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Beyond Behaviour Change: technological artefacts and characterological development


Abstract and Figures

Addressing the root causes of (un)sustainability entails fundamentally changing our ways of living. This requires going beyond technology and behaviour-oriented approaches common under the umbrella of sustainable development (SD). More fundamental change is required to increase the possibility of realizing ecological and psychological well-being. Here, such change is conceptualized as ‘characterological change’. Next to SD another domain is introduced: characterological development (CD). The potential role of design-interventions in CD is explored in this article. Two studies were conducted, a literature study and experts interviews, covering the fields of Design for Sustainable Behaviour, Persuasive Technology, Practice-Oriented Design and Philosophy of Technology. The literature study shows that current research and interventions predominantly fall within the domain of SD, leaving character and related notions largely unaddressed. The expert interviews (n = 10) show a consensus that (design) research concerning the relation between technological artefacts and human character would be valuable. Research challenges and opportunities for design towards ‘living the good life within ecological means’ are discussed. (This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Sustainable Engineering on 22 DEC 2014, available online: (LIMITED FREE ACCESS TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE: )
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Beyond Behaviour Change: Technological Artefacts and
Characterological Development
Boudewijn Boon a*, Renee Wever b and Jaco N. Quist c
a Delft Institute of Positive Design, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The
Netherlands; b Design for Sustainability, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The
Netherlands; c Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of
Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
* Corresponding author
Boudewijn Boon
Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering
Landbergstraat 15
2628 CE, Delft
+31 (0)633929473
Renee Wever
Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering
Landbergstraat 15
2628 CE, Delft
+31 (0)15 27 82120
Jaco Quist
Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management
Jaffalaan 5
2628 BX, Delft
+31 (0)15 27 85584
Beyond behaviour change: Technological Artefacts and
Characterological Development
Addressing the root causes of (un)sustainability entails fundamentally changing
our ways of living (Ehrenfeld 2008). This requires going beyond technology and
behaviour-oriented approaches common under the umbrella of Sustainable
Development (SD). More fundamental change is required to increase the
possibility of ecological and psychological well-being. Here such change is
conceptualized as ‘characterological change’ (after Fromm 1947; 1976) An
alternative to SD is suggested: Characterological Development (CD). The
potential role of design-interventions in CD is explored in this paper. Two
parallel studies were conducted, a literature study and experts interviews,
covering the fields of Design for Sustainable Behaviour, Persuasive Technology,
Practice-Oriented Design, and Philosophy of Technology. The literature study
shows that current research and interventions predominantly fall within the
domain of SD, leaving character and related notions largely unaddressed. The
expert interviews (n=10) show a consensus that (design) research concerning the
relation between technological artefacts and human character would be valuable.
The authors conclude by identifying research challenges and opportunities for
design towards ‘the good life within ecological means’.
Keywords: spill-over effects, positive design; technological mediation; product
design; flourishing; lifestyle
1. Introduction!
In his book Sustainability by Design John Ehrenfeld argues that addressing the root
causes of (un)sustainability requires changing our ways of living (Ehrenfeld 2008). We
can initiate such change, Ehrenfeld suggests, by redesigning the institutions and
technological artefacts that shape everyday life. His suggestion arises from his critique
on Sustainable Development (SD) which, he argues, ‘is merely a modification of the
current process of economic development’ (Ehrenfeld 2008, 5). He offers an alternative
perspective by redefining sustainability as ‘the possibility that human and other life will
flourish on the planet forever’ (Ehrenfeld 2008, 6). Attaining ‘sustainability as
flourishing’ requires care for oneself, care for others, and care for the world we live in.
Our consumerist culture, where the dominant way of living is one of having, has severe
consequences in all three of these domains. A radical change in our ways of living is
needed, a change towards a being-mode of life (Ehrenfeld 2008, drawing on Fromm
Views on how we can change our ways of living are diverse. For example, one might
argue for a change in worldviews (e.g. Elshof 2010; van Egmond and de Vries 2011),
the cultivation of environmental virtues (e.g. Sandler 2007; Wenz 2005), or a
transformation of value systems (e.g. Kasser 2002, chap. 9). Ehrenfeld’s proposal to
radically change our ways of living will here be interpreted as a need for a change in
human character; i.e. ‘characterological change’ after the work of Erich Fromm (1947;
1976). Accordingly, an alternative to SD directed towards ‘sustainability as flourishing’
might be described as ‘characterological development’ (CD) (see Section 3). Whether
and how such development should be practiced in the field of design-engineering is of
concern in this paper. The research question is:
What is the potential of design interventions in bringing about characterological
change towards ‘the good life within one’s ecological means?
2. Research(approach!
The research consisted of two studies: (1) An extensive literature study resulting in a
conceptual framework and (2) semi-structured interviews to assemble expert opinions
from different fields. The studies ran largely parallel and co-evolved along the research
process. Both studies were cross-disciplinary, covering the fields of Persuasive
Technology (PT), Philosophy of Technology (PoT), Design for Sustainable Behaviour
(DfSB) and practice-oriented design (POD). This selection of fields partially resulted
out of the literature study (see Section 2.1). The literature study covered a wider scope
than these four fields; the conceptual framework developed derives from a more
comprehensive discussion also on the domain of Sustainable Development.
2.1 Literature!study!
The starting point of the literature study was work by John Ehrenfeld (Ehrenfeld 2008;
Ehrenfeld 2005a). Exploring the significance of his ideas to the field of design-
engineering, literature on DfSB was first explored. This lead to uncovering related
fields of study. DfSB, PT, PoT, and POD were finally selected as fields that take the
role of the design-engineer into account, and thus relevant for answering the research
Experts (n=10) covering the fields of DfSB, POD, PT, and PoT were interviewed. The
expert interviews were conducted in a semi-structured fashion in line with Baarda et al.
(2007) and Robson (2002). On the one hand, semi-structured interviews allow for
comparative analysis, as opposed to open interviews. On the other hand, they make
possible a more in-depth conversation with experts and allow for the selection of
questions according to expertise, as opposed to fully structured interviews. Questions
were categorized as follows: Introductory questions, discussing terminology of the
expert in his or her research and the notion of character; questions concerning
possibility, discussing the presence of the effect of artefacts on human character and the
extent to which it can be taken into account or ‘steered’ in the design process; questions
concerning desirability, where the added value and moral significance of such
possibilities is discussed; questions concerning future research, discussing possible
research methods and conditions and identifying potential research directions; and
finally, closing and concluding questions, where on the basis of the previous questions
the expert is asked whether further research should take place.
Each interview was fully transcribed and shared with the expert in question for
confirmation. The answers to the questions were, because of the categorization as
described above, building blocks for answering the research question. The analysis
consisted of (1) a short comparative analysis in order to observe consensus and
disagreement on the various topics and (2) a more thorough analysis assembling the
insights provided by the experts.
