CarbonCulture blog launch by Dan

CarbonCulture blog It's been quiet here, for reasons which will be explained later, but in the meantime I should mention that CarbonCulture (with whom I've been working for the past two years as part of the TSB-supported EMPOWER collaboration) has a new blog.

In anticipation of the forthcoming public launch of the CarbonCulture product, we're introducing some background on behaviour change approaches, energy use and environmental impact. The first few posts (as of today) introduce:

Your comments are very welcome. Over the next few months we'll build up the story of what we've done -- the approaches we've taken and what we've learned. There's some further background in this article from Public Sector Sustainability by Luke Nicholson, and a paper I presented at BECC 2011.

My jobs as research fellow (for WMG) and research assistant (for Brunel) on the project have now come to an end, but I'm continuing to provide some input to the project, as well as writing up some papers based on what we've learned (so far, a journal paper and a conference paper).

I'm proud to have been associated with what is one of the most empathy-driven user-centred behaviour change projects out there: a fascinating, blend of contextual user research, rapid iterations of new features and approaches, adapting to the needs and interests of a whole range of stakeholders, and getting to apply lots of the ideas that fed into Design with Intent in practical settings and seeing how effective they really are.

CarbonCulture energy display for Tate Modern CarbonCulture energy display for 10 Downing Street

Background to the project

CarbonCulture is a research-driven software platform designed to increase staff engagement in more sustainable behaviour at work, in areas such as HVAC and thermal comfort, building occupancy, transport modes and food choices. CO2 emissions from non-­domestic buildings, mainly workplaces, make up 18% of the UK's carbon footprint, and a combination of technology advances and behaviour change has the potential to make significant impact.

Funded by the Technology Strategy Board's Low Impact Buildings platform, Brunel Design at Brunel University and WMG at the University of Warwick have been working with More Associates to develop and trial CarbonCulture.

With the Department of Energy & Climate Change's offices in Whitehall as a pilot site, we have been applying methods from user-­centred design practice to understand diverse users' priorities, mental models of energy and decision-­making heuristics, and incorporating these insights into the development of the platform. The project comprised an ethnographic research phase, participatory design, and iterative trials; we've been both providing academic research input to the development of CarbonCulture, and using the platform itself as a research tool.

CarbonCulture also provides publicly accessible energy displays (both near-real-time and summary) for a number of major public buildings in London, including Tate Modern, 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.


Through London with the DwI goggles on by Dan

As I've admitted before, having the idea of 'design that's intended to influence behaviour' on my mind a lot of the time does sometimes lead to seeing everything with that filter in place:

[It's] a kind of conspiracy bias, ascribing to design intent that which is perhaps more likely to be due to situational factors (a kind of fundamental attribution error for design), or inferring the intention behind a design by looking at its results.

Nevertheless, it's not unexciting. Noticing things I'd never have noticed before I started doing this research - often details or tricks that have been pointed out by commenters here on the blog - can give you a feeling of deeper connection to the design of the products and systems and environments around us. Things are designed to influence how people use them, what people do and don't do, whether we are conscious of it or not. So here are some observations - none of them terribly amazing! - from a recent day in London with a camera and my long-suffering girlfriend. There are hundreds more I could have included - everything from elements of the websites we looked at before travelling, to the layout of stations and streets and buildings and tables and chairs and the wording and order of menus and adverts and just about everything that's been designed to elicit some kind of behavioural response. But we just don't notice most of this: it's only occasionally that things attract our attention, which is what happened with the following examples.

Door buttons, First Great Western

The 'Open Door' buttons on First Great Western's Class 165/166 trains (going into Paddington) are much larger than the 'Close Door' buttons (which rarely need to be pressed anyway, since the doors are closed automatically before the train departs). I'm assuming they're intentionally more prominent because it's the button that people need to see and press in a hurry if they need to get off and the vestibule(?) area's crowded (and it often is on this service), and larger for a kind of Fitts' Law reason: reducing the time taken to 'acquire the target'. It's also large enough to be able to elbow it or press it with a shoulder if you're carrying things in both hands.

Escalators, Canary Wharf station

The escalators at Canary Wharf underground station, as at many others, have raised obstructions (often masquerading as "Stand on the right" signs) every couple of feet to prevent people sliding down the panelling between the handrails. When I looked at this before - the slightly more extreme spikes at Highbury & Islington station - there were some great comments including a story about what can happen when they obstructions aren't present (or rather when just one is - a large sign at the bottom). It did occur to me that the kind used at Canary Wharf would actually work quite well as hand-holds for climbing up, should you want to.

Look Right marking on road, Canary Wharf

All over the UK, but particularly in urban areas with complex traffic movements, one-way systems or lots of visitors, such as here outside the DLR station at Canary Wharf, some pedestrian crossings are marked with "Look Right", "Look Left" or "Look Both Ways" on the road, to suggest to pedestrians (at just the right moment) which way they should look to watch out for oncoming traffic. Richard Thaler has mentioned this as a 'nudge' example before. It doesn't always get implemented correctly; there are also other design tricks for influencing pedestrians to face the right way at crossings.

I might be going beyond my expertise here, but it seems like it's actually relatively unusual in much of Europe (perhaps because of the Vienna Convention) to have instructional 'injunctive' text on traffic signage (including markings), compared with some other parts of the world. For example, in the UK, since the 1960s at least we very rarely have signs such as "Wrong Way, Go Back" - there would more likely be a "No Entry" sign, with no text. If you're interested in British road signage, this is one of the best articles on the subject.

Gate at Mudchute Park

Here's a 'kissing gate' at Mudchute Park presumably intended to prevent bicycles (though I would have thought a bike could fit through the gate next to it). As we've seen before, trying to stop cyclists using awkward gates doesn't always work. Given the location of this gate, it may also help prevent any animals which have escaped from the the farm from running out onto the road.

Anti-climb paint, Mudchute allotments

Also at Mudchute, these allotments have anti-climb paint applied to the fence - a slippery paint that stays 'wet' (here's a nice publicity photo). I'll be honest, I've often wondered how much effect this stuff really has against someone equipped with, say, rough-textured gloves who could, at least on a fence like the one in the picture, probably get his/her hand all the way round both the horizontal and vertical parts of the fence. Or just a loop of rope, or a hook, along with black clothes (to hide the paint that comes off) or disposable overalls plus some kind of disposable blanket or rug to cover the spikes and flatten the barbed wire would seem to be all you need. I'm not condoning this, of course - as an allotmenteer myself, I appreciate that they can well be an attractive target.

As an alternative to anti-climb paint, spikes, etc, these roller bars seem quite interesting.

Bird bin, Mudchute farmBird bin, Mudchute farmBird bin, Mudchute farm

The yard of the Mudchute Kitchen, part of the farm, has these friendly rubbish bins - a great example of affective engagement, particularly somewhere where there are going to be lots of young children visiting on school trips or with families. The open beaks are an invitation, a perceived affordance that they should be 'fed'. Whether it's a good idea to 'teach' children to feed litter to birds is another matter...

Recessed alarm, DLR
Unlike the 'Open Door' button above - which doesn't matter if it's accidentally pressed since it only operates when the train is stationary and alongside the platform - passenger emergency alarms such as this type on the Docklands Light Railway need to be prominent and visible, yet protected against accidental operation due to, for example, someone leaning on the button when the train is crowded. So, not only recessing it, but mounting it at the top of the recess, where even an inadvertent poke from an umbrella or elbow is less likely to make contact, is a clever errorproofing solution.

A 'Norman' door, Canary Wharf

The shopping mall at Canary Wharf features 'Norman doors' that despite having prominent, elegant, no doubt expensive stainless steel handles, must actually be pushed open, hence the necessity of the 'Push' labels. Other than being able to pull the doors closed if necessary, or simply because it's cheaper to make doors with the same fittings on both sides so they can be hinged either way, I'm not sure why this particular category of false affordance is so common. Making the handles flatter on the 'push' side would preserve a similar style visually but signal that they need to be pushed without needing to resort to a sign.

Couple of other observations: the comprehensive row of prohibition signs on the doors almost forms a design element itself, echoing the pattern of squares further down. You're not allowed to do much other than spend money in this particular mall. Also, printing the word STYLE on posters in reflective foil does, unfortunately, mean that from some angles, the L and E will disappear.

ATM forcing function

Getting some money out: we're so used to ATMs returning the card before dispensing the cash that we often don't even think about this interlock forcing function. In fact it may even momentarily surprise us when ticket machines (for example) don't work like this.

