What does energy look like? Drawing Energy book now available by Dan Lockton

Last year, Flora Bowden blogged about our investigation of people’s perceptions of ‘energy’—how do people visualise, or think about, what is for the most part an abstract, invisible concept? A book detailing our research, Drawing Energy, is now available to download or order: Bowden, F., Lockton, D., Gheerawo, R. and Brass, C. (2015). Drawing Energy: […]

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Designing with people in sustainability and behaviour change research: DRS 2014 Workshop, 15 June 2014 by Dan Lockton

On 15 June, at the 2014 Design Research Society conference in Umeå, Sweden, we will be running a workshop on Designing with people in sustainability and behaviour change research along with SusLab project colleagues from Chalmers University of Technology and the Wuppertal Institute. This full-day workshop should be of interest to designers and researchers working at intersections [...]

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Guest post at Ethnography Matters by Dan Lockton

Over at the excellent Ethnography Matters we have an invited guest post about SusLab, explaining the RCA’s work on the project so far through from an ethnographic perspective. From the conclusion: …we hope to demonstrate, in the context of the wider political, academic and commercial debate over energy and behaviour change, what it means to [...]

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What’s the future of the UK’s energy? 12 February by Dan Lockton

On Wednesday, 12 February, we’ll be presenting our work on SusLab so far as part of What’s the future of the UK’s energy?, the next event in the RCA’s Sustain talks series, alongside some big names in sustainability policy and design. By 2050, we could get all the energy we want from safe and clean [...]

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Home Energy Hackday: the results by Dan Lockton

On Saturday 9th November, about 35 designers, developers, makers, researchers and other interesting people came together at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre. We had everyone from energy startups to service designers, venture capital to building performance and energy consultants, along with participants from our SusLabNWE partner organisations, Chalmers (Gothenburg) and Imperial College London. (Full list [...]

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Seeing Things: The projects by Dan Lockton

Visualising invisible patterns in human behaviours and environmental conditions Go straight to the projects On Friday 1 November, in the Senior Common Room at the Royal College of Art, twenty students from twelve different courses presented the outcomes of their week-long Seeing Things projects to invited guests, including participants in other AcrossRCA projects run by [...]

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Co-creation workshop by Dan Lockton

At the end of September, five householders from London and beyond worked together with five designers from the RCA’s Service Design department and Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, participating in a SusLab co-creation workshop at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre in Kensington. Our aim with the workshop was to connect a talented set of designers [...]

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Our ethnographic approach by Dan Lockton

This is a guest blog post we were invited to write by Gabrielle Ackroyd, one of the organisers of EPIC 2013, the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, taking place in London from 15-18 September. Our paper, ‘People and energy: A design-led approach to understanding everyday energy use behaviour’ [PDF] will be presented by Dan on [...]

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Some news, mostly around writing by Dan

• My PhD, which was inspired and indeed sired by this blog, back in 2007, has finally been approved by the examiners. I've put the thesis online with a few comments. I'll have a proper post reflecting on it all in due course - just need some time to think about it. Thank you to everyone who's helped along the way.

• In March I joined the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, as a senior associate working on the SusLabNWE project, and also some executive education work for partner organisations. It's a wonderful place with some great people, and I'm very pleased to be part of it. There are some exciting events coming up around the SusLab project, which will be announced later in the summer.

People and energy: A design-led approach to understanding everyday energy use behaviour, a paper based on the first phase of our SusLabNWE work, co-authored with Flora Bowden, Catherine Greene, Clare Brass and Rama Gheerawo, has been accepted for EPIC 2013, the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference taking place in London in September. A more detailed abstract is also available.

• Last year, my post about behavioural heuristics, based on a workshop run at Interaction 12 in Dublin, attracted quite a lot of interest. I have now had an article, Exploring Problem-Framing Through Behavioural Heuristics, accepted and published in the open-access International Journal of Design, which explores the concept in more detail, using some empirical research around interaction with heating systems from the EMPOWER / CarbonCulture project as examples. The article was co-authored with David Harrison, Rebecca Cain, Neville Stanton and Paul Jennings.

• Last September, Rob Phillips and I ran a stall at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire inviting visitors to create instructions for other people, around the tasks of making tea or making fire. The idea was that the way someone explains a system to someone else can provide insights into his or her mental model of the system, and that asking people to create these kinds of 'peer instructions' could be a useful research method for design. We have had an article exploring this accepted for the ACM Interactions 'On Modelling' forum, edited by Hugh Dubberly, so 'Making instructions for others: exploring mental models through a simple exercise', co-authored with Sharon Baurley and Sarah Silve, should be published in Interactions 20(5) in September 2013. I will make sure an open-access version is available.

• Following my previous Guardian Sustainable Business article, I was commissioned by Autodesk to write another, this time on design for repair and the possibilities of wider sustainability (and social) impacts not just through making products that last longer, but through building people's understanding of everyday systems, and giving us the confidence to change the world for the better. I think there's something quite powerful here, and it potentially relates to both civic engagement and the debate over 'seamlessness' in interaction design. A blog post about this is in gestation.

• I'll be writing about thermostats for The Atlantic's Object Lessons series (thanks to Ian Bogost).

• Finally, my short biography of Tom Lawrence Williams, the founder of the Reliant Motor Company, commissioned by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, has now been published, and appears to be free to view online (most articles need a subscription, which most UK public libraries have).

Making it easy by Dan

I have a blog post up at Guardian Sustainable Business, looking essentially at what's been referred to here previously as 'enabling' behaviour change, specifically in the context of sustainability. It's only a short article, and barely scratches the surface of the subject, but I hope it adds a useful contribution to the Guardian's sustainable living strand, much of which seems to focus on 'selling sustainability to consumers' rather than actually trying to understand the nuances of why people use energy and create waste in the ways that they do in everyday life. Hence, you'd be right to surmise that I'm not entirely comfortable with the " behaviour..." bit of the title: it introduces particular connotations that are not really what the article is about.

The article was commissioned by Autodesk, whose Sustainability Workshop team offer some excellent resources for designers and students -- e.g. these videos on life-cycle perspectives and other concepts relevant to product designers. Last year the team ran a Design with Intent workshop.

Design and behaviourism: a brief review by Dan

by Dan Lockton In a meta-auto-behaviour-change effort both to keep me motivated during a very protracted PhD write-up and demonstrate that the end is in sight, I'm going to be publishing a few extracts from my thesis (mostly from the literature review, and before any rigorous editing) as blog posts over the next few weeks. It would be nice to think they might also be interesting brief articles in their own right, but the style is not necessarily blog-like, and some of the graphics and tables are ugly.