The literature research (results in Section 3) raised questions preceding the
research question: What are critiques on the domain of SD? What does Ehrenfeld’s
alternative perspective entail? What does this mean for field of design-engineering? Are
current approaches, such as Design for Sustainable Behavior and Persuasive
Technology, already representing the efforts toward the change that Ehrenfeld
envisions; i.e. characterological change? The expert interviews (results in Section 4)
were conducted in order to further explore the relation between artefacts and character:
Do artefacts mediate human character? Can design researchers and practitioners take
this mediative capacity into account or even control it? In Section 5 a short discussion,
conclusions and research challenges will be provided.
3. Tow ar ds (a (co nc eptua l( fram ework!
The first parallel study comprised of an extensive literature research. This section
describes the results of the study and subsequently develops a conceptual framework
that integrates the gained insights.
The general conception of ‘sustainability’ originates from the Brundtland report Our
Common Future where the notion of SD was first introduced and defined as
‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of
future generations to meet their own needs’ (World Commission on Environment and
Development 1987, 54). Whereas this definition of SD and interpretation of
sustainability has been widely accepted and implemented, it has also been subject to
criticism. For instance, Ehrenfeld (Ehrenfeld 2008, 5) argues that SD is ‘merely a
modification of the current process of economic development’, a critique with regard to
the economic rationality of SD also expressed by others (e.g. Banerjee 2003; Princen
2005). A key principle of SD falling under this type of rationality is that of eco-
Eco-efficiency was first coined in 1989 by Schaltegger and Sturm and later on
more widely publicised in a publication of the World Business Council for Sustainable
Development in 1992 (Ehrenfeld 2005b). The principle stands for generating more
value while at the same time reducing environmental impact, or in short: Doing more
with less. However, it has been questioned whether this principle offers actual solutions
to the complex crises we currently face. For instance, Braungart et al. (2007) argue that
eco-efficiency strategies are insufficient to establish a supportive relationship with
ecological systems and future economic growth. They summarize their critique as less bad
is no good(Braungart, McDonough, and Bollinger 2007, 1338). Similarly, Ehrenfeld
(2008, chap. 2) argues eco-efficiency is merely a symptomatic solution rather than a
fundamental solution. Eco-efficiency is based on reductionist reasoning, making it
ineffective in dealing with complex issues. A one-sided focus on eco-efficiency is
susceptible to so called ‘rebound effects’ (e.g. see Herring and Roy 2007). For instance,
energy efficient technologies due to their cost efficiency might result in increased use of the
technology (i.e. direct effect) or increased consumption in other domains (i.e. indirect
effect). Also ‘economy wide effects’ can occur reflected in the following claim by Manzini
(2007, 26):
Every technological improvement introduced with the intention of increasing the
ecoefficiency of products and services, for reasons which are rooted in the
complexity of the socio-technological system as a whole, seems to transform itself
‘naturally’ into new opportunities for consumption and consequently increase the
unsustainability of the systems they are introduced into.
Next to technological solutions, efforts within the domain of SD have also focused on
changing consumption behaviour, for instance through social marketing (McKenzie-
Mohr 2000; Peattie and Peattie 2009). However, such approaches have been questioned
to be effective and might even have adverse effects (Corner and Randall 2011). To have
a wide impact, behavioural approaches require behaviours to spill over from the area of
intervention to other areas; i.e. ‘positive spill-over’ effects. These effects, however,
have been shown to be occurring only to a limited extent (Thøgersen 1999). Worse
still, environment-friendly behaviours in one area might reduce the propensity to behave
likewise in other areas; i.e. ‘negative spill-over’ (Thøgersen and Crompton 2009;
Thøgersen and Ölander 2003). Furthermore, promoting behaviour change might
strengthen counterproductive values associated with lower social and environmental
concern, making behaviour change, according to Crompton (2013) a ‘dangerous
distraction’. In this light, behavioural approaches, like eco-efficiency measures, provide
mere symptomatic solutions that could even have adverse effects. In fact, the promotion
of certain environment-friendly behaviours can be seen as a measure of the criticized
principle of eco-efficiency. More fundamental solutions are needed for sustainability to
This brings us to perhaps Ehrenfeld’s most fundamental critique of SD, which lies
in his redefinition of sustainability as ‘the possibility that human and other life will flourish
on the planet forever (Ehrenfeld 2008, 6). With this new definition in mind, he argues that
reducing unsustainability […] does not and will not create sustainability(Ehrenfeld 2008,
9) More fundamental solutions towards the attainment of sustainability aim at the root
causes of (un)sustainability. Ehrenfeld (2005a; 2008, chap. 10) finds these root causes in
our current ways of living.
Attempts to improve society, including its relations to the natural environment,
will amount to mere moonshine if its citizens lack the character and commitment to
make them work.
Sandler (2007, 2)
As mentioned above, the fundamental change required for attaining sustainability will
here be referred to as characterological change (i.e. a change in human character), after
the work of Erich Fromm (Fromm 1947; 1976). One motivation for this
conceptualization is that Ehrenfeld builds extensively on the work of Fromm. Both
argue for a fundamental change in our way of living. However, Fromm’s notion of
characterological change, conceived from a psychoanalytic perspective, explicitly
distinguishes itself from behaviouristic accounts of human psychology, and thus offers
an alternative to dominant behavioural accounts of social change. Elaboration on what
will here be referred to as ‘human character’ is appropriate.
First of all, character is to be understood here as that part of personality that is of
moral significance. It does not refer to inherited qualities such as temperament. For
instance, one might have a choleric temperament and be ‘quick and strong’ in his mode
of reaction, but this does not say anything about what one might be ‘quick and strong’
about. Differences in temperament have no ethical significance, as opposed to
differences in character (Fromm 1947, 36–39). Secondly, character resides both on the
individual and the collective level. This denotes the possibility that character traits are
not only personal but can be common to most members of a group (i.e. social character;
see Fromm 1942, 238). Thus, characterological change can refer to both personal and
social change. A third aspect of human character as used here, is that it affects and is
reflected in a broad range of thoughts, feelings and behaviours (Fromm 1947; 1976;
Peterson and Seligman 2004). We might speak of character traits of having a ‘broad
bandwidth’ as described by Ajzen (2012; see section 3.4 in this paper).
Based upon this conception of human character, characterological change is
concerned with changing morally significant traits, both on an individual and social
level, and entails changes in the way we feel, think and behave; i.e. fundamental
changes in our ways of living. Conceived in this way, character might be viewed as the
mediator of the spill-over of behaviours, as has been suggested to be the case for
general values (Thøgersen and Crompton 2009; Crompton 2013). Addressing character
means shifting the focus from ‘target behaviours’ limited to particular situations and
times, to characteristics of individuals that are general across situations and stable
across time (Fromm 1947; Peterson and Seligman 2004). Such an approach is
potentially less susceptible to rebound effects and offers more fundamental solutions
than common behavioural interventions.
