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Pervasive persuasive technology and environmental sustainability (Workshop)


Abstract and Figures

Accepted proposal for a workshop held at the 6th International Conference on Pervasive Computing, May 19th, 2008, Sydney, Australia
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QUT Digital Repository:
Foth, Marcus and Satchell, Christine and Paulos, Eric and Igoe, Tom and Ratti,
Carlo (2008) Pervasive persuasive technology and environmental sustainability
(Workshop). In: 6th International Conference on Pervasive Computing, 19 May
2008, Sydney.
© Copyright 2008 [please consult the authors]
Workshop on
Pervasive Persuasive
Technology and
Environmental Sustainability
Marcus Foth (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
Christine Satchell (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
Eric Paulos (Intel Research Berkeley, USA)
Tom Igoe (NYU, USA)
Carlo Ratti (MIT, USA)
Marcus Foth, Christine Satchell, Eric Paulos,
Tom Igoe, Carlo Ratti,,,,
Environmental sustainability and climate change are issues which must no longer be ignored by
anyone, any industry or any academic community. The pervasive technology, ubiquitous computing
and HCI community is slowly waking up to these global concerns. The key theme of this workshop
around environmental sustainability will be addressed threefold: (1) How to go beyond just
informing and into motivating and encouraging action and change. (2) Pervasiveness can easily
turn invasive. We want to start re-considering the impact of pervasive technology from an
ecological perspective. (3) Digital divide between humans and the environment: Can the process of
‘blogging sensor data’ assist us in becoming more aware of the needs of nature? How can we
avoid the downsides?
1. Theme of the workshop and topics of interest
Environmental sustainability and climate change are issues which must no longer be ignored by
anyone, any industry or any academic community. The pervasive technology, ubiquitous
computing and HCI community is slowly waking up to these global concerns.
The Nobel Peace Price 2007 was awarded to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made
climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such
change”. The citation highlights the urgency of the fact that information and awareness around
causes and implications are necessary but not sufficient to combat climate change. Action is
The key theme of this workshop around environmental sustainability will be addressed threefold:
1. Providing people with environmental data and educational information – via mass
communications such as film, TV and print and new media, or micro communications such as
pervasive sensor networks (cf. Participatory Urbanism and Ergo at; real-
time Rome at;; – may not trigger sufficient
motivation to get people to change their habits towards a more environmentally sustainable
lifestyle. This workshop seeks to develop a better understanding how to go beyond just
informing and into motivating and encouraging action and change.
2. Pervasiveness can easily turn invasive. It has already caused negative consequences in
biological settings (e.g., algae in lakes and oceans, kudzu vine in the southeastern US, rabbits
and cane toads in Australia). Pervasive can be a dangerous term when the ecological impacts
are disregarded. Pervasive technology is no different. In order to avoid further serious damage
to the environment, this workshop aims to lay the foundations to start re-considering the impact
of pervasive technology from an ecological perspective.
3. Addressing the 21st century Digital Divide: The mass uptake of pervasive technology brings
about digitally networked and augmented societies; however, access is still not universal.
Castells and others use the notion of the ‘digital divide’ to account for those whose voices are
not heard by this technology. Initially, the divide was seen only between the first and third
worlds and then between urban and rural, but with today’s near ubiquitous coverage, the digital
divide between humans and the environment needs to be addressed. Virtual environments
could give the natural world an opportunity to ‘speak’. How can we address imbalances? For
example, sensors embedded in the environment could allow creeks and rivers to blog their own
pollution levels, local parks can upload images of native bird life. Can the process of ‘blogging
sensor data’ ( assist us in becoming more aware of the needs of nature? How
can we avoid the downsides?
2. Topics of interest
Topics of interest include but are not limited to:
Transfer persuasive and motivational approaches and experiences from design cases which
successfully employ pervasive technology in areas such as games and entertainment, health,
and marketing and advertising, e.g., competition, collaboration, rewards, team play, make it fun.
Innovative ways or re-appropriated ways to reduce the impact of computing production (e.g.,
increase the life cycles of computing devices; re-purpose older computing devices for sensor
networks, data logging and other low-performance but increasingly useful tasks; re-think the
design of computing devices to allow for more efficient and thorough recycling of
Considerations of what ‘pervasive technology’ means from an ecological perspective.
New applications of pervasive computing technology to support environmental education and
decision making in formal (school, work) and informal (leisure, play, everyday) settings.
Evaluations and evaluation methods for assessing the impact of pervasive computing devices,
applications on the environment.
New interfaces of pervasive computing devices, systems and applications and modes of
interactions between people and nature.
3. Format
After the introduction of the organisers and the key themes of the workshop, we will do a little
icebreaker activity in the form of mini interviews followed by brief informal peer introductions of
all participants. We then want to generate a common knowledge base for the workshop on
environmental sustainability by collecting information on what we know about the issues at hand,
e.g., sources of data on climate change, accessibility and legibility of that data, current impact it has
or lack thereof. After morning tea, the workshop breaks into three rotating groups (starting with
1/2/3) according to the three themes: 1. Motivation, 2. Ecological impact, and 3. Digital divide
between humans and the environment. After lunch, these groups rotate themes so each group works
on each theme: 2/3/1, followed by 3/1/2. Following afternoon tea, we hold a plenary to share results
and discuss further steps, plan the Design Challenge 2009, discuss collaboration arrangements
beyond the workshop and allocate tasks to volunteers.
Design Challenge 2009: Impact! In addition to the conventional academic outcomes, we want to
define a number of feasible goals and design a process to bring these goals to fruition within 12
months time and present them at Pervasive 2009. Additionally, we want the workshop to be an
opportunity to exchange research insights, expertise and ideas. We also want to leave enough
breakout and social time to allow for professional networking opportunities.
4. The organisers
Marcus Foth: ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Creative Industries and
Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia and 2007 Visiting Fellow,
Oxford Internet Institute, UK. Interests: urban informatics, master-planned communities, social
computing, social networks, triple bottom line sustainability, wombats.
Christine Satchell: ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellow (Industry), Institute for Creative
Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. Interests:
HCI, scenario and persona design, young people, digital nomads, mobile technology, puppies.
Eric Paulos: Director, Urban Atmospheres, Intel Research Berkeley, USA. Interests: urban
computing, social telepresence, robotics, physical computing, interaction design, persuasive
technologies, intimate media, sasquach.
Tom Igoe: Associate Arts Professor, Interactive Telecommunications Program, Tisch School of the
Arts, New York, USA. Interests: physical computing and networking, sensor networks,
ecologically sustainable practices in technology development, monkeys.
Carlo Ratti: Director, SENSEable City Laboratory, MIT, Boston, USA. Interests: Architecture,
sensor networks, real-time data, urban technology, urban planning, crocodiles.
5. A selection of relevant readings
CLIMATE RISK. (2007). Towards a High-Bandwidth, Low-Carbon Future: Telecommunications-
based Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Fairlight: Climate Risk Australia.
DARBY, S. (2006). The Effectiveness of Feedback on Energy Consumption (DEFRA report).
Oxford, UK: Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford.
DE YOUNG, R. (2000). Expanding and Evaluating Motives for Environmentally Responsible
Behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 509-526.
FOGG, B. J. (2003). Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.
Amsterdam: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
FOGG, B. J., & ECKLES, D. (2007). Mobile Persuasion: 20 Perspectives on the Future of
Behavior Change. Stanford, CA: Stanford Captology Media.
HERRING, H. (1998). Does Energy Efficiency Save Energy: The Implications of accepting the
Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate. Retrieved Apr 2, 2008, from
MONBIOT, G. (2006). Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning. Cambridge, MA: South End
PAULOS, E., HONICKY, R. J., & HOOKER, B. (2008, in press). Citizen Science: Enabling
Participatory Urbanism. In M. FOTH (Ed.), Urban Informatics. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Notes on the Political Image:
Pervasive Computing, Modeling Assemblage,
and Ecological Governance
What are the larger opportunities for pervasive computing technologies to monitor
and model the intricate assemblages of the natural and artificial environments?
Perhaps more importantly, how might such media contribute to or even constitute in
a new kind of
reflexive governance
in the image of the information they produce?
We consider what is at stake for such a constitution by locating it in theoretical
insights from other contexts. In outlining current and future research directions, we
underscore the necessity of environmentally produced information to concretize
itself not merely as data for some later, deferred political action, but as a direct
political image: an
instrumental diagram
in its own right.
Agencies: Borders, Sensors, Interfaces Far from borderless, our world is filled with
an apparent infinity of political borders , biological borders, logistical borders,
informational borders. “Things” (flora, fauna, and machines, data) assemble,
expunge and express themselves within this segmented landscape.
We see such borders also as
, membranes which govern the
conditions of exchange between any paired complex bodies (from ambient air and
soil to a bank customer and her money.)
An environmental sensor, be it a flower petal or inscribed silicon wafers
microcasting in near-field communication, is, in Bruno Latour’s parlance, a kind of
. (Latour, 2005) It speaks on behalf of some condition in this little network and
communicates to other parts of the system. The interface, in this case that sensor,
thus takes the position of a limited agent in the whole system, and in it, the smallest
transactional unit of data, becomes itself the emergent actor in this landscape of
The Pervasive Scenario: To Govern What? The driving scenario understood by us,
is one in which there would be a local administration of each interface’s expression --
what toxins flowers absorb, what plastics are allowed through customs, what concrete
infrastructure cracks under slow pressure—based on what is heard and is relayed
through a pervasive network of networks of computational monitoring media.
But once data is gathered what does this image look like in detail, and what is
done with it once we have it?
Individual events in this listening landscape are absorbed as signifiers, are
correlated according to as yet unimagined protocols, and are registered not only as
information about which a governance might act, but for us as the actual medium of
some non-governmental political apparatuses would register themselves back onto
the world.
That is, first the information is a map or diagram and then, more interestingly,
that same information becomes an interface.
In this, governance is not delivered by the management of “human rights,”
but instead acts according to new constitutional forms, yet to be formally ratified. Its
work is not simply policing an environmental homeostasis, but of direct management
by participation of ecosystemic interfaces
as the constitution of a new polis and
(Mouffe, 2005)
It is that imminent political diagram, not yet present, that redefines interfaces
less as pure information than as positions in an expanded parliamentary territory;
neither a ‘standing reserve’ of objective datapoints nor a undifferentiated naturalized
unity. (Heidegger, 1993)
Policy and Relationality At NYU’s Environmental Health Clinic, these operations
are designed as a matter of institutional policy (or policy is made as a matter of
design.) They are a model for how ecological interfaces, both human and non-
human, both organic and inorganic, can be understood as site of
. And health
is then less the individual body and the medicines that might be inserted into it to
contain undesirable states, than it is the external, plural, at-hand living and non-living
worlds of the urban landscape. Here a fertile middle-ground is taken as the location
of prescription and operation. The individual lung and the gathering storm system
are engaged at once by design, as both public health records in their ways.
Both provide an open form of evidence of what the administrative unit and
ecological microcosm that is NYU is doing and has done through its multi-scalar
participations in the urban ecology of the city. As with any Clinic, at EHC
prescriptions are given. But here prescriptions are offered both to individuals and to
architectural systems on how to better monitor and adjust or redesign the causal
interrelationships in which they work.
Some Recent Projects Toward This: A Portfolio of Prescriptions Some projects at
NYU’s EHC work to monitor and measure that evidence, and others to redesign
through it.
For example, One Tree Project, in which genetically identical trees were
planted across the Bay Area acts as a formidable monitoring interface for the effects
of ambient environmental variation on the complex mechanisms of organic growth.
In another,, 1400 face masks were distributed to the mingling hordes of protesters
and pedestrians during the Republican convention in New York, which together
worked as a networked surface on which individual consumption of air pollutants
was traced and tracked. In these, distributed interfaces express and even compute,
socially legible evidence of ecological interactions. But instead of such symptoms
rendered through a mediating layer of silicon computation, these simple, extremely
analog devices draw their evidence more directly.
This allows a more direct experiential response to the information they
express, but like any such image they require another step before becoming
instruments of change and governance.
Other NYU EHC projects directly redesign the
at work
(DeLanda, 2006). No Park, for example, uses a legal gap in traffic storage interfaces
(i.e. no parking zones in front of hydrants) to install intricately designed gardens
which absorb automobile related pollutants right where they are generated. Here the
socio-ecological network of the city is neither smothered nor rarified, but amplified
and engaged by configuring it at the level (and height) of collective assembly.
Future projects seek to engage at the scale of the NYU micro-city and its
architectures. One locates solar panels not on rooftops but as window shades,
circumventing the difficult regulations of solar collection technologies in Manhattan
as well as locating the production side of shared energy infrastructure at the direct
personal level of individual dorm and office dwellers. He and she can see and relate
to their energy consumption footprint at the literal scale of his or her own footprint.