“It is now clear that we must take into account what the environment does to an organism not only before but after it responds. Behaviour is shaped and maintained by its consequences… It is true that man’s genetic endowment can be changed only very slowly, but changes in the environment of the individual have quick and dramatic effects.” B.F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, 1971, p.24

Behaviourism as a psychological approach is based on empirical observation of human (and animal) behaviour—stimuli in the environment, and the behavioural responses which follow—and attempts in turn to apply stimuli to provoke desired responses. John B. Watson (1913, p.158), in laying out the behaviourist viewpoint, reacted against the then-current focus by Freud and others on unobservable concepts such as the processes of the mind: “Psychology as the behaviorist views it… [has as its] theoretical goal…the prediction and control of behavior. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness”.

Classical and operant conditioning

In an engineering sense, Watson’s behaviourism perhaps treats animals and humans as black boxes* (Sparks, 1982), whose truth tables can be elicited by comparing inputs (stimuli) and outputs (responses), without any attempt to model the internal logic of the system—an approach which Chomsky (1971) criticises. As Koestler (1967, p.19) put it—also heavily criticising the behaviourist view—“[s]ince all mental events are private events which cannot be observed by others, and which can only be made public through statements based on introspection, they had to be excluded from the domain of science.” However, learning (via conditioning) is inherent to behaviourism—both Watson’s and the later perspective of Skinner—which means that the black box is somewhat more complex than a component with fixed behaviour. Classical or respondent conditioning, of the kind explored with dogs by Pavlov (1927)—and often applied in behaviour change methods such as aversion therapy (as for example, the ‘Ludovico technique’ in Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange (1962))—repeatedly pairs two stimuli so that the reflex behaviour provoked by one also becomes provoked by the other.

Operant conditioning, as developed by B.F. Skinner (1953) via famous experiments with pigeons, rats and other animals, is essentially about consequences: it involves reinforcing (or punishing) certain behaviours (the operant) so that the animal (or person) becomes conditioned to behave in a particular way:

“When a bit of behaviour is followed by a certain kind of consequence, it is more likely to occur again, and a consequence having this effect is called a reinforcer. Food, for example, is a reinforcer to a hungry organism; anything the organism does that is followed by the receipt of food is more likely to be done again whenever the organism is hungry. Some stimuli are called negative reinforcers: any response which reduces the intensity of such a stimulus—or ends it—is more likely to be emitted when the stimulus recurs. Thus, if a person escapes from a hot sun when he moves under cover, he is more likely to move under cover when the sun is again hot.” (Skinner, 1971, p.31-32)

It is important to note here that in Skinner’s terms, positive and negative reinforcement do not imply ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and negative reinforcement is a different concept to punishment. Positive reinforcement is giving a reward in return for particular behaviour; negative reinforcement is removing something unpleasant in return for particular behaviour. These are subtly different. Pryor (2002) gives the example of a car seatbelt warning buzzer as negative reinforcement—a device designed to be irritating or unpleasant enough to cause the user to take action to avoid it. We might consider that a recorded voice saying “Thank you” after the seatbelt is fastened could be a positive reinforcement alternative. Positive and negative punishment are essentially the inverse of each of these—a fine for not wearing a seatbelt while driving is a form of positive punishment, and taking away someone’s driving licence would be a form of negative punishment. Clicker training with animals such as dolphins and dogs (e.g. Pryor, 2002) arguably combines features of classical and operant conditioning, using an audible clicking device to help ‘mark’ particular behaviours immediately they occur, which can then be positively reinforced with treats—or the click itself can act as a reinforcer.

A major factor in operant conditioning is the schedule of reinforcement that occurs: variable schedules of reinforcement, where a reward occurs on an unpredictable schedule—either ratio (amount of behaviour required) or interval (time required)—can be particularly effective; as Skinner (1971, p. 39) notes, variable ratio scheduling is “at the heart of all gambling systems”. Pryor (2002, p. 22) comments that “[p]eople like to play slot machines precisely because there’s no predicting whether nothing will come out, or a little money, or a lot of money, or which time the reinforcer will come (it might be the very first time).” This principle is inherent in all games of chance—Schell (2008, p.153) recognises it as something a designer can work with explicitly: “a good game designer must become the master of chance and probability, sculpting it to his will, to create an experience that is always full of challenging decisions and interesting surprises.”

*A ‘black box’ approach to modelling human, animal and other system behaviour has also been discussed extensively within cybernetics, e.g. by Ashby (1956) and Bateson (1969).

Social traps

“Like their physical analogs, social traps are baited. The baits are the positive rewards which, through the mechanisms of learning, direct behavior along lines that seem right every step of the way but nevertheless end up at the wrong place. Complex patterns of reinforcement, motivation, and the structure of social situations can draw people into unpreferred modes of behavior, subjecting them to consequences that are not comprehended until it is too late to avoid them.” Cross and Guyer, Social Traps, 1980, p.16-17

Platt (1973) and Cross and Guyer (1980) discuss ‘social traps’, situations in which there is both reinforcement which encourages a behaviour, but also a punishment or unpleasant consequences of some kind, affecting either the person involved or someone else, at some later point or in some other way. “The behavior that receives the green light becomes supplanted by or is accompanied by an unavoidable punishment…[C]igarette smoking provides a simple example: the gratification associated with smoking encourages future behavior of the same kind, while the painful illness associated with that same behavior does not occur until a point very distant in the future; and when, finally, the illness does occur, no behavioral adjustments exist that are sufficient to avoid it” (p.11-12). There are perhaps parallels with Bateson’s concept of the double bind (Bateson et al, 1956), in which a person is subject to conflicting ‘injunctions’ (reinforcers or punishments) about what ‘right’ behaviour is, with the result that whatever he or she does, will be wrong (and perhaps punished) according to one of the injunctions.

Countertraps—what Platt (1973) suggests might be called ‘social fences’—also exist, where people avoid a behaviour because of (fear of) punishment or undesirable consequences, even though the behaviour would have been desirable. Often the reinforcer is a short-term, local gain, whereas the punishment is a longer-term effect, perhaps affecting a wider group or area: Platt cites Hardin’s tragedy of the commons (1968) as a well-known example of social trap with worldwide social and environmental consequences. Costanza (1987) examines how different kinds of social traps are responsible for a range of environmental problems.

Cross and Guyer’s (1980) taxonomy of social traps is potentially interesting for two reasons from a design perspective, since (in common with some of the cognitive biases and heuristics to be discussed in a later post), design could seek to help users avoid such traps, by redesigning situations to avoid them (hence influencing behaviour), or in some way exploit the effects to influence behaviour, if they are useful in some other way. In Cross and Guyer’s taxonomy, there are five classes of trap (including countertraps), together with a ‘hybrid’ category for traps comprising more than one of the others: time-delay traps, where the time lag between a behaviour and a reinforcer is too high for it to be effective, e.g. “the high school dropout who, avoiding the present pain and unpleasantness of school, finds himself later lacking the education which could have prepared him for a more rewarding job” (p.21); ignorance traps, in which people fail to make use of generally available knowledge when making a decision, but simply rely on immediate reinforcers or superstitions; sliding reinforcer traps, “patterns of behavior [which] continue long after the circumstances under which that behavior was appropriate have ceased to be relevant, producing negative consequences that would have been avoided easily had the behavior stopped earlier… The trap occurs because the rewards establish a habit which persists in the succeeding period” (p.25); externality traps, where “the reinforcements that are relevant to the first individual may not coincide with the returns received by the second… If Peter spends five minutes in a cafeteria line choosing his dessert, he does not suffer for it, but all the people waiting behind him certainly do” (p. 28); and collective traps, which involve tragedy-of-the-commons-type externality traps, involving reinforcers or consequences for multiple participants based on behaviour by one or more.