Throughout history the notion of ‘character’ has been strongly related to notions
of ‘flourishing’ and ‘the good life’. Living a good life or succeeding in the art of living,
according to the ancient Greeks, requires the cultivation of virtues; i.e. morally good
character traits. This belief is also reflected in modern virtue ethics (e.g. MacIntyre
2007) and the scientific field of positive psychology (e.g. Peterson and Seligman 2004;
Seligman 2011). Whereas philosophers and positive psychologists dealing with ‘the
good life’ are usually unconcerned with sustainability, some have suggested that
positive approaches can be fruitful for sustainability purposes (Harré 2011; Corral-
Verdugo 2012). Such suggestions are in line with Ehrenfeld’s concept of ‘sustainability
as flourishing’.
Whereas Ehrenfeld seems to suggest to ‘replace the rubric of sustainable
development with that of sustainability as flourishing’ (Ehrenfeld, 2008, p. 202,
emphasis added), it is suggested here that both accounts of sustainability are important.
Next to the domain of Sustainable Development we thus need another form of
development, which will here be referred to as ‘Characterological Development’ (CD) .
In order to clearly distinguish the two domains, SD is here interpreted as being aimed at
‘living within ecological means’ (Liu 2009). As mentioned above, both technological
and behavioural change are already addressed in this domain. CD adds to this the
characterological level and the end of ‘living the good life’. The integration of SD and
CD together with pursuing change on multiple levels aimed at ‘the good life within
one’s ecological’, allows for the emergence of sustainability Figure 1 illustrates this
integration. Assuming SD and CD are of equal importance, it is clear that the domain of
CD is insufficiently addressed in current efforts toward sustainability whereas SD is the
dominant paradigm.
The observation that technology influences our everyday life is not new. It goes back to
the work of philosophers such as Martin Heidegger and Jacque Ellul. More recent
developments in philosophy of technology (PoT), in particular since ‘the empirical
turn’, show an emphasis on the social impact of concrete artefacts. Technological
artefacts are recognized as mediators of our perception and actions (Verbeek 2005).
Also in sociological and psychological studies the social role of technological artefacts
has been pointed out (e.g. Jelsma and Knot 2002; Völlink and Meertens 2006). Such
studies, however, have under-utilized design as a true variable (Wever 2012).
In response, scholars concerned with the mediative capacity of artefacts have
had increased interest in developing tools and methods for design research and practice,
in particular under the umbrella of ‘Design for Sustainable Behaviour’ (e.g. Wever, van
Kuijk, and Boks 2008; Lilley 2009; Lockton, Harrison, and Stanton 2008b). The
methods and tools within DfSB generally build upon behavioural psychology
(Zachrisson and Boks 2012), although social-psychological theories have also been
applied (e.g. Tang and Bhamra 2012). Recently, with insights from social practice
theory, practice-oriented design (POD) has been suggested as an alternative to DfSB
and its focus on individuals and single artefacts (e.g. Scott, Bakker, and Quist 2012;
Kuijer 2014). Not only practice theory, but also actor-network theory and system
innovation theory, could push design researchers to look beyond the relations between
designer, artefact and user, thereby helping them understanding better the dynamics of
everyday practices and the conditions for more successful design interventions
(Pettersen, Boks, and Tukker 2013).
Drawing on behavioural approaches, Ehrenfeld proposes that technological
artefacts can help in changing our ways of living by creating ‘presencing moments’; i.e.
we should engage in what can be called presencing by design (Ehrenfeld 2008, chap.
13–14). Presencing, a notion coined by Ehrenfeld himself, is ‘an experience in which an
awareness of the worldly context of the action shows itself to the actor’ (Ehrenfeld
2008, 153). Ehrenfeld gives the example of the two-button toilet. When wanting to flush
the toilet the user is given a (moral) choice that depends on whatever was just
‘eliminated from the body’ and the knowledge of environmental consequences of
flushing. Having to choose between the two options (assuming not to flush is not an
option) initiates the presencing moment. Being faced with this choice multiple times
results in the decision becoming routinized. When this occurs, Ehrenfeld elaborates ‘the
associated beliefs and norms become embodied. As more and more individuals follow
the same new routine, the beliefs and norms will begin to enter the collective, social
consciousness. At some point, the whole group will begin to act in concert’ (Ehrenfeld
2008, 155).
Designing artefacts that initiate presencing moments can be done by using so-
called scripts (e.g. see Jelsma 2000). The prescriptive message of the two-button toilet
can be described as a command to make an ethical choice (Ehrenfeld 2008, 163). The
same prescription is embedded in a speed bump, Ehrenfeld suggests. However, the
validity of these suggestions can be questioned. It is not certain whether two-button
toilets and speed bumps initiate the ethical reflection that Ehrenfeld envisions. The two
button toilet might trigger financial instead of environmental concerns. As for the speed
bump, Waelbers points out that it ‘can shift the starting point of our reasoning from
caring for others into self interest’ (Waelbers 2011, 74); i.e. a shift in concerns from
others to the bottom of our car. Thus, to a large extent presencing by design seems to
give no assurance for fundamental change; it might even be counterproductive. Only
behavioural change is assured to some extent.
Whereas Ehrenfeld’s initial proposal of achieving fundamental change through
the use of artefacts is innovative, it is suggested here that the concretization of his ideas
rely too much on behavioural approaches. However, this does not rule out the
possibility that such approaches can somehow incorporate the notion of ‘human
character’ or provide insights valuable to ‘CD by design’. Therefore, the following
paragraphs will explore such possibilities further, covering four fields that specifically
deal with the social impact of technological artefacts: Design for Sustainable Behaviour
(DfSB), Persuasive Technology (PT), Practice-Oriented Design (POD) and Philosophy
of Technology (PoT).
Efforts in the field of design-engineering towards sustainability have mainly been
concerned with the supply side. This technological focus offers only a narrow
perspective: a major part of environmental impacts is actually caused during the use
phase (e.g. Brezet and van Hemel 1997, 152; Abele, Anderl, and Birkhover 2005, 92).
For example, much effort has gone to making technologies more energy efficient.
However, energy consumption to a large extent depends on energy behaviours (Lopes,
Antunes, and Martins 2012). This observation has led to increased attention to
behaviour in households (e.g. van Dam 2013). Such studies, due to their focus on
behaviour, can be said to fall under the umbrella of Design for Sustainable Behaviour
(DfSB). DfSB generally entails a user-centred design process which ‘shows the options
open to the designer to include the user in the design process, and to thus generate
solutions that fit the user and evaluate the real world effectiveness of these solutions’
(Wever, van Kuijk, and Boks 2008, 13). As of yet there seems to be no coherent
framework that integrates the different approaches although efforts in this direction
have been made (e.g. Lockton, Harrison, and Stanton 2010). Also the need for a
common terminology has been suggested (Boks 2012).