Another improves on the vogue for rooftop gardens as decorative micro-parks for
people and turns them into gray water treatment machines that support the
interlocking purposes of ground-level and migratory species across the city.
Data Smog and the Missing Expert In these projects a problem of translation and
activation is introduced, one that is not solved by the amassing of more
computational power and the scattering of sensors into the world. That is, natural
systems work very well already as monitoring devices, but we have yet to formulate
complete constitutional images of their participation. We have yet to find the best
ways of making an
of their political profiles, diagrams of their
evidence that constitute an effective agency.
Scaled somewhere between the medical care of the individual body and the
continental sweep weather modeling , the an ecological
is largely unmanaged
and unarticulated.
To introduce an layer of engineered listening and speaking media into and
onto the ambient environment (in parking lots, wetlands, cloud clusters, lung cells,
etc.) will open a flood of information about how worldly systems perform and relate.
By flipping the on-switch, as it were, and being at once able to monitor and model
the interrelationships of all assemblages at once, would be akin to the invention of
the microscope, opening up the complexity and agency of worlds we could not
But would it also be a din of voices that we simply do not have the means to
properly listen to, to govern through: a churning cacophony of signals?
The design impulse will be to model these signals into dataclouds, undulating
traffic clusters that allow datasets to be sliced and figured by different patterns and
variables. We believe that such data clouds have purpose and potential but cannot
by themselves realize either. Dataclouds have a tendency to inappropriately reassure
their audiences. They imply, in the grace and intricacy of their renderings, a
presumed expert system (and expert) on whose behalf they are fictitiously designed
be using these information as an instrument of government, somewhere. If
not now, soon. Dataclouds signify control but too often only defer agency to that
missing expert. This is part of the work that they do as blog culture memes. They
assure; they present the
of a political agency that is still to find its bearings.
The data cloud looks like expert instrumentation, but does the closed frame
of its bounded diagnostic, in fact make it easier for those viewing the data cloud to
retract their own involvement back into logic of simulation and to remain spectators?
What is the political space of air quality? What would it mean for such images to
work more effectively as interfaces? How can the images of evidence, produced by
pervasive sensing media, work not just to display information about socio-
ecosystmes but to turn their audiences into users who can, in the direct course of
their habitation of the world, compute by their interactions a preferred assemblage
of what the image represents? How can the data that becomes diagrams, become
again instruments of a new political space?
The answer to these, we believe, lies in the specification of both an
ecologically appropriate political scale and a constitutional image of that
, which
in turn may
rely on the encounters between pervasive computing and ecological
Manuel De Landa,
A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social
. Continuum. London. 2006.
Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology”
Basic Writings
. Ed.
David Krell. HarperCollins. New York. 1993 (1954)
Bruno Latour,
Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory.
Oxford University Press. 2005
Chantal Mouffe,
On the Political
. Routledge, New York. 2005.
Author Biographies
Benjamin H. Bratton
(SCI_Arc, UCLA, Yahoo!) invents systems concepts and
translates and transposes them into actual systems. This labor requires him to where
many hats for different occasions, including sociologist, design strategist, professor,
software executive, and historian of exceptional violence. He teaches architects about
double-bind ironies at SCI_Arc, media artists about topologies of logistics at UCLA,
and enterprise product strategists about the social specification of emergent data
channels at Yahoo!.
Natalie Jeremijenko
(NYU Environmental Health Clinic) is a polymath design
technologist and political affectician, working within the wormholes connecting
experimental art and global science policy. She has taught at the world’s august
institutions, been shown in the toniest arts festivals, received the most competitive
awards, and annoyed the most miscast authoritarians.
Ali Dada1,3, Thorsten Staake2, Elgar Fleisch1,2
1 Institute of Technology Management (ITEM-HSG), University of St. Gallen, Dufourstrasse 40a,
9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland
2 Information Management, ETH Zurich, Sonneggstrasse 63, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
3 SAP Research CEC St. Gallen, Blumenbergplatz 9, 9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland,,
Several problems exist in accurately quantifying the greenhouse gases (GHG) which result from the
production, transportation, usage, and recycling of products. We review in this paper the current
attempts at measuring GHG emissions and investigate the potential of UbiComp technologies in
improving the state of the art in carbon footprint calculation and in communicating the result to
consumers. This has potential benefits on consumer awareness and behaviour and can also foster
competition among companies towards higher energy and resource efficiency.
1. Introduction
Companies measure energy usage and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to comply with regulations,
to assess their performance in an energy-constrained economy, and to participate in a growing
carbon market [8] Moreover, some organizations also identified the value of communicating the
carbon footprint1 of their products to end consumers who increasingly consider environmental
aspects in their purchasing decisions [4]. However, a number of challenges need to be addressed
when determining GHG emissions for individual products or services. In particular, it is difficult to
capture all relevant emissions along the product’s lifecycle and to account for the variations in
footprints of individual instances of products, such as spatial, temporal, and supplier variations. In
this contribution, we propose a solution that leverages UbiComp technologies in order to
dynamically track a product’s carbon footprint along its life-cycle and make it easily accessible to the
consumer. The benefit of such a solution is that it enables comparisons on many levels, for example
between variations of the same product, between products from different manufacturers, and
between different companies upstream in the value chain. Consumers can then exert pressure by
selecting the least carbon-intensive products. We provide a review of methods used to measure
GHG emissions in section 2 and outline in section 3 where UbiComp technologies can help. We
conclude in section 4.
1 “The carbon footprint is a measure of the total amount of CO2 emissions that is directly and indirectly accumulated
over the life stages of a product.”[11]
2. State of the art in measuring energy usage and GHG emissions
We review in this section the approaches used to determine the emissions of companies (supply side)
and tools that calculate emissions due to the consumption by individuals (demand side).
2.1. Supply-side approaches
There are several standards and guidelines used by companies in order to quantify and report their
GHG emissions. The most prominent standard is the GHG corporate protocol [8], used by the
majority of the FT500 companies and serving as the basis for most GHG guidelines and programs.
This protocol is accompanied by tools that help companies to calculate their emissions. Various
other tools exist in the context of GHG reporting programs such as CARROT for participants in the
California Climate Action Registry [3] and SEIT which is provided with the DoE 1605b voluntary
reporting program [6]. Furthermore, software vendors offer enterprise solutions for carbon and
energy management, e.g. Environmental Compliance by SAP [9].
There has recently been some effort to calculate the carbon footprint of some particular products
using a supply-chain-wide approach. Prominent examples are the pilots conducted by Carbon Trust
together with brands such as Walkers and Trinity Mirror [4]. Furthermore, CarbonCounted provides
an online application for brand owners, also for the purpose of calculating a product’s footprint [5].
These two examples differ in many aspects which makes it impossible to accurately calculate and
compare a product’s footprint, such as whether they include all GHG emissions or only CO2 and
whether they consider offsets. They do not take the energy usage at the retailer into consideration,
or do so in a very coarse-grained way. Neither takes home usage into account. These issues make it
impossible to accurately calculate and compare a product’s footprint. Finally, when different
suppliers have different footprints, or when there are temporal or spatial variances between different
instances of a product, average numbers are used, which results in inaccurate results. Examples
include fruits bought off-season which require six months of chilled storage or products being
shipped half way across the globe.
2.2. Demand-side Approaches
Many carbon calculators are available to determine the carbon footprint of an individual or a
household. According to Bottrill [1], the calculators give an annual result based on one data entry
per activity, thus not taking seasonal or lifestyle fluctuations into consideration. The author adds that
the tools are falling short of accurately monitoring people’s energy use and providing the feedback
required. In the field of monitoring energy usage, there are several projects that provide accurate
numbers by conducting measurements on household devices. For example, Kuckuck is a project
which uses sensor data to display domestic energy consumption [10]. The Device-Level Power
Monitoring system [7] comprises monitoring units that plug into power outlets enabling per-device
electricity monitoring. Despite such projects that measure the energy usage of different devices at
home, this usage is not meant to be attributed to the products that require them, for example the
energy used by a washing machine or a refrigerator is not distributed, respectively, among the
clothes and foods inside. In effect, the energy usage at home cannot be accumulated to the total
carbon footprint of a product which until now is focusing only on the supply-side calculations. In the
next section we will describe how products can have one dynamic carbon footprint which is easily
accessible to users.
3. The potential of UbiComp
To calculate a dynamic carbon footprint, we need a mechanism that links information about
emissions with the products that required them, namely by assigning to each item its share of the
emissions of each emitting process. This can be achieved via the unique identification of items, e.g.
via the Electronic Product Code (EPC) [2]. Items with an EPC number can be tracked from
manufacturing along the supply chain and until the retailers, with the possibility to add dynamic
information – such as the carbon emitted at each partner – to the EPC Information Services (EPC
IS). With unique identification in place, the share of yet-disregarded life-cycle stages of the
product’s footprint can be quantified and attributed to the items that required them. For example, the
same EPC number can be used to identify items beyond the point of sale, where intelligent devices
can attribute their consumed energy to the items using it. Unique identification can also make the
product footprint easily accessible, e.g. to a consumer on his mobile phone. After including all the
product life-cycle stages, we would be able to consolidate the emissions and assign them to
individual items or other entities. This approach therefore comprises two stages. The first stage is an
information gathering stage that can be realized by a publish/subscribe system in which process
owners publish the process information and users (including items) can be subscribed to the
processes they are part of. The second stage is an on-demand calculation of an item’s footprint based
on the available process/item information. Our initial research indicates that only minor changes are
necessary to use EPC Information Systems for the purpose of carbon footprint management.
4. Conclusion
We reviewed in this paper the available approaches in measuring GHG emissions and noted their
shortcomings in contributing to the accurate quantification of carbon footprints of products. We then
highlighted the potential of UbiComp technologies in contributing to this effort. Such technologies
can also make the carbon footprint of products conveniently accessible to consumers. This enables
consumers to exert pressure on the brand owner to decrease the footprint and it helps influence their
own behavior at home in order to keep the footprint as low as possible. Also, if companies can
compare the carbon-intensity of products from different suppliers, they can exert pressure by
selecting partners with the least carbon-intensive products.
[1] BOTTRILL, C. Internet-based Tools for Behaviour Change. In European Council for Energy Efficient Economics
(ECEEE) Summer Study 2007: Dynamics of Consumption. 2007.
[2] BROCK, D. The Electronic Product Code (EPC): A Naming Scheme for Objects. Tech. Rep. MIT-AUTOID-WH-
002, MIT Auto ID Center, 2001.
[4] CARBON TRUST. Carbon Footprints in the Supply Chain: The Next Step for Businesses, 2006.
[5] CARBONCOUNTED. Online, 2008.
[6] ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION. Energy-related Emissions Data & Environmental Analyses. Online, 2007.
[7] LEBLANC, J. Device-Level Power Consumption Monitoring. In Workshop on Ubiquitous Sustainability, UbiComp
A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard. WBCSD and WRI, 2004.
[9] SAP. SAP Environmental Compliance. Online, 2008.
Sensing and Displaying Energy Consumption Information in the Home. In Workshop on Ubiquitous
Sustainability, UbiComp (2007).
[11] WIEDMANN, T., AND MINX, J. A Definition of 'Carbon Footprint'. ISA Research Report 07-01, 2007.
This paper comprised a brief review of measures to calculate carbon emissions and possible ways to
make carbon footprints more accurate by including the various product lifecycle stages. Since our
focus is on providing the consumers with the appropriate information to empower them in the
decision-making process, the key question is which information consumers need, how to retrieve it,
and how consumers will be influenced by it. Also important is the optimal medium and form of
presenting the information and how to measure their feedback including possible third-order effects.
We are eager to discuss such questions in the workshop and learn from others’ experiences. More
information about us and other related research can be found at
Authors’ Biographies
Ali Dada
Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Technology Management in the University of St. Gallen and
research associate at SAP Research. Ali’s Ph.D. topic is carbon footprints of products: their
feasibility and implications on consumer behavior and brand owner’s sustainability decisions.
Dr. Thorsten Staake
Thorsten Staake works as Project Manager of the Bits to Energy Lab and Senior Researcher at the
Chair of Information Management, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. Before
joining the ETH, Thorsten spent one year at MIT’s Auto-ID Lab and worked for two years at the
Institute of Technology Management, University of St. Gallen, where he was in charge for the
Institute’s supply chain security initiative. His current research interests are related to enhancing
supply chain visibility to determine, communicate, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
Prof. Dr. Elgar Fleisch
Professor of Information and Technology Management; Department of Management, Technology,
and Economics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and Institute of Technology
Management, University of St. Gallen (HSG); Co-Chair of Auto-ID Labs, Insurance-Lab (I-Lab),
and Bits to Energy Lab. Elgar Fleisch’s current research focuses on the economic and information
system perspective of ubiquitous computing, work that addresses the architecture of the Internet of
Things. He also conducts research in the areas of service engineering and internationalization.
