Pervasive Persuasive Technology and Environmental Sustainability

Workshop held at the 6th International Conference on Pervasive Computing
May 19th, 2008, Sydney, Australia


Workshop themes

Environmental sustainability and climate change are issues which must no longer be ignored by anyone, any industry or any academic community. The pervasive technology, ubiquitous computing and HCI community is slowly waking up to these global concerns.

The Nobel Peace Price 2007 was awarded to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”. The citation highlights the urgency of the fact that information and awareness around causes and implications are necessary but not sufficient to combat climate change. Action is required.

The key theme of this workshop around environmental sustainability will be addressed threefold:

  1. Providing people with environmental data and educational information – via mass communications such as film, TV and print and new media, ­or micro communications such as pervasive sensor networks (cf. Participatory Urbanism and Ergo at; real-time Rome at;; – may not trigger sufficient motivation to get people to change their habits towards a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. This workshop seeks to develop a better understanding how to go beyond just informing and into motivating and encouraging action and change.
  1. Pervasiveness can easily turn invasive. It has already caused negative consequences in biological settings (e.g., algae in lakes and oceans, kudzu vine in the southeastern US, rabbits and cane toads in Australia). Pervasive can be a dangerous term when the ecological impacts are disregarded. Pervasive technology is no different. In order to avoid further serious damage to the environment, this workshop aims to lay the foundations to start re-considering the impact of pervasive technology from an ecological perspective.
  1. Addressing the 21st century Digital Divide: The mass uptake of pervasive technology brings about digitally networked and augmented societies; however, access is still not universal. Castells and others use the notion of the ‘digital divide’ to account for those whose voices are not heard by this technology. Initially, the divide was seen only between the first and third worlds and then between urban and rural, but with today’s near ubiquitous coverage, the digital divide between humans and the environment needs to be addressed. Virtual environments could give the natural world an opportunity to ‘speak’. How can we address imbalances? For example, sensors embedded in the environment could allow creeks and rivers to blog their own pollution levels, local parks can upload images of native bird life. Can the process of ‘blogging sensor data’ ( assist us in becoming more aware of the needs of nature? How can we avoid the downsides?

Topics of interest

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

Transfer persuasive and motivational approaches and experiences from design cases which successfully employ pervasive technology in areas such as games and entertainment, health, and marketing and advertising, e.g., competition, collaboration, rewards, team play, make it fun.

Innovative ways or re-appropriated ways to reduce the impact of computing production (e.g., increase the life cycles of computing devices; re-purpose older computing devices for sensor networks, data logging and other low-performance but increasingly useful tasks; re-think the design of computing devices to allow for more efficient and thorough recycling of components).
Considerations of what ‘pervasive technology’ means from an ecological perspective.
New applications of pervasive computing technology to support environmental education and decision making in formal (school, work) and informal (leisure, play, everyday) settings.
Evaluations and evaluation methods for assessing the impact of pervasive computing devices, applications on the environment.
New interfaces of pervasive computing devices, systems and applications and modes of interactions between people and nature.

Call for participation – SUBMISSIONS HAVE NOW CLOSED.

We invite contributions from academic, student and industry members of the pervasive technology, ubiquitous computing, HCI and design community with a passion for ideas, applications, devices and solutions towards environmental sustainability. We also welcome multi-disciplinary delegates from related academic backgrounds such as social, political and behavioral scientists, economists, meteorologists, urban designers and planners. Keeping the numbers relatively small allows us to break into highly interactive group work, so the workshop can only accommodate a maximum number of 27 participants.

We kindly ask prospective participants to submit a position paper (2-4 pages total, in English, .doc, .rtf or .pdf file formats) related to one of the workshop topics to Marcus Foth at m.foth [AT] by Feb 8th, 2008. Each submission should include a short biography stating the author’s background and motivation for attending the workshop. Papers will be reviewed by the workshop committee and selected on the basis of relevance, originality and impact. Accepted position papers will appear in the Pervasive 2008 Workshops Proceedings and should follow the publication style of the Austrian Computer Society (OCG). A style guide (.rtf) is available as well as a Word template (.dot) and LaTeX stylesheets. The workshops proceedings will also be published online and distributed electronically at the conference (on a CD or memory stick). All workshop participants will need to register for the conference.


