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carolin wiedemann & SoenKe ZeHle DEPLETION DESIGN: a GloSSarY oF neTworK ecoloGieS

This publication is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial No Derivative Works 3. For more information. Additional support by the Saarland Ministry of Education and Culture. Saarbruecken Publisher: Institute of Network Cultures. Jan Tretschok. Carolin Wiedemann.org Design: Katja van Stiphout DTP: Margreet Riphagen Printer: ‘Print on Demand’ / First Print Edition: Blattlaus GmbH.xmlab.org This publication is available through various print on demand services. Amsterdam 2012 ISBN: 978-90-818575-1-2 Contact Institute of Network Cultures http://www. relating.0 Netherlands License. INC Publications web: http://www.org /publications .networkcultures.networkcultures. Acknowledgments: Editing is a way of engaging. and a freely downloadable pdf: http://networkcultures. Soenke Zehle. Published in cooperation with xm:lab. reading. http://depletiondesign.Theory on Demand #8 Depletion Design: A Glossary of Network Ecologies Editorial support: Ned Rossiter.org/theoryondemand. We thank all contributors for their generosity as well as Guillaume le Denmat (translation) and Julian Kuecklich (inspiration).

the predominant model of human beings in the behavioral sciences was computational and economic. biases and weaknesses that bound our rationality.DEPLETION DESIGN 115 PErSuaSIvE DESIGN SebaSTian deTerdinG A Winston Churchill quote popular among designers has it that “We shape our buildings. motivational design. J. the use of computer technology to change attitudes or behaviors. Arguably the most influential thrust in this direction has been made by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. predictable) cognitive heuristics. In parallel. US president Barack Obama appointed Cass Sunstein as head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The approach is integrative at best and eclectic at worst. But marketing. value-sensitive and incentive-centered design in HCI. broad swathes of social. the notion of persuasive design gained momentum only in the first decade of the 21st century. Upon his initial inauguration in 2008. health communication and persuasion research. propelled by two major movements. Behavioral economics originally began as a somewhat rogue movement in economics that described how empirical economic behavior often deviated from the ideal model of homo oeconomicus. The 2010 UK coalition government set up a ‘Behavioral Insight Team’ within the Cabinet Office. environmental and consumer psychology in specific. sustainable and critical design. colloquially called the ‘nudge unit’. product and interaction designers increasingly subscribe to the idea that ‘behavior is our medium’ (Robert Fabricant). One is persuasive technology. This notion has gathered considerable traction in the Anglo-American political sphere. Fogg in his 2003 book of the same title. During the second half of the 20th century. governments should ‘nudge’ citizens with a ‘choice architecture’ informed by behavioral economics. Persuasive design turns this observation into a strategy: designing artifacts to steer user behavior in an intended direction. persuasive technology is today a distinct and active branch of human-computer interaction (HCI). design. and public policy soon began to read its descriptive models as prescriptive advice. and explained this deviance with certain systematic (and hence. trying to distill design methods and patterns from a vast field of disciplines: persuasive technology. ‘organizing the context in which people make decisions’. broadly speaking. Underneath this apparent diversity. humans were conceptualized as highly independent computers that rationally processed information and then formulated and executed plans which maximized . (neuro)marketing and behavioral economics. and look to the behavioral sciences for guidance in shaping it. sociological analyses of social networks. rhetorics – and the list is far from complete. persuasive design is united by several shifts in focus if not philosophy: • from the rational actor to the social animal. motivational and clinical psychology. Although the practice and study of influencing people reaches back at least to ancient rhetorics (or the Garden of Eden). Coined and popularized by psychologist B. but always applied. The second movement energizing persuasive design is behavioral economics. Their book Nudge argues that instead of strong regulation. thereafter they shape us”.

