A random collection of things that inspire, interest and trouble me
from the world of design, politics, art and culture.

Going up: the rise* in elevator intelligence

Posted: May 18th, 2010 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, product design, technology | Tags: | 2 Comments »

When did elevators get so smart? Once they just went up and down, and now they alter their direction based on demand.

Today I was visiting the developers at another building and didn’t really think too strange when I first pressed the floor number. At the time it hadn’t occurred to me that I was choosing the floor as the first step of the process, on the outside of the lift rather than inside the lift.

Keypad on the outside of the lift, downstairs

It was only when I got inside and couldn’t find the usual floor buttons that I realised something was different. My more intelligent companion then noticed that the display above the door close/open symbols was displaying our chosen floor number.


Display inside the lift tells you which floor has been selected Read the rest of this entry »

How we decide

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour | Tags: , | No Comments »

My new favourie science writer is Jonah Lehrer. This lecture is about decision making. Lehrer has written a few books incuding How We Decide.

Comics on the iPhone

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, comics, iPhone | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Is the iPhone the platform I needed to kickstart a new love of comics? After reading a special 20th anniversary edition of Wallace & Gromit, I think it might be.

The experience of reading comics on a phone with a dynamic touch interface is one that I really like and, have to say prefer, to reading comics on paper. I was trying to think why this might be, and the only reason I could come up with is that when I usually read a paper comic I am so distracted by every scene on the page that I can’t focus on what I am reading. With an iPhone, my focus is (how can I put this) more focused? You choose just one screen at a time, and then swisshhhhhh, with a flick of the finger the next one appears.


I was sure that Scott McCloud would have something to say on the matter, and in the interest of time saving (this full time job thing really kills my spare time) I am going to paraphrase some stuff I have found on his site.

The first link I found on McCloud’s site was for Bludzee, an iPhone comic from Ave!Comics. This company makes a few different comics for the iPhone. I’ve just downloaded it, so will let you know what it’s like.

In another brief post, McCloud mentions a panel on handheld electronic comics that was held at SXSW in 2009. The comments after his brief comment are worth reading. You can also read some reviews of this panel on Comic Book Resources and the Unofficial Apple Weblog.

What strikes me (after a brief skim) is that some old school comic book creators are having difficulty knowing whether to fully embrace the new media. It reminds me of something that Elisabeth Eisenstein said in her seminal book the Printing Press as an Agent of Change, about the problems that occur with a change from one media to another. Eisenstein (1979) proposed that the complications arise because a new technology is being used at a time when old consumption methods are still dominant (p. 130). For example, the exquisite hand-rendered illuminations of manuscript books were not easy to replicate in print. In order to satisfy the reader who had become accustomed to beautifully illustrated books, printers were forced to either add illustrations by hand after printing or resort to crude woodblock prints. Both methods were unsatisfactory attempts at copying what
had been perfected in an old technology.

So perhaps that is where we are at with comics on the iPhone: using old behaviour methods on a new technology. I wonder what the future holds?  Will we change our comic reading behaviour to embrace them on a handheld device?

One other interesting link I have found is to a digital comic called Ruben & Lullaby that allows users to change the path of the story by touching the iPhone screen in various ways:”shaking makes them angry, stroking makes them sad”. One review on the app store says that it doesn’t live up to the promise, but I look forward to experience more of this sort of storytelling. You can watch a preview on Youtube.

Selling the sizzle

Posted: December 9th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, environment, future | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »


Have just read Futerra’s report Selling the Sizzle. It is a basic outline of how, through positive framing, climate change activists can radically change people’s behaviour toward climate change. It’s all about making the actions desirable so that people actually take them. For, “without public support the Cynics win by default. All they need is inaction”

The basic problem, Futerra says, is that “most climate friendly behaviours, especially the big hard ones (travel, diet, etc) are not aspirational or desirable. One factor that tars them is their association with a problem. You’re asked to make a sacrifice for the greater good, which has rarely in human history been a high status pastime.”

But Futerra believes that if we frame these actions positively then they could become desirable. They list the process that communicators should use as:


This step-by-step process feels a bit like a quit smoking programme. First, envision the glorious future without cigarettes. Then once the patient can see the positive future, give them a choice between this, and the hell of a lifetime of smoking. Then you and the patient start planning on how you will tackle quitting smoking. And finally the patient takes action and quits smoking, and you keep reinforcing the positive future they have chosen.

The question is, will it work? Can we make desirable the behaviour and lifestyle changes that are necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change? If you are in the business of communicating climate change, I suggest you read the report.

A dematerialized society is a clean society

Posted: November 17th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, environment | Tags: , | No Comments »

I was watching a video podcast from Pop Tech tonight from Alex Steffen from the environmental site WorldChanging.com. In the talk he outlined the positive impacts that dematerializing our society could have on the environment. For example, a particular pet peeve of mine is the ownership of small appliances like lawnmowers. Why is it that every household has to own a lawnmower? Couldn’t we just share and save on carbon emissions?

Imagine, if you will, a street on which there are 44 houses. Each house has a small lawn and therefore a small electric mower that costs on average £50. Similarly, each of these 44 houses has a vacuum cleaner of an average cost of £100. Taking into consideration the embodied energy in each appliance throughout the entire lifecycle, the total carbon emissions from both vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers on this average UK street is almost 12 tonnes (click on the link to view a PDF with the vague sources of this data).

If we shared one vacuum cleaner and one lawnmower between four households (based on the amount of people I know in my street), then the average street could save about 9 tonnes of carbon which is the equivalent of taking 2.5 small cars off the road. Multiply that by the some 22 million households in the UK and you have a staggering amount of carbon that could be stopped from going into the atmosphere.