The emphasis within DfSB clearly is on sustainable behaviour. As described by
Wever (2012, 1, emphasis added) DfSB is ‘aimed at enabling, inducing or even forcing
users to behave in a more sustainable manner’ and ‘deals with the intersection between
the disciplines of design, behaviour and sustainability’. Furthermore, DfSB can be
observed to fall within the domain of SD, as the focus is often on efficiency; i.e.
‘making the user more efficient’ (Lockton, Harrison, and Stanton 2008b, 3). Whereas it
seems clear that DfSB is not concerned with the domain of CD, it has been suggested
that its strategies could be of use for ‘presencing by design’ as introduced by Ehrenfeld
(Veen and van der Lugt 2010). Similarly DfSB might provide strategies valuable for
CD by design. For instance, eco-feedback might cause reflection to the extent that it
actually is conducive to characterological change. Furthermore, behavioural approaches
might contribute to characterological change when the interaction between an artefact
and its user is frequent enough. At the very least behavioural approaches could facilitate
characterological change, which, however, ought to be distinguished from initiating and
achieving such change.
A persuasive technology (PT) is ‘any interactive computing system designed to change
people’s attitudes or behaviors’ (Fogg 2003, 1). The term is commonly used to indicate
the field of ‘captology’, which comprises the study of computers as persuasive
technology. PTs are used for different purposes, from social to commercial, including
persuasion towards more sustainable behaviour (e.g. Midden and Ham 2012). What
characterizes PT is that it focuses not only on behaviours, but also on attitudes.
Attitudes can be associated with human character. For instance, virtue ethicist
van Tongeren (2012, 103) refers to character as ‘the entire set of attitudes’ a person
might hold. In psychology, however, an attitude is defined as ‘an evaluation of an
object of thought … [where] [a]ttitude objects comprise anything a person may hold in
mind, ranging from the mundane to the abstract, including things, people, groups, and
ideas’ (Bohner and Dickel 2011, 392). An attitude can thereby be distinguished from
character or personality: its nature is evaluative, whereas a personality trait relates more
to the individual him- or herself and is usually not evaluative (Ajzen 2005, chap. One).
Still, some attitudes might be closely related to character and this becomes more clear
when we speak of the ‘bandwidth’ of attitudes (see Ajzen 2012). Narrow bandwidth
attitudes are attitudes towards concrete objects and are unlikely to relate to behaviours
that are not connected to this object. Broad bandwidth attitudes, on the other hand,
predict a wide range of behaviours albeit with low accuracy. This broad bandwidth is
also characteristic to personality traits or character traits. Thus, general attitudes and
traits are similar in certain aspects and can both be seen as broad dispositions (Ajzen
2012). Whereas PT by definition is concerned with attitudes, most applications are
focused on behaviours and in some cases, attitudes towards these behaviours. Broad
bandwidth attitudes remain mostly unaddressed, although there are rare exceptions. For
example, Fogg (2003, chap. 4) illustrates how computer simulations could help users
understand cause-effect relations. One can imagine how such simulations can be used
for explaining environmental issues such as climate change. In this way, broader
dispositions might be influenced.
Typical of DfSB approaches is the emphasis on the relationship between a single
artefact and the individual using it; characteristics that have been subject to criticism.
DfSB approaches fail to address questions about why certain behaviours exist at all and
how they change over time (Scott, Quist, and Bakker 2009). Moreover, ‘[t]he social
context is treated as being somewhat hermetic and static’, and thus as not affecting
behaviours and needs (Scott, Quist, and Bakker 2009, 2 referring to Shove et al. 2008).
In order to deal with sustainability issues a more systematic perspective is required,
shifting the focus from behaviours to practices. A similar suggestion is made by
Brynjarsdóttir et al. (2012) concerning PT. The study of technology ought to be moved
forward ‘by thinking more explicitly about the dynamic relation between complexes of
material artefacts, conventions and competences, and hence about the ongoing and
characteristically emergent dynamics of everyday practice’ (Shove et al. 2007, 9).
Practice-oriented design, although still in its infancy, is an attempt to do so: ‘A practice-
oriented approach is intended to guide the design process to look more broadly, beyond
individual products and users, to the integrated routines, materials, bodies, meanings,
functions, and abilities that make up everyday practices’ (Scott, Quist, and Bakker
2009, 3). This means shifting the focus from products to practices; i.e. not cars, but
commuting; not microwaves, but cooking (Scott, Bakker, and Quist 2012, 283). The
central unit of analysis is not the user, but the practices of which he or she is a carrier.
Practice-oriented design is understanding and influencing how these practices evolve
over space and time (Kuijer 2014, chap. 4).
When the central unit of analysis is practices, can human character somehow be
included? A first glance indicates this is not the case. For instance, consumption (i.e. the
satisfaction of presumed needs) is, within practice theory, seen as a consequence of
practice (Shove et al. 2007, 11). As Warde (2005, 131) describes it: ‘wants emanate
from practices’. This seems to rule out any notion of character, as agency is not
attributed to individuals. However, Elizabeth Shove’s conceptualization of a practice
might offer possibilities: Here, a practice comprises of images, skills and stuff (Kuijer
and de Jong 2012, 71). Image includes emotion, aspiration, belief, identity, aesthetics
(Scott, Bakker, and Quist 2012) and is concerned with what is normal and acceptable
(Kuijer and de Jong 2012). Skill is about understanding, competence, know-how, taste
(Scott, Bakker, and Quist 2012) and can be described as learned bodily and mental
routines (Kuijer and de Jong 2012). Examples of stuff are technologies, artifacts, spaces,
bodies, structures, formats, compositions, ingredients (Scott, Bakker, and Quist 2012) or
in short: material elements (Kuijer and de Jong 2012). Character might be located in
‘skill’, as character is etymologically related engraving or scraping and thereby
represents habits and routines. The skills that one might acquire in a practice, might be
related to the virtues or moral excellences in practices as discussed by virtue ethicists
(e.g. MacIntyre 2007). On the other hand, the notion of character might be located in
‘image’, where beliefs and identity situated. POD in general might provide a more
systemic framework for identifying and analysing factors that influence and are
influenced by human character.
