Behavior change, ambient awareness as a "here" nor "there" sense, and prototyping.
Of all design intentions, behavior change is the most difficult outcome to achieve. From the 1960s to the 1980s, scientists believed goals were the key to changing behavior. Today, we design interactions that establish goals during on-boarding processes, deploy game mechanics to “light the way” towards achieving goals, (Fig 1.) and create public displays (e.g. leaderboards) to tout goal mastery. As designers, we create the conditions to master goals and assume that behavior change will follow. In some cases, intended behaviors are changed—Foursquare now has over a billion check-ins—, in others, they are not—Aaron Lammer, founder of Longform, recently lamented the number of users clicking through to read articles on other’s sites, rather than use Longform’s “Read Later” feature. In practice, behavior change is far from prescriptive: a recent NPR story uncovered how environments shape behavior—our physical surroundings act as powerful cues to perform certain behaviors—; Weight Watchers enlists the reciprocated efforts of others—“help yourself and help others help you”—; and Sidekick lowers the barriers to exercise—“perform this simple exercise, here and now.”
In combination with our mind, our senses “give us the world.” (Tuan, 1993) Our movement through the world produces kinesthesia, which, in turn, provides a “somatic awareness of the basic dimensions of space.” Kinesthesia and touch, are a proximate senses (here); sight and hearing allows sensing at a distance (there). Foursquare produces a paradoxical sense of the world, an ambient awareness of proximity, that, unlike our other senses, is neither here, nor there. I ride my bicycle across the Queensboro Bridge when commuting to-and-from my studio. Recently, I began using Foursquare to check in during each crossing. Sometimes, I check in, am alerted that others have too, and look up from my screen to discover no one to touch (here) or see (there), yet, I am aware of their proximity. Twitter produces a similar awareness of people’s emotional state. My thesis project aims to create an ambient awareness of people’s health.
This week, I found a source of green tomatoes, documented Prototype 2 (Fig 2.), and sketched Prototype 3 (Fig 3.).
- Tuan, Yi-Fu. 1993. Passing Strange and Wonderful. Washington D.C. and Covelo, Calfornia: Island Press and Shearwater Books.