After the introduction of the organisers and the key themes of the workshop, we will do a little icebreaker activity in the form of mini interviews followed by brief informal peer introductions of all participants. We then want to generate a common knowledge base for the workshop on environmental sustainability by collecting information on what we know about the issues at hand, e.g., sources of data on climate change, accessibility and legibility of that data, current impact it has or lack thereof. After morning tea, the workshop breaks into three rotating groups (starting with 1/2/3) according to the three themes: 1. Motivation, 2. Ecological impact, and 3. Digital divide between humans and the environment. After lunch, these groups rotate themes so each group works on each theme: 2/3/1, followed by 3/1/2. Following afternoon tea, we hold a plenary to share results and discuss further steps, plan the design challenge 2009, discuss collaboration arrangements beyond the workshop and allocate tasks to volunteers.

Design Challenge 2009

Impact! In addition to the conventional academic outcomes, we want to define a number of feasible goals and design a process to bring these goals to fruition within 12 months time and present them at Pervasive 2009. Additionally, we want the workshop to be an opportunity to exchange research insights, expertise and ideas. We also want to leave enough breakout and social time to allow for professional networking opportunities.

Links to other resources


NEWS: Follow-up workshop at UbiComp 2008

Paulos, E., Foth, M., Satchell, C., Kim, Y., & Choi, J. H. (2008, Sep 21-24). Ubiquitous Sustainability: Citizen Science & Activism. Workshop organisers at the 10th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp), Seoul, South Korea. (www >) (eprints >) (facebook >)

Pervasive 2008 Workshop Proceedings

PDF files of individual workshop papers can be found here:

Accepted workshop position papers

Notes on the Political Image: Pervasive Computing, Modeling Assemblage, and Ecological Governance
Benjamin H. Bratton 1, Natalie Jeremijenko 2
1 University of California, Los Angeles, USA
2 New York University, USA

The Potential of UbiComp Technologies to Determine the Carbon Footprints of Products
Ali Dada 1,3, Thorsten Staake 2, Elgar Fleisch 1,2
1 Institute of Technology Management (ITEM-HSG), University of St. Gallen, Switzerland
2 Information Management, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
3 SAP Research CEC St. Gallen, Switzerland

Towards Participatory Design of Ambient Persuasive Technology
Janet Davis
Department of Computer Science, Grinnell College, USA
Motivating Environmentally Sustainable Behavior Changes with a Virtual Polar Bear
Tawanna Dillahunt, Geof Becker, Jennifer Mankoff, Robert Kraut
Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA
Points of Persuasion: Strategic Essentialism and Environmental Sustainability
Paul Dourish
Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine, USA

Understanding motivation and enabling action towards change
Penny Hagen, Duncan Underwood, Surry Hills, NSW, Australia

The New Well-Tempered Environment: Tuning Buildings and Cities
Dan Hill, Duncan Wilson, London, UK, and Sydney, Australia

Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Behaviors Using Social Marketing in Emerging Persuasive Technologies
Omar Khan, John Canny
Berkeley Institute of Design, Computer Science Division, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Context-Aware Pervasive Persuasive Systems for Managing Water and Energy Usage, and CO2 Emissions: Multi-Levelled Policies, Goals, and an Expert Systems Shell Approach
Seng W. Loke, Jugdutt Singh, Hai Le
La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Using persuasive technology to encourage sustainable behavior
Cees Midden, Teddy McCalley, Jaap Ham, Ruud Zaalberg
Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands
Participate: Producing a Mass Scale Environmental Campaign for Pervasive Technology
Mark Paxton
Mixed Reality Lab, University of Nottingham, UK

The Design of Imprint: "Walk the Walk" and Other Lessons
Zachary Pousman, Hafez Rouzati, Katie Collins, John Stasko
Graphics, Visualization & Usability Center, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, USA

Understanding and Influencing Spatio-Temporal Visitor Movement in National Parks Based on Static and Dynamic Sensor Data
Katja Schechtner, Helmut Schrom-Feiertag, Vienna, Austria
TerraPed: A Design Concept for Sustainability
Jennifer Stein
School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA

Challenging Comfort & Cleanliness Norms through Interactive In-Home Feedback Systems
Yolande Strengers
School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Taking the Guesswork out of Environmentally Sustainable Lifestyles
Ronak Sutaria 1, Aalok Deshmukh 2
1, San Francisco, USA
2 Rocky Mountain Institute, Boulder, CO, USA

EcoIsland: A System for Persuading Users to Reduce CO2 Emissions
Chihiro Takayama 1, Vili Lehdonvirta 2
1 Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan
2 Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, Finland

The organisers

Marcus Foth
ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia and 2007 Visiting Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute, UK. Interests: urban informatics, master-planned communities, social computing, social networks, triple bottom line sustainability, wombats.

Christine Satchell
ARC Australian Postdoctoral Fellow (Industry), Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. Interests: HCI, scenario and persona design, young people, digital nomads, mobile technology, puppies.

Eric Paulos
Director, Urban Atmospheres, Intel Research Berkeley, USA. