Monthly archives of “March 2009

Anti-teenager “pink lights to show up acne”

Pink lights in Mansfield. Photo from BBC

In a similar vein to the Mosquito, intentionally shallow steps (and, superficially at least–though not really–blue lighting in toilets, which Raph d’Amico dissects well here), we now have residents’ associations installing pink lighting to highlight teenagers’ acne and so drive them away from an area:

Residents of a Nottinghamshire housing estate have installed pink lights which show up teenagers’ spots in a bid to stop them gathering in the area.

Members of Layton Burroughs Residents’ Association, Mansfield say they have bought the lights in a bid to curb anti-social behaviour. The lights are said to have a calming influence, but they also highlight skin blemishes.

The National Youth Agency said it would just move the problem somewhere else. Peta Halls, development officer for the NYA, said: “Anything that aims to embarrass people out of an area is not on. “The pink lights are indiscriminate in that they will impact on all young people and older people who do not, perhaps, have perfect skin.

I had heard about this before (thanks, Ed!) but overlooked posting it on the blog – other places the pink lights have been used include Preston and Scunthorpe, to which this quote refers (note the youths=yobs equation):

Yobs are being shamed out of anti-social behaviour by bright pink lights which show up their acne.

The lights are so strong they highlight skin blemishes and have been successful in moving on youths from troublespots who view pink as being “uncool.”

Manager Dave Hey said: “With the fluorescent pink light we are trying to embarass young people out of the area. “The pink is not seen as particularly macho among young men and apparently it highlights acne and blemishes in the skin.

A North Lincolnshire Council spokesman said: “[…]”On the face of it this sounds barmy. But do young people really want to hang around in an area with a pink glow that makes any spots they have on their face stand out?”

With the Mansfield example making the news, it’s good to see that there is, at least, quite a lot of comment pointing out the idiocy of the hard-of-thinking who believe that this sort of measure will actually ‘solve the problem of young people’, whatever that might mean, as well as the deeply discriminatory nature of the plan. For example, this rather dim (if perhaps tongue-in-cheek) light in the Nottingham Evening Post has been comprehensively rebutted by a commenter:

Trying to use someone’s personal looks against them simply because they meet up with friends and have a social life…

If this is the case then I would personally love to see adults banned from meeting up in pubs, parties and generally getting drunk. I would also love to see something making fun of their elderlyness and wrinkle problems.

I don’t understand why Britain hates its young people so much. But I can see it storing up a great deal of problems for the future.

Photo from this BBC story

Persuasive 2009

UPDATED (7 April): Here’s an ‘author version preprint’ of the paper, Influencing Interaction: Development of the Design with Intent Method [PDF, 1.6MB]. At some point soon this version of the paper will downloadable from Brunel’s research archive, while the ‘proper’ version will be available in the ACM Digital Library. ACM requires me to state the following alongside the link to the preprint:

© ACM, 2009. This is the authors’ version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version will be published in Proceedings of Persuasive 2009: Fourth International Conference on Persuasive Technology, Claremont, CA, 26-29 April 2009, ACM Digital Library. ISBN 978-1-60558-376-1.


Claremont Graduate University - photo by Katherine H on Flickr

I’m pleased to announce that a paper I submitted to Persuasive 2009, at the Claremont Colleges, California (26-29th April) has been accepted, so I’ll be presenting ‘Influencing Interaction: Development of the Design with Intent Method’ on Monday 27th April.

The paper builds on the ideas I presented at Persuasive 2008 (the paper), detailing the development of the ‘Design with Intent Method‘, a ‘suggestion tool’ for designers faced with briefs involving influencing user behaviour, and the results of a series of pilot studies to test the usability of the method.

At the time of submitting the paper (New Year’s Eve, 6pm!), the pilot studies were still going on (poor planning by me), so (as the reviewers noted!) the paper’s conclusions are fairly weak, and there are quite a few revisions I need to make before submitting the final version: the next couple of weeks are going to require some fairly intense work in that vein. But it’s great to have been accepted: Persuasive 2008 was fantastic, incredibly useful in terms of meeting people and getting feedback on the proposed research, and I’m hoping 2009 will be just as good. The big-name speakers include BJ Fogg, originator of the Persuasive Technology field, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (of ‘Flow‘ fame), and Brenda Laurel (author of Design Research: Methods and Perspectives, which I’ll admit I haven’t yet got round to reading, largely because of Nigel Cross’s review, but maybe I should find the time!). As always, though, it’s the chance to talk to and get to know other people working on similar problems, or offering a different point of view on the field, which is especially interesting.