Towards Participatory Design of Ambient Persuasive
Janet Davis
Dept. of Computer Science
Grinnell College
Grinnell, IA 50112
1. Design Problem and Method
At my institution, the EcoCampus committee is charged with developing approaches to promote sus-
tainable behavior on campus, specifically behaviors that will reduce the campus’s net carbon emis-
sions. Approaches that provide new opportunities, such as coordinating a campus rummage sale to
reduce end-of-year trash disposal and start-of-year purchases, have met with great success. More di-
rect approaches to persuade individuals to change their behavior—for example, posting pleas against
food waste and reminders to turn off lights—have had less clear results, and even engendered some
I aim to engage this committee and others in participatory design of new persuasive technology aimed
at changing these types of behaviors in ways that are more demonstrably effective, and engaging
rather than annoying. Participatory Design (or PD) is a family of theories and methods related to end
users as full participants in the design process. Many, but not all, PD researchers and practicioners
are motivated in part by a belief in the value of democracy in the design setting [12]. Participatory
design is well-suited to this design context because my institution has a culture of active stakeholder
involvement in decision-making, and because there is a group of people already committed to envi-
ronmental sustainability. I believe it is only right to include them in the design process. By making
them full participants, I gain access to their special knowledge, perspectives, and creativity, as well as
an enthusiastic group of supporters of the new approaches.
The design process will begin with a Future Workshop [9, 10] to guide EcoCampus committee mem-
bers and other interested members of the community in generating visions for behavioral and cultural
change on campus. A Future Workshop consists of three phases: a Critique phase to elicit problems
with current practice, a Fantasy phase to envision an ideal world in which those problems were solved,
and an Implementation phase in which the aim is to begin making plans for realistic changes. Whereas
most Future Workshops in the PD literature have focused on work practices, the workshop concept
originated in the context of community organizing around societal issues [9]; the topic of this work-
shop will be “Green Culture at Grinnell. At the end of this workshop, I hope we will have identified
a number of behaviors to target for change, as well as possible approaches—technological and non-
technological—for changing them. I plan to continue working with a smaller group of stakeholders
on one or more behaviors that seem appropriate to the development of persuasive technology.
2. Ambient Persuasion
Designing technology to change behavior with respect to environmental sustainability, or to promote
sustainable culture, clearly falls into B.J. Fogg’s definition of persuasive technology: “interactive
computing systems designed to change people’s attitudes and behaviors” [4, p. 1]. Indeed, Fogg
uses the example of paper recycling by an organization to illustrate his different perspectives on the
roles of persuasive technology [3]. Several efforts have begun to explore persuasive technology in
relation to environmental sustainability. For example, RideNow is a web- and email-based system
that facilitates ad-hoc ride sharing [15]. The SmartTrip tool for mobile devices simplifies the task of
combining multiple errands into a single trip, with the goal of reducing driving among those resistant
to ride sharing or public transit [8]. GreenScanner is a mobile application that shoppers can use at
the store to read reviews of the environmental impacts of various products [14]. In these systems, the
computer’s functional role is that of a persuasive tool [3, 4]: The system makes suggestions, provides
information, or makes the desired behavior easier to do. But, users must go to some effort to adopt
these tools. As Fogg argues, persuasive technology for mobile devices are most effective when they
help people to achieve the goals they have already decided upon [4, pp. 192–3].
An alternative is to embed persuasive tools in the built environment, particularly in public or semi-
public places. The idea is to make suggestions at exactly the right time and place, without annoying
those to be persuaded [4, 11, 7]. Recent work by Mathew and his students exploits this approach,
which he calls environmental persuasion [11], in the context of promoting physical activity. In one
design, an attractive glass staircase with embedded information displays entices commuters in a sub-
way station to use the stairs rather than the escalator [11]. In another, information kiosks at bus stops
suggest that walking will result in earlier arrival time at the destination than waiting for the bus, and
will burn more calories [13]. Embedding persuasive technology in public spaces allows for incremen-
tal peruasion: “Persuasion is initiated by the persuasive elements, but the actual behavior change is a
result of gradual but increasing awareness of the importance of that change” [11]. Such an approach
can influence the behavior of those who are not initially committed to behavior change. This gradual
approach also leaves room for discovery, playfulness, ambiguity, and subtlety, qualities that could
make a persuasive device intriguing rather than annoying.
Some design efforts have already begun to explore environmental persuasion with respect to envi-
ronmental sustainability. For example, WaterBot aims to reduce water consumption by tracking and
displaying information about water use at the sink itself [1]. Although the design is aimed at the
home or workplace, some ideas could be adapted to sinks in more public spaces. Intriguingly, Hol-
stius et al. use live and robotic plants in an ambient display that shows the balance between trash
and recycling in a dining area [5]. The goals of ambient displays—to provide awareness through the
physical environment, without demanding attention [16]—seem particularly compatible with the idea
of non-annoying, incremental persuasion. These initial efforts show this area, which one might call
ambient persuasive technology, is ripe for further investigation.
3. Research Questions
I believe that applying participatory design to persuasive technology is a novel approach. Futher-
more, as Hornecker et al. argue, the application of participatory design methods to the design space
of pervasive computing is still largely unexplored [6]. A key question, then, is how (or whether) to in-
corporate known principles and guidelines for the design of persuasive technology and for persuasion
in general, such as Cialdini’s six fundamental human tendencies [2], with the process of participatory
design. A second question is how to incorporate concern for the ethics of persuasion into the process.
Design participants are not the only ones who will interact with the persuasive technology, and they
are not necessarily typical stakeholders as they almost certainly value environmental sustainability
more highly than most community members. Fogg outlines a method to account for ethical concerns
in the design of persuasive technology [4], with which participants might be engaged. Furthermore,
although participatory design is not inherently problematic from the standpoint of environmental sus-
tainability, can particular design themselves be made more sensitive to that goal?
WaterBot [1] and the “infotropism” display [5] not only make indirect suggestions, but also monitor
and report on behavior in the surrounding environment. Because of the community context, such
displays tread a fine line between self-monitoring, which seems generally positive and acceptable,
and surveillance, which Fogg warns may cause public compliance without private acceptance [4, p.
49]. What design features are needed to avoid that undesirable outcome? What guidance can I draw
from these examples? For example, where WaterBot aims to support social validation in a household
context by tracking the water consumption of individuals, the infotropism display, designed for a
more public context, does not connect the data it gathers with particular individuals.
Fogg argues that behavioral change is a more compelling metric than attitudinal change for measuring
the success of persuasive technology: it is thought to be more difficult to achieve, it can be measured
without relying on self-reports, and finally, it is a direct measure of real-world outcomes [3]. However,
following the work of Holstius, et al. [5] and other work on ambient displays, and consistent with the
goal of not annoying people, it will be important to assess users’ attitudes towards and understanding
of the persuasive technology itself. In the context of environmental sustainability, one should also ask
about the net environmental impact of the persuasive technology. Unlike applications for mobile de-
vices already in use, such as cell phones, ambient persuasive technology involves introducing new de-
vices into the environment and thus involves some measurable consumption of resources—electricity
to power the device and other resources for its manufacture. Can we demonstrate that the devices we
build have an environmental impact that is lesser than that of the undesirable behavior they are in-
tended to change? What techniques can we use to reduce the power consumption of ambient displays,
both in the prototype phase and in deployment? At one extreme, we might eschew the “technology”
aspect of persuasive technology altogether, and use Intille’s approach of temporarily deploying sensor
systems to measure the behavioral impacts of low-technology persuasive techniques [7].
4. Motivation for Attending the Workshop
I have been interested in environmental sustainability and ambient displays for several years; the
theme of “Persuasive Pervasive Technology and Environmental Sustainability” lets me bring those
interests together. At the workshop, I hope to meet other researchers interested in related areas and
perhaps raise some different perspectives on design methodology. I hope also for feedback and new
insights to guide my work, which is in its earliest phases.
5. Biography
Janet Davis is Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Grinnell College, a socially-conscious
liberal arts college in central Iowa. She earned her B.S. in Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College,
and her Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. Her dissertation
work involved the design of new user interfaces for a large-scale urban simulation system, with a
particular attention to the values of democracy and freedom from bias. She is a member of the
Sustainable CHI group. Her interests include Value Sensitive Design, Participatory Design, ambient
displays, environmental sustainability, design for local impact, and alpacas.
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Motivating Environmentally Sustainable Behavior Changes
with a Virtual Polar Bear
Tawanna Dillahunt, Geof Becker, Jennifer Mankoff and Robert Kraut
HCII, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
{tdillahu, gbecker, jmankoff, robert.kraut}
Personal choices and activities directly account for much of the energy consumption in the U.S.
with secondary impacts of those activities influencing an even larger proportion of energy
consumption. Although there is a long history of investigation into motivators for energy-
conservation, it is still unclear how to encourage persistent behavior change, and technology has
only recently been applied to the problem. In this study we sought to learn if virtual pets could
have a positive impact on real-world, environmentally responsible behavior. The polar bear is a
powerful iconic symbol for many individuals, and its fate can be simply and directly connected to
environmentally responsible behavior. Just as Tamagotchis evoked a powerful response from
their owners, we hoped to use attachment to a virtual polar bear as a motivator for energy
conservation. We ran a study exploring the impact of attachment on real-world actions. The
results of our study suggest that an interactive virtual polar bear may increase environmentally
responsible behaviors, especially when emotional attachment takes place.
1. Introduction
Global warming continues to be one of the world’s major issues. In the U.S. alone, Americans
consumed 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy in 2005 [11], with personal, individual activities
accounting for much of this consumption. For example, 40% of the energy consumed is used for
residential or commercial lighting, heating and cooling. All of this is driven directly by
individual choices or indirectly because of consumer needs. Thus, personal choices can lead to a
significant reduction in energy consumption, with a corresponding reduction in the release of
CO2, one of the primary gases responsible for climate change. However, this requires persuading
individuals to change their behavior, and maintain those changes over time, both difficult
propositions. Our approach is to leverage the power of the polar bear as a symbol of climate
change by creating a virtual pet, a technology that has promise for supporting behavior change
(e.g. [7]). We describe a pilot study showing that increased attachment to a virtual polar bear had
a significant positive impact on the number of actions that individuals had taken as reported a
week after they used our software. This work is currently being incorporated into a mobile tool
intended to influence transportation choices and into a social networking website.
There is extensive literature in the areas of environmental sociology, public policy, and more
recently, conservation psychology that discusses the promotion of environmentally responsible
behavior. In past work, we have explored the impact of motivators such as public commitment,
Figure 1: (top) a polar
bear with lots of ice
(bottom) a polar bear
with little ice
frequent feedback, and personalization on environmentally responsible behavior [10]. Research
in conservation psychology implies that animals help humans connect with nature [9]. Vining’s
literature review demonstrates the extensive evidence for strong emotional bonds between
humans and animals but she states that the answer to whether caring about animals or the
environment leads to environmentally responsible behavior remains open [12]. Technology may
provide a mechanism for leveraging these bonds to encourage behavior change. For example,
Tamagotchis are virtual pets requiring nurturing interaction in order to be sustained. This in turn
led to an emotional attachment to these virtual pets, for example owners mourned when their pets
“died” [2]. Lin and Strub’s “Fish’n’Steps” study is an example of how an interactive computer
game using a virtual pet, in this case fish, encourage physical activity [7].
Our approach integrates conservation psychology, a study which looks into relationships
between nature and humans, with persuasive technology, the study of how computers can
leverage psychological cues to motivate and influence behavior [3]. For example, motivators of
environmentally responsible behavior are more effective when they have a direct impact on
people's needs or concerns [1]. Also, caring for real animals can inspire conservation behavior
[12]. In this paper we show that an emotional connection to a virtual pet that responds to
environmental behavior can help motivate an individual by making that
behavior seem to directly impact an individual’s concerns.
2. Experiment
We conducted a one week, between subjects study to explore the effect
of higher attachment to a virtual pet (the attachment group) to lower
attachment to the same pet (the control group) on environmentally
responsible behavior. To create attachment, we used a story describing
environmental change, specifically the impact of climate change on the
habitat of polar bears, pre-tested to elicit sadness. We asked participants
in the attachment group to read it, reflect on their emotions and write
about environmental responsibility, and name the polar bear on their
Participants were shown a Flash-based virtual polar bear on an ice floe
that would grow as they committed to environmentally responsible
actions and decrease as they chose not to commit to actions. As shown in Figure 1, the size of
the ice floe would change depending on the number of actions a subject committed to taking.