Whereas PoT covers a broad range of topics and can be conceived in multiple ways, it
here addressed as ‘as the systematic reflection on the consequences of technology for
human life’ (Reydon, sec. 3). One can distinguish classical philosophy of technology
from contemporary philosophy of technology: the first has described technology as a
rather abstract notion and how it influenced humanity (e.g. Heidegger 1977). The latter
describes technology in terms of concrete technologies and artefacts and how these
influence the individuals using them (e.g. Verbeek 2005). The contemporary approaches
are of concern here, acknowledging it is beyond the scope of this paper to address the
many different perspectives within this domain of PoT.
In contrast to DfSB and PT and their emphasis on behaviour, authors in the field
of PoT are also concerned with other impacts of technology on human beings. For
instance, Verbeek (2005) points out that not only our actions are technologically
mediated (i.e. existential dimension), but also our perceptions of the world (i.e.
phenomenological dimension). An interesting extension of the existential dimension is
offered by Waelbers (2011), discussing the work of Bruno Latour. She points out that
‘technologies mediate our actions by altering the reasons behind them’ (Waelbers 2011,
76). These reasons are not limited to perceptions; other reasons for action are
capabilities and moral beliefs of which the latter category also comprises moral virtues
(Waelbers 2011, chap. 5.4.3). She gives the example of class rooms in which the
furniture and its composition influences what we perceive to be a virtuous student.
Work by Shannon Vallor is perhaps closest to the topic of this paper.
She suggests that social networking technologies might have an impact on
communicative virtues such as patience, honesty and empathy (Vallor 2010). Also,
these technologies might affect the collective nurturing of virtues in friendship (Vallor
2012). Such examples give an indication that technological artefacts could have an
impact on character development, i.e. the cultivation of virtues, and that this can be
taken into account to some extent using, for example, normative frameworks as
proposed by Waelbers and Vallor.
From the previous sections two main observations can be made which will be
elaborated upon in this section. The first observation is that the domain of CD and the
notion of human character are largely absent in the fields of DfSB, POD and PT. This
can be said to apply to the general field of design-engineering, with the ‘positive design’
framework as developed by Desmet & Pohlmeyer (2013) being one of the few
exceptions (see Section 5.2). Contemporary work in PoT does indicate a relation
between technologies and human character. The second observation is that different
approaches address different bandwidths (after Ajzen 2012). Both observations will
serve as input for building the conceptual framework.
As illustrated in Section 3.1 the domain of CD is underemphasized relative to SD. The
same observation can be made in the field of design-engineering, where, next to
technological approaches to sustainability, behavioural approaches are predominant.
Furthermore, Design for Sustainability falls mainly in the domain of SD. As Ehrenfeld
points out, SD and its central principle of eco-efficiency are insufficient for attaining of
sustainability. It is here suggested that an integration between Design for Sustainability
and what might be called ‘CD by design’ is valuable for achieving this end. Based upon
the conceptual framework depicted in Figure 1, Figure 2 illustrates this integration.
Figure 2: CD by design and DfS approaches can pursue technological, behavioural and
characterological changes and together contribute to ‘the good life within ecological
means’, allowing for the emergence of sustainability as flourishing.
Partly in response to behavioural and user centred approaches in the field of
design-engineering, new approaches emerged suggesting that practices should be the
central unit of analysis (e.g. Kuijer 2014). A similar shift from behaviours to practices
has been argued for in the field of PT (Brynjarsdóttir et al. 2012). One way to look at
this shift is in terms of the ‘bandwidth’ of the approaches (drawing on Ajzen 2012).
Focusing on practices entails addressing a broader bandwidth. Bandwidth is not to be
understood as the number of individuals being affected by the approach. Rather, it
describes the range of behaviours being affected performed by an individual or group.
Approaches such as DfSB generally address a narrow bandwidth; the target is a
particular behaviour in a particular situation. Practice-oriented approaches address a
broader bandwidth as practices consist of multiple behaviours, beliefs, norms, etc. It is
here suggested that addressing human character means addressing an even broader
bandwidth. One’s character is expressed in multiple practices and behaviours. The
different bandwidths are illustrated in the hierarchical structure in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Conceptual hierarchical structure depicting in grey the ‘bandwidth’ of
different design approaches. Character-oriented approaches are suggested to be able to
address our entire ways of living, encompassing all practices (P1, P2, …) and
behaviours (B1, B2, …)
The authors do not argue that CD by design can indeed effectively influence the
entire ways of living; neither would a practice-oriented design approach be likely to
fundamentally alter entire practices (e.g. Kuijer 2014). Also it is important to note that
broader bandwidth approaches are not conceived as ‘better’ approaches than narrow
bandwidth approaches. Rather, different design goals require different approaches.
Also, as the structure in Figure 3 suggests, a behaviour-oriented approach might
indirectly affect practices or even our ways of living.
4. Views&from&different&fields!
This section describes the second parallel study consisting of semi-structured interviews
in order to assemble expert opinions. Note that the conceptualization of human
character described in Section 3.2 was not shared with the experts. The experts that
were interviewed fall within the fields of DfSB, POD, PT and PoT and are shown in
Table 1. In all fields at least two experts were interviewed. PoT is represented by four
experts because within this field is most developed in aspects relevant to the current
research. Also note that the fields assigned to the different experts are an interpretation
by the authors. In their research, experts might cover a broader range of fields or topics.
Literature reviewed
S. Dorrestijn
Philosophy of Technology
(Dorrestijn 2012)
J. Ham
Persuasive Technology
(Midden et al. 2007)
L. Kuijer
Practice-oriented design
(Kuijer and de Jong 2011;
Kuijer and de Jong 2012)
D. Lockton
Design for Sustainable
(Lockton, Harrison, and Stanton
2008a; Lockton, Harrison, and
Stanton 2008b; Lockton,
Harrison, and Stanton 2009;
Lockton, Harrison, and Stanton
K. Scott
Practice-oriented design
(Scott, Quist, and Bakker 2009;
Scott, Bakker, and Quist 2012)
A. Spahn
Persuasive Technology /
Philosophy of Technology
(Spahn 2012)
N. Tromp
Design for Sustainable
Behaviour (Social Design)
(Tromp, Hekkert, and Verbeek
2011; Tromp and Hekkert 2012)
S. Vallor
Philosophy of Technology
(Vallor 2010; Vallor 2012)
P-P. Verbeek
Philosophy of Technology
(Verbeek 2005; Verbeek 2011)
K. Waelbers
Philosophy of Technology
(Waelbers 2011)
Table 1: Interviewed experts and literature reviewed as preparation
The categories of the interview questions, as introduced in Section 2.1, will now be
discussed separately.
Introductory questions. The notion of character is only addressed in the work of two
experts in the field of PoT. Other somewhat related notions were more familiar such as:
ways of living, becoming a subject, personality or attitudes. In the POD approaches it is
questioned whether there is a place for the notion of character in social practice theory,
but Schatzki’s concept of ‘habitus’ was suggested to relate to it. Most emphasis by the
experts in their research is on behaviour. Various insights were provided on how
behaviour and character are or might be related. For instance, referring to the attitude-
behaviour gap, the character or personality-behaviour gap is expected to be even wider.