Cross and Guyer (1980, p.35) suggest ‘ways out’ of the traps, including their ‘conversion’ into trade-offs, “presenting the individual with a set of reinforcers that occur in close proximity to the behavior in question and which closely match the actual reward and punishment patterns that underly [sic.] the situation. The trap then becomes a simple choice situation in which rational and learned behavior are coincident. In some cases—particularly those of time-delay traps—this might be accomplished simply by altering the timing of reinforcers somehow bringing the punishment or proxy for the punishment into closer proximity with its causative behavior.” This could well be the principle behind a design approach to removing social traps, although it relies on being able to determine the structure of reinforcers and punishments which are affecting current behaviour, and somehow redesigning them accordingly.

Means and ends

Studer (1970, p.114-6) discussed applying operant conditioning principles to the design of environments (such as buildings), by treating them as “learning systems arranged to bring about and maintain specified behavioral topographies…What operant findings suggest, among other things, is that events which have traditionally been regarded as the ends in the design process, e.g., pleasant, exciting, comfortable, the participant’s likes and dislikes, should be reclassified. They are not ends at all, but valuable means, which should be skillfully ordered to direct a more appropriate over-all behavioral texture.”

Reconsidering means and ends in this way may provide a useful alternative perspective on design for behaviour change. What may be an end from the user’s perspective (some kind of reward for turning off unnecessary equipment, perhaps) effectively becomes the means by which the designer’s end (the user turns off unnecessary equipment) might be influenced. The designer’s intended end is the user’s means for achieving the user’s intended end (Figure 1). If the end the user desires can be aligned with the means available to the designer, then the behaviour is reinforced. The mapping between ends and means (in both directions) may not seem to be one-to-one on first inspection. For example, the user’s end probably reflects an underlying need—not examined further in a behaviourist context—and likewise with the designer’s end. ‘Receiving feedback on my energy use in the office’—a favourite designer’s means for influencing reduced energy use—is probably rarely expressed as a desired end from a user’s point of view, but if successful at reinforcing conservation behaviour, it presumably fulfils some underlying psychological needs.

Means and ends Figure 1. The designer’s end and user’s means may be seen as reflections of each other, and likewise with the designer’s means and user’s end. Based on ideas from Studer (1970).

As an informal warm-up exercise in a workshop run at the Persuasive 2010 conference in Copenhagen, the author asked participants (designers and others involved with planning persuasive technology interventions) to map some intended ends relating to socially beneficial behaviour change, and some of the means they could think of to achieve them (Figure 2), using the labels ‘People will do this…’ and ‘…if our design does this’ for ends and means respectively.

Viewing the designer’s means from the user’s point of view, as an end, sometimes involves the end being avoiding something rather than receiving something—i.e. negative reinforcement. It is debatable whether this has much value beyond being simply a warm-up exercise, but it does encourage designers to think about trying to align the ends desired by the user with the means available to the designer. Weinschenk (2011, p.120), in appealing to (mainly web) designers to consider operant conditioning as a strategy for influencing behaviour, asks, “Hungry rats want food pellets. What does your particular audience really want?”

Means and ends Figure 2. Some means-end pairings suggested by workshop participants in Copenhagen.

Impact of behaviourism

Despite many of behaviourism’s principles having been adopted in other fields—not just animal training but therapeutic applications (e.g. with autism), athletic training, programmed learning via ‘teaching machines’ (e.g. Kay et al, 1968), to the emerging self-help industry (Rutherford, 2009)—it was largely supplanted in the mainstream of academic psychology by the ‘cognitive revolution’ (e.g. Crowther-Heyck, 2005), re-emphasising cognition as something to be understood as a determinant of behaviour. Pask (1969, p.21) refers to “the arid conflict between behaviourism and mentalism,” while Ericsson and Simon (1985, p.1) suggest that “[a]fter a long period of time during which stimulus-response relations were at the focus of attention, research in psychology is now seeking to understand in detail the mechanisms and internal structure of cognitive processes that produce these relations.” Images of Skinner-like scientist figures peering at rats pressing levers to obtain food, with the implication that this was what was proposed for humanity, to some extent cast a shadow of ‘the psychologist as manipulator’ over subsequent work on behaviour change—as Pryor (2002, p. xiii) notes, “to people schooled in the humanistic tradition, the manipulation of human behavior by some sort of conscious technique seems incorrigibly wicked.” Winter and Koger (2004, p.116) suggest that “[s]inister motives are attributed to those who would implement behavioral technology, and Skinner himself has been badly misrepresented and misunderstood as a cold, cruel scientist”.

Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), which proposed a new society—“the design of a culture” based on a scientifically refined “technology of behaviour” reinforcing only behaviours which were beneficial to humanity, many of which were essentially about ensuring environmental sustainability—was widely read as promoting a totalitarian future. Chomsky (1971) suggested that “there is nothing in Skinner’s approach that is incompatible with a police state in which rigid laws are enforced by people who are themselves subject to them and the threat of dire punishment hangs over all,” and this view persists, although Skinner eschews the use of punishment in favour of reinforcement. Slater (2004, p. 28) argues that “Skinner is asking society to fashion cues that are likely to draw on our best selves, as opposed to cues that clearly confound us, cues such as those that exist in prisons, in places of poverty. In other words, stop punishing. Stop humiliating. Who could argue with that?”

In a later work, Skinner (1986) offers an explicit ‘design for sustainable behaviour’ view of the possibilities of intelligent use of operant conditioning:

“[W]e have the science needed to design a world…in which people treated each other well, not because of sanctions imposed by governments or religions but because of immediate, face-to-face consequences. It would be a world in which people produced the goods they needed, not because of contingencies arranged by a business or industry but simply because they were “goods” and hence directly reinforcing. It would be a beautiful and interesting world because making it so would be reinforced by beautiful and interesting things… It would be a world in which the social and commercial practices that promote unnecessary consumption and pollution had been abolished… A designed way of life would be liked by those who lived it (or the design would be faulty).” (Skinner, 1986, p. 11-12)

Rutherford (2009, p.102) notes that Skinner himself designed and “constructed a variety of gadgets and devices that allowed him to control his environment, and thus his behavior. For example for many years Skinner rose early to write, often going directly from his bed to his desk. He would then switch on his desk lamp, which was connected to a timer. When his writing time was up, the timer would switch off his desk lamp, signaling the end of the writing period… For Skinner, setting up environmental contingencies for personal self-management was a natural outcome of behavior analysis.”