But ATMs didn't always operate like this either, and when the cash was returned first, the card was often forgotten. So the order was changed - as Phillip Chung & Michael Byrne put it "to place the hanging postcompletion action 'on the critical path' to reduce or eliminate [its] omission" - although this card-then-cash format is by no means universal.

I looked at some possible alternative solutions for the problem in this paper for Applied Ergonomics (e-mail me if you'd like a copy), as a kind of test / demonstration of the Design with Intent toolkit.

(The above is actually a photo of a different machine to the one I used on this particular day, since there was a queue of people behind me)

Spikes, Southwark

These friendly anti-sit spikes (including a slightly crooked one on the left) outside the headquarters of London Councils in Southwark just scream "We love the public!". I guess the alcove could provide a useful hiding place for someone to jump out on passers-by or something.

Eat, South Bank

Further along the South Bank, this branch of Eat reminded me that B J Fogg used a photo of the Eat sign in his talk at Design for Persuasion, as an example of what he calls hot triggers: cues or calls to action which actually prompt a behaviour, assuming that the motivation and ability are there already. Someone walking along, hungry (motivated), with enough money to buy food (ability) needs a trigger, and a sign pretty much instructing one to eat is a particularly clear one. We didn't eat there, of course - there are better places - but it's an interesting tactic.

Gearstick, Reliant Scimitar SST

Finally, as we were about to drive home from the station, I thought about the reverse gear 'gate' - a kind of lock-out - which prevents the driver changing accidentally directly from a forward gear into reverse (though it's usually possible the other way round). Depending on the gearbox, you generally need to lift the gearstick over the 'gate' or press a button while moving the stick, or in the case of my Reliant Scimitar (which has a 1980s Ford Sierra gearbox), press the gearstick itself downwards.

  What do you see everyday that makes you think "they designed it like that so that people would do this"?

Some interesting projects (Part 2) by Dan

Following on from Part 1, here are a couple more very interesting student projects linking design and behaviour. This time, both involve providing feedback on the impact or costs of everyday behaviours in order to get people to think. Tim Holley's Tio project, developed in response to a brief by Onzo, and described as 'A Light Switch to Help Children Save Energy' - deservedly won the HSBC Sustainability Prize at the Made in Brunel show:

Tio by Tim Holley "Children play a key role in reducing energy consumption due to the fact that they will be among the key decision-makers in the next 30 years. A simple way to engage and educate them is to concentrate on lighting, which accounts for up to 15% of electricity use in the home. The target market for Tio is 7-11 year-olds. This coincides with a period in primary education during which children begin to learn about the environment, energy and the effects that humans are having on the world. Tio [...]allow[s] children to demonstrate their knowledge of energy conservation to their family and encourage their role as ‘energy champions’ of the home. Tio has the potential to reduce lighting-use by up to 25%, resulting in an energy saving of up to 11% over a five year period...

Tio by Tim Holley The wall-mounted light switch[...] controls the lighting in the child’s room. Tio is soft and tactile, thus encourages user interaction. The character of ‘Tio’ displayed on the light switch encourages children to turn their lights off: Tio is happy when the lights have only been on for a short period of time. The longer they are left on, the angrier he becomes. This acts as an emotional reminder to turn the lights off...

The recommended ‘lights-on time’ is influenced by the child’s age, their daily activities and the time of day. [...] Information (‘lights-on’ time) is sent wirelessly from the wall switch to a computer. The computer programme allows the child to track their lighting-use performance over an extended period of time. The child takes care of a ‘virtual tree’ by moderating their lighting-use performance. This engages children to make a personal contribution to reducing energy consumption." Tio by Tim Holley

There are some clever ideas in there, including pester-power ("Make sure your parents turn off their lights too") and, from a Design with Intent toolkit point of view, some of the patterns you might be able to identify include affective engagement, self-monitoring, material properties and metaphors. There's some neat product detailing too, such as the way Tio's expressions are formed by different patterns of LEDs being illuminated under the translucent case.

Tim was a very useful and insightful tester of an earlier version of the Design with Intent toolkit back in autumn 2008 (as part of the pilot study reported in this co-authored paper [direct PDF link]) so it's great to see his project get such recognition. He's now working for Onzo in product R&D strategy and has some exciting and ambitious plans for the future: as a very talented young designer bringing together creative user-centred design and technology expertise with an eye for business strategy, I'm sure Tim will go far.

Lehman's Inheritance by Alexander KirchmannAcross London at Goldsmiths, Alexander Kirchmann's 'Lehman's Inheritance' project aims "to create and design products, that can help an individual to manage the [economic] crisis" such as this pint glass with cost markings (right). As Alexander puts it, "my products are the inheritance of the crash... By exposing people to their spending and also to their earnings my design is saving the owner money."

This is an incredibly simple project (at least the example that's illustrated - I'd be interested to know what other products Alexander modified / created). But the impact of exposing costs in this way - self-monitoring without any special equipment - could be very effective. In some of the recent workshops I've run with designers and students, similarly low-tech feedback concepts have been suggested for problems such as reducing water wastage (sinks with scales marked on them) and reducing overfilling of electric kettles.

More projects coming up in Part 3.

Images from the websites linked.

The Convention on Modern Liberty by Dan

Barricades, London Britain's supposedly on the verge of a summer of rage, and while like Mary Riddell I am of course reminded of Ballard, it's not quite the same. I don't think this represents the 'middle class' ennui of Chelsea Marina.

Instead I think we may have reached a tipping point where more people than not, are, frankly, fed up (and scared) about what's happening, whether it's the economic situation, the greed of the feckless, the intransigent myopia of those who were supposed to 'oversee' what's going on, the use of fear to intimidate away basic freedoms, or a home secretary who treats the entire country like the naughty schoolchildren she left behind. In short: we're basically losing our liberty very rapidly indeed. This PDF, compiled by UCL Student Human Rights Programme, provides a withering summary. As many have repeated, 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual. But, as Cardinal Wolsey warned, "be well advised and assured what matter ye put in his head; for ye shall never pull it out again".

The Convention on Modern Liberty, taking place across the UK this Saturday 28th February, aims to demonstrate the dissatisfaction with what's happening, and hopefully raise awareness of just what's going on right under our noses. It features an interesting cross-section of speakers, and the speeches will be streamed on the site (tickets for the London session sold out very quickly).

I'm a normal person, trying my best to advance the progress of humanity, yet I feel that the government has contempt for me as a member of the public in general, on an everyday basis. Everywhere we go, we are watched, monitored, surveilled, threatened, considered guilty. We shouldn't have to live like this.

P.S. I apologise for the lack of posts over the last week: my laptop's graphics card finally gave in - it had been kind-of usable at a low resolution by connecting the output to another monitor for a while, but that too has now failed. Thanks to everyone who's e-mailed and sent things: I will get round to them as soon as I can.

Invitation to participate by Dan

Design with Intent Pilot Study For the last few weeks I've been setting up and running the first few trials of the 'Design with Intent Method', the design/innovation tool I've (embarrassingly sporadically) talked about on the blog over the last year.

It's essentially an innovation method to help designers given a brief involving influencing user behaviour. Based on describing the 'problem', the DwI Method aims to suggest appropriate design techniques (with real examples from different fields) to inspire concepts with the potential to influence user behaviour towards the 'target'. The techniques suggested range from those which really would help users to those which probably don't: deciding which approaches are actually worthwhile is part of the process... I won't go into it too much here (yet) but hopefully the method captures or will at least address most of the arguments and caveats that we've discussed here over the last 3 years.

As it's developed from a fairly simple box structure through a giant hierarchical tree (as in the corner of this poster [PDF]), to the current 'idea space' iteration partially visible in the photo above, I've 'tested' it plenty of times with myself and informally with colleagues, applying it to different briefs, but the current programme of pilot studies is the first time it is being tried out by 'real people', mostly recent design graduates or final-year design students. These pilot studies are primarily about assessing the usability of the method ahead of larger group studies assessing its usefulness - if that makes sense - but they still involve the participants applying the method to particular design problems and seeing what kind of concepts it suggests. So far, the results have been extremely interesting - I can't say any more yet.

At some point, there will be an online version in one form or another, but for the moment, if you're in the London area, are a designer or someone interested in behaviour change, and would like to participate in an individual pilot study session in January, please let me know - There are only going to be a few sessions; they take about 2½ hours each, during the week, taking place at Brunel University (Uxbridge, end of the Piccadilly and Metropolitan lines) and bear in mind half the participants will be 'controls' and so won't actually be getting the DwI Method at all. The most I can pay you for your time/travel is £10. If that still sounds attractive, get in touch! I'll update this post when all the slots are filled.

