All posts filed under “University

Anti-homeless ‘stools’

Bus stop stools, Honolulu. Image from

Stuart Candy of the brilliant Sceptical Futuryst let me know about authorities in Honolulu replacing benches with round ‘stools’ to prevent homeless people sleeping at bus stops (above image from Honolulu Advertiser story):

So far, the city has spent about $11,000 on the seating initiative, removing benches and installing 55 stools at 12 bus stops in urban Honolulu and Kane’ohe. Wayne Yoshioka, city Department of Transportation Services director, said the city will continue the program on a “case-by-case” basis in response to rider complaints.

“The benches were being used as makeshift beds by many people that were out there,” Yoshioka said. “In an effort to provide areas for people to sit, but still discouraging people from sleeping, we started replacing benches with stools.”

He added the issue is a “delicate one” that requires sensitivity toward the homeless who are being displaced from stops.

The City Council is also considering a ban on sleeping or lying down at city bus stops, though that measure has been stalled for several months.

For its part, the city says its effort to reclaim everything from parks to beaches to bus stops is about making sure everyone has equal access to public spaces. City officials acknowledge that the homeless population in the Islands, which advocates say could increase in the worsening economy, is one of the most hard-to-solve social problems facing the state. But they also contend that the city has a duty to make sure public spaces can be used by all.

Doran Porter, executive director of the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance, disagrees with the city’s approach, saying it’s dealing with symptoms – not the problem.

Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless, said cities should concentrate more on providing shelter and services for the homeless and less on moving them from bus stops.

“It’s a misguided effort,” he said, of the Honolulu initiative.

Roger Morton, president and general manager of Oahu Transit Services, which operates TheBus for the city, said bus riders have a right to expect seating at stops. He added that seating is at a premium these days with buses so full … He said transit authorities across the country are increasingly buying “lie-down-unfriendly furniture” to keep seats open for bus riders.

The round stools look interesting; I’m not sure that (if you didn’t know otherwise) they would immediately suggest that that’s where you’re supposed to sit, though I suppose it wouldn’t take long to figure out. But apart from preventing people lying down, they also prevent people sitting next to each other. Friends, lovers, parents with young children all now have to sit separately (or on each other’s laps). That’s OK when there are stools in line close together, but what if they’re occupied? You can’t ask people to ‘budge up’ when the stools aren’t big enough for more than one person at a time.

As people have suggested a number of times when we’ve discussed unfriendly benches before on the blog, some kind of lightweight guerilla seating apparatus might be useful, either cardboard or foam like Sarah Ross’s wonderful Archisuits.

Board placed across 
stools to afford lying down etc

Archisuit by Sarah Ross

‘Design | Behaviour: Making it Happen’ Seminar, 17th October – programme updated

Design | Behaviour: Making it Happen, mentioned a few days ago, now has a full agenda available [PDF] (thanks Debra) – here are the abstracts: Read More

‘Design | Behaviour: Making it Happen’ Seminar, 17th October

Design | Behaviour: Making it happen

Debra Lilley, who runs the very useful Design-Behaviour website, sends details of an interesting forthcoming seminar at Loughborough University:

Design | Behaviour: Making it Happen!

The 13th Sustainable Design Network Seminar Design | Behaviour: Making it Happen! will be held on the 17th October 2008 at the Engineering Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (engCETL), Loughborough University. This special one-day event – featuring presentations, design activities and discussion – will explore methodologies for designing behavioural change and the ethical implications of designing products to encourage more sustainable use. Cost £60 (£20 concession) including lunch and refreshments. To find out more and book a place at this event please visit:

I’ll be doing a presentation in the morning – here’s the abstract, and I’ll try and put a version online too afterwards:

Design for Sustainable Behaviour: Easier Efficiency by Influencing Interaction

Dan Lockton, School of Engineering & Design, Brunel University

The idea of using design strategically to influence users’ behaviour – Design with Intent – recurs across many fields, in diverse contexts, and a set of patterns can be identified, linking target behaviours to particular design techniques, physical, psychological and technical. Applying these techniques to environmental problems where user behaviour is a significant factor offers the prospect of Design for Sustainable Behaviour – helping people use everyday products and systems more efficiently.