Our study tested the following hypotheses:
H1: Commitments - Users who form emotional attachment to the virtual polar bear will commit
to more environmentally responsible actions than users who do not form bonds
H2: Fulfilled Commitments - Users who form emotional attachment to the virtual polar bear
will fulfill (act on) their commitments
H1: Num Commitments H2: Num Sustained
H3: Donations ($)
Mean Number of Units
Figure 2: (above) The attachment graph was
higher for all hypotheses, and H2 (Fulfilled
Commitments) is significant (F[1,11]=6.527,
H3: Donations - Users who form emotional attachment to the virtual polar bear will donate
more to a zoo than those from the control group
We recruited 20 subjects (10 in each
condition) associated with local universities.
Participants were given $15 and a shower
timer for their time. All participants
completed an initial survey at the start of the
experiment to test whether either group was
more likely to have higher motives for
environmentally responsible behavior and
whether this changed during the experiment.
We used a subset of questions from De
Young’s scales measuring competence and
participation [1]. Participants also completed
two additional scales both before and after
the main intervention (interacting with the
polar bear): the first measured levels of care
on agreeableness and empathy [5] and the
second measured overall environmental
concerns [6]. All scales had a reliability of .65 or higher, measured using Cronbach’s α (values
were α=.8615 for competence, α=.8920 for participation, α=.7579 for care and α=.655 for
environmental concern).
The actions are included in Table 1. Fourteen were taken from sixty actions previously designed
and tested as part of a field study of the StepGreen website [10]. We created an additional
action, “Take an environmental sustainability flyer and give it to a friend,” and made flyers
available to participants.
3. Results and Discussion
Out of the 20 participants, 60% were male and
40% female; 95% of the participants were
students. Out of the 20 participants, 19
completed the first task; we reached 11 to ask
about donations (5 control, 6 attachment), and
we were only able to reach 11 participants to ask
which actions they fulfilled (5 control, 6
attachment). The initial survey showed balance
across the groups in terms of motivation for
environmentally responsible behavior (p=.08833
and .08199).
1 Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
2 Turn off lights if you are leaving a room for more than 10 minutes
3 Wash only full loads of clothes
4 Wash only full loads of dishes
5 Dry only full loads of clothes
6 Carpool 1 day a week when you would otherwise drive
7 Pledge to ride the bus 1 day a week when you would otherwise drive
8 Combine trips in vehicle (i.e., visit multiple destinations on one trip)
9 Take the stairs instead of the elevator a minimum of 5 times per week
10 Take a shower instead of a bath
11 Restrict length of shower to 5 minutes
12 Use a low wattage night light
13 Lower heating thermostat to 68 degrees and wear warmer clothes
14 Unplug any electronic devices when not in use
15 Take an environmental sustainability flyer and give it to a friend
List of Actions
As shown in Figure 2, participants in the attachment group had a higher mean number of
committed actions (H1), fulfilled commitments (H2) and a higher mean donation (H3). Of these,
the difference in fulfilled commitments was statistically significant: F[1,11]=6.527, p=.0309*.
The attachment group also demonstrated significantly greater environmental concern and greater
care after reading about and interacting with the polar bear (F[1,19]=5.1273, p=0.0369* and
F[1,19]=3.8124, p=.0675, respectively).
Our findings demonstrate that participants in the attachment group were more concerned about
the environment, and this translated directly into significantly higher reported actions. Of
particular interest is the fact that while there was not a significant difference in the number of
commitments between the groups, reported follow through in terms of fulfilling those
commitments was significantly higher. However, it is possible that participants in the attachment
group lied about their follow through out of guilt or some other emotion. Also, we do not know
how long these differences will be sustained.
4. Future Work
Our next step is to deploy the polar bear over a longer period of time, in a setting where we can
objectively measure its impact on action. This addresses the two biggest concerns mentioned
above. We plan to deploy the polar bear on a mobile platform that can track use of different
transportation options. Additionally, we are currently creating a virtual polar bear plugin for
MySpace and Facebook. The large numbers of users on sites such as MySpace (used by over
61.2 million unique visitors) and Facebook (over 19.5 million unique users)[8] presents exciting
opportunities to encourage personally- and socially-desirable change in behaviors. Users will be
able to publicly make commitments and have the status of their polar bear on display. Based on
consistency theory, users would be more likely to behave consistently with their commitment
[4]. This may also lead to further research on the impact peer pressure may have on
environmentally sustainable actions.
5. Reason for Attending
The work we described is an initial contribution to the issue of persuading individuals to take
more sustainable actions. As such, it addresses one of the three main topics of the workshop,
how to motivate sustainable action. Additionally, though there was no room to discuss it here,
our research is expanding to address the appropriate deployment platforms and messaging for
varied socio-economic and ethnic groups. We are excited by the opportunity to attend this
workshop and engage researchers on these critical fronts.
6. Author Bios
Tawanna Dillahunt is a first year Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research
interests include environmental sustainability and pervasive computing.
Geof Becker works at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon in Marketing and
Public Relations and is interested in encouraging development of online communities that
commit to positive social action.
Jennifer Mankoff is an assistant professor at CMU in the HCII. Her research interests include
environmental sustainability, pervasive computing, and Assistive Technologies.
Robert Kraut is a Herbert A. Simon Professor of HCI at CMU. He conducts research in four
major areas: online communities, everyday use of the Internet, Technology and conversation,
collaboration in small work groups, and computers in organizations.
7. References
1. De Young, R. (2003). Expanding and Evaluating Motives for Environmentally Responsible
Behavior. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 56, No.3, pp. 509-526.
2. Donath, J. (2004). Artificial Pets: Simple Behaviors Elicit Complex Attachments. In M.
Bekoff (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, Greenwood Press.
3. Fogg, B.J. (2002). Persuasive Computers Using Technology to Change What We Think and
Do. Morgan Kaufman Publishers, San Francisco, CA.
4. Harmon-Jones, E. (2002). Cognitive Dissonance Theory. Perspective on Persuasion. The
Persuasion Handbook: Developments in Theory and Practice. Sage Publications. p. 99-116.
5. International Personality Item Pool (as of February 2008): A Scientific Collaboratory for the
Development of Advanced Measures of Personality and Other Individual Differences, Big-
Five Factors Markers:
6. Kaufman, T. (1999). A Study of the Motivations Behind Heritage Site Selection in the
United States, PhD Dissertation, Virginia Tech.
7. Lin, J., Lindtner, M.S., Strub, H. (2006). Fish'n'Steps: Encouraging Physical Activity with an
Interactive Computer Game. in Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on
Ubiquitous Computing, pp. 261-278.
8. McCarthy, C (September 13, 2007). Nielsen/NetRatings’ August social media numbers: Not
much change, CNet
9. Myers, O.E. Jr., Saunders C.D. (2002). Animals as links toward developing caring
relationships with the natural world. In Kahn and Kelert (eds). Children and Nature, 153-
178. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
10. Mankoff, J, Matthews, D., Fussell, S.R., Johnson, M. (2007). Leveraging social networks to
motivate individuals to reduce their ecological footprints. In Proceedings of HICSS.
11. U.S. Department of Energy (2006). Annual Energy Review 2005. Energy Information
Administration, Washington, DC DOE/EIA-0384.
12. Vining, Joanne (2003). The Connection to Other Animals and Caring for Nature. Human
Ecology Review, Vol. 10, No. 2
Points of Persuasion:
Strategic Essentialism and Environmental Sustainability
Paul Dourish
Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-3440, USA
The environmental movement, as a political body, is an alliance of many different groups with
different agendas and goals, not always compatible. Nonetheless, as a matter of political
pragmatism, the identification of “the environment” as a common focus binds these actors
together – an act of strategic essentialism. Drawing on this observation and on an account of
identity production in social software, I suggest that an alternative approach to pervasive
persuasion might be to help crystallize this sort of political connection.
1. Strategic Essentialism and Sustainability
Postcolonial scholar Gayatri Spivak (1987) coined the term “strategic essentialism” to refer to
the ways in which subordinate or marginalized social groups may temporarily put aside local
differences in order to forge a sense of collective identity through which they band together in
political movements. Post-war resistance movements to colonial rule often relied on just such
mechanisms by which particular forms of ethnicity or nation-hood were used to align disparate
groups towards common goals. Spivak’s observation is that, while such terms as “indigenous”
peoples or similar labels result in problematic and unstable groupings that erase significant
differences and distinctions (rethinking colonial categories), nonetheless these acts of identity
formation support important political ends. So while terms such as “Indian,” “African”, or
“Native American” may be manufactured and suppress highly significant differences, they
nonetheless do important work.
Studies of the social history of environmentalism show much the same sort of process at work in
the development of the environmental movement. Cronon (1995) documents the history of our
conception of Wilderness. In the period of the Western Expansion, wilderness is a threat to
human existence. It betokens the kinds of arid, unforgiving and hostile environment that settlers
might experience in their movement west, something that must be conquered (and so also a
source of opportunity.) It is not for nothing, he argues, that it is the wilderness where Christ
struggles with the Devil, or into which Adam and Eve are cast. By the late nineteenth century,
though, a new notion of wilderness has emerged – not a threat but a comfort, not something to be
overcome but something to be cherished, a place not of danger but of rejuvenation. The national
park movement reflects a change in the understanding of what wilderness might be, what it
might be worth, and why. Cronon documents a range of considerations that are part of this
ideological reframing of wilderness (including the gender issues associated with the image of the
rugged masculinity involved in taming “virgin” nature, the problems of habitation by indigenous
peoples, and the issues of the supernatural associated with the encounter with wilderness), but his
central concern is the way that the ideological construction of wilderness obscures the central
role of human action:
By imagining that our true home is in the wilderness, we forgive ourselves the homes we
actually inhabit. In its flight from history, in its siren song of escape, in its reproduction
of the dangerous dualism that sets human beings outside of nature—in all of these ways,
wilderness poses a serious threat to responsible environmentalism at the end of the
twentieth century. (Cronon, 1995:81).
More broadly, as Proctor (1998) also demonstrates, strategic essentialism lies at the heart of the
creation of the environmental movement at all. What we think of as environmentalism is a
political force resulting from the forging of an alliance between groups with concerns as diverse
as open access, biodiversity, air and water pollution, surfing, animal husbandry, agricultural
efficiency, bioengineering, and rock climbing. “The environment” emerges as a concept shaped
by the union of common interests, even though these interests might be mobilized in quite
different ways and for quite different reasons. As Spivak would note, the inherent heterogeneity
of the group is made subservient to strategic goals. Arguably, one of the reasons that the clash of
perspectives over environmentalism – between, for instance, Western environmentalists and
native Amazonians over sustainability and economic survival in the rainforest (Tsing, 2004) –
are so troubling is because they threaten the unstable alliances out of which these political
movements are formed.
2. Pervasive Persuasion
When we talk of persuasion as a consideration for information technologies, we are frequently
concerned with how behavior modification can be induced by intervening in moments of local
decision-making and by providing people with new rewards and new motivations for desirable
behaviors (Fogg, 2003). These kinds of strategies have been common, for instance, in health and
fitness applications (e.g. Lin et al., 2006). One might imagine a range of pervasive persuasive
technologies along these lines. If we argue that the essential importance of pervasiveness is that
the technology accompanies people in the course of their everyday lives, then technologies that
help people to assess their everyday actions in terms of broader questions of sustainability
present themselves – applications that help people understand their carbon footprint, for
example, or ones that provide access to environmental information as a part of shopping (e.g.
Bernheim-Brush et al., 2004).
However, if we think about environmental sustainability from a political perspective, and
particularly bearing in mind the important role of strategic essentialism, then a different
application area presents itself. From this perspective, what we might want to persuade people of
is the ways in which their interests are aligned with those of others. As is demonstrated by
sociological research into the formation of social movements, this process of alignment and
mobilization, by which one can start to find one’s own interests as being congruent with those of
others, is a critical first step in political mobilization (Snow et al., 1986).
Arguably, we can find the foundations for such technologies in the current crop of so-called
“social software” applications, of which Facebook is perhaps currently the most prominent.
Social networking sites claim simply to articulate social networks that are already there, but of
course, social networks in the formal sense are an analytic device rather than an aspect of our
own everyday experience. (This can most easily be demonstrated by asking the question, “Tell
me about someone two hops away from you in your social network.” Nobody can, since, by
definition, such a person is not known to the subject.) Instead, then, we can approach social
networking sites as technologies of affiliation, alignment, and identification, sites at which forms
of collective identity are forged and enacted.