Equally, if your company or design team would like to participate in a 'full' trial of the DwI Method sometime in spring 2009 - trying out the method on real problems - then please do get in touch too.

Dan Lockton

London Design Festival: Greengaged by Dan

Greengaged skip Design CouncilThe London Design Festival always throws up some interesting events, especially involving clever people trying new things in design and sharing their experiences and expertise.

This year, the Design Council are running Greengaged, a "sustainability hub... developed and organised by [re]design, thomas.matthews and Kingston University with Arup and Three Trees Don’t Make A Forest". It's a series of talks and workshops about ecodesign and sustainable issues in design.

On Tuesday I went, along with Alex Plant, for the 'Behaviour Change' talks, part of the 'Gauging the Green' day, where Unchained's Lea Simpson, More Associates' Luke Nicholson, IDEO London's Andrea Koerselman and Fiona Bennie from Forum for the Future all talked about their work on using design to change behaviour.

[Apologies: YouTube have since removed the clip due to an infringement claim from Candid Camera, Inc. So here's an alternative link - it may not last either, though, but if you search for "candid camera" elevator I'm sure you'll be able to find it]

Lea Simpson started with this great Candid Camera clip from 196x demonstrating how easily social proof can be used to influence behaviour. Lea argued three important points relevant to behaviour change (many thanks to Christian McLening for taking better notes than I did):

1. Behaviour change requires behaviour (i.e. the behaviour of others: social effects are critical, as we respond to others' behaviour which in turn affects our own; targeting the 'right' people allows behaviour to spread)

2. Behaviour and motivation are two different things: To change behaviour, you need to understand and work with people's motivations - which may be very different for different people.

3. Desire is not enough: lots of people desire to behave differently, but it needs to be very easy for them to do it before it actually happens.

Luke Nicholson: Photo by Kate Andrews Luke Nicholson's presentation: photo by the indefatigable Kate Andrews.

Luke Nicholson talked about More's work on enabling the public to understand energy use and carbon footprints via home monitoring systems - as he put it, there are "some invisible forces going round your home, and this is a lens onto them". More's 'energy lens' - which can be positioned on a window, hence linking energy consumption and climate/the weather in users' minds, and making it as easy to check "what the energy's like today" as "what the weather's like today" - has recently been spun out as Onzo - who look to be employing a couple of very talented Brunel Design graduates.

More Associates: Energy Literacy

Luke also talked about More's research with energy literacy - can we create a vernacular for better public understanding of energy, carbon, current, and so on? The above slide showed the idea of 'pips' and 'blocks' as some kind of accounting unit for energy and carbon, respectively, easily comparable to pounds (sterling) for cost; there was also an interesting series of diagrams using different shapes and sizes to explain simply, visually, the difference between high-current-drawing appliances and those which draw lower currents. Changing consumer demand for new products was also addressed with the idea of a 'Kept' sticker which could be affixed to products such as phones, to announce "I'm keeping this".

A lot of this really does seem to be about framing - and joining up the agendas of different groups (consumers, the electricity industry, manufacturers, governments) to provide a new resultant pointing in the desired direction. As Luke said, "We're playing into cultures that don't exist yet."

Andrea Koerselman, IDEO

Andrea Koerselman and Fiona Bennie introduced their 'i-team - local innovation on climate change' project, a service design collaboration between IDEO and Forum for the Future, working with councils and local authorities to inspire behaviour change on issues such as driving to work, reducing electricity usage, and so on. This involves a lot of user observation - an IDEO speciality, of course - and an Inspiration-Insight-Ideation-Implementation process, as in the slide above. Talking to Fiona afterwards, she mentioned that it's quite a novel experience for many councils to be involved in generating ideas without explicit returns-on-investment or outcomes defined, and so the 'Ideation' stage was going to be especially interesting.

Overall, this was a very interesting and worthwhile programme of talks - and this is just a snapshot of the many taking place this week and next in London. Tomorrow, I'm off to some of System Reload's workshops, and on Monday, back at the Design Council, Tracy Bhamra and Emma Dewberry, among others, will be talking about sustainable design education. I'll let you know how it all goes.

The world's energy meter by Dan

Electrcity meter, in a cupboard One of the presentations I'm really looking forward to at OpenTech 2008 in London is by AMEE, self-described as "The world's energy meter":

If all the energy data in the world were accessible, what would you build? The Climate Change agenda has created an imperative to measure the energy profile of everything. As trillions of pounds flow into re-inventing how we consume, we have a unique opportunity use open data and systems as a starting point. AMEE is an open platform for energy and CO2 data, algorithms and transactions.

From this PDF on the AMEE website:

AMEE is a neutral aggregation platform to measure and track all the energy data in the world. It combines monitoring, profiling and transactional systems to enable this, as well as an algorithmic engine that applies conversion factors from energy into CO2 emissions. ... # AMEE is a technology platform (a web-service API) , designed to be built upon by you # AMEE can represent both copyright and open data without conflict # AMEE is open source # You can build commercial applications using AMEE

This does sound extremely useful - the ability to convert energy into CO2 emission equivalent "enables the calculation of the “Carbon-Footprint” of anything" - and I'm going to see how I might be able to make use of AMEE's functionality or the data set as part of the research. (As an aside, it's interesting how often 'energy methods' allow us to compare diverse activities and effects with a common currency: I remember being struck by this concept before when being introduced to von Mises' criterion in stress analysis and streamlined lifecycle analysis within a few days of each other.)

AMEE's Gavin Starks also presented at O'Reilly's ETech earlier this year (one day I'm sure I'll go to this...) and the slides are available [PDF, 8MB]. On a similar theme, the very impressive Saul Griffith (of MIT Media Lab, Squid Labs, Instructables, Make et al) talked on 'energy literacy' - again, a detailed presentation [PDF, 7.6MB] with thoughtful notes (see also Wattzon) - and it seems that there is a certain degree of overlap, or symbiosis between the ideas. We need a public literate in energy to care enough about measuring and changing their behaviour; we equally need good and understandable energy-using behaviour data to enable that public to become literate in the consequences of their actions, and indeed for 'us' (designers/engineers/technologists/policymakers...) to understand what behaviours we want to address.

I'd like to think that Design for Sustainable Behaviour can help here. That's certainly the aim of what I'm doing.

"Steps are like ready-made seats" (so let's make them uncomfortable) by Dan

Image from Your Local Guardian website Adrian Short let me know about something going on in Sutton, Surrey, at the same time both fundamentally pathetic and indicative of the mindset of many public authorities in 'dealing with' emergent behaviour:

An area in Rosehill, known locally as "the steps", is to be re-designed to stop young people sitting there.

Not only will the steps be made longer and more shallow to make them uncomfortable to sit on, but no handrail will be installed just in case teens decide to lean against it. ... Explaining the need for the changes, St Helier Councillor David Callaghan said: "At the moment the steps are like ready-made seats so changes will be made to make the area less attractive to young people.

It's well worth reading the readers' comments, since - to many people's apparent shock - Emma, a 'young person', actually read the article and responded with her thoughts and concerns, spurring the debate into what seems to be a microcosm of the attitudes, assumptions, prejudices and paranoia that define modern Britain's schizophrenic attitude to its 'young people'. The councillor quoted above responded too - near the bottom of the page - and Adrian's demolition of his 'understanding' of young people is direct and eloquent:

One thing young people and older people have in common is a desire to be left alone to do their own thing, provided that they are not causing trouble to others. People like Emma and her friends are not. They do not want to be told that they can go to one place but not another. They do not want to be cajoled, corralled and organised by the state -- they get enough of that at school. They certainly do not want to be disadvantaged as a group because those in charge -- you -- are unable to deal appropriately with a tiny minority of troublemakers in their midst.

EDIT: Adrian sends me a link to the council's proposal [PDF, 55 kb] which contains a few real gems - as he puts it:

I really have no idea how they can write things like this with a straight face:

"It is normal practice to provide handrails to assist pedestrians. However, these have purposely been omitted from the proposals, as they could provide loiterers with something to lean against."

and then,

"The scheme will cater for all sections of the local community."


Seminar, 27th May by Dan

I'll be giving a brief seminar at Brunel on Tuesday 27th May, in advance of presenting at Persuasive 2008 - it's a bit of a practice/rehearsal, to be honest...

