging with."
"It’s about finding ways to change how individuals think and behave so that they conform to some preordained, elite-decided view of what a decent person is (booze-free, non-fat, eco-aware)."
And: "Most shockingly of all, the nudge brigade sees it as its responsibility to exercise willpower on our behalf, because apparently we’re too fickle to do it ourselves."
Ok. Now we should have something to debate about!
Link to the article here.
This paper provides an excellent critical study of the current state of energy-consumption feedback technology. Specifically interesting is its comparison of research in HCI with that in environmental psychology ("Umweltpsychologie"), and how both disciplines can benefit from each other.
Environmental psychology (EP) is mainly interested in how we relate to "the environment" and what motivates our behaviours towards it. Whereas HCI is mostly interested in the appearance of computer-based feedback and usually employs qualitative studies, environmental psychology often relies on larger-scale studies to infer behavioural models. This goes back to as early as 1974, when a light bulb was turned on whenever energy consumption reached peak levels.
Models of Behavior
EP offers two basic models of pro-environmental behavior that largely influence the design: The rational choice models assumes that we are mostly guided by self-interest, and evaluate utility vs. cost. These are not necessarily financial - rather they tend to be quite complex because many aspects of life are taken into account. The norm-activation models on the other hand assume that we are mostly determine by social factors, the recognition of others but also our responsibility for future generations. Both models have their validity and it depends on the specific context which one outweighs the other.
Typical motivations employed to reach a desired behavior are:
- Provide factual information on consumption, most efficient when "closest" (spatially, timely, etc.) to the point of consumption. Can also contain prompts that suggest specific behavior.
- Contrasting the current with desired situation, providing a directive and learning-goal, especially effective in conjuction with feedback.
- Compare personal performance with one's own history, other people or groups. Effective up to a certain point, when it often reaches a plateau. Online social networks are still underexplored.
- Ask people to make a pledge or promise to behave in a certain way.
- Incentive/Disincentive and Rewards/Penalties
- Incentive/disincentive are prior to the action, such as government funding of solar panels, whereas rewards/penalties come after. Should be closely related to the behavior, and can also be abstract or even game-like.
- Plays together with most of the above. Low-level feedback provides detail on how to change specific behaviour, high-level feedback is more towards an over-arching goal or in comparison to others. The more detailed the feedback, the better.
As well as considering the appropriate motivation, it is important to have a good understanding of which specific behaviour is desired, and to make sure that it is attainable within the specific context of the user.
Der Artikel steht der Atomenergie recht kritisch gegenueber, nicht jedoch aus ideologischen Gruenden. Vielmehr wird darauf verwiesen, dass Atomkraftwerke wohl technisch gar nicht so gut in der Lage sind, oft schnell hoch- und wieder herunterzufahren (Lastwechselbetrieb), um Fluktuationen in der Stromauslastung auszugleichen. Diese Fluktuationen werden jedoch immer mehr werden mit weiterer Verbreitung von Wind- und Solarenergie. Insbesondere von 2020 an soll es spannend werden: Dann werden wir an vielen Tagen so viel Wind- und Sonnenstrom im Netz haben, dass man ganze Kraftwerksbloecke nicht nur herunterfahren, sondern voruebergehend ganz abschalten muss. Ausserdem koennte die Laufzeitverlaengerung der AKWs die weitere schnelle Entwicklung von erneuerbaren Energiequellen verzoegern. Viele Probleme muessen allerdings noch geloest werden auf dem Weg hin zu einer Zukunft mit ueberwiegend Oekostrom: Wir brauchen neben den gruenen Kraftwerken vor allem neue Stromnetze, Energiemanagement (smart grid) und neue Langzeitspeicher (wenn ueber laengere Zeit keine Sonne scheint und kein Wind weht). Gerade die Langzeitspeicher stellen aber wohl derzeit noch ein grosses technisches Problem dar.
Was also braeuchten wir, um diese Vision Wirklichkeit werden zu lassen? Die Vernetzung des Energiemarkts muesste europaweit geschehen und nicht vor Laendergrenzen haltmachen. Neben dem weiteren Ausbau von Solar- und Windenergie muesste vor allem in das Stromnetz investiert werden. Das alles kostet sehr viel Geld. Wichtig und interessant ist aber auch: In vielen Laendern legen sich Buerger quer, wollen keine neuen Strommasten, die wir braeuchten, und Planungsverfahren ziehen sich ewig hin. "Doch die zwangslaeufige Wahl AKWs oder Ueberlandleitungen klar auszusprechen, davor scheuen sowohl Gruene wie Konservative zurueck."
Pierce and Paulos tackle three critical themes within the context of sustainable interaction design: The intangibility of energy, the undifferentiatedness of energy and the availability of energy. Exploring these themes they designed the Energy Mementos and The Local Energy Lamp to suggest ways of materialising energy as something more tangible, more differentiated and less available. Some helpful concepts are also introduced: energy attachment (Can I become attached to a certain energy, maybe because I produced or harvested it?), energy engagement, energy attunement (a bridging concept between energy engagement and energy awareness), local energy (energy produced locally, e.g. by yourself or in your home) and energy meta-data (data about e.g. the source, its age, availability, etc.). To see how we could deal with energy differently, they propose using different verbs for generating energy (collecting), storing energy (keeping), distributing energy (sharing) and using energy (activating). The Energy Mementos make those ideas tangible: You collect energy in little devices (not to different from what Myriel did with the Energy Harvesters), e.g. you place a little bottle in the sun, later you open the bottle and get a little torch.