If social software works by, first, tying individuals and actions to groups and networks and,
second, by providing a platform through which one acts as a member of a group (be that an
institutional affiliation, an informal group, or simply a identifiable social type), then a similar
approach can perhaps be harnessed in the domain of sustainability. This would suggest that,
rather than using technology to provoke reflection on environmental impact of individual
actions, we might use it instead to show how particular actions or concerns link one into a
broader coalition of concerned citizens, social groups, and organizations. So, for instance, if we
were to combine the sorts of monitoring technologies developed by Paulos (2008) or the kinds of
scanning technologies explored by Bernheim-Brush et al. (2004) with social networking
accounts of the different interests associated with sustainability debates and movements, then we
might have a system that could tell people, “the action you are about to take aligns you with X
but against Y,” or, “the products that you are looking at have these different impacts on these
different groups.” What is being done here is a process of frame bridging (Snow et al., 1986) that
not only allows for forms of reflection and behaviour modification but also links the individual
into a broader coalition of interests. What becomes visible is not so much the world, but its
political alignments.
3. Conclusions
Various attempts have been made to use pervasive technologies to connect people to the
environment in which they live (e.g. Paulos, 2008), or to provide them with tools for reflection
on the impacts of their practices (e.g. Bernheim-Brush et al, 2004). Observing that we need to
think about sustainability also as a process of political mobilization, I have suggested that we can
draw too on a different set of technologies – the social networking technologies familiar from
Web 2.0 applications – as a means to connect people not only to environments and to actions but
to other people; and, moreover, to do this in a way that helps them to see their way through the
central questions around which political action might be initiated. The new goal of pervasive
technology here, then, is to promote a form of strategic essentialism that is part of this process.
4. Acknowledgements
This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under awards 0205724,
0527729, 0524033, and 0712890.
5. References
Bernheim-Brush, A.J., Combs-Turner, T., Smith, M., and Gupta, N. 2004. Scanning Objects in
the Wild: Assessing an Object-Triggered Information System. Proc. Intl Conf. Ubiquitous
Computing Ubicomp 2004 (Nottingham, England).
Cronon, W. 1995. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. Norton.
Fogg, B.J. 2003. Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.
Morgan Kaufman.
Lin, J., Mamykina, L., Lindtner, S., Delajoux, G., and Strub, H. 2006. Fish’n’Steps: Encouraging
Physical Activity with an Interactive Computer Game. Proc. Intl. Conf. Ubiquitous Computing
Ubicomp 2006 (Orange County, CA), 261-278.
Paulos, E. 2008. Citizen Science: Enabling Participatory Urbanism. In Foth, M. (ed), Urban
Informatics: Community Integration and Implementation.
Proctor, J. 1998. The Social Construction of Nature: Relativist Accusations, Pragmatist and
Critical Realist Responses. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 88(3), 352-376.
Snow, D., Ruchford, B., Worden, S., and Benford, R. 1986. Frame Alignment Processes,
Micromobilization, and Movement Participation. American Sociological Review, 51, 464-481.
Spivak, G. 1987. In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics. Taylor and Francis.
Stoler, A. 1989. Rethinking Colonial Categories: European Communities and the Boundaries of
Rule. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 31, 134-161.
Tsing, A. 2004. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press.
Bio Statement: Paul Dourish is a Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of
Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine, with courtesy appointments in Computer
Science and Anthropology. He teaches in the Informatics program and in the interdisciplinary
graduate program in Arts Computation and Engineering (ACE). In 2008, he was elected to the
CHI Academy.
Motivation for attending: I’d like to understand the ways in which environmental questions act as
a nexus for technological, social, and cultural considerations, and are likely to develop over the
next few years.
Understanding motivation and enabling action towards
Penny Hagen, Duncan Underwood1
Social Technologies can be platforms for change as they facilitate actions and act as spaces
for conversation and the dissemination of information. In this workshop paper we explore the
concept of motivation in relation to our practice as technology designers. We are specifically
interested in what motivates people to take action, and how we can support that as technology
We frame our conversation about motivation, technology, and action towards sustainability
by exploring two aspects of our design practice. The first aspect focuses on design research
and using participatory methods such as Mobile Diaries to understand what motivates people
to be involved, to take action, to contribute. The second aspect is the design of technologies,
channels or tools that enable people to act upon their motivations effectively. We provide
examples of this through case studies of our work.
1. Digital Eskimo and our stakeholders
Digital Eskimo is a design agency with a commitment to working on projects we consider to
be progressing humanity towards a nurturing (more than sustainable) way of being. To
achieve this we practice ‘Considered Design’. This definition covers a number of aspects of
how we approach our design and underlying company philosophy.
It means we are ethics and values driven. The act of doing design is meaningful to us, over
and above the notion of monetary profit. Our practice is grounded in, and informed by the
principles of sustainability. We think that change is produced collectively, created through
action, experience and sharing knowledge. And we think design can make a difference.
Our clients are equally invested in social change and are often activists themselves, existing to
promote or facilitate environmental or social causes. Many of our clients are non-government
organisations and workers unions. Similarly the stakeholders, users or community members
that we are designing for are also (often) interested in change - seeking action or ways to
complete action. Our work talks to their motivations and interests. Some of our work focuses
on creating and growing existing communities over time, some of our work focuses on
1 Digital Eskimo, Level 4, 16 Foster Street, Surry Hills NSW Australia
capturing focused action one time, on a large scale. Our work is underwritten by an approach
to design that focuses on understanding what motivates people to take action or be part of a
community towards change.
While our core work is manifest in online technologies, it increasingly takes the form of more
integrated services across multiple delivery systems, overlapping with ubiquitous and
pervasive systems. Through the workshop we hope to explore how our approach to design can
be applicable to pervasive systems, and contribute to expanding discourse on how we as
designers we can build pervasive technologies that support or motivate sustainable living
2. An approach to design
Our work is guided by the traditions of Participatory Design [2][7], in that we recognize the
expertise of the users and stakeholders, what Sanders calls a Participatory Mindset [6]. For
these reasons we select research methods based on their ability to immerse the design team in
the world of our stakeholders, methods that facilitate a collaborative relationship with clients
and aim to enable all stakeholders to be appropriately represented in the design. We use
participatory methods such as workshops and collaborative brainstorming and we build
collective personas and scenarios with our stakeholders [3]. While we continue to employ a
range of researcher driven methods such as interviews, focus groups, surveys and
questionnaires we embrace methods that are more designerly (e.g. [1]) participatory (e.g. [8])
and interventionist (e.g. [5]) such as Mobile Diaries [4].
In this paper we briefly present three diverse “social technology” case studies where actions
or discourse are facilitated through technology. The first is a Design Research case study
using technology to understand underlying attitudes to sustainability as well as ways to
support corresponding actions. The second and third, an Integrated Campaign and an Online
Campaign site respectively both aim to motivate and facilitate change by using technology to
amplify individual actions on a collective platform, albeit in quite different ways.
3. Case studies
3.1 WWF Human Habitat Diaries (Design Research Project)
Digital Eskimo conducted a research project with five participants over a two week period.
Each was selected from one of the different demographic groups likely to interact with
WWF's FutureMakers project. The intention was to provide a window into the lives of
participants, a way for them to share their world with us, and their perspective on it. This
research was to inform the design of online tools that enabled and encouraged such sharing
between people on an ongoing basis.
Participants were prompted to reflect their environment and daily lives from a sustainability
perspective and were invited to implement one of eight measures that would reduce their
negative impacts on the environment. Participants used Mobile Diaries which include camera
phones, low resolution video cameras, maps and notebooks to record their daily experiences
at work and at home. SMS’s and images with audio annotations were sent from the phone to
personal Habitat Diaries (password protected blogsites) assigned to each participant that could
be accessed by the participants and the designers/researchers. The notebooks, video cameras
and maps were mailed back to us at the conclusion of the study. Combined, they enabled us to
develop a rich picture of the participants’ lives, habits, and attitudes to sustainability. The data
gathered enabled us to understand the participants motivations around issues of sustainability,
the obstacles motivated people faced in making change, as well as identify when and why
they might be motivated to participate in an online community focused on supporting change.
3.2 David Hicks – Amnesty International Australia (Design Case Study)
In this case study Digital Eskimo was asked to develop an online facility to promote a project
of Amnesty International Australia (AIA), raising awareness of the issue of David Hicks’
imprisonment without trial in Guantanamo Bay.
AIA had built a full sized replica of the cell David Hicks lived in and the public were invited
to spend a small amount of time in the cell alone to consider David’s experience in
Guantanamo Bay and the broader issue of his ongoing imprisonment. We saw an opportunity
to use the online space to show and share people’s reaction to their time in the cell as well as
their attitude on the issue by placing a webcam in the cell that enabled visitors to record a 30
second message to camera that was then syndicated to one or more websites. The
corresponding website enabled people who could not access the cell to understand a little of
the experience, at the same time by broadcasting these messages we affected a far broader
audience than would have originally have been reached.
Digital Eskimo’s response to this opportunity promoted the tour of the cell and communicated
AIA’s campaign objectives. But furthermore it allowed people to act upon their motivation to
do something about these issues: voice their opinion on the issues of David Hicks’ detention
and the imprisonment of terror suspects without trial; to hear the opinions and responses of
others to their experience in the cell; and to share their own views among their networks.
3.3 ACTU Your Rights at Work campaign site
The website is the hub of the ACTU’s 150000 member campaign against the unpopular
WorkChoices legislation. Our team designed the site with an emphasis on informing workers
and inspiring specific targeted action.
The site delivers the ACTU’s information in a simple and effective style, as well as telling the
stories of workers who have been affected by the WorkChoices legislation. Primarily however
the site is a campaigning tool that was designed to deliver single strong calls to action that can
be updated by the ACTU at a moments notice.
This tool allowed the ACTU to easily and quickly communicate to their member base. It
enabled motivated people to undertake a collective action and to easily promote such action to
their friends and networks, amplifying the call to act and directing such activity in order to
maximize its effect.
4.0 Conclusion
Digital Eskimo is a design agency that utilizes social technologies to promote and progress a
nurturing (more than sustainable) way of life. Key to our own motivation within our projects
is that we share the goals of our clients. Key to achieving successful design outcomes is
developing a richer understanding of the motivations of each project’s stakeholders and our
ability to design technologies that encourage and enable people to act upon these motivations;
connecting, sharing knowledge and working together to create change towards a nurturing /
sustainable life.
5.0 Biography
5.1 Penny Hagen
Penny Hagen is the Executive Producer at Digital Eskimo. Prior to joining Digital Eskimo
Penny spent 10 years freelancing as a producer, designer and trainer specializing in
interactive media and community projects in Sydney and New Zealand. Penny has also
worked as a researcher for UTS’s Interaction Design Lab investigating mobile technology use
and conducting research into social software and participatory design methods. Underlying
her approach to technology design is a commitment to creating communication tools that
acknowledge the emergent nature of social networks and encouraging appropriation by the
people that use them.
5.2 Duncan Underwood
Duncan Underwood is the Sustainable Development Manager at Digital Eskimo. Duncan
graduated with a Bachelor of Design (Industrial) from UTS in 1997 and is currently enrolled
in Master of Social Science (International Urban and Environmental Management) at RMIT.
Before Digital Eskimo, Duncan worked in business development at Clean Up Australia.
6.0 Bibliography
[1] GAVER, B., DUNNE, T. & PACENTI, E. (1999) Design: Cultural Probes.
Interactions, 21-29
[2] GREENBAUM, J. & KYNG, M. (Eds.) (1991) Design at Work: Cooperative Design
of Computer Systems, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associated.
[3] HAGEN, P. & GRAVINA, D., Sharing through Artefacts: client-user centred design.
Ozchi. Sydney, ACM, 2006
[4] HAGEN, P., ROBERTSON, T. & GRAVINA, D. (2007) Engaging with stakeholders:
Mobile Diaries for social design. DUX. Chicago, USA, ACM.
[5] PAULOS, E. and JENKINS, T. Urban probes: encountering our emerging
urban atmospheres. ACM Press, Portland, Oregon, USA, 2005
[6] SANDERS, E. B.-N. (2006). Design Research in 2006. Design Research Quarterly, 1.
[7] SCHULER, D. & NAMIOKA, A. (Eds.) Participatory Design: Principles and
Practices. NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
[8] VISSER, F. S., STAPPERS, P. J., LUGT, R. V. D. & SANDERS, E. B.-N. (2005)
Contextmapping: experiences from practice. CoDesign, 1, 119-140.
Dan Hill & Duncan Wilson
Abstract: Our work has two main components - one part practical, the other theoretical - though
both are related, and have developed in discussion. They both concern the measurement and
feedback of energy usage in buildings, and then cities, in order to enable users to change their
behaviour - to in effect, ‘tune’ their environment. The work is intended to raise important questions
about the efficacy of such schemes, outline the potential of systems when stretched over urban and
social networks, to speculate about the future of information as part of the fabric of buildings, and
to make some practical considerations clear along the way.