Seminar Announcement: Using design to shape user behaviour: Design with Intent and Persuasive Technology

Dan Lockton, Cleaner Electronics Research Group 27th May 2008, 11.00a.m. (Approx. length 45 mins) Room TA049 - Tower A, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH

Everyone welcome.

Design can be used to persuade, guide and shape users' behaviour. Anything designed for user interaction can be designed to embody intended 'target' behaviours, whether for socially beneficial or purely commercial reasons.

The emerging interaction design field of Persuasive Technology incorporates some of these ideas, mainly applying them to software and motivational games which guide users to change their behaviour for socially beneficial reasons, e.g. keeping fit (Brunel's Gillian Swan's 'Square-Eyes' project has been cited in some of the literature) or giving up smoking.

Taking a much broader look across product design, engineering, architecture and computer science, a range of approaches to designing for intended behaviour emerges, and a more general concept of 'Design with Intent' can be identified, with techniques from one discipline being applicable in others. My research specifically involves guiding more environmentally friendly product use – Design for Sustainable Behaviour – but the development of a general model for Design with Intent, matching target behaviours with suggested design solutions, is an important part of this.

The seminar comprises two short presentations I'll be giving at Persuasive 2008, in Oulu, Finland, in the first week of June. It's a practice run, if you like, but it will be extremely useful to get feedback and reaction from a Brunel audience, and I hope it'll be interesting and inspirational.

1. Design with Intent: Persuasive Technology in a Wider Context This is a paper to be presented at the conference, and appearing in H. Oinas-Kukkonen et al. (eds.): Persuasive 2008, LNCS 5033. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2008. pp. 274 – 278

2. Kairos: Just-in-Time Feedback as a Design with Intent technique This is an invited presentation to be given at the doctoral consortium which forms part of the conference.

Dan Lockton (Year 1 PhD student) | (research blog)

Supervisors: Professor David Harrison, Professor Neville Stanton

Thanks to Lyn Edgecock and everyone who's helped set this up.

"It’s a weak society that sees removing them as the solution" by Dan Lockton

West Hampstead Library - photo by Pashmin@ Following on from our recent look at the strategic design of public benches, BBC London's Jimmy Tam let me know about this story in the Camden New Journal:

A public bench has been removed from outside West Hampstead Library [photo from Pashmin@'s Flickr] after it became a magnet for street drinkers. The Town Hall now plan to use “perch” benches in the area in a bid to cut anti-social behaviour. ... Singer-songwriter David Thompson, 52, of Sumatra Road, has penned a song called Menches on Benches, celebrating the camaraderie among users of public benches. He said: “A lot of people who are down and out or just high on drugs sit there at night which might be the reason they took them away, but it’s a weak society that sees removing them as the solution. You have a fellowship on the bench.”

Norma Sedler, who lives in Hillfield Road, added: “Just because a few druggies and winos started ­sitting on the seats the KGB come along and take away our lovely seats with proper backs and slats and all we have left is to sit on the pavement. When I was a kid there were always old people watching the world go by. Now I’m old myself, it’s nice if you’re going on an errand to sit down on a bench.”

Is it not the council's action which is the anti-social behaviour here?

Rolling bench

On completely the other side of the coin, this (via) - thanks to Ray Stone for telling me about it - seems a clever piece of design which actually benefits the user: the bench surface can be rotated after it's rained, so that a user need not sit on a wet surface. Some of the comments at YankoDesign do suggest that the underside could actually get wetter due to water running down the surface and not evaporating in the sunlight; this might be a valid concern.

Rolling Bench

Interesting, though, how quickly it was before someone commented "How long would it take before somebody rolled a homeless guy off the bench?"

Bench design by Sungwoo Park, Yoonha Paick, Jongdeuk Son, Banseok Yoon, Eunbi Cho & Minjung Sim.

Freelancing Part 3: The Ben Wilson Interview by Dan Lockton

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series I looked at some aspects of what it's like being a freelance designer / engineer / maker, and some of the things I've learned along the way. Lots of freelancers have blogs, and sites such as Freelance Switch and Sologig News draw together some very interesting (and diverse) people and advice. I did an interview for Sologig News a few months ago. One of the things that I'm often asked, mainly by design students intrigued by the idea of working for themselves once they graduate, is just how to go about doing it: how to raise your profile, and find the right projects to take on. Having really only been marginally successful in this area, I decided to interview Ben Wilson, with whom I've worked on a couple of projects, and who's achieved a great deal working for himself in this field. Ben's blog, along with his brothers, is a great photostream-style travelogue of interesting products, vehicles, graphic design, places and influences.

Tilting Trike by Ben WilsonDownlow Lowrider by Ben Wilson
Left: The Tilting Trike in arm-propelled mode. Right: The Downlow Lowrider DL: What are some of your highest profile projects?

BW: I've done lots of different projects - I think I'm probably best known for the work I've done in transportation and especially in bicycles and bicycle-related design.

A project that won some awards was the Tilting Trike which started off as a project at the Royal College of Art and then was taken on as a research project within the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre. That won a few awards and got quite well known. Before that, I was known as 'Bicycle Ben' and people thought that was, sort of, all that I did. About nine or ten years ago, I designed a low-rider recumbent bicycle - at the time, that attracted a lot of attention and press, so I was very well known for that. But since then, I've gone on to work in lots of different areas - interior, product, industrial design.

I think another project that's quite well known - well, sometimes it's not accredited to me so much but I was very much involved from the concept all the way through to production - is the Manfrotto FigRig, developed and patented worldwide and manufactured by Manfrotto. There's that product and there's the work I've done with flat-pack furniture - the Chairfix. I suppose they're the highest profile projects, but they're by no means all the projects that I've done. They're the ones that stick out.

Tilting Trike by Ben WilsonManfrotto Figrig by Ben Wilson
Left: The Tilting Trike in foot-pedalled mode. Right: The Manfrotto FigRig, with Mike Figgis

You've certainly been involved with a lot of projects. I suppose other young designers, thinking they'd like to go into business for themselves, would be especially interested in how you got started doing this. What made you want to go down the path of working for yourself as opposed to, say, taking a 'normal' design job?

Probably because I couldn't get a job in product design. I've always had a reasonable entrepreneurial streak within me - I think that probably stems from my parents. They were both self-employed, they were both designers, so I was immersed within a kind of very creative family and household. But also, seeing the way they acted and talked on the phone and worked - I think there was that, too. It kind of stemmed from trying to get experience, finding it very difficult to get experience, and especially experience that I wanted to gain.

And, by default, I suppose: I created this object, the low-rider bicycle. I'd sold one before I graduated, so I realised there was a market for it. I technically could manufacture them - I made it myself, I prototyped it and made it myself so that was me, that's what I had to promote myself, so in that respect, I could say "Can you make it? Yes I can". There wasn't one day when I said "Let's start Ben Wilson Design".

Then I went back to college, but even when I was doing my MA at the Royal College of Art, I was always doing a little bit here and a bit there - freelance and bits and pieces.

That's interesting how you 'fell' into working for yourself like that. But a lot of your projects seem to have led on to others - you've come to the attention of someone because of one project, or a company has thought "That's good; we'll get him to do something." Would you say that's an important way of finding new work, as a freelancer?

Definitely. I'd say the stepping-stone effect is in everything. Every project that I do is gearing me up for the next. The research, or the techniques, will be used in something that's done later on. So, yes. It gets infuriating when people - a bit like the category 'Bike Ben' - just expect me to do bikes. I love doing bikes but to a certain extent, that's not all I want to do all the time. But just like in anything, if someone becomes a kind of specialist... say I needed some upholstered furniture, it would be good for me to talk to some people who have quite a lot of experience doing that, because I'd be halving the time by learning from their experience. So, always that's the way. You tend to become specialist; although I haven't tried to become a master of anything, hopefully I've build up good experience in many different areas.

Design Museum TankNike AF1 bike by Ben Wilson
FIXED, Ben's exhibition in London's Design Museum Tank focuses on fixed-gear bikes

So how have you gone about getting known? You've got some very high profile attention from, the Design Museum, the British Council, and so on. Did this come about through you approaching them, or through them approaching you, or a mixture?

A mixture. But I think predominantly it's the snowball effect. You start off with one thing - take my bicycle. Through my brother, there was a space available in Farringdon where I could show the bicycle, in an area where there were a lot of publishing houses. It gained some press attention, and once one article comes out in the press - just like if something goes on a blog - it spirals, and it spider-webs, and it goes out everywhere. And I think that's an interesting side of how ideas get spread.