Regardless of the position of behaviourism in current academic psychological discourse, there are certainly elements which are relevant to design for behaviour change; indeed, the principles of reinforcement can be seen at work underneath many designed interventions even if they are not explicitly recognised as such. As Skinner (1971) argued (see quote opening this section), the environment shapes our behaviour both before and after we take actions, antecedent and consequence (even the absence of a perceived consequence is a consequence, in this sense). This is an important point, since much work in behaviour change focuses on one or the other. A system designed to suggest or cue particular behaviours, and then reward or acknowledge them, covers both intervention points, particularly given the fact that much interaction with products and systems is part of a regular schedule, and users do learn how to operate things through an ongoing cycle of reinforcement: behaviour change does not necessarily happen in a single step. The concept of variable or unpredictable reinforcement has potential design application in situations where a reward cannot be given every time, and also (as noted by Schell (2008)) in the design of games and game-like features in other interactions. The idea of shaping behaviour towards an intended state through progressive rewards for improvements in behaviour rather than every time has relevance in changing habits, which can be important in (for example) establishing exercise and healthier eating routines.

Winter and Koger (2004, p.118) propose what a behaviourist approach to a sustainable society might involve in relation to influencing more environmentally friendly transport choices, which suggests a mixture of different kinds of reinforcement designed into the system: “All the cues encouraging driving alone would be gone. Nobody would be climbing into a car alone, cars would be expensive to operate and roads would be less convenient. People would live within walking or biking distance to their workplace, commute in groups, or use public transportation… Schools and shops would be arranged close by, allowing people to complete errands without the use of a car… We wouldn’t try to change out of moral responsibility or pro-environment attitudes. We would emit environmentally appropriate behaviors because the environment had been designed to support them.”

Implications for designers

▶ Behaviourism is no longer mainstream psychology, but some of the principles could have potential application in design for behaviour change

▶ There is a recognition that the environment shapes our behaviour both before and after we take actions—a useful insight for designing interventions

▶ There is also a recognition that behaviour change does not necessarily happen in a single step, but as part of an ongoing cycle of shaping

▶ Where cognition cannot be understood or examined, modelling users in terms of stimuli and responses may still offer valuable insights

▶ Positive and negative reinforcement, and positive and negative punishment can all be implemented via designed features, and often underlie designed interventions without being explicitly named as such

▶ Schedules of reinforcement can be varied (e.g. made unpredictable) to drive continued behaviour

▶ Design could either exploit or help people avoid ‘social traps’ where both reinforcement and punishment exist, or reinforcement is currently misaligned with the behaviour, converting them into ‘trade-offs’ which more closely match the intended behavioural choices

▶ Considering means and ends may provide a useful perspective on design for behaviour change. The end from the user’s perspective effectively becomes the means by which the designer’s end might be influenced


Ashby, W.R. (1956) An Introduction to Cybernetics. Chapman & Hall, London Bateson, G., Jackson, D.D., Haley, J. and Weakland, J.H. (1956) Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia. Behavioral Science I(4) Bateson, G. (1969) Metalogue: What Is an Instinct? In Bateson, G. (1969) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. University of Chicago Press, Chicago Burgess, A. (1962) A Clockwork Orange. Heinemann, London Chomsky, N. (1971) The Case Against B.F. Skinner. The New York Review of Books, 30 Dec 1971 Costanza, R. (1987) Social traps and environmental policy. Bioscience 37(6) Cross, J.G. and Guyer, M.J. (1980) Social Traps. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Crowther-Heyck, H. (2005) Herbert A. Simon: The Bounds of Reason in Modern America. Johns Hopkins University Press Ericsson, K.A. and Simon, H.A. (1985) Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data. MIT Press Hardin, G. (1968) The Tragedy of the Commons. Science 162. Kay, H., Dodd, B. and Sime, M.E. (1968) Teaching Machines and Programmed Instruction. Penguin Koestler, A. (1967) The Ghost in the Machine. Pask (1969) The meaning of cybernetics in the behavioural sciences (The cybernetics of behaviour and cognition; extending the meaning of "goal"). In Rose, J. (ed.) (1969) Progress of Cybernetics, Volume 1. Gordon and Breach Pavlov, I. (1927) Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. Translated by Anrep, G.V. Oxford University Press Platt, J. (1973) Social Traps. American Psychologist, 28 Pryor, K. (2002) Don't Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training. Interpet Rutherford, A. (2009) Beyond the Box: B.F. Skinner's Technology of Behavior from Laboratory to Life, 1950s-1970s. University of Toronto Press Schell, J. (2008) The Art of Game Design. Morgan Kaufmann Skinner, B.F. (1953) Science and Human Behavior. The Free Press, New York. Skinner, B.F. (1971) Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Skinner, B.F. (1986) Why we are not acting to save the world. In Skinner, B.F. Upon further reflection. Prentice-Hall Slater, L. (2004) Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychology Experiments of the Twentieth Century. Bloomsbury Sparks, J. (1982) The Discovery of Animal Behaviour. Collins. Studer, R.G. (1970) The Organization of Spatial Stimuli. In Pastalan, L.A. and Carson, D.H. (eds.), Spatial Behavior of Older People. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Watson, J.B. (1913) Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20 Weinschenk, S (2011) 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People. New Riders Winter D. du N. and Koger, S.M. (2004) The Psychology of Environmental Problems. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

B.F. Skinner photo from Banksy Rat photo from DG Jones on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-NC

Coming up for air, briefly by Dan

Thanks for all the responses to the Design with Intent Toolkit - it's got a heartening reception from lots of very interesting people, and has brought some great opportunities. I hope to be able to deal with all this effectively! Thanks too to all the people who've blogged about it, included it in a podcast, and spread it via Twitter. Your attention's much appreciated and if anyone does try it out on some problems, please do let me know how you get on, what would improve it, and so on. And more examples for each of the patterns are, of course, always welcome!

Printed copies (A2 poster, 135gsm silk finish) are available - the nominal listing on Amazon is £15 including postage, but if you'd like one for much less than that, let me know! (In fact, if you're willing to try it out on a design problem, fill in a survey about how you did it, and let me use it as a brief case study, you can have it free.)

Persuasive 2009

I say I'm just coming up for air briefly, as for the last couple of weeks, among some other major work (which could possibly bear some very nice fruit), I've been putting together my presentation* for Persuasive 2009, the Fourth International Conference on Persuasive Technology in Claremont, California, next week, and at present am desperately trying to finish a lot of other things before flying out on Saturday. It'll be my first time across the Atlantic and my girlfriend and I will be having a bit of a holiday afterwards, so I hope a lack of updates and replies, while little different to my usual pattern, will be excusable. But while the conference is on, if there's time and no hoo-hah with the wireless and it seems appropriate, I'll try and do a bit of blogging, or more likely, Twittering about it (#persuasive2009 ?). There are some very interesting people presenting their work.