then ‘undesired’ behaviors are due either to lacking information or misaligned incentives. all kinds of ‘smart meters’ that allow the tracking of household energy use to detect specifically energy-intensive habits and devices. ideally at a point where the user can directly change his or her behavior in response. or car dashboards that visualize the environmental friendliness of the current driving style. Next to health.g. For instance. environmental behaviors are the predominant field of application of persuasive design. but emotion. social influence. Design for Sustainable Behavior The connection between persuasive design and ecopolitics is readily apparent. display and dynamically respond to user behavior in a fashion unthinkable with analog media or products. the ‘noble ends’ of sustainability arguably helped legitimize the study and practice of persuasion as socially acceptable. it is estimated that 1. (Indeed. attitudes. (un)train habits. In slightly more forceful applications. • from communication to design. sensual meters installed in water faucets that signal water usage. digital technologies make it possible to track. quantitative or more ambient. habits. persuasive design usually targets behavior directly. If behavior results from cognition driven by self-interest maximization. mindfulness.27 TWh of electricity are wasted each year in the UK alone simply because people overfill water kettles .) The usual reasoning here is that small changes in everyday behavior multiplied by a large population equal a substantial environmental impact.enough energy to run all street lighting in the country. such feedback is laden with emotional appeals or social influence: it is given in the shape of animated faces. analyze. habit. or willpower. and the environment. the goal of most traditional interventions was to change these. and the material environment. intentions. As behavior was traditionally understood to be a direct consequence of rational cognition – beliefs. thus. or robots that express happiness . utilize social signaling. However. The research persuasive design builds on explains this ‘intention-behavior gap’ with the power of cognitive biases. characters. traditional interventions were either communicating information (e. emotions. it still shows a strong predilection for it: Thanks to their interactivity and increasing ubiquity. Although persuasive design extends beyond digital technology. and design the environment to afford desired and constrain undesired behaviors directly. then the best way to change behavior is to appeal to emotion.g. or don’t follow through on their intentions. • from analog to digital. To give some concrete examples: By far the most gentle (and frequent) strategy in the field has been ‘eco-feedback technology’ that makes the ecological impact of a behavior visible. Examples include power cords that glow while in use to remind users of the energy consumption of appliances in stand-by mode. In contrast. • from cognition to behavior. Yet if cognition is not the issue. public awareness campaigns) or changing economic incentives through regulation (e. and intentions –. arguably sometimes ‘over-correcting’ by outright ignoring the relevance of beliefs.116 theory on demand their material (or genetic) self-interest. this model faced the serious question why people often act against their self-interest and better knowledge. social influence. taxes and subsidies).

Kurt Lewin. STS analyses differ from persuasive design in one important regard. The Ethical Subconscious From the beginning. perceptions. or toilets that automatically cap the amount of water per flushing. ‘scripts’ (Akrich). e. B=f(P. In contrast. It also sits at the core of the political philosophy Sunstein and Thaler offer to legitimize choice architecture. or by preventing undesired behaviors. namely ‘libertarian paternalism’: One should preserve individuals’ freedom to choose. persuasive design is deemed ethical if it refrains from falsehood and coercion and is fully disclosed and agreed to by users. Apart from judging what counts as coercion or proper freedom to choose. thoughts. persuasive design can only ever design for a behavior. persuasive design has been accompanied by a strong ethical discourse.E). it provides a good philosophical Rorschach test: Persuasive design proponents tend to emphasize the second part of the equation. . only for an experience. and paying close empirical attention to the complexities of situated action. Yet despite their similarities. or users’ behavior is publically displayed. ‘technical code’ (Feenberg). STS have long abandoned determinist views in favor of understanding artifacts and social uses as co-evolving. The latter shows a tendency towards a ‘design determinism’ that fails to fully acknowledge both the agency of the user and the context-dependency of usage. as judged by themselves’. These analyses go by many names‚ including ‘politics of artifacts’ (Winner). users are provided with information how their behavior compares to that of their community or friends. norms. the equation states that behavior is a function of the person and its environment. Their unifying insight is well-summarized in Bruno Latour’s dictum that ‘technology is society made durable’. like presetting the most energy-efficient mode of a washing machine. In this. This arguably reflects the moral intuitions of most people towards persuasive design – that it potentially impinges on the freedom of users. Another way to frame this difference is to look at ‘Lewin’s Equation’. the only ethical dilemma in this framing is that any scholarly or practical advance of ethical persuasive design can afterwards be used by unethical agents. Just as user experience designers have begun to acknowledge that one cannot ‘design an experience’. Only few foreground the dynamic relation of both expressed in the function. and ‘code as law’ (Lessig). environment. Forced portioning or limits are other examples. The guiding principle throughout most arguments has been that of ‘informed consent’. which proponents of persuasive design sometimes appeal to as an important forerunner. ‘inscriptions’ (Latour). Coined by the ‘father of social psychology’. Defaults are an obvious example.DEPLETION DESIGN 117 or sadness in reaction to users’ behavior. Beyond ‘Design Determinism’ Shaping user behavior by way of designing artifacts puts persuasive design in close neighbourhood with analyses in Science and Technology Studies (STS) of how (digital) artifacts play an active role in regulating and reproducing behaviors. but influence their choices ‘in a way that will make the choosers better off. smaller dustbins encouraging less waste production (since they create the effort of taking the rubbish out more often). and values.g. person. The most forceful strategies directly affect behavior by making a desired behavior easier to perform. whereas humanists might lean to the first half.

