Monday, April 27, 2009

Lenses of Contact

As someone generally interested in raising awareness of "architectures of control," I've been a big fan of Dan Lockton's Design with Intent blog for a while, because it draws attention to how our experiences of consumerism and urbanism involve interactions with designed systems that reinforce particular kinds of rules. Today, at the Persuasive 2009 conference, Lockton presented part of his Design with Intent Toolkit, which outlined six possible "lenses" through which to see the design process. Given this toolkit, Lockton's work is also obviously relevant to my own interest in government persuasion around the four trends that I followed in the Virtualpolitik book: public diplomacy, social marketing, risk communication, and institutional branding, as political institutions move away from print-based media and toward computational media platforms.

Lockton began his talk with a series of behavioral contradictions that compromise energy efficiency as consumers buy energy-efficient light bulbs but leave them on all night, never explore other settings on their washers, leave water running while brushing teeth, and -- in his own country -- indulge in unnecessary overfilling of teakettles that if not wasted would provide almost enough energy to power all the street lights across the UK.

In looking at the level of "simple interaction with an everyday product," Lockton suggested a number of obvious conundrums, such as "What level do I work at?" in relation to the interface or "Whose side am I on?" in relation to ethical boundaries. As he put it, "Is it still user-centered design if we are trying to change behavior rather than accommodate it?"

To try to visualize these questions, Lockton provided three diagrams that represented 1) motivating behavior, 2) enabling behavior, and 3) constraining behavior. As an example of the motivational category of persuasion, he pointed out the presence of the EcoButton in the attendees' conference swag bags and briefly explained how the gadget worked. He also cited a number of influences on his work. For example, in explaining the role of "reduction" and "tunneling," he payed homage to B.J. Fogg, who was sitting in the second row, and he also praised the aesthetic of simplicity epitomized by John Maeda. He also displayed a number of quotations that emphasized the larger philosophical dimensions in these kinds of design activities. He noted the continuing influence of Buckminster Fuller as well, particularly in regard to making modifications in the environment to "get man moving in the right direction." (Fuller was also an important figure in Fred Turner's talk at U.C. Irvine last week.) In acknowledging influences on his thinking, Lockton wasn't afraid to air some of the potentially disturbing aspects of persuasive technologies that might actually remove options for users, which runs contrary to the principles of those like Heinz von Foerster who only want to maximize liberty through invention. As he pointed out, hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson once cynically defined technology as something that somebody wants someone to submit to, and Cory Doctorow similarly noted that no customer woke up this morning wishing to do less with his or her property. He also gave a plug for the book Nudge and the work of Richard Thayler.

Lockton then quickly reviewed the six lenses that constitute each "worldview on behavior change." They include the Persuasive lens, which includes "self-monitoring" and "kairos," the
Cognitive lens that addresses heuristics, structures of bias, and constructs of self-interest, which includes "social proof" and "framing," the Errorproofing lens, which includes "defaults" and "interlock," the Architectural lens, which includes "positioning" and "layouts," the Visual lens, which includes "prominence" and "metaphors," and finally the Security lens that less ethically seems to use components to coerce, which includes "surveillance" and "atmospherics." However, he pointed out that using classical music to drive away younger users was in practice not much different from using the smell of fresh-baked bread to draw customers in. Furthermore, in response to the constraints of the errorproofing approach, he asserted that when it came to nuclear safety or preventing medical error, few would advocate for the user's liberty.

For Lockton, these categories were often mixed, so that the same design choice could be read through multiple lenses. For example, Amazon's feature that informs users of what others who bought the same product also bought served both "social proof" and "kairos."

He then ran through a series of designed scenarios from a sign over a lightswitch reading "your bonus depends on this" to a two-color switch that seems visibly disorded when switched on. He even described a system created by a designer from the University of Chicago that dimmed lights as appliances and lights were turned on to raise awareness about excessive energy use.

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Blogger laxel said...

"the four trends that I followed in the Virtualpolitik book: public diplomacy, public diplomacy, risk communication, and institutional branding"

I haven't read the book, but I think you may have skipped one trend and duplicated another... curious to see what that fourth one is.

7:14 PM  

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