So it's worth doing that? It's worth young designers making the effort to get their projects out there so that people see them.

Very much so. I'm a really strong believer in getting stuff out - to the extent where I'm asked by some companies to do pure brand work, looking at developing their brands for them, which I find very interesting. I've worked for different ad agencies - you might see that as very different to my other design, but it's not really, it's all creative output and it's a mindset of how you think. It's important to promote yourself and be as creative with how you market your identity, who you are and what you want to say about yourself. I don't show at Milan: it's mainly because I haven't really been asked to. If someone wanted to fund me to do something for Milan, I would.

Take London Design Week, coming up soon. As far as I know, I'm not showing anything. It's not necessarily out of choice - although it's a great time and place to show your work, it's also a saturated market. There could be better times to show work, for different audiences as well. That's nothing against the idea - I have had exhibitions at that time, but I think it's about taking opportunities when they come, and utilising them.

You do a lot of self-directed projects as well, don't you - your own projects alongside work that clients have asked you to do? Would you say it's definitely worth a freelancer trying to do that?

Absolutely. Aside from the potential revenue if the project's successful, it's keeping your mind active on new challenges. There's that impetus that shows through in college or university projects - why you're interested in something, why you want to investigate it - but then when you leave, many people almost drift into often mind-numbing design work. I know and probably you too know people who are in the creative industries but find it really difficult to rekindle the excitement they used to have about design. But even work for clients may feed into something that I can use on one of my own projects.

Chairfix is a good example of a self-initiated project. It came about because I was fed up with building bicycles because of the time that they took, and I wanted to exploit a process [CNC technology], and within that, I developed an object, and then wanted to show it to the public. So I organised my first show, up in the West End at Aram, and got a really good response, and from that I launched that product. I sold a considerable amount of them, and made a significant financial gain - I don't want to talk about figures but I think taking responsibility and full ownership of a product yourself does mean that you don't have to deal with poor royalties. You don't have to sell so much of something to claw back some of the R & D that you put in. What it taught me as well - it makes you business savvy, it makes you go into negotiations, it makes you into discuss things with clients on a different basis.

Chairfix by Ben Wilson
A number of graphically customised versions of Chairfix were made available at the launch, including this by Ben's brother Oscar

That's something a lot of young designers have no experience of, and haven't been taught. It's difficult to get that kind of knowledge unless you actually do it practically yourself, with an actual business.

Very much so. And also - say you do have some experience within a consultancy and are starting to do some work for yourself. The jump is from working with big corporate companies, dealing with big contracts with big money, to that middle ground. Even if you're not employing ten people, your turnover needs to be a reasonable amount just to keep your head above water. A global brand is not going to pay me [as a self-employed designer] as much as they would an established design studio with huge overheads. But they're buying a different sort of thing. I think you have to make sure that you place yourself correctly within that market.

So what would your advice be to a young designer, perhaps, just starting out from university or from college, or still there maybe, with this dream of working for him or herself? Is there any simple advice you could give, other than "Just get on with it, just do it"?

You've got to do it. If that's what you really want you've got to think a lot about that dream, because it takes over your life, it's incredibly hard work, but it's incredibly rewarding. Those are the realities of being self-employed. That aside, you need to think about who you are, what you're doing, and why you're doing it on your own, and how you're going to brand that, how people are going to perceive what you're showing. The opportunities are really good - it's a lot easier now than when I started off. Like going to a photocopy shop and sending information in the post - things are different now, you can send an e-mail and hit so many different people.

You really have to go for it. I'll never forget one phone conversation - at this time I was working out of my bedroom in my parents' house - and someone phoned up saying "Can I speak to the managing director of Downlow Cycle Co?" (that's sort of the title I went under). My mum answered the phone, not pretneding to be my secretary, but said "Yes, I shall just get him for you," and it was someone enquiring about a really big order. I remember thinking, do I say "Well I'm just a small man in a bedroom, begging, borrowing and stealing to build these bikes," or do I walk? Maybe he wants to think I'm a big business? I never ever lied, but neither did I tell him that I wasn't running a multi-million pound corporation. So I think in that repsect, you have to think on your feet.

Also, you have to take opportunities as they come. Be confident and look at the possibilites in lots of different ways. It's about both running with opportunity, and making your own. People say "Ooh, you're a lucky person in life". Certain people say that to me. But I think often, you make your own luck to a large degree. There are always opportunities. There are shops in London that are vacant. If you wanted to rent one for a year it would be a fortune, but if you wanted it for two weeks, you could probably cut a deal with a savvy landlord. There's certain things like that, that really can work. I think you have to be creative with your own identity, your branding and how you get known as you have to be with the actual products, whatever you're designing.

That's some very good advice there, from someone who's put it into practice very successfully. Thank you very much Ben.

Ben Wilson Design | Wilson Brothers' Blog

The Terminal Bench by Dan Lockton

Heathrow: Skyport for the Seventies
Mags L Halliday - author of the Doctor Who novel History 101 - let me know about an 'interesting' design tactic being used at Heathrow's Terminal 5. From the Guardian, by Julia Finch:

Flying from the new Heathrow Terminal 5 and facing a lengthy delay? No worries. Take a seat and enjoy the spectacular views through the glass walls: Windsor castle in one direction; the Wembley Arch, the London Eye and the Gherkin visible on the horizon in the other.

But you had better be quick, because the vast Richard Rogers-designed terminal, due to open at 4am on March 27 next year, has only 700 seats. That's much less than two jumbo loads, in an airport designed to handle up to 30 million passengers a year.

There will be more chairs available but they will be inside cafes, bars and restaurants. Taking the weight off your feet will cost at least a cup of coffee.

I suppose we should have expected this. If they weren't actually going to remove the seats, they'd have used uncomfortable benches instead. In itself, it's maybe not quite as manipulative as the café deliberately creating worry to get customers to vacate their seats that we looked at a few days ago, but as Frankie Roberto commented, "airports seem to be a fairly unique environment, and one that must be full of architectures of control."

Heathrow: Skyport for the Seventies

Nevertheless, aside from the more obvious control elements of airport architecture - from baggage trolley width restrictors to the blind enforcement of arbitrary regulations, the retailers themselves are keen to make the most of this unique environment and the combination of excitement, stress, tiredness, and above all, confinement, which the passengers are undergoing:

The new terminal may have been heralded as a "cathedral to flight", but with 23,225 sq metres (250,000 sq ft) of retail space, the equivalent of six typical Asda stores, it is actually going to be a temple to retail. Heathrow may be packed with shops, but when the £4.2bn Terminal 5 opens the airport's total shopping space will increase by 50% overnight.


After security, two banks of double escalators will transport potential shoppers into a 2,787 sq metre (30,000 sq foot) World Duty Free store... Mark Riches, managing director of WDF, believes his new superstore has the best possible site to part passengers from their cash: "About 70% of passengers will come down those escalators", he said, "and we will be ready".

He recognises he has a captive audience: "If we can't sell to people who can't leave the building, then there's something wrong with us".

Mr Riches, a former Marks & Spencer executive, is planning "to put the glamour back into airport retailing" with plans for gleaming cosmetics counters and a central area reserved for beauty services such as manicures.

"We are moving away from just selling stuff to providing services. This should be real theatre," he said.

He is also planning what he calls "contentainment" - the music will change according to where you are in the shop and a 14-metre-long "crystal curtain" "bigger than a double decker bus and thinner than a calculator" will show videos, advertising and sports events.

Heathrow: Skyport for the Seventies

Everything about this story - from the location itself out on the bleak badlands between the M25 and A30, to the way the customers are coerced, channelled, mass-entertained and exploited, to the odd hyperbolic glee of Mr Riches' visions for his mini-empire - seems to scream J G Ballard. If Kingdom Come hadn't riffed off the Bentall Centre, it could surely have been about a Terminal 5.

Back to the practical aspects: the deliberate removal of public seating to force passengers to patronise restaurants and cafés is in no way isolated to Heathrow. In a coming post - also suggested by Mags - we'll look at First Great Western's policy of doing this in some of its railway stations, with none of the glitz of Terminal 5 but all of the cold-eyed distaste for the customer.

Heathrow: Skyport for the Seventies

Images from a leaflet published by the British Airports Authority, 1970.

Plug: Wilson Brothers' blog by Dan Lockton

Nike bike by the Wilson Brothers Bit of a design-related plug: London designer/maker Ben Wilson (with whom I'm currently working on a project for Sir Clive Sinclair) and his brothers, Oscar and Luke, have just launched their own collaborative photo blog, which I helped set up using, a mildly modified Sandbox theme and automatic email-to-blog (via Flickr) to allow the simplest method of photoblogging I could think of.

