10 January 2010

Design for sustainable behaviour (part 2)

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CHI 2009
A range of other researchers have also published papers on the topic of design for sustainable behaviour. Twenty papers were presented at the CHI 2009 Workshop, “Defining the Role of HCI in the Challenges of Sustainability,” organised by Elaine M. Huang of Motorola Research. Here is a selection:

Prepare for descent: interaction design in our new future
Jeffrey Wong
Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
Currently, sustainable interaction design seems primarily focused on behavior change, in the hope of averting irreversible destruction of the environmental systems that make our civilization possible. Underlying this idea is the assumption that the right technology can change behaviors of society-at-large quickly enough to avert irreversible damage. While trying seems more appropriate than doing nothing, current work in Sustainable Interaction Design (SID) is often lacks the scope necessary to foster immediate and deep change needed to avert crises. This paper argues that SID researchers should approach the problem at higher levels to have the massive effects that are necessary. SID should also consider the the design context to be a world radically altered by environmental damage; solutions that fit into today’s lifestyles risk irrelevance. SID researchers can target viable futures by designing for very different social, economic, and humanitarian circumstances than the contexts we currently take for granted. SID allow the projected economic declines to free society from a consumption culture. Research priorities may then shift from prevention and awareness to supporting social, economic, and spiritual structures of society that human happiness possible.

Motivating sustainable energy consumption in the home
Helen Ai He and Saul Greenberg
Dept. of Computer Science, University of Calgary
Technologies are just now being developed that encourage sustainable energy usage in the home. One approach is to give home residents feedback of their energy consumption, typically presented using a computer visualization. The expectation is that this feedback will motivate home residents to change their energy behaviors in positive ways. Yet little attention has been paid to what exactly motivates such behavioral change. This paper provides a brief overview of theories in psychology and social psychology on what does, and does not motivate sustainable energy action in the home.

Visible sustainability: Carbon Label 2.0
Daniela Busse and Wenbo Wang
SAP Labs, LLC
The investment in sustainability research at SAP has been increasing constantly. Of all sustainability parameters, Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions produced in the manufacturing, transporting, use, and disposing of a product (aka a product’s carbon footprint), might be the most representative. Next to its more formal efforts on its product lines supporting businesses with their sustainability needs, SAP also held an internal design challenge earlier in 2008 encouraging employees to design a “carbon label” that would communicate this carbon footprint to the consumers of products that were manufactured or sold by SAP’s customers. In response, we conducted some exploratory field research in the form of user interviews, iterated on a design proposal for this carbon label (including a concept investigation), and presented a solution to effectively communicate a product’s carbon to the panel of judges. The final call is still out on this competition, but we posit that the work we did as part of this project shows how a sound user centered design process is critical in making consumer facing sustainability solutions. Given that SAP is one of the major software makers concerned with sustainability solutions for its customers, we hope to firmly situate user centered design practices in the design of upcoming products in SAP’s “green suite” of products. We would like to introduce our work to this CHI workshop on defining the role of HCI for sustainability, invite feedback, and hope to contribute to the broader discussion on this topic.

A sustainable identity: creativity of everyday design
Ron Wakkary
School of Interactive Arts & Technology, Simon Fraser University
In this paper we explore sustainability in interaction design by reframing concepts of user identity and use. Building on our work on everyday design, we discuss design-in-use: the creative and sustainable ways people appropriate and adapt designed artifacts. We claim that reframing the user as a creative everyday designer promotes a sustainable user identity in HCI and interaction design.

Sensing opportunities for personalized feedback technology to reduce consumption
Jon Froehlich, Kate Everitt, James Fogarty, Shwetak Patel, James Landay
DUB Institute, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington
Most people are unaware of how their daily activities affect the environment. Previous studies have shown that feedback technology is one of the most effective strategies in reducing electricity usage in the home. In this position paper, we expand the notion of feedback systems to a broad range of human behaviors that have an impact on the environment. In particular, we enumerate five areas of consumption: electricity, water, personal transportation, product purchases, and garbage disposal. For each, we outline their effect on the environment and review and propose methods for automatically sensing them to enable new types of feedback systems.

Broadening human horizons through green IT
Bill Tomlinson
University of California, Irvine
Environmental concerns such as global climatic disruption occur over long time periods, large distances, and vast scales of complexity. Unassisted, humans are not well equipped to deal with problems on such broad scales. Throughout history, technological innovations have enabled human cultures to engage with broader suites of problems than we would otherwise be able to address. In particular, information technology (IT) involves tools and techniques for dealing with vast bodies of information across wide ranges of time, space, and complexity, and is thus well suited for addressing environmental concerns. While IT carries with it a number of significant environmental challenges (e.g., power consumption, ewaste), the opportunities for improving the sustainability of human civilizations that are enabled by IT are significantly greater than these drawbacks. This paper presents the idea of “extended human-centered computing” – that computing should focus on humans not only to satisfy their immediate needs and desires, but also to extend their horizons with regard to environmental sustainability and other broad scale concerns.

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