Design of Change

By now we humans have begun to acknowledge the impact of the Anthropocene and we know that we need to change our path. Tony Fry, (2009) makes the suggestions that the future is already ‘filled with the attainments and mistakes of the past which enable or disable possibilities.’ While we cannot change the past it seems that we humans, even in the present don’t always do the things we know we should. To assist the development of our speculative design object I have investigated ways in which design can help turn knowledge or intentions into action.


One issue with promoting responsible or sustainable actions is the temporal gap which exists between action and consequence (Kimura, 2011). Kimura suggests the use of Captology – (Computers as Persuasive Technologies) as a method for bridging this temporal gap. The mobile app My Carbon Footprint uses the simple function of quizzing the user to show their carbon footprint then allowing them to adjustment their answer which uses visual and numeric feedback to immediately display the positive or negative consequences of their choices.


This simple app shows how Captology can act as a tool for placing knowledge in the context of real life situations to encourage action. Another example of creating temporal awareness is The Long Now Foundation’s 10,000 year clock. Inventor Danni Hillis stated “I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks”(Kelly, 2014) reflecting the projects aim to create a deeper shift in values which transcends the need for instant feedback. While the former example perhaps caters a little to our impatient attitude toward change and the second appeals to our sense of long term purpose, both relate to goal setting and are effective in bringing change, short or long term, into the tangible realm and I feel that both of these methods could be used in our speculative object.

10,000 yr clock by the Long Now Foundation

10,000 yr clock by the Long Now Foundation


The other point brought up Kimura (2011) is the notion of ‘mutual surveillance’ whereby people are more likely to be motivated to do something if other people are watching or if they are working within a system where there is the support of common goals and peer monitoring. Examples of this could be observed in day to day life with actions such as not littering, not cutting in lines etc. One particularly interesting example is the 1991 technology demonstration come experiment of Loren Carpenter, shown below, where a system was set up that encouraged people to act based on the actions of the people around them.



The success, enthusiasm and motivation of the collective body of people in the clip demonstrate the powerful effectiveness of mutual cooperation. I imagine that in our scenario the runaway society would turn to collectivist ideals and that the design should encourage this sort of collective cooperation.


I’m certain that given the complexity of human behaviors these examples are most likely just scratching the surface, however they do indicate the very real power of design to facilitate or encourage change.



Fry, T. 2009, Designing Futuring: Sustainability Ethics and New Practice, Bloomsbury Academic, Oxford.


Kimura, H. & Nakajima, T. 2011, ‘Designing Persuasive Applications to Motivate Sustainable Behaviour in Collective Cultures’, PsychNology Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 7-28.


Kelly, K. 2014, The Long Now Foundation, San Francisco, last viewed 22 October 2014, <;


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