The proceedings are going to be published by the ACM (last year’s were published by Springer), but I don’t have any more details at this stage. I’ll post a preprint version of the paper here once it’s ready, of course.

Many thanks to my co-authors: my supervisors Professor David Harrison (Brunel) and Professor Neville Stanton (Southampton) for their help, and Tim Holley whose insights into improving and using the method were extremely useful. Thanks too to all the other pilot study participants, and also to the Royal Academy of Engineering, who very kindly awarded an international travel grant to help me attend the conference. I am aware of the hypocrisy of flying halfway round the world to talk (in part) about influencing more environmentally friendly behaviour, and the cognitive dissonance is headache-inducing. Why there aren’t more live, online academic conferences, I don’t know.

Here are the abstract and ACM meta-stuff for the paper:

Influencing Interaction: Development of the Design with Intent Method
Dan Lockton¹, David Harrison¹, Tim Holley², Neville A. Stanton³
¹Cleaner Electronics Research Group, Brunel Design, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, United Kingdom
²Product Design Programme, Brunel Design, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, United Kingdom
³School of Civil Engineering & the Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom

Persuasive Technology has the potential to influence user behavior for social benefit, e.g. to reduce environmental impact, but designers are lacking guidance choosing among design techniques for influencing interaction. The Design with Intent Method, a ‘suggestion tool’ addressing this problem, is described in this paper, and applied to the briefs of reducing unnecessary household lighting use, and improving the efficiency of printing, primarily to evaluate the method’s usability. The trial demonstrates that the DwI Method is quick to apply and leads to a range of relevant design concepts. With development, the DwI Method could be a useful tool for designers working on influencing user behavior.

Categories and Subject Descriptors
H.1.2 [Models and Principles]: User/Machine Systems — human factors, software psychology. H.5.2 [Information Interfaces and Presentation (e.g. HCI)]: User Interfaces — theory and methods, user-centered design.
General Terms
Design, Human Factors.
Persuasive technology, behavior change, sustainability, energy, interaction design, design methods, innovation methods.

On other matters, I’m proud to say that Planetizen, the urban design and planning community and blog has named Design with Intent one of its Top 10 Websites for 2009 – a nice accolade given how broad the scope here is beyond urbanism and architecture! Some of the other websites recommended are well worth a deeper read – On the Commons, Digital Urban, Infranet Lab and Gapminder stood out for me.

Adding that Planetizen accolade to Six Revisions’ inclusion of the blog in its ’20 websites to help you master user interface design’, it’s clear that, if nothing else, the themes we cover here really do meander about over conventional disciplinary boundaries. It’s all about people interacting with designed systems, whether they’re concrete plazas, electric kettles or confirmation dialogues, and I’d like to think the similarities are worth investigating.

Photo of Claremont Graduate University by Katherine H on Flickr

Instructable: One-Touch Keypad Masher

One-Touch Keypad Masher

It’s been a long time since I last wrote an Instructable, but as I’ve resolved that 2009’s going to be a year where I start making things again (2008 involved a lot of sitting, reading and annotating, and in 2007 most of what I made was for clients, and thus confidential), I thought I’d write up a brief (10 minute) fun little bodgey project which has, very marginally, boosted everyday productivity: the One-Touch Keypad Masher.

Wasting valuable seconds typing in a code every time you need to open the door?

This little ‘device’ streamlines the process by pressing the right keys for you, and can be hidden in your palm so you simply mash your hand against the keypad and – apparently miraculously to anyone watching – unlock the door in one go.

Time to make: Less than 10 minutes
Time saved: About 30 seconds per day in my case; your mileage may vary.
Payback time: 20 days, in this case

(There’s a (weak) correlation with some of the Design with Intent topics, since it could be seen as a device which allows a user to interact with a “What you know” security measure using a “What you have” method. At some point in the near future I’ll be covering these on the blog as design patterns for influencing behaviour.

It’s also a kind of errorproofing device, a poka-yoke employing specialised affordances. If used, it prevents the user mistyping the code.)

The Instructable is also embedded below (Flash), but for whatever reason there are a few formatting oddities (including hyperlinks being ignored) so it’s easier to read in the original.