Anyway, if you missed the update to my earlier post, a preprint version of my paper (with David Harrison, Tim Holley and Neville A. Stanton), Influencing Interaction: Development of the Design with Intent Method [PDF, 1.6MB] is available. At some point soon this version of the paper will downloadable from Brunel’s research archive, while the ‘proper’ version will be available in the ACM Digital Library. ACM requires me to state the following alongside the link to the preprint:

© ACM, 2009. This is the authors’ version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version will be published in Proceedings of Persuasive 2009: Fourth International Conference on Persuasive Technology, Claremont, CA, 26-29 April 2009, ACM Digital Library. ISBN 978-1-60558-376-1.

The presentation will include many parts of the paper, but the nature of academic papers like this (submitted in December) is that they are out of date before anyone reads them. So, much of the presentation will be about the DwI toolkit and the reasoning behind bits of it, rather than just sticking to the state of the research six months ago - I hope that's reasonable. Last year, presenting on the last day of the conference meant that I was able to spend many hours in a hotel room in Oulu editing and re-editing the presentation (mostly listening to the Incredible Bongo Band's version of In-a-Gadda-da-Vida on repeat) to match what I thought the audience would like, and incorporate things I'd learned during the conference, but this time I'm on the first day so there isn't that opportunity...

Interfaces article

Also this month, I have a brief article about my research in Interfaces, the magazine of Interaction, the British Computer Society's HCI Group, in its 'My PhD' series (p. 20-21). Interfaces no. 78 is available to download here (make sure to click on the link below the cover image, as - at time of writing - the cover's linked to the previous issue). It's a great magazine - redesigned for this issue - with some really interesting features about aspects of HCI by some well-known names in the field. Thanks to Eduardo Calvillo and Stephen Hassard for making the article possible.

The table in the article was unfortunately truncated during editing so (if I get it in in time) there'll be a brief addendum in the next issue with the full table, but I might as well make it available here too [PDF, 8kb] - it's a brief, not especially exciting summary of some concepts for influencing householders to close curtains at night to save energy. (At some point I'll do a full case study on this as there are some interesting ideas as well as some very impractical ones.)

*Taking Parkinson's Law as an instruction manual seems to be a perpetual habit of mine, so the maximum time allocated to get the presentation done has been more than entirely taken up by getting the presentation done... it's still not quite there, and I'm not sure whether the format of the auditorium's going to allow an interactive element which I would very much like to include but probably won't be able to. Also - while Prezi looks like it might be everything I've ever wanted in presentation software - the workflow of "doing a PowerPoint" for me has evolved into a long chain of "Photoshop - Illustrator - export - Photoshop - Save for Web - insert into PowerPoint" which I'm sure I could do more quickly, but lots of conferences and seminars want PPTs rather than PDFs, and the only Mac I have (which once - kind of - belonged to the Duke of Edinburgh [interesting story]) is too slow and old to run anything better.

Instructable: One-Touch Keypad Masher by Dan

One-Touch Keypad Masher It's been a long time since I last wrote an Instructable, but as I've resolved that 2009's going to be a year where I start making things again (2008 involved a lot of sitting, reading and annotating, and in 2007 most of what I made was for clients, and thus confidential), I thought I'd write up a brief (10 minute) fun little bodgey project which has, very marginally, boosted everyday productivity: the One-Touch Keypad Masher.

Wasting valuable seconds typing in a code every time you need to open the door?

This little 'device' streamlines the process by pressing the right keys for you, and can be hidden in your palm so you simply mash your hand against the keypad and - apparently miraculously to anyone watching - unlock the door in one go.

Time to make: Less than 10 minutes Time saved: About 30 seconds per day in my case; your mileage may vary. Payback time: 20 days, in this case

(There's a (weak) correlation with some of the Design with Intent topics, since it could be seen as a device which allows a user to interact with a "What you know" security measure using a "What you have" method. At some point in the near future I'll be covering these on the blog as design patterns for influencing behaviour.

It's also a kind of errorproofing device, a poka-yoke employing specialised affordances. If used, it prevents the user mistyping the code.)

The Instructable is also embedded below (Flash), but for whatever reason there are a few formatting oddities (including hyperlinks being ignored) so it's easier to read in the original.

A 'Behaviour Change Barometer' by Dan

This is a kind of exploration of some ideas I worked on a while ago as part of my research, and have only just come back to, in order to tidy them up a bit. I'm putting it online as a way - perhaps - to get some comments/criticism, and also to enable me to refer to it, if necessary, in future blog posts. If I'm honest, classifications and taxonomies fatigue me quite a lot; coming up with ideas and making and testing them is a lot more fun. But sometimes they're useful. I hope this one is.

If we think about how products are used, it's clear that changes can result from the products themselves changing, users changing their behaviour, or a combination of both.

At the University of Bath, Ed Elias, Elies Dekoninck and Steve Culley [1] have captured these possibilities with a 2 × 2 matrix (Figure 1), in which ‘new products’ and ‘old products’ are compared with ‘new user behaviour’ and ‘old user behaviour’.

Diagram by Ed Elias

Along these lines, it’s possible to consider technology change (via design) and attitude change (via education) as two routes to achieve overall behaviour change. Especially in the sustainable design field, the emphasis is often on one strategy or the other, even though the routes are by no means mutually exclusive, as the ‘Design for New User Behaviour’ title implies in the matrix.

Loughborough's Debra Lilley, Vicky Lofthouse and Tracy Bhamra [2] describe three 'solutions to limit socially and environmentally undesirable behaviours': Educational intervention – which corresponds closely to attitude change; Technological intervention – corresponding to technology change; and Product-led intervention – closely aligned with Elias et al’s Design for New User Behaviour.

Further consideration of the possibilities in this area, and how to represent them, led me to the development of a ‘Behaviour Change Barometer’. This diagram attempts to illustrate somewhat more nuanced ‘cases’ of behaviour change, and which factors are present or absent in each case. It ought to be applicable to many kinds of behaviour change with products, not just environmentally-related ones; equally, read 'products/services/systems' for 'products' to allow wider applicability. The barometer metaphor is stretched slightly, but it seemed appropriate given that the diagram's mapping change.

A Behaviour Change Barometer. Diagram by Dan Lockton

Table to accompany Behaviour Change Barometer. Diagram by Dan LocktonThe same information is presented in tabular form here: in essence, there are six variables involved, with the possibility space divided into quadrants.

The focus of my research is on the intersection of technology change and attitude change (Quadrant 3): the design of products (and systems) which, through new product behaviour, change user behaviour. Quadrant 3 will be discussed last here – before that, it’s useful to run through the other quadrants briefly.

Quadrant 1 Status Quo Diagram by Dan LocktonQuadrant 1: Status quo

In the first quadrant, no overall behaviour change results.

It makes sense to describe case 1b first – this is the absolute ‘no change’ case, where there is no change in the actual functions of the products (they might be new products, but they don’t do anything different to the old products), people use them in the same way they did before, and users have no understanding or mindfulness of the issues around behaviour change.