A central question is: How might we metaphorically aim to design interactions with energy as gardening, tending to the hearth, or preparing and sharing an elaborate meal?
The results from a workshop about energy efficient homes with a special focus on home insulation.
MARKET RESEARCH: eight key insight themes
• Home is where the heart is
• People see their homes as an ongoing investment
• Improvements fall into 'Need2Dos' and 'Nice2Haves'
• Warmth is the key benefit when making home improvements
• ROI is the primary barrier to improvements
• Planning is the secondary barrier to home improvements
• Home energy efficiency is poorly understood
• When it comes to home insulation out of sight is out of mind
They've discovered EIGHT CHALLENGES:
• Catalyse consumer action through joined up campaigns (–>branding & advertising)
Some ideas: open show house to explore new technologies and ways of living, campaign on fuel scarcity, energy audit…
Some existing campaigns: ACT on CO2, Do the Green Thing, We are What we Do
• Create new funding mechanisms incentives and rewards
Finding the money to invest in home energy efficiency is a barrier and many consumers are not aware of incentive schemes. Tension between finding the money today and save money in the future.
Ideas: Community savings (getting a few houses insulated at a time helps bringing down the cost. bring everyone on board.), Eco points / reward cards (loyalty schemes & rewards), when you buy loft insulation you get a discount on micro-renewable technologies, etc.
• Make it easier to get someone in
• Train for new skills and accreditation
Consumers have a low level of awareness of the steps needed to take to achieve energy efficiency. They are looking for people who can help them navigate this complex area but are unsure which profession or service to turn to.
Ideas: Plumbers, builders, electricians could be trained and accredited to provide home energy efficiency audits and solutions. Someone coming to take a look at your house to make recommendations that are particular for the personal need. But, who can I trust and turn to? Home energy health checks. Full Home Audit (includes security, fire safety & energy efficiency)
• Make it easier to do it yourself
The aim is to make potential DIYers more confident about their purchase and to help them gain the expertise they need to install.
Ideas: Partner with DIY retailers (Bauhaus, Toom, etc.) to provide consumers with the tools to analyse home energy use and access to products and training. Citizen science. DIY Energy Savings Toolkit. Open Green Home Online Network.
• Create innovative insulation products
The aim is to use design and creativity to make products more engaging and valuable to potential customers.
Ideas: Insulating wallpaper, working together with designers
• Deliver intuitive home energy controls
The challenge is to bring this technology to the mass market.
Ideas: The heating system could also tell how much energy could be saved by improving insulation, redesigning the bill, etc.
• Use community to drive change
Ideas: League tables, Green Hero, neighbourhood energy watch, google heat view, shared thermal camera
In this book, behavioural psychologist Geoffrey Beattie investigates the psychological reasons why most people are not changing their behaviour when it comes to saving the planet even though they are very aware of its urgency and think of themselves as green (also known as the 'green fakers'). What makes this book sympathetic is that Beattie counts himself as a green-faker, too.
The book starts out by explaining the basics of behavioural psychology. He makes an important distinction between implicit and explicit attitude: Explicit attitude is what people are telling in interviews (their conscious, public opinion), whereas implicit attitude is what they believe subconsciously/emotionally. The assumption is that the implicit attitude is more closely related to actual behaviour.
How can this be measured? While the explicit attitude can be found out through, for example, Likert questionnaires, the implicit attitude seems to be difficult to measure. The Implicit Attitude/Association Test (IAT) is one way to do this, measuring spontaneous reactions to topic-related words and images. What's best: They can easily be done individually online. Try it out yourself here (though not on ecological topics): https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/.
Now how does this insight help with the problem at hand? Well, the book then goes on to look int various ways explicit and implicit attitudes are mismatching and how it can be detected (especially in dissociations of gesture vs. speech). At the end it returns to how this can be influenced, through the power of mass media. Al Gore's movie "An unconvenient truth" is taken as an example in the hope that it elicits so-called "flash-bulb memories" that lastingly alter our behaviour. After some quantitative testing, the answer is that the movie does influence people's emotions quite heavily, but it is unclear how long-lasting this effect is.
The main reasons "why we aren't saving the planet", remain relatively unclear. It seems that the consequences of our behaviour are too detached from our actions, and we are not yet conditioned through our upbringing to do it unconsciously. Also, the images and metaphors used in the climate catastrophe scenarios are not drastic and realistic enough to reach us (just think of the fact that oceans will warm up - who wouldn't like that?).
The authors equipped four stakeholders (students, parents, bicyclists, and homeless) with mock environmental sensor kits that could be placed in public spaces. Six different sensors simulated to measure exhaust, smog, pathogens, noise, chemicals, and dust.