The agenda isn’t online yet, but I’m guessing there’ll be some really insightful talks from people working on the intersection of design, sustainability and user behaviour – along with Debra, Loughborough’s Tracy Bhamra, Vicky Lofthouse and Tang Tang have all done some great work in this field. If you’re in the UK and interested in this sort of stuff, this seminar sounds very worthwhile.

engCETL, Loughborough

A year in

Brunel Lecture CentreIt’s nearly a year since I started my PhD, (and coming up to three years since this blog was launched). Last week I had my end-of-year review, and, while I don’t often post about the minutiae of being a research student on the blog, I know that at least a few of you are in a similar position, or thinking of doing it one day.

Certainly when I was deciding whether a not a PhD was the ‘right’ thing to do after a couple of years of pretty diverse peripatetic freelancing, the efforts of other bloggers – especially this article by Tom Coates (and the appended comments) – and Rich Watts’ blog, were very helpful and gave me some great, and sometimes sobering, insights. More recently, these posts by the polymathic Nicolas Nova and Julian Bleecker have given well-justified discourse on moving on from academia, even more pertinent because of their design/art-technology emphasis. (The ‘disciplinarity boundaries’ issue, which vexes me so much, has been addressed in this context by Julian more than once; Roberto Greco has a comprehensive review of more thinking on this issue, too).

Anyway, here’s (mildly edited to remove some commercial and personal information) the report I prepared, rather hurriedly, on what’s been accomplished in the first year, and what’s still to come:

Read More

Dredging up some old ideas

Three essays I’d pretty much forgotten about, written for courses at Cambridge during my Master’s in Technology Policy, linked here for no reason in particular:

Peer Treasure: how firms outside the software industry can use open source thinking
How can we strengthen links between entrepreneurial companies and entrepreneurial universities in the UK?
Motor vehicles in the developing world: options for sustainability* [all PDFs]

Read More

User-Centred Design for Sustainable Behaviour

Image from

TU Delft’s Renee Wever and Jasper van Kuijk (who runs the insightful Uselog product usability blog), together with NTNU’s Casper Boks, have produced a very interesting paper, ‘User-Centred Design for Sustainable Behaviour’ [PDF, 400 kb] for the International Journal of Sustainable Engineering (indeed, probably in the same edition as my own paper addressing many similar ideas.)

It’s great to find more people investigating this same area of using design to guide more sustainable user behaviour, both from the point of view of validation (i.e. I’m not barking up completely the wrong tree) and because it helps add additional perspectives and research to the pot. Wever, van Kuijk and Boks’ classification of different strategies may be useful, too, in helping me structure my own taxonomy:

We provide a typology of four user-centered design strategies for inducing sustainable behavior.

* Functionality matching: adapt a product better to the actual use by consumers and thereby try to minimize negative side effects;
* Eco-feedback: the user is presented with specific information on the impact of his or her current behavior, and it is left to the user to relate this information to his or her own behaviour, and adapt this behaviour, or not;
* Scripting: creating obstacles for unsustainable use, or making sustainable behaviour so easy, it is performed almost without thinking about it;
* Forced functionality: making products adapt automatically to changing circumstances, or to design-in strong obstacles to prevent unsustainable behaviour.

That’s a simpler and possibly clearer way of dividing it up than the designer-centric approach I’ve been taking (e.g. see this series of posts), though my method aims to apply to all using-design-to-shape-behaviour problems, including, but going beyond, ecodesign.

I’m heartened to read this in the paper:

An overview of the available design strategies is missing, as is a clear approach for choosing the right strategy for a given product.

That’s very much part of what I’m trying to achieve.

I’ll certainly keep an eye on what the guys from Delft and NTNU do next!