Case 1a describes situations where the products’ functions have been changed, but users make no use of this, and have no understanding or mindfulness of the issues involved (e.g. a washing machine offers a new ‘eco’ mode alongside the other settings, but a user doesn’t use it). Therefore no overall behaviour change results, despite product improvement.

In 1c, users have an understanding of the issues, and may be mindful of their behaviour and its impacts, but nevertheless don’t change what they do, and continue to use products in the same way as before – e.g. someone who knows that leaving a television on standby wastes electricity, but doesn’t act on this understanding. Again, no overall behaviour change results, despite improved user understanding.

This quadrant encompasses much current behaviour with energy-using consumer products – improved education and improved technology have raised awareness of environmental issues, and allowed products to be operated more efficiently, but if users don’t act accordingly, there will be no overall change in behaviour.

Quadrant 2 New user behaviour with existing products. Diagram by Dan LocktonQuadrant 2: New user behaviour with existing products

Educating users about the implications of their behaviour is generally done with the intention that users will follow through and actually change the way they use products (if they don’t change, this is 1c as described above). If this is successful – e.g. a campaign to persuade people to keep their car tyres inflated correctly to save fuel – then new user behaviour occurs with existing products, and no design or engineering changes are needed to the products. Overall, there is a change in behaviour.

The scope of this quadrant corresponds closely with much current government policy of using social marketing, public education campaigns and so on – employing persuasion and rhetoric to drive attitude change as a foundation for behaviour change. There are many ways that this quadrant could be subdivided into behavioural cases, but from the point of view of the current study, this won’t be explored further here.

Quadrant 4 Existing user behaviour with new product behaviour. Diagram by Dan LocktonQuadrant 4: Existing user behaviour with new product behaviour

Where new products themselves behave differently in use, yet allow users to maintain their existing behaviours, overall behaviour change results without users necessarily needing to understand the issues involved. No persuasion occurs. For example, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, from the user’s point of view, do not require any different user behaviour to tungsten filament bulbs, but in operation they always result in new product behaviour. A refrigerator door which automatically closes itself if left ajar does not, again, require the user to do anything different, but the product itself behaves differently to accommodate existing user behaviour.

This quadrant would include the major proportion of ‘eco-products’ available, most of which are designed to allow the user to change routines and behaviours as little as possible; there are many possible ways the category can be subdivided further according to various other factors.

Quadrant 3 New user behaviour with new product behaviour. Diagram by Dan LocktonQuadrant 3: New user behaviour with new product behaviour

In the cases described by this quadrant, both product behaviour and user behaviour change, resulting in an overall behaviour change. The behaviour change can be driven entirely by functional changes to the product, or by mindful user understanding, or by both, but the products are designed to lead to this. This is Design with Intent.

These are products that persuade, guide or force – influence – users to change the way they interact with them. A common factor is that there is a perceived affordance change with the product: it somehow indicates that a change in behaviour is needed (compared with quadrant 4 where there is no such indication). This quadrant is where my research is focused.

In case 3a, the perceived affordance change does not reflect actual functional change to the product, yet it influences users to change their behaviour. For example, a washing machine which gives users an ‘estimated cost’ for each mode still embodies all the same functions as one which doesn’t – the user can choose to ignore the recommendation, but is influenced to choose the most economical mode, and thus a change in product behaviour is likely to result from the change in user behaviour. This is where much of the Persuasive Technology research seems to fit.

3c is the case where a user need not think about the issues involved, but will still behave differently due to functional changes to the product – e.g. a washing machine which automatically determines the most efficient settings for a particular load, and silently carries them out, doesn’t require the user to understand what’s going on, but does end up changing the user’s behaviour (removing inefficient decisions) and thus the product behaviour changes too. These products have the potential to be complex, especially where automation is required, but need not be. Something as simple as removing an option from a menu changes the user's behaviour (prevents him or her choosing it) but doesn't require the user to think about it.

Finally, returning to the centre of the quadrant, 3b describes cases where user understanding, alongside functional changes to the product and perceived affordance change, lead to user and product behaviour change in practice: these are the real core of what this study is about and where, I hope, I'll be able to make advances in understanding useful to designers and anyone else working in the field of influencing user behaviour. These are interesting products, potentially involving lots of factors and effects but not necessarily complex in themselves.

[1] Elias, E W A, Dekoninck, E A, Culley, S J. The Potential for Domestic Energy Savings through Assessing User Behaviour and Changes in Design. EcoDesign2007, 5th International Symposium on Environmentally Conscious Design and Inverse Manufacturing, Tokyo, 2007 [2] Lilley, D, Lofthouse, V, Bhamra, T. Towards Instinctive Sustainable Product Use. 2nd International Conference: Sustainability Creating the Culture, Aberdeen, 2005. Available here [PDF].

Dredging up some old ideas by Dan

Three essays I'd pretty much forgotten about, written for courses at Cambridge during my Master's in Technology Policy, linked here for no reason in particular: Peer Treasure: how firms outside the software industry can use open source thinking How can we strengthen links between entrepreneurial companies and entrepreneurial universities in the UK? Motor vehicles in the developing world: options for sustainability* [all PDFs]

Reading them again now, I'm struck by a) how much terminology and how many concepts I've since forgotten through lack of use, b) how I didn't really know what I was going to go on to do afterwards, c) how barely I even scratched the surface of the subjects, and d) how naïve I was about academia and how it worked (still am, in fact).

As a bonus, here's a note-form list of possible dissertation subjects I considered at Cambridge before settling on architectures of control in consumer product design [PDF] (which ultimately led to this site, and three years later to starting a PhD at Brunel, and where I am now). The possible subjects are quite an odd mixture of obsessions and paranoia.

18/11/2004 Possible dissertations, linking technology & policy

This is a list of some ideas I have for possible dissertations for my MPhil (Technology Policy). The list may be added to, over the next few weeks. Putting it on the internet is more of an experiment to see if anyone has any apposite comments (or indeed if anyone finds it). It will also lead to some interesting search results in Google.

Please note: some of these opinions/suggestions are very controversial. It doesn’t mean I agree with them. And certainly Cambridge University would not want to be associated with any of the ideas.

1) The Powerpoint Effect: What effects has the Powerpoint style of corporate presentation and communication had on business thinking, planning and culture? Example: Columbia disaster (would be following Edward Tufte’s work – how could I extend it?)

