Positive Persuasion - Designing enjoyable energy feedback experiences in the home

Abstract: The world currently faces huge challenges in terms of our excessive use of energy. Energy conservation – a topic that has been on the agenda since the energy crisis in the 1970s – has for this reason once again become a very central issue in our society. In this thesis, we explore how interface design can be employed to address the increasing energy use in our homes. By creating a number of mobile phone services and computer augmented artifacts, we try to provide both fun and interesting ways to engage with concrete energy consumption issues and problems in a domestic everyday context. While design of technology in the home seeks to conceal our everyday use of energy, we here look at how we can reveal it. Consequently, in this thesis we ask how energy use can be visualized, and how playful and social design features can be employed to generate interest and make energy more noticeable in our lives. This thesis relates mainly to the fields of persuasive technology and sustainable HCI, but also makes use of theoretical constructs and practical examples from ubiquitous computing and serious-games research. We argue that when designing persuasive technology, a key thing to consider is its use context and the experiences it provides to its users. Like any other product, a persuasive-technology artifact or service must often be bought or downloaded. But persuasive technology must also be used in order to be effective. For this reason, it needs to offer its user something that can compete with other activities in its use context. The starting point of our investigation has therefore not only been how to change people’s attitudes and behaviors, but also how the artifacts and services created to this end can offer meaningful and engaging experiences that fit into a home context. Since persuasive technology arguments always will be judged based on, among other things, the message and the ethics they convey, we argue that they are often limited to a context where people already have a positive attitude towards the subject. Through what we refer to as a positive persuasion strategy we accordingly try to provide people, who on some level already are either curious or concerned about their energy habits, with fun and interesting means to explore their energy consumption. By combining concepts from both ubiquitous computing and so-called serious games, we specifically address how a persuasive-technology argument can offer a rewarding experience and how the different parts of this offering can be integrated, but also how the offering itself can be integrated into the home. By utilizing the rich complexity surrounding electric appliances and their use of energy as well as the social context around them as a design resource, we illustrate how interacting with our energy use can be made intrinsically fun and enjoyable. Based on the findings from our research we argue that the role of feedback on energy use often is misunderstood. While existing energy feedback solutions focus on conveying accurate information in terms of kilowatts and cost, we argue that this problem needs to be addressed as a question of stimulating attention rather than of providing information. Consequently, energy feedback designs should focus on how feedback cues remind us of and reframe our energy use. This involves a focus on the spatial, temporal, and esthetic aspects of the feedback. We also argue that the primary function of the information conveyed by these energy feedback cues is to motivate rather than to inform. Rather than being simple and abstract, the information will therefore benefit from being detailed, expressive, and complex. Rather than being neutral and objective, it will also benefit from being conspicuous and challenging in its form.

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.