1: Tuning 13 Fitzroy Street
The first part of the work concerns research and development work led by Arup’s Dr. Duncan
Wilson, deploying wireless sensor networks in the new Arup building at 13 Fitzroy Street, London.
This is predicated on the emerging understanding that occupation of a commercial building
typically costs more than 200 times the initial capital cost of construction and that ~40% of final
energy consumption in the European Community is in the buildings sector. In addition governments
are pushing regulatory frameworks to reduce the energy impact of such running costs [1]. Within
the UK, energy used in buildings accounts for some 50 per cent of the country’s carbon dioxide
Thus the ability to moderate the use of energy in buildings can have a significant impact on the
overall efficiency of the built stock. Changes to the design and construction of new buildings is
leading to significant improvements in building efficiency but the majority of the built stock is
comprised of older buildings with limited potential for passive energy saving. The Living Buildings
initiative [2] at Arup is one example of our sustainability activities working towards the
consequences of the context above. At a macro level we are also working at a city scale on projects
such as Dongtan eco-city in China [3]. But what are the opportunities for pervasive computing?
We have been exploring the use of ubiquitous or pervasive computing technology based around
wireless sensor network (WSN) platforms to gain improved understanding of real-time operation of
buildings and to allow greater environmental control of existing buildings that do not have the
installed infrastructure to actively control energy consumption.
The first small steps have been to deploy WSN's in the office environment to investigate both
energy consumption of the building and the comfort of the space [4]. Various quantitative and
qualitative measures are being taken and fed back in real-time to occupants of the space (not just
building / facility managers). At the newly built Fitzroy Street building, the two main sensor
network development platforms used were Crossbow and Arduino. Motes have been deployed
throughout the building (and in a related study at Central Saint Martins college in London),
connecting over Bluetooth IEEE 802.15 and sensing occupancy levels (via Passive InfraRed
sensors) combined with performance data from the building management system. The Bricks
Framework is used to fuse data together, and provide the base for dynamic visualisations, sound
installations and interactive devices.
We’ll discuss various methods for conveying information back to users, and the many issues
therein. As it stands, the system is producing data across all axes and various visualisation methods
are being designed for a number of locations within the building.
Ultimately, this work at the level of buildings may provide an opportunity to start doing city wide
monitoring of the pre- and post-occupancy performance of sustainable buildings. This pervasive
data collection from very large sensor populations could be integrated to support control and
optimisation at this scale. City information modelling systems are beginning to emerge,
extrapolating from Arup’s work with building informational modelling (BIM), and this provides a
unique opportunity for post construction analysis and validation.
2: The Personal Well-Tempered Environment
Developed by Dan Hill, this section continues the themes covered thus far, extrapolating the
potential for such schemes when stretched across urban and social networks. It’s an imagined
system at this point [5], a real-time dashboard for buildings, neighbourhoods, and the city, focused
on conveying the energy flow in and out of spaces, centred around the behaviour of individuals and
groups within buildings.
In this, it becomes a form of 'BIM 2.0' that gives users of buildings both the real-time and
longitudinal information they need to help change their behaviour and thus use buildings, and
energy, more effectively. It would be an ongoing post-occupancy evaluation for the building, the
neighbourhood and the city. Importantly, it proposes measuring contribution as well as
consumption, through sensors embedded into localised wind and solar power, grey-water collection,
and so on. Further, it explores the idea of measuring behaviour across wider circuits, such as an
individual’s movement through the city (scoring ‘points’ for public transport versus private
transport, monitoring environmental usage in office environments, and so on.)
Suggested as a software service layer for connecting things together within and across buildings, it
would take a ‘plug-in’ approach to connecting energy sources and resources, drawing from
architectural theory of Archigram and Cedric Price amongst others. Multi-sensory feedback is a
particular theme in the suggested interface, exploring different ways of conveying this information.
The work is based on a survey of existing energy monitoring schemes and products in this area,
collated and discussed online. Over and above this, it folds in some ideas from social software,
particularly the reflexive mode produced by systems such as Last FM, Flickr, Dopplr, Nike+ and so
on, and wraps these up with the aforementioned architectural theory as well as making connections
to newer concepts like Bruce Sterling’s spimes and everyday product design.
Drawing from this recent history of social software, the proposal describes various ways in which
an ‘open’ approach to data, allied with social networks, may enable a socialising of the data, or
even a ‘gaming’ element - in which individuals, suburbs, neighbourhoods and cities can compare
their environmental performance. This latter aspect is an attempt to make the civic relationship
between an individual and their environment clear, thus addressing a key issue in the emerging
informational city. Taking the conceptual starting point of an API on a house, the idea suggests
extending this to the API on the neighbourhood, even the city itself. Making the effects of
informational behaviour visible on the street in turn asks further questions about how to perceive
and communicate the emerging informational aspects of the contemporary city, a theme
increasingly fundamental to urban planning.
Though initial investigations elsewhere suggest that feedback on energy use can help change
behaviour [6], questions will be asked of the efficacy of such ‘persuasive visualisation’, as part of a
critical assessment of whether such systems can truly have a beneficial effect in terms of ‘tuning the
environment’, or whether the real problems lie elsewhere.
The connection to the aforementioned Arup projects will be made clear, seeing the Personal Well-
Tempered Environment as an example of Arup’s approach of ‘total design’ - a multidisciplinary
framework for building - and discussing how information itself can increasingly be thought of a
material within building. With a holistic approach, it makes sense to consider information as part of
the built fabric, just as with glass, steel, ETFE etc. The Well-Tempered ideas will begin to inform
Arup’s work on the ground, and vice versa, thus creating a constructive relationship between
imagined informational architectures and pragmatic, deployed engineering.
Motivation for participating in the workshop
This workshop provides an opportunity to extend the thinking around our projects so far, testing the
ideas against related work and discussing with others working in this field, subsequently wrapping
the findings back into practical work through our projects and research at Arup.
As part of the Foresight Innovation and Incubation team at Arup, Dr. Duncan Wilson ( is
responsible for researching medium and long term futures with a focus on social and technology factors. He develops
foresight and innovation capability within Arup, co-created the Drivers of Change concept, and programme manages a
series of workshops on the future of the built environment. He was Principal Investigator on a Euro 1.4 million two year
research project (DTI technology programme) applying wireless sensor networks in the built environment, is a partner
in the European Union SENSEI project looking at networks of wireless sensor networks and is leading an internal
research project on the implications of ubiquitous computing for Arup. His research merges interests in sensing and
monitoring and creating interactive, ambient displays that solicit and feedback information with the intent of
influencing behaviour. Duncan is a Chartered Engineer (IET), has a PhD from University College London in Artificial
Intelligence and Machine Vision and blogs at
NB: The work at Arup is supported by two UK national programmes (DTI/TSB Technology Programme)
Dan Hill ( has been working at the forefront of innovative information technology since the
early '90s, and is responsible for many innovative, popular and critically acclaimed products and services He was Head
of Interactive Technology & Design at the BBC in London for 5 years, before launching the critically-acclaimed
international magazine Monocle during 2007, responsible for its digital services. He recently joined Arup as a Senior
Consultant in their planning group, working with urban informatics. During 2007, Hill co-organised the Postopolis!
architecture and urbanism exhibition/conference in New York City, and has a background in academic research and
teaching in urban regeneration and urban informatics. His weblog City of Sound ( is
generally considered to be amongst the foremost architecture and urbanism sites, recently voted by Planetizen as one of
the ten best planning, design, and development sites for 2008 (
[1] For example, the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive,
[4] FANGER, P.O. Thermal Comfort. Analysis and applications in environmental engineering. McGraw Hill.
[5], with video at
[6] Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the Energy Department, 2008
Omar Khan and John Canny
Berkeley Institute of Design, Computer Science Division,
University of California, Berkeley, USA
{omar, jfc}
We argue that social marketing, a strategy that uses techniques from corporate marketing to
influence the behavior of target audiences, is a useful framework for thinking about motivating
people to enact environmentally sustainable behaviors. We critically examine some pervasive green
applications through the lens of social marketing and discuss how we might study various
persuasive factors encouraged by social marketers in these domains and in our own research.
1. Introduction
Social marketing uses tools from corporate marketing to influence the behavior of target audiences
[1, 6]. Kotler and Zaltman, reflecting on successful marketing campaigns for products like soap,
observed that some principles might translate to selling social causes. In the ensuing 35 years,
social marketing has become particularly widely accepted in the public health domain, where it has
been successfully used to influence behaviors concerning drunk driving and childhood obesity, for
example. In this paper, we suggest using principles from social marketing to enhance persuasive
technologies and help focus them on changing behaviors, and not just raising awareness.
2. Social Marketing: Setting the Stage
In his recent text [1], Andreasan describes a set of concepts, many from corporate marketing, that
make the social marketing process effective. While social marketers emphasize the importance of
considering the factors listed below, the degree of effectiveness of some of these factors has not
been carefully studied. To that extent, one important research contribution will be the study of the
effectiveness of these factors in the area of encouraging environmentally sustainable behaviors.
Benefits and Costs
Like obtaining a product, when an individual chooses to enact a certain behavior, they must pay
some cost, and hopefully acquire some benefits. The social marketer's challenge is to sell the
benefits while minimizing the costs. Related to this is how the benefits are presented. Research
shows that the order in which requests of individuals are made can have a significant effect on
engagement behavior [7]. In addition, the method of presentation can be very important [10].
Other People
Robert Cialdini has shown that 1) when deciding on a behavior to enact, people are strongly
influenced by knowing what others are doing and 2) in certain situations, people report that they do
not think they will be strongly influenced by others, but in fact these same people appear to be most
strongly influenced by what others are doing [2]. This perhaps surprising result means that social
influence can be particularly powerful because people do not guard themselves against such
Self-Assurance (or Self-Efficacy)
Even if benefits, costs and other people are aligned in favor of an individual enacting a certain
behavior, that individual may still not act. One reason is that they may believe they cannot enact the
behavior. This is where we must provide support mechanisms like support groups (e.g. Alcoholics
Anonymous) and skills training [13].
Segmentation and Identity
Because of large variability in target audiences, it is unlikely that treating the audience as one large,
coherent market will be successful, and thus we should perform market segmentation. Identity-
based marketing is related to this idea. Controlled studies have shown that if individuals with a
relevant identity (say they are "green" individuals) that is primed (the individual is given content
that surfaces "green" thoughts) are then much more likely to purchase a product related to that
identity when compared to green individuals who were not primed [11].
3. Pervasive Green Applications through the Social Marketing Lens
3.1. Highly Sensed Virtual Environments
Green social networking site applications have been discussed in the literature [8] and appear
online. One popular green application on Facebook is called "I Am Green" [4]. Users provide the
application with a list of their green behaviors. Each green behaviors gets you a leaf, and you are
compared to your other friends who have also installed the application. As a leaf collecting
competition, it may be effective, but it is unclear if it is actually effective at advocating and
motivating users to enact environmentally sustainable behaviors.
Consider the profile view of the "I Am Green" application in Figure 1. What is most prominent is
the number of leaves the friends have, not the behaviors they enact. To leverage social influence,
the application could instead say "4 of your friends recycle, even when it is not convenient." If four
of my friends do it, based on Cialdini's work, we can hypothesize that we are already more likely to
enact that behavior. Furthermore, I could click on the behavior and learn more about it, like its
benefits and costs. Similarly, popular behaviors could be advertised.
Finally, recall the social marketer's emphasis on audience segmentation. Social networking sites
provide such detailed information about individuals and their social network that creating audience
segments of size one is possible. Indeed, we hypothesize that presenting users with recommended
behaviors based on collaborative filtering instead of the most popular behaviors will lead to
increased adoption of the recommended behaviors.
Figure 1: Screenshot from the I Am Green Facebook application
3.2. Dormitory Energy Competition at Oberlin College
On the Oberlin campus in 2005, an energy saving competition was run between dormitories [9].
The dormitories that saved the most energy, over a certain period, would win a prize. Building on
the well documented effect of providing energy consumption feedback to reduce future
consumption [3], the researchers provided one group of dormitories with real-time consumption
information they could view on the Internet (see Figure 2 below for a particular residence, Kade
Hall), or on an interactive display in the lobby of the building. Dorms engaged in the competition
using these advanced monitoring systems saw significant energy reduction, over and above those
dorms that did not have such detailed monitoring technology. However, examination of energy
consumption patterns after the end of the competition suggests that the numbers have returned to
near their original, pre-competition baseline [5]. From a social marketing perspective, this is not
surprising. One of the primary benefits offered to students in the dorms was the potential to win the
competition. When the competition is discontinued, both the benefit of having a prize, and the
benefit of friendly competition, disappear, and what's left is the somewhat intangible benefit of
reducing the campus' electricity consumption and maybe indirectly helping the planet. This is one
hypothesis for the return to the baseline. We could examine the benefits hypothesis in future
competition by redesigning the benefits to be seen as continually useful. Another possibility is to
ensure the benefits remain for a long enough period so that individuals internalize their behaviors.
