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[…] the most common form of slowing down traffic that I’m familiar with is using speed bumps or speedometers, and I had never seen something along these lines. It’s particularly clever because it […]
Wired’s July edition has a piece on feedback loops, the precise kind of thing I had been investigating with Neema for the past year. Well, not quite. Feedback loops are a nice way of putting things into laymen’s terms, but it’s only half of the picture, and Neema has been arguing that feedback is only as powerful as the action mechanisms that it enables. The focus as of late is how to make feedback more visible (data visualization being a hot topic) but it would be dangerous to concentrate on making information more salient and visible without recognizing the opportunities for that feedback to encourage, or, more catastrophically, discourage.
The indomitable BJ Fogg has brought to my attention two critical aspects of behavior change.
1) Can we put hot triggers in the paths of motivated people? Can we make individuals (who all are motivated in some sense by some external goal or ideal) perform a certain action by putting carefully placed triggers in their way?
2) Are there ways in which we can pinpoint what kind of feedback we get and where we want to go with it? The Behavior Grid is a great tool to ask a simple question: what does the tool let you do, and how long does it let you continue doing it?
On a side-note, I’d like to suggest an idea of how competition and public perception may play a role in the success of radar-enhanced speed signs, even much more so than the fact that there are consequences to be faced. If the driver in front of you can maintain the speed limit, then it behooves you to do the same. Similarly, if the driver in front of you can get away with speeding, your incentives to continue being a good upstanding citizen go down. If the mechanisms are in place to encourage you to keep your moral compass in place, then the system has succeeded.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts about how the social norms around driving completely isolate each individual from each other. Adding a social dimension to that activity is immensely critical, and I think a powerful opportunity for better design. What if a car on a HOV lane would hum if there was enough weight for two people but not for one? The sheer brilliance of the speed camera lottery is absolutely clear. Are there scenarios where we work alone but wish we didn’t? Or ways in which the actions we take as individuals can be consolidated to greater good by many?