Monthly Archives: March 2009

A city that thinks like the web

A very inspiring presentation by Marc Surman, the executive director of the Mozilla Foundation.I think he teaches a few things to designers about what open and participatory design can do…

When cities still belonged to people…

I just found this beautiful video at treehugger, taken at Barcelona in 1908 with a camera mounted on a tranvia (streecar). When cities still belonged to people…when cities were still designed for people and not just for cars…

Lights off or lights on?



Lazy Saturday afternoon and I’ve been following the EarthHour on twitter, which has already started in the other hemisphere…Impressive pictures from all around the world, with dark cities and monuments, people celebrating the Earth Hour with candles and music etc…

But looking at pictures like these from Hong Kong, I start to think that the whole Earth Hour campaign is fundamentally wrong! These images fit more to cities like the  Dark City, Gotham City in Batman, or New York in I Am Legend, where fear, terror and catastrophe prevails.

Is this the image we want to convey with sustainability? Are dark cities how we imagine our future? Why do we continue to make the same mistakes and link the environmental movement with  something that subtracts instead of adding to our lives?

There are still 2 hours remaining till the Earth Hour in the Netherlands, and I think i will leave the lights on…

Web inspiration

community activism

I am surprised from how many good websites exist on “community activism”.

Websites like pledgehammer and pledgebank, where you agree to fulfill your  pledge if only a number of people will join you. Like smoking, where people try to quit smoking together with someone else as it looks easier this way…

or weightnags which mission is clearly stated on its frontpage “Give us your info and we’ll nag you once a week until you get off of your fat ass and lose some weight.”

meetup and groupsnearyou where people just have to enter their zipcode or location, and they can find groups of their interest

or dothegreenthing and hackikea where active and creative individuals upload and share their ideas…

All these are great inspiration for bringing people together to learn about energy or start saving energy…

I am curious, would you use any of these websites?

Theory Framework

Maybe it’s too much of a detail for this blog, but still I think it’s good to mention the theory framework that guides my process as it shows the mindset of this project:

  • Constructivism, which argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences. As behavior is open to change through learning, the importance of understanding learning processes is clear. Constructivism can contribute to energy research by highlighting the affective dimension to learning and the importance of the context within which learning happens. Changes in energy awareness and usage are more readily explained in terms of a constructivist than a behaviorist paradigm (e.g Ajzen’s).
  • Social Practices. The social practices model, derived from constructivism and offers a feasible alternative in this respect, because the model makes possible a sociological, ‘‘contextual’’ approach to consumption behaviors and lifestyles. The social structures are no longer treated as external variables but are brought into the center of the analysis. Hence, the question that arises is what environmental heuristics can consumers develop for each social practice, once they get feedback on their energy consumption?
  • Communities of Practice, can be defined as ‘groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.’ They operate as ‘social learning systems’ where practitioners connect to solve problems, share ideas, set standards, build tools, and develop relationships with peer and stakeholders . . . [They] feature peer-to-peer collaborative activities to build member skills and steward the knowledge assets of organizations and society”. In my case, how the gained knowledge can be disseminated among the actors.

I believe the three theories shape a very nice framework to test how feeback from energy meters help to understand energy and the household system better, how the gained knowledge can be translated into new practices, and last how the new practices and knowledge can be disemminated to the community. Probably, I will be able to test only some aspects of all these as differently I would have to pursue a PhD to accomplish it…but still it worths trying…

Co-design and sensitizing

Sensitizing material

My first exploratory, user-research was done by using diaries as sensitizing material for the participants. The diaries had the title “mijn huis, mijn energie en ik” (my house, my energie and I) and were aiming more to get some inspiration about the participants and engage them into a dialogue, and less on getting concrete info. For this reason, the diaries were designed in a playful way, in which they would invite participants to fill them up and have some fun. Participants had everyday a different exercise and  were asked to draw their neighborhood, listen to the energy of their house, associate domestic appliances with animal stickets etc.

The results were quite positive, as I got to know my participants, had chitchats on energy consumption and more issues, and created a relationship with them, which I hope will help me to engage them in a longer process. Of course, drawing and putting stickers is not for everyone; some people were more afraid than others to do so, some preferred just to write  than draw and some just didn’t put any effort. There is still a follow up session to be done, where people will elaborate more on their booklets and share ideas in a group… What I didn’t expect is how much time and energy the diaries would require. It’s not only about making the diaries, but it’s also about collecting them :S , co-ordinating people, sending emails etc. etc.

But as a conclusion, I can say that the diaries helped me a lot as a first approach to the participants 😉

Soft Spot

“We all have a soft spot. Our goal is to empower yours” SoftSpot