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Towards the design of Eco-Feedback Technologies for families - Thesis Defence

29th October 2014
M-ITI PhD student Mary Barreto had her Doctoral Program in Computer Science - Human-Computer Interaction's defence last Monday. The title of the Thesis was Towards the design of Eco-Feedback Technologies for families.
Increasing levels of pollution and carbon emissions have generated an interest in developing interventions strategies to reduce these levels, particularly with regard to residential energy consumption. Within Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), this increased interest has been reflected in the update of the so-called eco-feedback technologies, ones that provide feedback on individual or group behavior with the goal of increasing awareness to reduce environmental impact. However, much of the work on sustainability within HCI has treated eco-feedback technologies as a single-user interaction problem, thus disregarding the role families have on affecting their members’ behaviors. This thesis seeks to analyze the impact of eco-feedback technology in households in terms of their energy consumption practices and routines, as well as their communication and coordination patterns around energy consumption. We employ the Social Translucence framework (Erickson & Kellogg, 2000) as a theoretical lens adopted for the design of systems that can reach family units through the action of three properties: visibility, awareness and accountability. This work has demonstrated families have specific motivations for sustainable behaviors related to their household role, values and with the education of their children. Eco-feedback technologies increased visibility and awareness of energy consumption behaviors by enhancing its presence within family discussions. The technology supported family members with data to confront others, but also, through which they felt accountable. Family members preferred condensed, contextualized and indirect feedback information. Feedback that indicated directly actors of consumption or generated inferences was seen as a source of conflicts within the households. This works goal is to provide design guidelines and implications for the human-computer interaction community in terms of the design of eco-feedback systems that fit families characteristics. On an added level, promote higher levels of engagement and behavior change in the long term by educating the next generations.
Keywords: Human-Computer Interaction, Sustainability, Eco-feedback, Families, Family members, Social Translucence, Motivations.
Congratulations on your great work, Mary! 

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