Amsterdam et al. 2010. Windsor: Equifine. or is it cosmetics that distract from the root cause of sprawling cities that necessitate commuting in the first place? In summary. it draws attention and energy away from more systemic questions: Is everyone driving a bit more fuel-efficiently really the issue.). technology. In doing so. health effects). David and Stanton. each artifact manifests at least an implicit consent to a certain vision of what constitutes ‘the good life’. J. 1991. 2010.1. Fogg. Behaviour is our medium. Proceedings of CHI’10. Likewise. http://vimeo. it structures the very possibility space of ethics. Just as we cannot not communicate. Secondly. Froehlich. every artefact shapes behavior and experiences.J. There is no ‘innocent’ design. London: Routledge. A sociology of monsters: Essays on power. Design with Intent: 101 Patterns for Influencing Behaviour Through Design v. as part of the lifeworld in which moral deliberation takes place. __. 41(3).danlockton. New York: ACM Press. At the same time. mediates our moral deliberation. to paraphrase Watzlawick. and domination (pp. and puts forward an implicit theory of social problems and social change. This ‘materialized morality’ (Verbeek) is the ethical subconscious of all design. http://www. R. B. Recommended Readings Fabricant. 2010. John and Findlater. 2009.and that can never be undone. Applied Ergonomics. Every (non)communication happens with certain intentions and structures the field of possible responses. Latour.: Morgan Kaufmann. Leah and Landay. By making it intentional and explicit. The design of eco-feedback technology. the moral dimension of this reaches far beyond issues of user autonomy. Persuasive Technology. James. By definition. to virtue ethical questions of eudaimonia – how life should be lived. As Verbeek points out. Like the snake in the Garden of Eden. ‘The Design with Intent Method: A design tool for influencing user behaviour’. pp. Keynote. Firstly. manifests values. Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. com/3730382. production and consumption (sustainability. persuasive design simply raised it to consciousness. 1999-2008. and designers are responsible for it regardless of whether they intentionally shaped it or not. persuasive design locates the problem and solution of social and environmental concerns in individual behavior. (ed. Dan and Harrison. Lockton.118 theory on demand Yet this analysis falls short in three important regards. Interaction’ 09. work conditions. Neville A. Vancouver. it doesn’t pertain to persuasive design alone. In Law. The third ethical issue is the politics and rhetorics of persuasive design itself. Technology is society made durable. pp. we cannot not influence.0. every designed artifact affords certain uses and experiences and constrains certain others. . 103-131). it seduced us to eat from the tree of knowledge . 382-392.com/dwi/Main_Page. B. which can be ethically evaluated both in intention and effect. 2003.

Implementation Science 6. . Cass R. The behaviour change wheel: A new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions. R.implementationscience. J..42. New Haven.M.DEPLETION DESIGN 119 Michie. 2005. Thaler. Verbeek. http:// www. What things do: philosophical reflections on technology. Rowson. and Happiness. University Park: Pennsylvania University Press. Wealth. M.com/content/6/1/42. and Sunstein. and design. London: Yale University Press. Peter-Paul. S. Nudge. 2011. Richards H. & West. 2008. http://nudges. van Starlen. agency.org. London: The RSA. Transforming Behaviour Change: Beyond Nudge and Neuromania. Improving Decisions About Health. 2011.