Between them the Wilson brothers take a lot of great photos of interesting and inspirational design, places, vehicles and people, as well as chronicling their own projects, and I think the blog's going to get quite a bit of attention. The blog's starting with a look at the building of a one-off bike commissioned by Nike (shown above), with some extraordinary detailing (cut leather decals and intricate stainless steel lugs).

No sliding by Dan Lockton

Handrail spikes at Highbury & Islington station, LondonHandrail spikes at Highbury & Islington station, London

These spikes are embedded every couple of feet in the hand-rails of a staircase at Highbury & Islington station in London, presumably to prevent kids (or adults) sliding down them. They're not especially sharp, but would bruise someone pretty badly.

Note that there are also additional stainless steel hand-rails - this staircase may have replaced an escalator, and the rubberised rails may be the original escalator ones, with the spikes added much more recently.

Bruce Schneier : Architecture & Security by Dan Lockton

The criminology students at Cambridge have an excellent view of dystopian architecture Bruce Schneier talks about 'Architecture and Security': architectural decisions based on the immediate fear of certain threats (e.g. car bombs, rioters) continuing to affect users of the buildings long afterwards. And he makes the connexion to architectures of control outside of the built environment, too:

"The same thing can be seen in cyberspace as well. In his book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lawrence Lessig describes how decisions about technological infrastructure -- the architecture of the internet -- become embedded and then impracticable to change. Whether it's technologies to prevent file copying, limit anonymity, record our digital habits for later investigation or reduce interoperability and strengthen monopoly positions, once technologies based on these security concerns become standard it will take decades to undo them.

It's dangerously shortsighted to make architectural decisions based on the threat of the moment without regard to the long-term consequences of those decisions."


The commenters detail a fantastic array of 'disciplinary architecture' examples, including:

  • Pierce Hall, University of Chicago, "built to be "riotproof" by elevating the residence part of the dorm on large concrete pillars and developing chokepoints in the entranceways so that rioting mobs couldn't force their way through." (There must be lots of university buildings like this)
  • "The Atlanta Fed building has a beautiful lawn which surrounds the building, and is raised 4 or 5 feet from the surrounding street, with a granite restraining wall. It's a very effective protection against truck bombs."
  • The wide boulevards of Baron Haussmann's Paris, intended to prevent barricading (a frequently invoked example on this blog)
  • The UK Ministry of Defence's Defence Procurement Agency site at Abbey Wood, Bristol, "is split into car-side and buildings; all parking is as far away from the buildings (car bomb defence), especially the visitor section. you have to walk over a narrow footbridge to get in.

    Between the buildings and the (no parking enforced by armed police) road is 'lake'. This stops suicide bomber raids without the ugliness of the concrete barriers.

    What we effectively have is a modern variant of an old castle. The lake supplants the moat, but it and the narrow choke point/drawbridge."

  • SUNY Binghamton's "College in the Woods, a dorm community... features concrete "quads" with steps breaking them into multiple levels to prevent charges; extremely steep, but very wide, stairs, to make it difficult to defend the central quad"
  • University of Texas at Austin: "The west mall (next to the Union) used to be open and grassy. They paved it over with pebble-y pavement to make it painful for hippies to walk barefoot and installed giant planters to break up the space. They also installed those concrete walls along Guadalupe (the drag) to create a barrier between town and gown, and many other "improvements.""
  • I'm especially amused by the "making it painful for hippies to walk barefoot" comment! This is not too far from the anti-skateboarding corrugation sometimes used (e.g. the third photo here), though it seems that in our current era, there is a more obvious disconnect between 'security' architecture (which may also involve vast surveillance or everyware networks, such as the City of London's Ring of Steel) and that aimed at stopping 'anti-social' behaviour, such as homeless people sleeping, skateboarders, or just young people congregating.

    Reversing the emphasis of a control environment by Dan Lockton

    Image from Flickr user Monkeys & Kiwis Image from Monkeys & Kiwis (Flickr)

    Chris Weightman let me know about how it felt to watch last Thursday's iPod Flashmob at London's Liverpool Street station: the dominant sense was of a mass of people overturning the 'prescribed' behaviour designed into an environment, and turning the area into their own canvas, overlaying individualised, externally silent experiences on the usual commuter traffic.

    Probably wouldn't get away with that sort of thing at an airport any more anyway, but what will happen to this kind of informal gathering in the era of the societies of control? When everyware monitors exactly who's where and forces the barriers closed for anyone hoping to use the space for something other than that for which it was intended?

    Shaping behaviour at the Design Council by Dan Lockton

    RED talk, Design Council. Photo by Kate Andrews
    Photo by Kate Andrews

    I've blogged before mentioning the work of the UK Design Council's RED research arm, which applies 'design thinking' to redevelop and create public services appropriate for societal changes right now and in the years to come. The previous post was specifically about Jennie Winhall's 'Is design political?' essay, but I've kept in touch with RED's work and was very interested to attend RED's Open House last Friday, along with Katrin Svabo Bech and Kate Andrews.

    The presentation, by Jennie Winhall, Chris Vanstone* and Matthew Horne, introduced the Kitchen Cabinet (democratic engagement) and Activmobs projects, along with a brief discussion of the concept of shaping behaviour through design, which is of course of significant pertinence to the 'architectures of control' idea (as it is indeed to captology).

    (Sadly, there was apparently not time to give any more than a cursory treatment of RED's Transformation Design concept [PDF link, 193 kb], which re-casts design thinking as the cross-disciplinary approach for problem-solving in a great variety of disciplines. The paper leads with a great quote from Charles Eames: "More than 30 years ago, Charles Eames, the American multidisciplinary designer, was asked, ‘What are the boundaries of design?’. He replied, ‘What are the boundaries of problems?’". I was especially looking forward to a discussion on transformation design, as my hunch is that many of us who've chosen to go into design (and engineering) have realised and appreciated this for a long time - indeed, it may even be the reason why we went into it: a desire to acquire the tools to shape, change and improve the world - but that by expressing it explicitly, RED has a great chance to win the understanding of a political establishment and general public who still often equate design with styling and little more. But I digress...)

    Jennie Winhall's discussion of shaping behaviour through design was a clear exposition of the principle that empowering people to change their own behaviour ought to be more preferable than forcing them to change their behaviour externally. Traditional policy-making fails in this context: it is easier to put in CCTV than to solve the underlying casuses of crime; it is easier to fund more obesity treatment than it is to tackle poor diet in the first place (the phrase 'symptom doctor' was not used, but it might have been). Describing the idea of manipulating behaviour through design as being slightly 'sinister', Jennie noted that it has been used in a commercial context for many years (it was one of those talks where I was almost bursting to interrupt with actual examples discussed on this website, though I didn't!), but, as Oxford's Lucy Kimbell pointed out, there is not necessarily an easy way to apply the techniques in a field where the aims are less well-defined ("social good" as opposed to "money"):

    "But the outcomes of public service designs are complex. RED sees value in making use of design methods used in Marks & Spencer, for example, to make the consuming experience "compelling and desirable" and applying them to public service contexts. In the M&S context, the use of these methods may well have a clear, measurable business objective: increasing sales, for example - and even here design practitioners may well struggle with framing the design problem, communicating with the client, and measuring the value of the design process and artefacts. How much harder it is to define and agree goals for public services or public goods?"

    Looking at the politically motivated examples of architectures of control which I've examined over the last couple of years, I'd say a significant percentage of them are designed with the goal of stamping out a particular type of behaviour, usually classed as anti-social and usually extremely contentious: this really is social engineering. The success of skateboarding 'deterrents' is measured by how few children skateboard in an area. The success of the Mosquito is measured by how few children congregate in an area. The success of park benches with central armrests is measured by how there are no longer people lying down on them. The "woollier" behaviour-shaping architectures of control, such as Square Eyes or the Entertrainer are very much edging towards captology, and perhaps these examples are closer to RED's field of experience.

    WorldChanging also has a discussion of the RED Open House presentation.

    *Speaking to us individually, Chris Vanstone used "stick, carrot or speedometer" as a way of classifying design methods for behavioural change, and I think this is worthy of a separate post, as this is an extremely insightful way of looking at these issues from an interaction design point of view.

