Lasting Lifestyles: Research Through Design
Climate change is not a faux, as is evident from the increasing global temperatures and extreme environmental events. Greater than 95% of this change is attributed to human activity (IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, 2014), suggesting that realisation of a recovered future is a possibility if humans make alterations to their current lifestyles. Broadly termed as Green Practices, lifestyles change constitute actions such as using public transport, recycling, or installing energy-efficient house appliances, in order to reduce our ecological footprint. Though green practices can’t work in isolation, they are impactful enough to mitigate the negative impact of our habits on environment.
Surrounding this theme, I designed Lasting Lifestyles, a research method as part of my course, Imaginaries Lab: Research Through Design at Carnegie Mellon. The method is designed to gauge people’s current behaviors while encouraging positive changes in their lifestyles. It consists of two activities, designed on Figma and takes approximately 20 minutes.
Activity 1: Current context
The first activity focuses on understanding participants current behaviors. They are provided with a deck of cards, each card depicting different behaviors. The participants are supposed to pick the ones that are the most relatable and drop them in the box on the side.
Activity 2: Scenarios
Taking inspiration from Modern Life Frustrations Test by Adam Dant, activity 2 places participants in different scenarios with conversations between two or more people, and analyses their responses. The conversation range from day to day decision making scenarios such as opting transport for work or buying clothes, etc. During the activity, participnats have to think out aloud to understand their thought process.
The purpose of the research was to find out:
- people's current behaviors and where are they in the process of maintaining sustainable lifestyles
- If people’s response to everyday scenarios is guided towards the context of ‘green behaviors’ when primed unconsciously. Does it help them get a perspective on maintaining sustainable lifestyles?
Some of the learnings about the topic area include:
- When informed about green practices and behaviors through cards, participants were primed and started reflecting about their actions while comparing it with the behaviors on the cards. Some of the participants even mentioned that they wanted to pick cards that depicted green behaviors. Quotes from the research, “guilty of my behaviors”, “not the most sustainable person” or “learnt about what I should be doing” suggests that people are aware about the right and wrong counterparts of behaviors.
- Convenience was a major factor directing participants’ responses in activity 2, followed by cost, time, and effectiveness.
- People might be pro-environmental in some aspects of lifestyles and not in others. Constant reminders and reinforcement of green practices in different areas of life can be helpful.
- Despite their ability and awareness about directing their behaviors towards a sustainable direction, participants lacked motivation as evident from their responses in Activity 2.
- One of the limitation of scenarios followed by Activity 1 was that participants thought about the ‘right’ answers, which highlights virtue signaling or the idea to enhance one’s moral image in front of others.
There were a few learnings regarding the research method such as:
- Activity 1 was smoother since there was less cognitive load involved. There were some behaviors that people engage in occasionally, which made it difficult for them to pick cards.
- Activity 2 was more interactive as it made participants reflect on their responses when placed in real-life scenarios, and as quoted by a participant, “it was engaging to work in the speech bubbles”. The scenarios, however, could have been customized to suit different demographics, as one of the participant quoted “activity 2 was not super relevant to my age group”. Additionally, there were a lot of unspoken variables about the scenarios, that participants had to guess.
- All in all, the research method worked and helped participants reflect on their lifestyles but has future scope by improving the content.
- Get more insights on people’s habits and design better conversations around their lifestyles
- Addressing the motivation barriers explored in this research method
- Get people talking!
Below are the screenshots of research method being conducted on Zoom.