2) To what extent have trivial political issues affected the design, engineering & manufacturing of products? (i.e. not environmental or genuine social issues, but ones related to pleasing a particular area – e.g. Hillman Imp at Linwood – or particular lobby group or party. Example, space shuttle solid fuel segments made in Utah for political reasons, led to Challenger disaster)

3) Related to 2: Political Correctness in product design. Does it really exist? Is it a problem? Or is the whole idea of providing what most customers want (in a very competitive market) entirely immune to the ‘PC’ label? i.e. Benthamite utilitarianism rather than any hidden agenda? Example: clear sticking plasters rather than ‘skin colour’ pink – this may be politically correct, but it does not have the potential to offend or inconvenience anyone. Whatever your skin colour, a clear plaster is fine. But if all aeroplane seats were made extra-wide in case a very fat person needed to travel, and the capacity of the plane was therefore reduced substantially, leading to higher fares for everyone, is this a case of political correctness in design rather than expediency/utilitarianism?

4) To what extent does ‘productisation’ of high-risk or experimental ventures (shuttle, APT?) lead governments and the public to take a less tolerant attitude to failure? i.e. by talking up new science advances and putting everything in a commercial context, have we blurred the lines between what should be regarded as safe, established consumer products and what are much less resolved or ‘packaged’?

5) What is the UK’s excuse? Why have we consistently failed to develop technology to the extent of US or Japan? Is there anything we can do? Are we doomed? Is it attitude? Are we ahead, i.e. that we’ve already passed our peak while others still have to reach theirs?

6) To what extent has the British taxpayer (through privatisation of nationalised industries) funded multinational companies’ profits? e.g. aero engines, Land Rover, K-series, APT (Pendolino)

7) Can the British motor industry survive?

8 ) Do consumers treat ‘British’ technology differently to that perceived to be ‘from’ other countries? National ‘design’ styles are recognised but are there evident ‘technology’ styles?

9) Full circle: do we need Colleges of Advanced Technology again?

10) The future of insurance in an increasingly uncertain world: a case for nationalisation?

11) Non-profit technology companies: could they facilitate large-scale shifts in consumer behaviour towards more sustainable, environmentally sensitive products by undercutting conventional competition? Where could the money come from?

12) How will the future direction of environmental and energy technology policy affect consumer products?

13) How will the future direction of intellectual property policy affect consumer products?

14) How has the evolution of consumer products affected technology policy, and how will it do so in the future?

15) Related to 9: Private universities – should the UK go down this route? What about ‘technology’ universities sponsored or run by major technology companies?

16) Narrow disciplines in academia: what advances have we lost because of them?

17) Related to 16: can we create a new a Renaissance Man (and Woman) through science education?

18) Are computer-managed design & development systems (PLM, etc.) guilty of destroying actual innovation? Has all real innovation been outsourced/isolated from the real development process?

19) Are meaningless business terminology and diagrams destroying innovation in product and new technology development? Are we over-analysing? (Use examples of actual companies’ development models – if they need them!)

20) Related to 5: What’s the real reason we fail at entrepreneurship in the UK? Will any of these initiatives be of any use at all? What can we do to win?

21) Should the UN decide on a ‘global future of Mankind’ strategy/policy/mission statement, esp. with regard to technology?

22) Engineering & physical/chemical science degree applications are falling. How can we make them attractive without diluting them? Or should we be making them attractive at all?

23) Related to 22: Has the public’s understanding of science decreased? Is this due to dumbing down of education?

24) UK plc: should we actually create it?

25) Related to 24 and 11: should we specifically seek to form (ultimately) profit-seeking nationalised companies, especially in high-technology sectors, to invest public money in creating something that will eventually pay back enormously? e.g. the French government owns EDF, which operates worldwide

26) By presenting the government as, increasingly, a ‘nanny state’ which knows what’s best for all of us, have we unwittingly created a generation which believes the government to have all the answers, in philosophy and morality as well as science and technology? By ‘giving’ people human ‘rights’, have government / the UN somehow, perceivably, set themselves up in almost a ‘Creator’ rôle? Example: Karl Pilkington evolution discussion, Xfm

27) Related to 26: Human rights or human responsibilities?

28) If we remove the ‘from each according to his means, to each according to his needs’ ethos, would nationalised industries have been more successful in the UK?

29) Edward de Bono’s ‘multiple governments’ competitive market idea. I think it may be in ‘Po: Beyond Yes & No”. Within a country, there would be multiple ‘governments’ – providing different levels of service in return for different tax levels. Could it ever work, even in limited form? Are private education and healthcare a very limited implementation of this already? Would government have to be separated from ‘the law’ to make any of this possible?

*I revised this last paper a bit during the short, speculative life of Lockton Motor Ltd (hence the logos) - a story I'm sure I'll get round to telling one day.

Interview with Sir Clive by Dan

Sir Clive Sinclair (BBC image)Chris Vallance of Radio 4's excellent iPM has done a thoughtful interview with Sir Clive Sinclair, ranging across many subjects, from personal flying machines to the Asus Eee, and touching on the subject of consumer understanding of technology, and the degree to which the public can engage with it:

Your [Chris Vallance's] generation really understood the computers, and today's generation know they're just a tool, and don't really get to grips with them... When I was starting in business, and when I was a child, electronics was a huge hobby, and you could buy components on the street and make all sort of things, and people did. But that also has all passed; it's almost forgotten.

It's true, of course, that there are still plenty of hobbyist-makers out there, including in disciplines that just weren't open before, and if anything, initiatives such as Make and Instructables - and indeed the whole free software and open source movements - have helped raise the profile of making, hacking, modding and other democratic innovation. It's no secret that Clive himself is a proponent of Linux and open source in general for future low-cost computing, as is mentioned briefly in the interview, and the impact of the ZX series in children's bedrooms (together with BBC Micros at school) was, to some extent, a fantastic constructionist success for a generation in Britain.

But is Clive right? How many schoolkids nowadays make their own radios or burglar alarms or write their own games? When they do, is it a result of enlightened parents or self-directed inquisitiveness? Or are we guilty of applying our own measures of 'engagement' with technology? After all, you're reading something published using Wordpress, which was started by a teenager. Personally, I'm extremely optimistic that the future will lead to much greater technological democratisation, and hope to work, wherever possible, to contribute to achieving that.

I've worked for Clive, as a designer/engineer, on and off, for a number of years, and it's pleasing to have an intelligent media interview with him that doesn't simply regurgitate and chortle over the C5, but instead tries to tap his vision and thoughts on technical society and its future.

Silicon Dreams

Incidentally, Clive's 1984 speech to the US Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future, mentioned in the interview, is extremely interesting - quite apart from the almost Randian style of some of it - as much as for the mixture of what we might now see as mundanities among the far-sighted vision as for the prophetic clarity, with talk of guided 200mph maglev cars and the colonisation of the galaxy alongside the development of a cellular phone network and companion robots for the elderly. Of course, the future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet.

Talk of information technology may be misleading. It is true that one of the features of the coming years is a dramatic fall, perhaps by a factor of 100, in the cost of publishing as video disc technology replaces paper and this may be as significant as the invention of the written word and Caxton's introduction of movable type.

Talk of information technology confuses an issue - it is used to mean people handling information rather than handling machines and there is little that is fundamental in this. The real revolution which is just starting is one of intelligence. Electronics is replacing man's mind, just as steam replaced man's muscle but the replacement of the slight intelligence employed on the production line is only the start.