My figures are incredibly inaccurate, but it is just to demonstrate that a small change of behaviour could yield a very large return in favour of the environment. All we have to do is to alter the way that we view the ownership of stuff. If we remove the cultural and social caché that is currently attached to the ownership of certain goods, then we can work out new systems to accommodate their partial deletion from our lives. As James Howard Kunstler has recently said at TED, we need to stop referring to ourselves as consumers because consumers have no responsibility toward their fellow human beings.

Only consumers “need” to own ridiculous amounts of stuff and consumers are like SO 20th century.

Behaviour change through "fun theory"

Posted: October 16th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A competition from Volkswagen is asking people to think of ways to induce behaviour change through fun, they call it Fun Theory. You may have already seen the video of how music made taking the stairs more fun than riding the escalator:


Or perhaps you have seen this one, the world’s deepest bin which encouraged people to place their rubbish in the bin:


The results of the competition will of course be used by Volkswagen in some kind of marketing, but if the competition encourages “behaviour change for the better” then perhaps it’s worth signing away your creative rights. The competition ends on November 15. Anyone can enter it seems, although the site is based in Sweden.

I read some behaviour change theory for my dissertation. Many researchers believe that first you must change attitude and then behaviour change is more likely to follow. I hope that these fun projects go a little of the way to altering some people’s attitudes to waste and to energy use.

travelling, walking, moving about

Posted: October 13th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, travel | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

With some reluctance I have recently endured an Easyjet flight. I wanted to take the train but on my student budget I was unable to afford the extra £400 to travel in a slightly more sustainable manner. Fortunately in December I will be able to redeem my climate sins as I will be taking the slow way to Berlin by train, stopping in at Paris and Cologne on the way. I have of course recently confessed my environmental sins to Futerra at their confessional booth at the wonderful Greengaged event.

Contemplating the state of cheap flights and their effect on the planet was easy to do whilst sitting in the airport lounge watching the thousands of weekend tourists getting anxious. I had to wonder, do they really think that this is worth it? Do they really appreciate what they are experiencing or is it just another chance to tick off a box? For example I overheard a woman on the plane talking about her trip to the Netherlands and she couldn’t even remember the name of town that she visited!

So what is the future of travel? A recent partnership between the excellent Forum for the Future and some big names in travel has produced a report called Tourism 2023. The report proposes that a low carbon future will demand a different sort of traveller: one who takes the slow road, travelling for a longer period every couple of years rather than each weekend. Anna Simpson (who neatly summarises the report here) sees that this type of travel is both more rewarding for the traveller and for the place to which they travel, citing examples of the ‘one-day tourists who rip through the city [Venice] without so much as a gondola ride or a plate of zucchini’.

But didn’t we all used to do ‘slow travel’? I for one planned my first trip overseas in 1996 for at least four years and after that month away I couldn’t afford to travel for at least another three years. My longest trip abroad was a year in South America, but many people just cannot afford to take this length of time off work now. Employers are rarely willing to allow an employee to take even a four week block of holidays, and so the culture of mini-breaks is encouraged. Perhaps it’s time to start putting pressure on the employers to revise their policies regarding holiday time.

Keep Britain Tidy

Posted: October 6th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: Uncategorized, behaviour, environment | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I was recently taking a walk to town via the Thames Valley University when I saw a teenage girl drop a half-finished pack of chips on the ground in front of a bin. More disturbing than the fact that she was eating deep-fried chips at 10am was that she seemed to be littering to impress her friend. Now I know that littering is probably fairly low on the list of priorities for the modern-day school, what with the current ASBO culture here in Britain, but if we can’t rely on teenagers to respect their immediate environment, what hope do we have of teaching them to respect the global environment?

I called the University and had a pleasant conversation with the officer in charge of security and student behaviour. He said that it was difficult to control the behaviour of a student body which comes from “all walks of life” and that there were insufficient security staff to police the problem. Why their students, no matter what their background, cannot be taught to be tidy is beyond me. To add to this, it is regrettable that they need to use security to deal with this behavioural problem.

It might instead be more prudent to use more collaborative exercise to affect behaviour change. For example, the Big Tidy Up is a campaign organised by the Keep Britain Tidy folks. Similar to the Clean Up Australia Day programme, the Big Tidy Up encourages people to respect their environment and take a more active part in making their community a better place to live. Perhaps I will suggest to the school that they conduct something similar with their students.

Thom Yorke plays the Age of Stupid launch

Posted: September 22nd, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: activism, behaviour, environment, film, music | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Thom York performing ‘Reckoner’ as part of the Age of Stupid film launch. The film calls for a global wake up to how our wasteful behaviour is increasing the risk of catastrophic climate change:



Posted: September 14th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, environment, events | Tags: , , | No Comments »

If you are in London or surrounds and interested in issues of sustainability, check out these two events staged as part of the 2009 London Design Festival. You need to register to attend these events put on by Greengaged.


Design for life: barriers to behaviour change (curated by Ed Gillespie)
September 21, 2009. 8.30am to 10pm (includes a Swishing clothes swapping event after 7pm)
Why is change happening so slowly? What are the barriers to change, both behaviourally and in the context of design? Where can great design interventions really make a difference? This will be a day of challenges, questions and opportunities around the role of design in what we wear, what we eat, where we live and how we get around

Co-oportunity: a day for world builders (curated by John Grant)
September 22. 9am-6pm

Co-opportunity is about how co-operative, community systems have the potential to build a more sustainable, resilient, prosperous society at all levels – working for the common good. In John’s engaging approach to workshops you will learn about co-operative systems by actually creating solution – starting with the world’s financial banking system – as an example of the power of systems redesign.