We ran our first research project workshop in Lincoln yesterday. These sessions enable our team to bring people interested in behaviour change and sustainability campaigns together to discuss the role that technology/the internet/meter data can play in increasing engagement with environmental issues. The structure of the workshop has been designed to help us get plenty of detailed quantitative and qualitative data we can use to inform the design of visualisations of energy use at Oxford. Our starting hypothesis for this work is that putting a graphic on an LCD monitor in the reception of buildings will have practically no effect on behaviour. Ten people attended the workshop, coming from Lincoln University, the City and County councils, and the Transition Town movement.
With only 10 participants our ability to generalise is of course very limited but here's some headlines:
"This visualisation would appeal to a great number of people and would probably motivate them to be more energy efficient. Unfortunately, it doesn't explain why Pete is very sad and what you specifically need to do to stop him being so sad - so although more appealing it's not so comprehensive."
"Guilt is not a good long term driver! And a polar bear is hardly relevant to most of us. Please don't develop anything like this!"
(5 (orange) is a high score e.g. very interesting, 1 (green) the opposite.)
The fact that it is common across many things (fridges, houses and appliances) is very useful. The concern is that it is overly simplistic and it is not clear how the numbers it represents were derived:
this could result in people feeling excluded, or push people into a corner. As mentioned before, the tone of the competition will be decided by the metrics it uses. It is then very important to get consensus on how people will compete.
The design exercise was interesting but we did not have enough time to get the data we really wanted. Participants were just about to start thinking at the level of detail we were after when we had to stop. Nevertheless some interesting ideas came out:
As usual the players were very quick to spot that we did not define the rules, and see that the slightest change would dramatically effect the outcome. Participants found the link between the game and running energy campaigns obvious and after a presentation by Joss on the so-called Jevons effect the conversation flowed. There was perhaps a sense that like reporting energy consumption at too high a granularity, thinking in such an abstract level was not helpful. The main thing I learn from this hour was the importance of trust. This means trust in the people delivering a campaign, the statistics they use, the motivation behind the actions. A really concrete example of the need for trust came out with the idea that energy savings should be ring-fenced and turned into something of value e.g. a student bursary. It would be a real measure of trust in the campaign that this money was kept as intended.
Another big theme for me was the role of competition. I hope I am not generalising too much but cut-throat competition is enjoyed/promoted by some people (men?) and not so much by others (women?) The idea is to use competition to drive change in a spontaneous and emergent manner, however many people picked up on the idea that
Based on the way the design exercise ran we will change the design exercise to focus on targets/game metrics.