And then there is this, which seems to predict electronic tagging of offenders:

Consider, for example, the imprisonment of offenders. Unless conducted with a biblical sense of retribution, this procedure attempts to reduce crime by deterrence and containment. It is, though, very expensive and the rate of recidivism lends little support to its curative properties.

Given a national telephone computer net such as I have described briefly, an alternative appears. Less than physically dangerous criminals could be fitted with tiny transporters so that their whereabouts, to a high degree of precision, could he monitored and recorded constantly. Should this raise fears of an Orwellian society we could offer miscreants the alternative of imprisonment. I am confident of the general preference.

User-Centred Design for Sustainable Behaviour by Dan

Image from TU Delft's Renee Wever and Jasper van Kuijk (who runs the insightful Uselog product usability blog), together with NTNU's Casper Boks, have produced a very interesting paper, 'User-Centred Design for Sustainable Behaviour' [PDF, 400 kb] for the International Journal of Sustainable Engineering (indeed, probably in the same edition as my own paper addressing many similar ideas.)

It's great to find more people investigating this same area of using design to guide more sustainable user behaviour, both from the point of view of validation (i.e. I'm not barking up completely the wrong tree) and because it helps add additional perspectives and research to the pot. Wever, van Kuijk and Boks' classification of different strategies may be useful, too, in helping me structure my own taxonomy:

We provide a typology of four user-centered design strategies for inducing sustainable behavior.

* Functionality matching: adapt a product better to the actual use by consumers and thereby try to minimize negative side effects; * Eco-feedback: the user is presented with specific information on the impact of his or her current behavior, and it is left to the user to relate this information to his or her own behaviour, and adapt this behaviour, or not; * Scripting: creating obstacles for unsustainable use, or making sustainable behaviour so easy, it is performed almost without thinking about it; * Forced functionality: making products adapt automatically to changing circumstances, or to design-in strong obstacles to prevent unsustainable behaviour.

That's a simpler and possibly clearer way of dividing it up than the designer-centric approach I've been taking (e.g. see this series of posts), though my method aims to apply to all using-design-to-shape-behaviour problems, including, but going beyond, ecodesign.

I'm heartened to read this in the paper:

An overview of the available design strategies is missing, as is a clear approach for choosing the right strategy for a given product.

That's very much part of what I'm trying to achieve.

I'll certainly keep an eye on what the guys from Delft and NTNU do next!

Making users more efficient: Design for sustainable behaviour by Dan

International Journal of Sustainable Engineering I'm pleased to say that a paper I wrote earlier this year has been accepted by the International Journal of Sustainable Engineering, a new journal based at Loughborough University. The publishers (Taylor & Francis) allow authors to post a preprint* version online, so here it is. Making the user more efficient: Design for sustainable behaviour [PDF, 160kb] is a brief review of approaches to designing products and systems which could shape or change users' behaviour in an environmentally friendly way; if you've followed this blog, there's probably little new in it, but it's (hopefully) a useful summary. (At present that PDF is hosted on this website, but once Brunel allows me access to deposit papers in its institutional repository, BURA, I'll change the above link. UPDATED: Changed link 2nd May)

Abstract: User behaviour is a significant determinant of a product’s environmental impact; while engineering advances permit increased efficiency of product operation, the user’s decisions and habits ultimately have a major effect on the energy or other resources used by the product. There is thus a need to change users’ behaviour. A range of design techniques developed in diverse contexts suggest opportunities for engineers, designers and other stakeholders working in the field of sustainable innovation to affect users’ behaviour at the point of interaction with the product or system, in effect ‘making the user more efficient’.

Approaches to changing users’ behaviour from a number of fields are reviewed and discussed, including: strategic design of affordances and behaviour-shaping constraints to control or affect energy or other resource-using interactions; the use of different kinds of feedback and persuasive technology techniques to encourage or guide users to reduce their environmental impact; and context-based systems which use feedback to adjust their behaviour to run at optimum efficiency and reduce the opportunity for user-affected inefficiency. Example implementations in the sustainable engineering and ecodesign field are suggested and discussed.

Keywords: ecodesign; sustainability; managing use; managing consumption; behaviour change; sustainable innovation; persuasive technology

Until it appears in the journal (probably towards the end of 2008) I'm not sure what the guidance is on referencing, but something like Lockton, D., Harrison, D.J., Stanton, N.A. (2008) ‘Making the user more efficient: Design for sustainable behaviour’, To appear in: International Journal of Sustainable Engineering (forthcoming) is probably about right.

*Required disclaimer:

This is a preprint of an article whose final and definitive form will be published in the International Journal of Sustainable Engineering. © 2008 Taylor & Francis; International Journal of Sustainable Engineering is available online at:

Persuasive 2008 by Dan Lockton

Persuasive 2008 header I'm pleased to say that I'll be presenting a short paper, Design With Intent: Persuasive Technology in a Wider Context* at Persuasive 2008, the 3rd International Conference on Persuasive Technology, taking place from June 4th-6th in Oulu, Finland.

The paper's a (very) brief introductory review of some of the different approaches to 'Design with Intent' from various disciplines, many of which have been discussed to some extent on this website, with an attempt to relate them to persuasive technology, the field started by Stanford's B J Fogg and his team and now rapidly developing worldwide at the intersection of interaction design and behaviour change. (The paper doesn't get as far as the DwI Method on which I'm currently working and hoping to test in the next few months.)

This is my first stab at a conference paper, and I'm incredibly excited (and lucky) to have had it accepted; there are a lot of very helpful comments and suggested revisions from the reviewers which I will endeavour to incorporate. I'm not sure what the conference organisers' position is on making the paper available here; certainly authors from previous Persuasive conferences have put papers on their own websites after the conference, so I expect I will do the same. The proceedings will be available as part of Springer's Lecture Notes in Computer Science series.

Many thanks to everyone who's helped with my research via this site, suggesting angles to investigate and helping to clarify my thinking in this area, and to my PhD supervisors at Brunel, Professors David Harrison and Neville Stanton, for their help and support.

*Lockton, D., Harrison, D.J., Stanton, N.A. 'Design With Intent: Persuasive Technology in a Wider Context'.

Abstract: Persuasive technology can be considered part of a wider field of ‘Design with Intent’ (DwI) – design intended to result in certain user behaviour. This paper gives a very brief review of approaches to DwI from different disciplines, and looks at how persuasive technology sits within this space.

UPDATE (21 April): Following the precedent of some other Persuasive authors, I've uploaded a preprint version of the paper here: Design With Intent: Persuasive Technology in a Wider Context [PDF, 169kb]. As required to be stated, this is a self-archived preprint version of the paper, to be presented at Persuasive 2008, June 4-6, Oulu, Finland, and published in H. Oinas-Kukkonen et al. (Eds.): PERSUASIVE 2008, LNCS 5033, pp. 274 – 278, 2008. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008