Various explanations for this were suggested: in philosophical terms ‘the weakness of
the will’ might play a role; persons might not be sufficiently ‘trained’ to deal with
certain situations; and many of the values implicitly embedded in the systems we are
part of might result in conflicts between personal ethical frameworks and mundane
activities. When discussing the notion of character, it was generally perceived to be a
malleable construct, although some aspects might be more static.
Questions concerning possibility. There was a consensus among the experts (10/10) that
technological artefacts affect human character. Various explanations are provided. It
was suggested that this influence occurs through practices, through the societal level
(adopting cultural norms), through behaviours becoming habits, via (enforced) physical
postures, or by affecting the roles individuals have (e.g. a smartphone distracting a man
from his role as a father). The suggestions indicate a somewhat indirect causal relation
from artefacts to human character. Furthermore it was mentioned that interaction with
an artefact has to be frequent in order to affect character. Two experts speculate about
the idea of ‘philosophical training’ or training ‘moral intelligence’ through the use of
technology. Several experts mention that making statements about artefacts and
character depends on how you define character; this point is further discussed in Section
5. There is a general consensus among experts that the effect of artefacts on character
can be taken into account to a certain extent. Perspectives on whether this effect can be
steered vary. The majority suggests it is possible (6/9), whereas some suggest the
contrary (3/9). This discussion mainly revolves around the degree of controllability.
Questions concerning desirability. Experts expressed different views on what the added
value might be of being able to take into account or steer artefacts’ effects on character.
It enriches the skills and perspective of design-engineers; artefacts can be designed
more socially responsible; it could assist human beings with their (moral) development
and in achieving a good life; it allows designers to try and creatively solve problems in
different ways; it allows for a more broader discussion on what the good life is and how
to facilitate it. It was questioned whether insights would be of commercial benefit and it
was mentioned that gained insights could be used for wrong purposes. It was strongly
emphasized by one interviewee that further research should have an ethical orientation.
Experts in the field of PoT gave some general insights on the ethics of addressing
human character with artefacts; no moral objections were made, only perspectives and
conditions. One such condition, for example, is that the user of the artefact should be
conscious about the fact that he is being influenced. Another is that the influence
exerted through a design is intended as being educational, where the aim is to create an
autonomous person, as opposed to being manipulative, where the person remains in a
state of (increased) dependence (also see Spahn 2012).
Questions concerning future research. Experts were asked how further research could
take place concerning the relation between human character and technological artefacts.
Actually ‘proving’ causal effects was suggested to be impossible; at best evidence
might be provided to support a theory. This evidence might be found through historical
analysis or cross-cultural analysis. Long-term case-studies could let subjects interact
over a period of time with certain artefact(s) covering at least baseline, short-term and
long-term measurements. Measuring can be done through the technological artefact
itself, through games and exercises with the subjects, or interviewing the social
surroundings of the subjects. It was mentioned by several experts that self-reported data
ought to be avoided. One of the other key points of attention that were mentioned was
the need for a (psychological) typology of human character. During the interviewees it
was sometimes questioned whether character could be measured; this question remained
open to a large extent, although personality psychology as a field was suggested to have
Closing and concluding questions. Most experts suggested further research should take
place (7/10). Others indicated that such research should only take place under certain
conditions (3/10) such as the need for an ethical orientation and the avoidance of
positivistic thinking.
Next to answers to the interview questions many other valuable insights were
obtained during the expert interviews. For instance, design approaches such as critical
design (e.g. Bowen 2007) were suggested to be relevant for future research. One expert
suggested that addressing human character offered a more human-centred approach,
where people are treated as people again, as opposed to merely experimental subjects.
Also potential challenges were identified. The notion of character might be too abstract
for design-engineers to integrate in design practice (as opposed to more tangible
behaviours). Also, design interventions addressing character might ask too much from
5. Discussion,)conclusions)and)research)agenda!
Having presented the two parallel studies, (1) the literature research and (2) the expert
interviews, an answer to the research question will now be constructed. The literature
research points out a research gap in the field of Design for Sustainability. The expert
interviews have focused on whether further research should take place concerning the
relation between technological artefacts and human character. As pointed out by experts
during the interviews, it was sometimes difficult to answer questions without a clear
conceptualization of human character. Even though this conceptualization was not
provided to them, their conceptions of what character entails fall within the broad
definition provided in Section 3.2: Human character (i) is that part of personality which
is of moral significance; it (ii) resides on both the individual and collective level; and
(iii) affects and is reflected in our entire ways of living. With this conceptualization
meaningful conclusions can still be drawn from the results.
In Section 3 a conceptual framework was developed integrating SD and CD and
accordingly DfS and CD by design. In line with Ehrenfeld (2008) it is argued here that
in order for sustainability to emerge current symptomatic solutions ought to be replaced
by more fundamental solutions. For the field of design-engineering, in particular Design
for Sustainable Behaviour, this means going beyond pursuing mere behaviour change.
Positive spill-over effects in sustainable behaviour are found to be limited and
sometimes negative spill-over effects occur. Addressing behaviour can even be a
‘dangerous distraction’ as more fundamental solutions remain unaddressed (Crompton
2013). More fundamental solutions can be found in efforts towards fundamentally
changing our ways of living. One approach to initiate such change is by addressing
human character; i.e. to engage in what is here referred to as CD. For the field of
design-engineering this means to somehow incorporate CD in the design process.
Incorporating CD into the field of design-engineering entails further researching
the relationship between technological artefacts and human character. As Section 4
shows, for various reasons experts in the fields of DfSB, POD, PT and PoT suggest that
such research would be valuable and should be conducted. Taking the mediative
capacity of artefacts into account in relation to human character is believed be possible.
This suggests that at some point in the future designers might be able to take
responsibility for their influence on the characterological development of end-users.
This obviously does not apply to every single technological artefact, but many
technologies would qualify. For instance, artefacts that are used frequently by carrying
them with you (e.g. smart phones) or by their presence in office or home environments
(e.g. kitchen appliances; lighting). Next to taking the characterological effect into
account, a designer might also have to intent to consciously steer this effect. Whereas
experts’ opinions about the degree of controllability differ, one might envision
technological artefacts that ‘train’ our moral intelligence or other qualities. An example
might be the ‘Chocolate Machine’ by Kehr et al. (2012), which trains the user’s
capacity for self-control, the latter of which is a quality recognized in Peterson &
Seligman (2004, chap. 22) as a character strength. Typically, such interventions would
fall under ‘Design for Virtue’ as part of the positive design framework introduced by
Desmet & Pohlmeyer (2013). Authors mentioned above typically aim at enabling ‘the
good life’, but one can imagine extending this goal to that of ‘the good life within one’s
ecological means’.
