The theme throughout my master’s is Sustainability and Design for Behaviour Change.
Several academic fields and professions are looking into how to promote behaviour change, and aiming to use such insights into the efforts to respond to issues such as climate change, diseases and public healthcare, daily consumption patterns like food consumption, energy use, and the choice in public transportation.
While design contributes to knowledge in its unique way. Design is practical and creative, it can influence a tiny choice and behaviour in people’s everyday life, and can also transform the frameworks of cities and institutions for living. It can be artefacts, methods of research, as well as working mechanisms to create new forms of economics and productions, and it plays significant roles in knowledge transmitting, personal emotion and experience creating, habits and culture generating, social issues investigating and mediating, etc.
From the previous efforts from the Behavioural Insight Team, to Nudge, Design with Intent, etc., they are all using behavioural insights to inspire professions to effectively tackle public issues and specific behavioural problems. However, considering the complex contexts and barriers behind an individual behaviour that refers to psychological, socio-structural, and cultural factors, etc., there is still a need for more systemic approaches, and we should start more discussions regarding the systemic impacts of a single behaviour change on human activities and eco-balance, the conflict between development and preservation, and ethics and supports for communities from various backgrounds and situations, etc.
This indicates the questions of how to use design to promote behaviour change in a systemic way or to promote systemic changes, and how to place sustainability in behaviour change.
In my work, I investigate behavioural contexts in the scales of practice and other social levels, to see how those affect our decision-making and behaviour-performing, and how those can help us identify the structural and psychological factors contributing to specific behaviours and the opportunities for promoting long-term systemic change. I also practice and rethink the designers approaches for promoting behaviour change- what is the change? what should be changed?- jumping out of the problem-oriented thinking and seeing how design can lead to innovative solutions.
Going forward till the end, my work continues to use research insights to inform design, to tackle real-world problems from the workplace or public domains, and to clarify what sense of sustainability we are craving for in behaviour change- is it to promote sustainable behaviour through design or to use behavioural design to promote sustainability, is it an extra and separate effort to promote such sustainability or a better pattern of daily work towards this goal…
Pieces of my work so far
My research work starts with the review of previous behavioural theories and behavioural design.
Behavioural theories from psychology and other fields explain the internal mechanism of behaviour generating, and present potential methods to promote a change. However, the external mechanism is incomplete, and these theories seem to see individuals as the same units, regardless of the differences in their backgrounds and situations and the environmental context that shapes different choices and behavioural responses.
Different studio works have been carried out at the same time, to practice and identify the limitations and capacities of different behavioural design approaches in address the same problem.
Even though existing approaches can be used to effectively modify and assist single and basic behaviour, but a challenge is put forward that systemic ways to investigate complex behavioural contexts and to intervene in the trouble-makers from psychological needs, cultural and social norms, and structural barriers are still underdeveloped.
Since that, I started to investigate external behavioural contexts regarding what makes the behaviour pattern, what triggers a change, and how designers can intervene. I modelled the research insights in a designer-friendly way, to inspire a new way for audiences to see the social or non-social and interactive environment and design artefacts differently.
Another studio practice work was carried out to capture “what a systemic way would be” and examine its effectiveness in addressing problems from a real scene.
Where should we place Sustainability in Design for Behaviour Change?
Whether promoting these behaviour that we frame as sustainable is the path, or using behavioural design to promote a general sense of sustainability is the solution? What is the Sustainability we are craving for?
My discussion starts from seeing the structural society and the differences in individuals- seeing people from deprived backgrounds and the minorities, and their dilemmas and what can designers do for it. Then, it will continue to the systemic impacts on human activities and eco-balance of a single behaviour change, the conflict between development and preservation, ethics and supports for communities from various backgrounds, etc., and ultimately to the understanding of what is the way of design towards to sustainability and design for behaviour change.