    Dilemma of horns by Dan Lockton

    Night time I was woken up (along with, I expect, lots of others) at about 5am today by a driver sounding his/her horn in the road outside - an arrogant two-second burst - then another replying (perhaps) with a slightly feeble one-second tone. I don't know why; there are often a lot of horns during the day as there's a level crossing which seems to generate a lot of frustration, but there are no trains passing through at 5am. Anyway, I went back to sleep and had various, fitful dreams, but not before thinking that's where an architecture of control would be useful: a time-related horn interlock function, only allowing use of the horn during hours when it is legal. In the UK, that would be from 7am - 11.30 pm. But then, waking up properly a couple of hours later, I remembered my earlier thought. And considered that this kind of control wouldn't be necessary if people were more considerate towards others. If we could rely on people to care about the effects of their actions, there would be no need for quite a lot of the architectures of control discussed on this site, from speed humps to externally controlled speed limiters, and very little argument in favour of them.

    As it is, my modified, awake, more alert opinion is that a society where people take responsibility for what they do is better than one where some external agency takes that responsibility away from them. Or, at least, I don't want to live in that latter type of society, because I don't want any control taken away from me, even if I have to put up with some idiots.

    Review: Everyware by Adam Greenfield by Dan Lockton

    The cover of the book, in a suitably quotidian setting This is the first book review I've done on this blog, though it won't be the last. In a sense, this is less of a conventional review than an attempt to discuss some of the ideas in the book, and synthesise them with points that have been raised by the examination of architectures of control: what can we learn from the arguments outlined in the book?

    Adam Greenfield's Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing looks at the possibilities, opportunities and issues posed by the embedding of networked computing power and information processing in the environment, from the clichéd 'rooms that recognise you and adapt to your preferences' to surveillance systems linking databases to track people's behaviour with unprecedented precision. The book is presented as a series of 81 theses, each a chapter in itself and each addressing a specific proposition about ubiquitous computing and how it will be used.

    There's likely to be a substantial overlap between architectures of control and pervasive everyware (thanks, Andreas), and, as an expert in the field, it's worth looking at how Greenfield sees the control aspects of everyware panning out.

    Everyware as a discriminatory architecture enabler

    "Everyware can be engaged inadvertently, unknowingly, or even unwillingly"

    In Thesis 16, Greenfield introduces the possibilities of pervasive systems tracking and sensing our behaviour—and basing responses on that—without our being aware of it, or against our wishes. An example he gives is a toilet which tests its users' "urine for the breakdown products of opiates and communicate[s] its findings to [their] doctor, insurers or law-enforcement personnel," without the user's express say-so.

    It's not hard to see that with this level of unknowingly/unwillingly active everyware in the environment, there could be a lot of 'architectures of control' consequences. For example, systems which constrain users' behaviour based on some arbitrary profile: a vending machine may refuse to serve a high-fat snack to someone whose RFID pay-card identifies him/her as obese; or, more critically, only a censored version of the internet or a library catalogue may be available to someone whose profile identifies him/her as likely to be 'unduly' influenced by certain materials, according to some arbitrary definition. Yes, Richard Stallman's Right To Read prophecy could well come to pass through individual profiling by networked ubiquitous computing power, in an even more sinister form than he anticipated.

    Taking the 'discriminatory architecture' possibilities further, Thesis 30, concentrating on the post-9/11 'security' culture, looks at how:

    "Everyware redefines not merely computing but surveillance as well... beyond simple observation there is control... At the heart of all ambitions aimed at the curtailment of mobility is the demand that people be identifiable at all times—all else follows from that. In an everyware world, this process of identification is a much subtler and more powerful thing than we often consider it to be; when the rhythm of your footsteps or the characteristic pattern of your transactions can give you away, it's clear that we're talking about something deeper than 'your papers, please.'

    Once this piece of information is in hand, it's possible to ask questions like Who is allowed here? and What is he or she allowed to do here?... consider the ease with which an individual's networked currency cards, transit passes and keys can be traced or disabled, remotely—in fact, this already happens. But there's a panoply of ubiquitous security measures both actual and potential that are subtler still: navigation systems that omit all paths through an area where a National Special Security Event is transpiring, for example... Elevators that won't accept requests for floors you're not accredited for; retail items, from liquor to ammunition to Sudafed, that won't let you purchase them... Certain options simply do not appear as available to you, like greyed-out items on a desktop menu—in fact, you won't even get that back-handed notification—you won't even know the options ever existed."

    This kind of 'creeping erosion of norms' is something that's concerned me a lot on this blog, as it seems to be a feature of so many dystopian visions, both real and fictional. From the more trivial—Japanese kids growing up believing it's perfectly normal to have to buy music again every time they change their phone—to society blindly walking into 1984 due to a "generational failure of memory about individual rights" (Simon Davies, LSE), it's the "you won't even know the [options|rights|abilities|technology|information|words to express dissent] ever existed" bit that scares me the most.

    Going on, Greenfield quotes MIT's Gary T Marx's definition of an "engineered society," in which "the goal is to eliminate or limit violations by control of the physical and social environment." I'd say that, broadening the scope to include product design, and the implication to include manipulation of people's behaviour for commercial ends as well as political, that's pretty much the architectures of control concept as I see it.

    In Thesis 42, Greenfield looks at the chain of events that might lead to an apparently innocuous use of data in one situation (e.g. the recording of ethnicity on an ID card, purely for 'statistical' purposes) escalating into a major problem further down the line, when that same ID record has become the basis of an everyware system which controls, say, access to a building. Any criteria recorded can be used as a basis for access restriction, and if 'enabled' deliberately or accidentally, it would be quite possible for certain people to be denied services or access to a building, etc, purely on an arbitrary, discriminatory criterion.

    "...the result is that now the world has been provisioned with a system capable of the worst sort of discriminatory exclusion, and doing it all cold-bloodedly, at the level of its architecture... the deep design of ubiquitous systems will shape the choices available to us in day-to-day life, in ways both subtle and less so... It's easy to imagine being denied access to some accommodation, for example, because of some machine-rendered judgement as to our suitability, and... that judgement may well hinge on something we did far away in both space and time... All we'll be able to guess is that we conformed to some profile, or violated the nominal contours of some other...

    The downstream consequences of even the least significant-seeming architectural decision could turn out to be considerable—and unpleasant."


    Everyware as mass mind control enabler

    In a—superficially—less contentious area, Thesis 34 includes the suggestion that everyware may allow more of us to relax: to enter the alpha-wave meditative state of "Tibetan monks in deep contemplation... it's easy to imagine environmental interventions, from light to sound to airflow to scent, designed to evoke the state of mindfulness, coupled to a body-monitor setting that helps you recognise when you've entered it." Creating this kind of device—whether biofeedback (closed loop) or open-loop—has interested designers for decades (indeed, my own rather primitive student project attempt a few years ago, MindCentre, featured light, sound and scent in an open-loop), but when coupled to the pervasive bio-monitoring of whole populations using everyware, some other possibilities surely present themselves.

    Is it ridiculous to suggest that a population whose stress levels (and other biological indicators) are being constantly, automatically monitored, could equally well be calmed, 'reassured', subdued and controlled by everyware embedded in the environment designed for this purpose? One only has to look at the work of Hendricus Loos to see that the control technology exists, or is at least being developed (outside of the military); how long before it\'s networked to pervasive monitoring, even if, initially only of prisoners? See also this article by Francesca Cedor.\r\n\r\n\r\nEveryware as \'artefacts with politics\'\r\n\r\nOn a more general \'Do artefacts have politics?\'/\'Is design political?\' point, Greenfield observes that certain technologies have "inherent potentials, gradients of connection" which predispose them to be deployed and used in particular ways (Thesis 27), i.e. technodeterminism. That sounds pretty vague, but it\'s — to some extent — applying Marshall McLuhan\'s "the medium is the message" concept to technology. Greenfield makes an interesting point:\r\n\r\n

    "It wouldn\'t have taken a surplus of imagination, even ahead of the fact, to discern the original Napster in Paul Baran\'s first paper on packet-switched networks, the Manhattan skyline in the Otis safety elevator patent, or the suburb and the strip mall latent in the heart of the internal combustion engine."

