Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

How to Design Effective Systems to Induce Energy Conservation Behaviors?

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Jane McGonigal might suggest online games that embody kernel theories about what works and what doesn’t (PERMA):

  • Positive Emotions
  • Relationships
  • Meaning, and
  • Accomplishment.

Along these lines, Byron Reeves, James J. Cummings, and Dante Anderson have developed an energy game called “Power House” motivated by several problems:

To this end, billions of dollars have been spent on smart grid and smart meter technologies, based on the idea that people will use new energy information to make wiser energy decisions.  However, despite the availability of rich mines of data, there is still a problem: the process by which consumers interact with this data is not engaging. The information is dull, the interfaces are complex, and the feedback is temporally distanced from behavior (Figure 1.).  As a result, incentives for the users are unclear.

Popular game environments offer insight for energy applications. Games engage people with elements like self-representation, timely feedback, community connections, ranks and levels, teams, virtual economies, and compelling narratives [3].  A multiplayer game that connects such elements to the information gathered by home smart meters could prove more engaging than current UIs. [My bold, Full CHI 2011 paper here]

Power House tests these kernel theories about what works and what doesn’t by embodying them in the design and game play:

Will this form of gaming prove effective? What will the next phase of research involving research trials with actual users in the U.S. and Europe reveal? Could these ideas be adapted to bolster energy and carbon reduction campaigns within organizations?


Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

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