This paper aims to describe the potential of design interventions in bringing about
characterological change towards ‘the good life within one’s ecological means’. Although
the research was explorative in nature and an empirical basis is currently lacking, we do
suggest that there is a potential for design interventions to change people’s way of living in
a more fundamental way than current behaviour-oriented and practice-oriented approaches
do. Like the interviewed experts, we question the degree of controllability of the effect of
artefacts on human character. This means that bringing about characterological change may
be possible, but whether such change can be directed in a desired direction is unclear; in
terms of psychological well-being as well as environmental impact. At the very least the
authors believe that design-engineers can contribute to CD by supporting behaviours and
practices conducive to the good life within one’s ecological means. For interventions to be
effective in initiating and attaining characterological change it would require the end-user to
be conscious of the exerted influence and to be able to make his or her own decisions. To
achieve characterological change requires the user to be actively involved; without personal
effort one cannot live ‘the good life within one’s ecological means’ as envisioned here.
The results from the second parallel study (Section 4) and the conclusions drawn so far
indicate the opening up of a new research direction. This final section will set out key
research opportunities and challenges towards further exploring CD by design.
Conceptualizing human character. Whereas in this paper a short description was given
of what is here conceived as character, further research requires a more elaborate
conceptualization. As was pointed out in the expert interviews, a psychological
typology is required for further research. Where for DfSB it makes sense to explore
behavioural psychology (Zachrisson and Boks 2012) here different fields of psychology
are of interest, such as personality psychology, moral psychology and positive
psychology. Work by Peterson & Seligman (2004) provides a useful classification of
virtues and ‘character strengths’. Interestingly, the strengths they identify are not only
believed to influence our thoughts, feelings and actions (i.e. broad bandwidth); they are
also qualities that promote the flourishing of individuals and communities (Peterson and
Seligman 2004) and have been suggested to be opportunities for encouraging
sustainable behaviour (Corral-Verdugo 2012).
Measuring human character. From the expert interviews no insights were gained on
how to measure human character, although it was suggested that such insights might be
obtained from the field of personality psychology. Next to their classification, Peterson
& Seligman (2004) provide various measures for different character strengths.
However, mainly self-report as a means of assessment is suggested (Peterson and
Seligman 2004, chap. 28), which was explicitly opposed by some of the interviewed
experts. Therefore, exploring other forms of assessment is important for future research.
Identifying mediative channels. One of the biggest challenges is to be able to (i)
attribute characterological changes to technological artefacts and to (ii) identify the
channels through which these influences occur. To some extent the first point can be
dealt with using control groups and statistical measures. Living labs (e.g. Keyson, Al
Mahmud, and Romero 2013) might provide a suitable research infrastructure as these
are controlled research environments and real life environments at the same time. In this
way, the psychological and environmental effects of interventions can be monitored
Selecting target character traits conducive to the good life within one’s ecological
means. Integrating the domains of SD and CD would progress if character traits were
identified that are conducive to both ecological and psychological well-being. That
these two goals go hand in hand seems plausible (e.g. see Brown and Kasser 2005;
Jackson 2005). On the level of character traits this synergy has been explored in the
field of environmental virtue ethics (e.g. see Sandler and Cafaro 2005), which might be
a valuable source for identifying traits for future research. The work on character
strengths and virtues by Peterson & Seligman (2004) can serve as a scientifically
grounded basis to draw on. It has been suggested by Corral-Verdugo (2012) that we can
connect these strengths to sustainable behaviours.
The need for long-term studies. Whereas human character seems to be malleable,
characterological change is presumably a slow process as character traits are relatively
stable over time. Long term studies are required for observing characterological changes
resulting from human-artefact interaction.
The broad bandwidth hypothesis. Suggested through the framework depicted in Figure
3 is that addressing character means addressing a broader bandwidth than behavioural
or practice-oriented approaches. This claim remains to be verified and touches upon a
fundamental discussion that is currently ongoing among philosophers and scientists
about the degree of influence that traits have versus situational factors (e.g. Miller 2003;
Merritt, Doris, and Harman 2010).
Moral significance of CD by design. Exerting influence through the design of artefacts
has instigated discussion on the moral implications of such practices in the fields of
DfSB (e.g. Pettersen and Boks 2008; Lilley and Wilson 2013), PT (e.g. Berdichevsky
and Neuenschwander 1999; Spahn 2012) and PoT (e.g. Verbeek 2011). Addressing
human character, here viewed as a more profound aspect of human psychology than
behaviour, seems of an even higher moral significance. One might ask: ‘Who are
designers to decide about questions of the good life?’ In response it can be said that
designers should take responsibility for the mediating role of the artefacts they design
(Verbeek 2011). As Dorrestijn (2012, 160) puts it: ‘We are called upon to care for the
design of our own lives.’ Actively involving end-users might also contribute to morally
good designs. The need for moral deliberation in the field of design-engineering is in
line with the ‘ethical orientation’ proposed in the expert interviews as a condition for
future research.
Interdisciplinary research. As pointed out in the expert interviews, future research
concerning the relation between artefacts and character requires an interdisciplinary
approach. Adding to this (i) the required understanding of what a life within ecological
means calls for in different situations and contexts, and (ii) the need for clarity about
which character traits, behaviours and practices are actually conducive to such a life,
reinforces this perspective.
A positive approach to CD by design. It is important to note that the characterological
change envisioned in this paper is not only conducive to ecological well-being but also
to psychological well-being. Approaches such as DfS or DfSB typically aim at
sustainability in terms of environmental impact. Approaches that specifically focus on
‘the good life’ are relatively scarce, but recent developments in ‘positive design’ do
indicate increased attention to this domain (e.g. Desmet and Hassenzahl 2012;
Pohlmeyer 2013). Bridging DfS(B) and positive design approaches might prove to be
relevant for future research. Of particular interest might be the positive design
framework as developed by Desmet & Pohlmeyer (2013), which describes ‘Design for
Virtue’ as one of its main ingredients and ‘active user involvement’ as one of its key
characteristics. Extending this approach with an environmental component might enable
designers to design for ‘environmental virtue’; i.e. designing for ‘the good life within
ecological means’.
... | doi: 10.5354/0719-837x.2018.49520 3 billy cash: digital piggy bank introduced the topic of emotions, a subject closely related to human-product interaction. Desmet and Pohlmeyer (2013) It is possible to make a distinction between virtuous actions and virtuous behavior (Boon, Wever & Quist, 2015;Hursthouse & Pettigrove, 2016). The first does not imply that the individual is virtuous, because he/she can be reacting to a situation in what may be collectively considered desirable, without necessarily believing in it; or the individual may be reacting to a certain stimulus in the environment; or the individual may not even be aware that a virtuous action is taking place. ...