Ein gutes Buch als Einstieg in das Thema, insbesondere aus deutscher Sichtweise. Vor- und Nachteile von verschiedenen Energiequellen werden ideologiefrei und pragmatisch diskutiert (Erneuerbare Energien, Kohle und Gas, Kernenergie), das Stromnetz und Stromtransport werden erklaert und es gibt ein Kapitel ueber den Strommarkt und Preise. Hat mir sehr geholfen fuer ein erstes Grundwissen.
Einige interessante Stichpunkte: (ihr werdet davon das meiste schon wissen, aber egal)
• Zieldreieck Energiepolitik, hilft bei der Bewertung von Massnahmen und Technologien: Wir muessen Versorgungssicherheit, Umwelt- und Klimaschutz und Wirtschaftlichkeit im Auge behalten.
• Erneuerbare Energien haben eine gute Klimabilanz, man hat aber eine gewisse Versorgungsunsicherheit, z.B. Wind/kein Wind = Strom/kein Strom bei Windkraft. Da Strom nur schlecht gespeichert werden kann, gibt es also im Fall Windkraft bei viel Wind mitunter eine Ueberversorgung und andere (konventionelle) Kraftwerke muessen gedrosselt werden. Bei Flaute muessen konventionelle Kraftwerke hingegen mehr Energie produzieren. Somit muss es fuer jeden Windpark auch ein konventionelles Kraftwerk geben, dass nur im Teilbetrieb laeuft.
• Es gibt einen staendigen Balanceakt im Stromnetz zwischen Stromproduktion und Stromverbrauch: das 'Just-in-Time Prinzip'. Ein kurzfristiger Zusatzbedarf muss auch kurzfristig ausgeglichen werden. Dafuer gibt es auch Kraftwerke 'auf der Reservebank', die sich bei Bedarf schnell hochfahren lassen. Besonders interessant in unserem Zusammenhang fuer 'smart metering'.
• Viele Anlagen laufen nachts und am Wochenende in Teillast, tagsueber muss dagegen Spitzenlast zugeschaltet werden, um den Bedarf zu decken. Diese Schwankungen in der Lastkurve fuehren zu einem System, das unwirtschaftlicher und klimaschaedlicher ist als es sein muesste: smart metering, smart grids und auch Elektroautos koennten hier helfen. (Elektroautos die dann also nachts aufgeladen werden.)
• Energieversorgungsunternehmen haben naturgemaess wenig Interesse Strom zu sparen, schliesslich wollen sie diesen verkaufen. Der politische und gesellschaftliche Trend geht aber in die andere Richtung und also sollten Energieunternehmen ihr Geschaeftsmodell aendern. Hin zu mehr Energieberatung oder auch 'Contracting' (die Uebernahme des gesamten Energiemanagements fuer z.B. einen grossen Industriebetrieb).
I want to remember here Hermann Scheer not only because he was the representative in German parliament from my home town/ county, but because he was a passionate transformer, law maker and visionary for the renewable energy revolution in Germany and internationally.
There is a long recent interview in English with him on DemocracyNow! - one of his last
Hermann Scheer, one of the world’s leading advocates for solar power, has died at the age of sixty-six. The German economist and politician helped make Germany a renewable energy powerhouse and inspired many across the world to expand the use of solar power. Scheer had been member of the German Parliament for three decades and was the president of EUROSOLAR, the European Association for Renewable Energy. In 1999, he won the Right Livelihood Award for his "indefatigable work for the promotion of solar energy worldwide." When he received the award, he described solar energy as the energy of the people.
His last book "Der Energethische Imperativ" was just published.
Somewhat unstructured paper about different feedback methods for energy consumption (e.g. smart meters, billing, meter reading) and their potential for saving energy in private households.
Some interesting points: • Feedback is useful as a self-teaching tool and improves 'energy literacy' in addition to potential savings. • Historic feedback (comparing with previous recorded periods of consumption) appears to be more effective than comparative or normative (comparing with other households, or with a target figure). • Energy supply and consumption are sociotechnical in nature: technology and behaviour interact and co-evolve with other over time. • Information (via campaigns, PR, commercials) on its own has a poor track record in achieving energy conservation. • Microgeneration of energy needs to become widespread if the (UK's) government's renewables and carbon dioxide emission targets are to be met.
A good overview of different GENRES that have already emerged within the sustainable HCI community. Briefly discussed are Persuasive technology, Ambient awareness, Sustainable interaction design, Formative user studies, Pervasive and Participatory Sensing. The second section of the paper discusses major differences between researchers. Some interesting points here:
• There seems to be a lack of designs for other 'scales' than just the private consumer, e.g. design for building affiliative groups, nation-states, multiple stakeholders, collectives.
• Different attitudes within the research community: Users as the problem vs. solving users' problems
• improving vs. fundamentally changing lifestyles and, in a similar vein: technology as an adequate vs. inadequate solution. The 'inherent contradiction in attempting to use technology to create more intimate connections with nature' is mentioned.