    \r\n\r\nThat\'s an especially clear way of looking at \'intentions\' in design: to what extent are the future uses of a piece of technology, and the way it will affect society, embedded in the design, capabilities and interaction architecture? And to what extent are the designers aware of the power they control? In Thesis 42, Greenfield says, "whether consciously or not, values are encoded into a technology, in preference to others that might have been, and then enacted whenever the technology is employed".\r\n\r\nLawrence Lessig has made the point that the decentralised architecture of the internet — as originally, deliberately planned — is a major factor in its enormous diversity and rapid success; but what about in other fields? It\'s clear that Richard Stallman\'s development of the GPL (and Lessig\'s own Creative Commons licences) show a rigorous design intent to shape how they are applied and what can be done with the material they cover. But does it happen with other endeavours? Surely every RFID developer is aware of the possibilities of using the technology for tracking and control of people, even if he/she is \'only\' working on tracking parcels? As Greenfield puts it, "RFID \'wants\' to be everywhere and part of everything." He goes on to note that the 128-bit nature of the forthcoming IPv6 addressing standard — giving 2^128 possible addresses — pretty clearly demonstrates an intention to "transform everything in the world, even every part of every thing, into a node." \r\n\r\nNevertheless, in many cases, designed systems will be put to uses that the originators really did not intend. As Greenfield comments in Thesis 41:\r\n\r\n

    "...connect... two discrete databases, design software that draws inferences fromt he appearance of certain patterns of fact—as our relational technology certainly allows us to do—and we have a situation where you can be identified by name and likely political sympathy as you walk through a space provisioned with the necessary sensors.\r\n\r\nDid anyone intend this? Of course not—at least, we can assume that the original designers of each separate system did not. But when... sensors and databases are networked and interoperable... it is a straightforward matter to combine them to produce effects unforeseen by their creators."

    \r\n\r\nIn Thesis 23, the related idea of \'embedded assumptions\' in designed everyware products and systems is explored, with the example of a Japanese project to aid learning of the language, including alerting participants to "which of the many levels of politeness is appropriate in a given context," based on the system knowing every participant\'s social status, and "assign[ing] a rank to every person in the room... this ordering is a function of a student\'s age, position, and affiliations." Greenfield notes that, while this is entirely appropriate for the context in which the teaching system is used:\r\n\r\n

    "It is nevertheless disconcerting to think how easily such discriminations can be hard-coded into something seemingly neutral and unimpeachable and to consider the force they have when uttered by such a source...\r\n\r\nEveryware [like almost all design, I would suggest (DL)]... will invariably reflect the assumptions its designers bring to it... those assumptions will result in orderings—and those orderings will be manifested pervasively, in everything from whose preferences take precedence while using a home-entertainment system to which of the injured supplicants clamouring for the attention of the ER staff gets cared for first."

    \r\n\r\nThesis 69 states that:\r\n\r\n

    "It is ethically incumbent on the designers of ubiquitous systems and environments to afford the human user some protection"

    \r\n\r\nand I think I very much agree with that. From my perspective as a designer I would want to see that ethos promoted in universities and design schools: that is real, active user-centred, thoughtful design rather than the vague, posturing rhetoric which so often surrounds and obscures the subject. Indeed, I would further broaden the edict to include affording the human user some control, as well as merely protection—in all design—but that\'s a subject for another day (I have quite a lot to say on this issue, as you might expect!). Greenfield touches on this in Thesis 76 where he states that "ubiquitous systems must not introduce undue complications into ordinary operations" but I feel the principle really needs to be stronger than that. Thesis 77 proposes that "ubiquitous systems must offer users the ability to opt out, always and at any point," but I fear that will translate into reality as \'optional\' in the same way that the UK\'s proposed ID cards will be optional: if you don\'t have one, you\'ll be denied access to pretty much everything. And you can bet you\'ll be watched like a hawk.\r\n\r\n\r\nEveryware: transparent or not?\r\n\r\nGreenfield returns a number of times to the question of whether everyware should be presented to us as \'seamless\', with the relations between different systems not openly clear, or \'seamful\', where we understand and are informed about how systems will interact and pass data before we become involved with them. From an \'architectures of control\' point of view, the most relevant point here is mentioned in Theses 39 and 40:\r\n\r\n

    "...the problem posed by the obscure interconnection of apparently discrete systems... the decision made to shield the user from the system\'s workings also conceals who is at risk and who stands to benefit in a given transaction...\r\n\r\n"MasterCard, for example, clearly hopes that people will lose track of what is signified by the tap of a PayPass card—that the action will become automatic and thus fade from perception."

    \r\n\r\nThis is a very important issue and also seems especially pertinent to much in \'trusted\' computing where the user may well be entirely oblivious to what information is being collected about him or her, and to whom it is being transmitted, and, due to encryption, unable to access it even if the desire to investigate were there. Ross Anderson has explored this in great depth.\r\n\r\nThesis 74 proposes that "Ubiquitous systems must contain provisions for immediate and transparent querying of their ownership, use and capabilities," which is a succinct principle I very much hope will be followed, though I have a lot of doubt.\r\n\r\n\r\nFightback devices\r\n\r\nIn Thesis 78, Greenfield mentions the Georgia Tech CCD-light-flooding system to prevent unauthorised photography as a fightback device challenging everyware, i.e. that it will allow people to stop themselves being photographed or filmed without their permission.\r\n\r\nI feel that interpretation is somewhat naïve. I very, very much doubt that offering the device as a privacy protector for the public is a) in any way a real intention from Georgia Tech\'s point of view, or b) that members of the public who did use such a device to evade being filmed and photographed would be tolerated for long. Already in the UK we have shopping centres where hooded tops are banned so that every shopper\'s face can clearly be recorded on CCTV; I hardly think I\'d be allowed to get away with shining a laser into the cameras! \r\n\r\nAlthough Greenfield notes that the Georgia Tech device does seem "to be oriented less toward the individual\'s right to privacy than towards the needs of institutions attempting to secure themselves against digital observation," he uses examples of Honda testing a new car in secret (time for Hans Lehmann to dig out that old telephoto SLR!) and the Transportation Security Agency keeping details of airport security arrangements secret. The more recent press reports about the Georgia Tech device make pretty clear that the real intention (presumably the most lucrative) is to use it arbitrarily to stop members of the public photographing and filming things, rather than the other way round. If used at all, it\'ll be to stop people filming in cinemas, taking pictures of their kids with Santa at the mall (they\'ll have to buy an \'official\' photo instead), taking photos at sports events (again, that official photo), taking photos of landmarks (you\'ll have to buy a postcard) and so on. \r\n\r\nIt\'s not a fightback device: it\'s a grotesque addition to the rent-seekers\' armoury.\r\n\r\nRFID-destroyers (such as this highly impressive project), though, which Greenfield also mentions, certainly are fightback devices, and as he notes in Thesis 79, an arms race may well develop, which ultimately will only serve to enshrine the mindset of control further into the technology, with less chance for us to disentangle the ethics from the technical measures.\r\n\r\nConclusion\r\n\r\nOverall, this is a most impressive book which clearly leads the reader through the implications of ubiquitous computing, and the issues surrounding its development and deployment in a very logical style (the \'series of theses\' method helps in this: each point is carefully developed from the last and there\'s very little need to flick between different sections to cross-reference ideas). The book\'s structure has been designed, which is pleasing. Everyware has provided a lot of food for thought from my point of view, and I\'d recommend it to anyone with an interest in technology and the future of our society. Everyware, in some form, is inevitable, and it\'s essential that designers, technologists and policy-makers educate themselves right now about the issues. Greenfield\'s book is an excellent primer on the subject which ought to be on every designer\'s bookshelf.\r\n\r\nFinally, I thought it was appropriate to dig up that Gilles Deleuze quote again, since this really does seem a prescient description for the possibility of a more \'negative\' form of everyware:\r\n\r\n

    “The progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of domination.”


    Spiked: 'Enlightening the future' by Dan Lockton

    The always interesting Spiked (which describes itself as an "independent online phenomenon") has a survey, Enlightening the Future, in which selected "experts, opinion formers and interesting thinkers" are asked about "key questions facing the next generation - those born this year, who will reach the age of 18 in 2024". The survey is ongoing throughout the summer with more articles to be added, but based on the current responses, I can find only two commentators who touch on the issue of technology being used to restrict and control public freedom. Don Braben, of the Venture Research Group, comments that:

    "The most important threat by far comes to us today from the insidious tides of bureaucracy because they strangle human ingenuity and undermine our very ability to cope. Unless we can find effective ways of liberating our pioneers within about a decade or so, the economic imperatives mean that society’s breakdown could be imminent."

    However, it's Matthew Parris who hits the nail on the head:

    "Resist the arguments for increasing state control of individual lives and identities, and relentless information gathering. Info-tech will be handing autocrats and governments astonishing new possibilities: this is one technological advance which does need to be watched, limited and sometimes resisted."