Such work has been done in residential settings.
4. Our Work
We intend to study the effectiveness at reducing consumption of the social marketing concepts
outlined above, and game-like mechanisms (e.g. competition, scoring points) as demonstrated in the
Dorm Energy Competition. First, we can perform basic experiments in a laboratory setting to study
the impact of different social marketing factors incorporated in technologies on behavioral change
(as in [2, 7, 10]). In the field, we hope to study these factors in two domains:
4.1 Highly Sensed Virtual Environments
In an online social networking environment, we will build an application that promotes
environmentally sustainable behaviors. The application may be similar to the "I Am Green"
application, in that users must select behaviors that they enact. Concretely, we would then
manipulate the persuasive factors mentioned above for different groups, and monitor the uptake of
behaviors. Here are some of the persuasive factors we may study:
Social Influence: since the application sits on top of a social network, we can leverage information
about friends. We can present performance information about friends, make comparisons between
individuals and their friends
Game Mechanisms (scoring, competition): behavior choices might be translated to a score (like
leaves in "I Am Green") and can be billed as a competition amongst participating individuals
4.2 Reducing Individual Energy Consumption in Office Spaces
Office buildings consume a huge proportion of energy in most countries. Lighting and electronics
usage by individuals is a significant component of office building energy consumption. We are
building a dashboard display for an office space. Based on survey work by the Center for the Built
Environment at Berkeley, often office occupants feel they have very little control over energy
consumption in their space. Thus, one experiment we may run is between visual displays that only
display consumption information, and those that display consumption information and promote
appropriate behaviors for changing consumption in the space.
Game mechanisms may also be effective in this domain. A study [12] showed that competition
between office spaces yielded increased reductions when compared to spaces that did not compete.
5. About the Authors
Omar Khan is a 3rd year PhD student studying human computer interaction. He is trying to persuade
individuals to enact environmentally sustainable behaviors. John Canny is the Paul and Stacy
Jacobs Distinguished Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Computer Science. His research
interests include activity-oriented design and educational and persuasive information systems.
6. References
[1] ANDREASEN, A.R., Social Marketing in the 21st Century, Sage Publications Inc, 2006.
[2] CIALDINI, R.B., “Basic Social Influence Is Underestimated,” Psychological Inquiry, vol. 16, 2005, pp. 158-161.
[3] DARBY, S., The effectiveness of feedback on energy consumption. A review for DEFRA of the literature on
metering, billing, and direct displays, University of Oxford, Environmental Change Institute. April, 2006.
[4] "I Am Green," January 2008,
[5] Lucid Design Group (private communication), 2007.
[6] P. KOTLER and G. ZALTMAN, “Social Marketing: An Approach to Planned Social Change,” Journal of
Marketing, vol. 35, 1971, pp. 3-12.
[7] W. LIU AND J. AAKER, "The Happiness of Giving: The Time-Ask Effect," To appear in the Journal of Consumer
Research, February 2008.
[8] J. MANKOFF et al., “Leveraging Social Networks To Motivate Individuals to Reduce their Ecological Footprints,”
Proceedings of the 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2007, p. 87.
[9] J.E. PETERSEN et al., “Dormitory residents reduce electricity consumption when exposed to real-time visual
feedback and incentives,” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 8, 2007, pp. 16-33.
[10] D. RAMACHANDRAN and J. CANNY, "The persuasive power of human-machine dialogue," To appear in
Proceedings of Persuasive 2008.
[11] REED, A. “Activating the self-importance of consumer selves: Exploring identity salience effects on judgments,”
Journal of consumer research, vol. 31, 2004, pp. 286-295.
[12] F. SIERO et al., “Changing Organizational Energy Consumption Behaviour Through Comparative Feedback ,”
Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 16, 1996, pp. 235-246.
[13] V.J. STRECHER and M.E. DEVELLIS, “The Role of Self-Efficacy in Achieving Health Behavior Change,”
Health Education & Behavior, vol. 13, 1986, p. 73.
Seng W. Loke,
Jugdutt Singh,
and Hai Le
We propose a technological solution to the general problem of empowering individuals to take
actions related to environment sustainability, going beyond mere reminder systems or simply
passive written guidelines. Resource-usage policies at the home, community, state or national level
will be encoded in a formal rule-based language and so, translatable to policies or goals at lower
levels of granularity.
1. Introduction
This position paper outlines a technological solution to the general problem of empowering users to
take actions related to environment sustainability, going beyond mere reminder systems or simply
passive guidelines. Our position is that such a system can make a difference. Several systems have
been proposed in the water and energy domain [1,2,5], in order to encourage prudent use of
resources based on the idea of persuasive technology [3]. More generally, the idea is to develop
systems which can autonomously
(i) quantify effects of actions and measure consequences (whenever measurable) – e.g.,
actions related to usage of resources such as water and energy, and CO2 emissions; such
quantification can be in terms of low-level activities: for example, what is the cost of
this handwash? How much of CO2 emissions will leaving this device running till I
return from dinner cost me? etc
(ii) help users be aware of such effects and consequences, and then
(iii) facilitate users adjusting their behaviour or attitude with respect to goals related to these
effects and consequences.
The goals related to resource usage or CO2 emissions may be specified as policies at different
levels, by users themselves, by the local council, the state government or even a national body. User
goals might be shaped by policies from above. A system which can automatically map a high level
national goal to goals tailored for individuals would help individuals make a difference.
Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
Center for Technology Infusion, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia (
Center for Technology Infusion, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia (
2. Architecture
Buildings blocks of technology is available for a system automating this process of taking high level
goals and helping users “digest” and be influenced by these goals in daily life. We outline the key
aspects and associated technologies of such a system, as follows:
Fine-grained metering and monitoring: ideally, devices should be available to capture
usage of resources at different outlets (e.g., for water, be able to monitor usage at different
sinks or faucets) as well as usage of the entire home or floor or building, and perhaps, with
some instrumentation, resource usage of particular individuals in the home.
The problem of labeling an instance of resource consumption (which we define as any
distinguishable action or activity employing a countable measure of resources, often, but not
necessarily, having an identifiable start and end time, e.g., opening a kitchen water faucet for
a certain period, or switching on a lamp for certain time) with its particular time, place, actor
(the user of the resource), and purpose is generally difficult though not impossible with
adequate instrumentation for the user. Traditional metering is, hence, merely confined to
units of resources used but more information about how and why resources are used will
help computer automation of resource-control, as we discuss further below.
Data processing and situation understanding: once resource usage can be tracked, one
would need to process the data from such metering, either to translate processed data into
appropriate visualization forms and various status displays to simply inform users, or more
elaborately, to trigger particular persuasion strategies to influence users’ (or consumers’)
behaviours and attitudes towards goals (which may encompass status displays, but more
than that, also other persuasive messages or actions to take (e.g., reducing water flow in a
long shower) according to persuasive techniques being employed), as we consider further
The system could also perform longer term analysis of metered data to determine usage
trends over days, weeks, months or even years. Understanding situations of use of particular
units of resources can help inform the system about what actions to take or messages to use
at that instant. There has been tremendous amount of work in sensor-based inference of
users’ context and situations [4], as well as inferring user’s current activities.
context here (with regards to water, say) include the identity of individuals, the location
where water is being used, the time in which water is being used, the activity for which the
water is being used and the urgency of the use, current water costs, user-specified cost/water
usage goals, current water levels and current policies on water restrictions, all of which
aggregates into situations of use, which can then be mapped to appropriate persuasive
strategies and messages.
For a given type of resource, models of what constitutes normal resource usage, wasteful
usage, and conservative usage will be needed. Further finer demarcations than these three
might be useful, or fuzzy categories.
Action strategizing: Given an instance of resource consumption, a system will have rules
which could map the collection of (i) metered data, (ii) usage trend knowledge, (iii)
computed effects of the resource consumed, (iv) policies (at home, community, state or
national level) and associated goals, and (v) the inferred situations of use, to actions to
regulate usage in that instance (possibly even identifying wastage or non-usage).
Actions can range from simply notifying users, i.e. displaying to users cost or water levels in
a visual form, advice on water-saving for specific tasks, various forms of reinforcement
messages, just-in-time prompts, social validation (e.g., where possible show the best water
users in the home), adaptations (according to usage history or current needs), negotiation
(e.g., to keep to a previously specified budget, the user can use more water this time but
have less to use next time), recommendations of water saving devices, to taking action on
behalf of the user (e.g., stopping water flow at certain times – if the user so authorises such
Feedback and strategy revision: there is a cycle of monitoring resource usage and
situations of use, adopting a course of action and a corresponding persuasion strategy,
following the strategy, and then adjusting or revising strategies midway depending on
detected changes in resource usage (e.g., due to users’ behavioural change). Such a cycle of
processing is akin to the paradigm of knowledge-based intelligent agents [6], which runs in
the “background”, as depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Overall system behaviour – a cycle of sensing/monitoring resource usage, reasoning about the way the
resource is used and acting
3. Conclusion
The above system is under development and we plan to build a shell in the expert systems style
which can be instantiated with different models of resource usage behaviour, persuasion strategies,
action modules, and knowledge about what actions to take in different situations, to help manage
the usage of a particular type of resource. Such a system can be interfaced to various resource
monitoring devices and displays for persuasive messages.
Resource-usage policies at the home, community, state or national level will be encoded in a formal
rule-based language and so, translatable to policies or goals at lower levels. For example, a goal for
water usage at the home level can be created based on a community policy. The system will then,
while monitoring resource usage or computing its effects (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions), adopt
various persuasion strategies and interact with the user to help meet this goal.
Thereafter, experiments with the system and usability evaluation in real settings will be done with
users. There are issues related to producing and employing the necessary monitoring equipment for
the systems we propose here, since that itself could lead to further energy consumption (which
remains to be measured), and raise concerns about privacy. It is possible to only use monitored
information for the purposes of providing advice to the user or prudent messages, but this implies
careful safeguarding of gathered context information (indeed mechanisms to allow users themselves
to regulate context information or protect privacy has been considered elsewhere, e.g., [7,8]) – not
insurmountable but possible with existing policy-based solutions. In addition, while CO2 emissions
might not be decisively quantified at this time, relative measures might be applicable and usable in
our approach. Lastly, our solution relies on prudent persuasion rather than coercion, and so, it is
possible for individuals to ignore the messages of our system – the role of our system is, hence, to
empower, encourage, and facilitate those already desiring to make some difference. While this
paper has proposed a technological solution, further social and cultural implications of our proposal
remains to be explored.
Acknowledgements. We thank anonymous referees for their valuable comments on this paper.
4. References
[1] MCCALLEY, T., KAISER, F., MIDDEN, C.J.H., KESER, M., AND TEUNISSEN, M. Persuasive appliances: Goal
priming and behavioural response to product-integrated energy feedback, PERSUASIVE 2006. LNCS 3962, New York,
Springer Verlag, pp. 45-49, 2006.
[2] BONANNI, L., ARROYO, E., LEE, C.-H., AND SELKER, T. Smart Sinks: Real-World Opportunities for Context-
Aware Interaction, in CHI 2005, pp. 1232-1235.
[3] FOGG, B.J. Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do, Morgan Kaufman
Publishers, 2003.
[4] LOKE, S.W. Context-Aware Pervasive Systems: Architectures for a New Breed of Applications,"Auerbach
Publications (CRC Press), 2007.
Towards Designing a Persuasive Agent for Energy Conservation, in de Kort et al. (eds), PERSUASIVE 2007, LNCS
4744, New York, Springer Verlay, pp. 64-67, 2007.
[6] RUSSELL, S.J. AND NORVIG, P. Artificial Intelligence: a Modern Approach: Prentice-Hall, 1995.
AVINASH VYAS, A. Enabling Context-Aware and Privacy-Conscious User Data Sharing. Proceedings of the IEEE
Intl. Conf. on Mobile Data Management (MDM 2004), 2004.
[8] HONG, J.I. An Architecture for Privacy-Sensitive Ubiquitous Computing. PhD Thesis, University of California at
Berkeley, Computer Science Division, Berkeley, 2005.
