User-centred environmentalism : Explorative user study for an environmental application

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Title: User-centred environmentalism : Explorative user study for an environmental application
Author: Leino, Iiro
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2017
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Yhteiskuntapolitiikka
Social and Public Policy
Abstract: To deal with climate change, we need high level transformations not only in global energy and business structures, but also in our daily lifestyles. One of the ways of fostering this change might be to have an application designed to promote environmental behaviours. This master’s thesis is part of a multi-disciplinary project to look into building such a mobile, called the “Sustainability Tracker”. The project was a part of the Helsinki Challenge competition organised by the University of Helsinki. The team consisted of researchers and sustainability experts from multiple different organisations. While the project didn’t go through to the finals, this thesis is a user study for further development. The aim of this thesis is to answer two questions. The first is more general and theoretical, the other very practical: 1. Who would be the potential users of an application like Sustainability Tracker? 2. What kind of a service would these users find desirable or useful? To answer these questions, an online survey (N=27) was made after which 14 of those who answered were interviewed by using semi-structured qualitative interview methods. The materials were then analysed using a mixed methods approach that was inspired by the Reasoned Action Approach (RAA) and methods from design research. RAA is a framework from psychology which in this thesis was to assist in determining what kind of norms have the biggest influence in the lives of different groups of users. The end result of the thesis is two so-called user Personas that can be used as material for future development of the application These personas are fictional characters created to be sufficiently representative of the goals and behaviour of a hypothesized group of users. Modelling behaviour like this allows to emphasize and prioritise complex human phenomena while de-emphasizing less significant details. The first of these personas is someone for whom environmental behaviours are very much based on the science of the subject matter. They are often enthusiastic about environmental behaviours and know very much of the subject. For them environmental behaviours are a part of their identity. The second persona was more surprising, with a focus on a more spiritual side of environmental behaviour. For this persona, focus is more on the tangible aspects of environmental issues. Concerns of toxicity and un-natural food items take prevalence over concerns like the carbon footprint or global warming. They view their lifestyle as environmentally friendly but it actually is quite focused on things that feel environmental, yet do not have a big positive environmental impact – like organic produce. One of the findings of the thesis is that combining the RAA framework - based on the operationalization of clearly defined behaviours - with a scenario-based design method, while not unproblematic, does potentially have some use during the design process in keeping a focus on the insights gained from the interviews. Especially the issue of perceived control was helpful during the development of the personas. After creating the personas, design drivers that guide the design process of the presumed application were created: 1. Help make better decisions – help the user avoid environmentally harmful items and purchases 2. Give perspective – make it possible to compare environmental impacts of different categories (e.g. food vs. travel) 3. Connect environmental behaviours to personal well-being – tie life-coaching to environmental wellness 4. Avoid greenwashing – the application should be honest and informative about the real impact of behaviours 5. Promote sustainable design – the application should not be a part of the problem by making the user consume more These design drivers answer the needs of both of the users. However, one conclusion is that actually targeting the less obvious secondary persona might have more of an impact as their lifestyles as they are now have more room for improvement from an environmental perspective.
Subject: environmental science
user-centered design
service design
user research
design research

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