... The latter implies a conscious process aligned with one's internal beliefs. Design explorations on virtue generally focus on isolated actions (Boon, Wever & Quist, 2015). ...
... Design should aim to go beyond behavioral change and transform it into conscious and continuous routines (Boon, Wever & Quist, 2015). Focusing on behavioral change aims to have a greater impact beyond changing people's actions, continuously fostering that behavior in other activities, together with the one that was intervened in. ...
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Virtue is a fundamental aspect of well-being. Past research has proposed that emotional-driven design can be a powerful mediator towards supporting virtue. However, virtue-focused solutions generally target isolated actions. Here, using saving as an example of virtuous behavior we present a design cas —Billy Cash, a digital piggy bank that allows users to reflect during the saving process and extend the appreciation of the purchased item—that aims to demonstrate how design can facilitate virtuous behavior that is sustainable and can promote actual change. Through the analysis and evaluation of the design case, we propose a framework of design for virtuous behavior. The framework sets a scenario for design interventions that contemplate virtuous actions to be transformed into virtuous behaviors mediated by the resignification of resources and stimuli behind the experience.
... As a response, many literature review studies suggested that future DfSB research needs to expand from solely focusing on users' specific behaviour to incorporating the long-term dynamic, multi-level, and complex features of people's everyday doings into consideration (Ceschin & Gaziulusoy 2016;Costa et al. 2019). Such expansion would require support from a theoretical lens that systemically contextualizes the interplay between users and designed artefacts in a real-life setting (Boon et al. 2015). Among a variety of theoretical perspectives such as practice theory (see, e.g., Shove 2007;Pettersen 2013;Kuijer 2014) and the theories of transitions and system innovations (see, e.g., Ceschin 2014; Gaziulusoy & Brezet 2015), activity theory (AT), with its focuses on understanding the role of artefacts (and design of artefacts) in purposeful need-based human activity, is regarded as one of the leading candidates to solve the challenges faced by DfSB identified above. ...
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Over the past decade, the field of design for sustainable behaviour (DfSB) has gained a growing amount of research interest. However, as the field evolves, new challenges also arise. A suitable unit of analysis is needed to contextualize users’ behaviour issues in a broader socio-cultural and long-term perspective. This paper explores the use of activity theory (AT) as a potential lens for guiding empirical analysis and design exploration in DfSB. By employing a meta-synthesis approach, we systematically search and synthesize existing studies that adopted AT in design for sustainability. Key findings show that AT’s principles and theoretical implications are especially useful for helping design researchers frame and address DfSB challenges. We argue that by taking activity as the unit of analysis, the AT lens can enable researchers to incorporate users’ dynamic, multi-level and complex activity systems into DfSB considerations.
... In order to be able to cope with this complexity from a system perspective, the focus of design thereby shifts from single products (e.g., energy efficiency and usability problems of a product) to tackling challenges at a sociocultural level (Adams, Jeanrenaud, Bessant, Denyer, & Overy, 2016). When this shift of focuses comes down to the practical level of design, it implies that design practitioners need to not only analyze the interaction between an individual user and a designed artefact, but also take into account why and how a specific behavior can be influenced by the real-life sociocultural settings (Boon, Wever, & Quist, 2015;Brynjarsdottir et al., 2012). ...
... Still, techniques such as these can have a transferring effect on a person's beliefs and habits. They can be part of character--forming (Boon, Wever and Quist, 2014). The objects and coercive techniques themselves should be transient in people's lives. ...
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Social networking technologies have become a ubiquitous framework for social interaction, serving to organise much of the individual’s social life. Such technological structuring affects not merely the individual’s psyche (as a psycho- technics), it also affects broader aspects of society (as a socio-technics). While social networking technologies may serve to transform society in positive ways, such technologies also have the potential to significantly encroach upon and (re) construct individual and cultural meaning in ways that must be investigated. Erich Fromm, who psychoanalytically describes humans as a product of their society and the economic systems within that society, may provide insight into the influence of social networking technologies in contemporary society. He sees the relationship between the individual and society as being in a constant state of dynamic change. Utilising Fromm’s psycho-societal insight, social networking technologies are shown to conflate and confuse the relation between Thanatos and Eros – the Thanatos of a lifeless and consumerist agenda-filled mechanisation, and the Eros associated with social engagement. Thanatos and Eros are tied together via social networking technologies. This results in, firstly, social networking technologies functioning predominantly to further capitalist agendas through the monetisation of these technologies – particularly in terms of linking commodity fetishism and the foundational social drive of the individual. Secondly, social networking technologies mechanise human action according to predictable behavioural paths through the use of these technologies, especially in terms of how socialisation is possible via these technologies (shaping how platonic and romantic relationships may take place in the contemporary world). Such a mechanisation of interpersonal engagement contrasts with Erich Fromm’s assertion that interpersonal relations (vis-à-vis love) are not “mere emotion”, but rather represent an interpersonal creative capacity and interplay. Fromm’s psycho-societal insights will show how contemporary individuals may take independent and responsible rational action to establish accountable and psychologically beneficial ways of engaging with others through social networking technologies.
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Sustainability is now a buzzword both among professionals and scholars. However, though climate change and resource depletion are now widely recognized by business as major challenges, and while new practices like ‘green design’ have emerged, efforts towards change remain weak and fragmented. Exposing these limitations, Design Futuring systematically presents ideas and methods for Design as an expanded ethical and professional practice. Design Futuring argues that responding to ethical, political, social and ecological concerns now requires a new type of practice that recognizes design’s importance in overcoming a world made unsustainable. Illustrated throughout with international case material, Design Futuring presents the author’s ground-breaking ideas in a coherent framework, focusing specifically on the ways in which concerns for ethics and sustainability can change the practice of Design for the twenty-first century. Design Futuring - a pathfinding text for the new era - extends far beyond Design courses and professional practice, and will also be invaluable to students and practitioners of Architecture, the Creative Arts, Business and Management.
20th century technologies like cars, the Internet, and the contraceptive pill have altered our actions, changed our perceptions and influenced our moral ideas, for better and worse. Upcoming technologies are bound to fulfill their own unique social roles. How can we advance this social role so that it will support the good live and limit undesired changes? This book explores whether we can take a forward looking responsibility to optimize the social roles of technologies. In doing so, the book discusses three issues: first, it aims to understand the social role of technologies; second, it explores what it means to accept responsibility for this social role, and; third, it searches for some forward looking tools that help us to see how new technologies may influence human behavior. In a rather unique approach, this book combines the influential sociological research of Bruno Latour on the social impacts of technologies with the contemporary Aristotelianism of Alasdair MacIntyre.