Dr. Seng Loke is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, La Trobe
University, Melbourne, Australia. He has authored and co-authored more than 170 research publications, and leads the
Pervasive Computing Group at La Trobe. Prof. J. Singh is Director of the Center for Technology Infusion, at La Trobe
University, Melbourne, Australia, and Research Professor. Dr. Hai Le is Research Fellow at the Center for Technology
Infusion, at La Trobe University. The team, recently formed, works on cost-effective computing and engineering
solutions to the important issues of environmental sustainability.
The workshop will be highly useful as a forum for interacting with experts in other fields, and in creating a
multidisciplinary understanding of the issues (and perhaps solutions) at hand.
Using persuasive technology to encourage sustainable behavior
Cees Midden, Teddy McCalley, Jaap Ham & Ruud Zaalberg
Eindhoven University of Technology
The Netherlands
In this paper sustainable consumption is conceptualized as the result of various types of interactions between
users and systems. We review attempts to promote sustainable behavior and discuss contributions by using
persuasive technology. In particular, we focus on the appraisal of climate risks and interactive approaches to
influence energy consumption in households.
1. Introduction
The impact of human activity on the natural environment has severely affected the ecosystems on earth and in
the long run might lead to serious threats to human life and civilization. The environmental impact of humans
can be roughly assessed as a function of their numbers, their affluence, and the technology they currently use
(cf. Ehrlich & Ehrlich, 1991). However, despite the fact that humans have used technology as long as they
have consumed natural resources, technology as related to environmental resource use, is often set apart from
the study of human behavior and resource conservation. This separation has hampered interventions to protect
natural resources and constrain negative environmental impacts.
Various studies have shown that a purely technological approach to reduce energy consumption often leads to
disappointing results due to changes in user behaviour, which have been described as rebound effects
(Midden, Kaiser, McCalley, 2007). Also, resistance to new systems and negative experiences, for example
due to faulty automation or lacking user friendliness, has frustrated the high hopes of innovative technologies.
On the other hand, the effects of purely behavioral approaches have been very successful neither or mixed at
best (e.g. Weenig & Midden, 1997). One of the main reasons for the lack of success is that most
communication programs targeted the intentions of users, but largely ignored the technical context in which
consumption choices actually occur. Basically, we view energy efficiency and conservation as the outcomes
of multiple interactions between technological systems and human users. It follows that interventions that aim
to influence consumption behaviour should be concentrating on guiding interactions between users and
The linkage between technology and sustainable user behavior can be described by distinguishing four roles
of technology: (1) as an intermediary, where the technology used for attaining a goal defines the ecological
impact, although often surrounded by uncertainty; (2) as an amplifier, where technology amplifies the human
potential to attain goals, but at the same time it amplifies the use of resources (3) as a determinant, where
behavior is shaped and activated on the basis of the affordances, constraints and cues provided by the
technological environment and (4) as a promoter, where technology is designed to influence behavioral
choices (Midden, Kaiser & McCalley, 2007).
Although it would be worthwhile to consider each of these roles as a perspective to design persuasive
interventions that enhance sustainable consumption, we will focus in this contribution on the fourth role of
technology, that is the role of promoter.
2. Technology as promoter of sustainable behavior
How can people be motivated to use scarce natural resources in a sustainable way? In the search for effective
interventions we ask how persuasive technology can help to overcome some traditional limitations and make
motivational strategies more powerful. We discuss this role of technology regarding two foremost challenges
that policy-makers and psychologists face in combating the major environmental risks of CO2-emissions and
climate change. First the use of media technologies is explored, to see how they can help enhance problem
awareness. Second, we focus on interventions to change behavior and the ways technology can be used to
make interventions more effective.
2.1. Using novel media to raise risk awareness
Since the 1970s, worldwide numerous mass-media campaigns have been used to raise concern for the threats
to natural eco-systems and the urgency of action. Results have often been disappointing. Among the many
issues that have been identified, attention and processing issues form an important part.
Looking at attention rates, many mass-media appear not to be used by the general public. Traditional visual
media such as television ads and video-clips have also been used to stimulate environmental awareness and
conservation behavior. However, visual media are not more motivating per se for enhancing sustainable
behavior, in spite of their easy access and less demanding processing (Weenig & Midden, 1997).
More advanced multimedia technologies may add persuasive impact to the traditional communication of
transferring symbolic information (like text or speech) by inducing direct sensory experiences like sounds,
images, scent and touch that create ’presence’, the feeling of ’being there' in a mediated environment (see for
an overview IJsselsteijn, 2004). It may allow people to better conceptualize cause-effect relationships, such as
how an urban area would look and feel like without car traffic or how the world would be after serious climate
change. More recently, significant research efforts have been directed toward investigating the relation
between ’presence’ and emotional impact (measured through, e.g., galvanic skin response or heart rate
variability), where findings are supportive of the existence of such a relation, in particular in relation to fear-
inducing media environments (Meehan, Razzaque, Whitton, & Brooks, 2003). Research in the domain of
environmental risks has convincingly demonstrated the role of affect and emotion in risk perception (e.g.,
Slovic, Finucane, Peters, & McGregor, 2004,). Some experimental evidence is available which shows that
video images with emotionally charged content stimulate attention for climate risks and coping options. The
use of intrusive images and dramatic sounds to alert people were found to enhance relevant information
processing for coping with these risks (Meijnders, Midden & Wilke, 2001).
These studies suggest a new area of inquiry in which virtual environments can be used to offer new
opportunities for technology assessment by giving people pre-experiences of future technology effects or
newly planned environments and facilities, which will go beyond verbal descriptions or abstract
representations. Ongoing work in the Netherlands focuses on the cognitive and motivational effects on coping
behavior as a result of user experiences in a virtual polder environment, which is threatened by dike collapse
(Zaalberg & Midden, in preparation).
In sum, traditional media have had limited success in promoting environmental problem awareness, but new
multimedia technologies show more promise in this endeavor by offering new opportunities for creating and
enriching sensory experiences as a route to raising awareness of future and/or distant issues, to explore cause-
effect relationships and to experience environments that are not directly observable. However, despite the
possibilities offered by multi-media technology, raising awareness will not be enough to fight climate risks
and diminish the use of natural resources. In the next section we turn to the role of technology in
accomplishing behavioral change.
2.2. Using Persuasive Technology to Promote Energy Conservation Behavior
Prior to the 1990’s, experiments using electronic devices indicated that they might contribute to the efficiency
and effectiveness of behavioral interventions, but technology just wasn’t yet smart enough in most cases to
make these devices very successful. Psychologists have as yet merely touched upon the opportunities offered
by intelligent systems to promote (energy) conservation behavior. Most early work was done on the effects of
feedback on energy consumption in the home. Studies often used simple procedures like written messages
based on daily or weekly meter readings, while some researchers used electronic displays. Electronic modes
of feedback have been proposed to solve a number of issues related to written modes. First, electronic means
could provide feedback more quickly and frequently than written feedback, even continuously, thus making
the consequences of specific behaviors better available for the consumer. Second, electronic feedback could
be given at more central locations like the living room or the kitchen. Third, electronic feedback allows for the
use of multiple standards (e.g., personal and social), reference points (e.g., financial costs per hour, the
previous day or the upcoming month) and units (e.g., $ or emitted CO2). Fourth, written feedback provided
with a high frequency has been quite effortful and costly. Automation could make the feedback process more
efficient. Fifth, instead of the usual aggregated feedback at the household level, electronic feedback could be
source-specific (e.g., the airco or the cooker), evidently creating a closer link between feedback and action
(e.g. Wood & Newborough, 2003).
In sum, electronic means have made it easy to provide highly frequent feedback, which is more effective.
Electronic devices have also facilitated feedback on specific appliances, which appeared to be more effective
than general feedback. Goal-setting, added to electronic feedback, enhanced energy savings.
Almost all interventions were designed to communicate with subjects in a one-way direction. Modern
intelligent systems enable two-way interaction between user and system, which allows for more precise
targeting of tasks and for personalization. To illustrate, interactive systems allow for the implementation of
more refined goal-setting procedures and the provision of more specific information, not only to specific
appliances but to specific tasks as well. Interactive devices are still rare in the domain of (energy)
conservation behavior. Some studies, however, illustrate the potential. The present authors observed in two
earlier studies (e.g. McCalley, 2006) energy conservation results up to 20% using washing machines with a
user interface that allowed for interactive goal-setting and outcome feedback. During a series of twenty
washing tasks, users received immediate feedback each time they made a choice for a washing program to
carry out a particular task. Subjects with either self-set or assigned goals saved more energy than subjects
without an explicit goal.
Applying intelligent agent technology that learns from the users and interactively communicates on a personal
basis could enhance the power of supportive systems. We use the term agent to refer to a piece of software
that can be considered as an autonomous creature able to perform tasks with more or less intelligence and
autonomy. It can be made visible in many ways through virtual or physical forms of embodiment (e.g.
Diesbach & Midgley, 2007). An agent system could be able to frame outcomes based on the current context or
user, or to encourage the user to make certain goals more explicit, and even make suggestions on how to act or
guide a user to a decision. In this role, intelligent agents may become persuasive social actors, rather than
simple tools (e.g. Fogg, 2003). In a very recent study (Midden & Ham, 2008) demonstrated that social
feedback from a physically embodied agent, an iCat (Philips company), resulted in significantly more energy
conservation behavior on the same washing tasks than the factual feedback like provided in McCalley and
Midden study.
3. Conclusion
In this paper we discussed behavioral interventions on enhancing sustainability with a focus on human-
technology interactions. Four roles of technology have been suggested and the role of promoter of sustainable
behavior has been explored in greater detail. Our review reveals that persuasive technology has much to
contribute to the design of effective motivational interventions. It helps to raise awareness of future or distant
issues, such as the vast melting of polar ice, or to lower thresholds for change, for example by making it
possible to experience a building not yet constructed or to explore cause-and-effect relationships such as the
effects of ventilation on air circulation in the home. Technological assistance may go beyond the level of
specific appliances or systems and direct energy use. For example, the application of computer and robot
technologies to domestic appliances) will be able to monitor multiple sources of energy use and support home
energy management. Such systems will offer advice on saving options taking account of personal lifestyles
and will even be able to support strategic decisions like investments in equipment and home renovation.
Sustainability requires joint efforts in various social groupings (e.g. household, neighborhood). Persuasive
systems may also be able to touch this social dimension of sustainable behavior for example by coordinating
Interventions that aspire to integrate psychological with technological means form a challenging perspective.
We believe, however, this effort to be most worthwhile on the route to a society that makes sustainable use of
its natural resources.
4. References
Diesbach, P.L. & Midgley, D.F. (2007) Embodied Agents on a website: Modelling an Attitudinal Route of Influence. In: deKort, Y.
Ijsselsteijn, W., Midden, C.J.H., Eggen, B, & Fogg, B.J. Persuasive Technology,
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Fogg, B. J. (2003). Persuasive technology. Amsterdam: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
Meehan, M., Razzaque, S., Whitton, M.C., & Brooks, F.P. (2003). Effect of latency on presence in stressful virtual environments.
Proceedings of IEEE Virtual Reality 2003, Los Angeles, California, 141-148.
McCalley, L. T. (2006). From motivation and cognition theories to everyday applications and back again: The case of product-
integrated information and feedback, Energy Policy, 34, 129-137.
Meijnders, A. L., Midden, C. J. H., & Wilke, H. A. M. (2001a). Communications about environmental risks and risk reducing
behavior: The impact of fear on information processing. JASP, 31, 754-777.
Midden, C.J.H., Kaiser, F.G., and L McCalley, L.T. (2007) Technology’s Four Roles in Understanding Individuals’ Conservation of
Natural Resources. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 63, No. 1, 2007, pp. 155—174.
Midden, C.J.H. & Ham, J.R.C.(2008) The persuasive effects of positive and negative social feedback from an embodied agent on
energy conservation behavior. Unpublished manuscript. Eindhoven |University of Technology.
Slovic, P., Finucane, M.L., Peters, E., & MacGregor, D.G. (2004). Risk as analysis and risk as feelings: some thoughts about affect,
reason, risk and rationality. Risk Analysis, 24, 311-322.
Weenig, M. H., & Midden, C. J. H. (1997). Mass media information campaign and knowledge gap effects. Journal of Applied Social
Psychology, 27, 11, 945 – 958.
Wood, G., & Newborough, M. (2003). Dynamic energy-consumption indicators for domestic appliances: Environment, behaviour
and design. Energy and Buildings, 35, 821-841.
IJsselsteijn, W. (2004). Presence. Doctoral dissertation, Eindhoven University of Technology, Department of Human-Technology
Interaction, the Netherlands.
Zaalberg, R. & Midden, C.J.H. Adaptation and prevention. Real and Virtual Experiences with river flooding in the Netherlands. In
About the authors: Cees Midden is professor of Human Technology Interaction and chair of the Human-Technology Interaction group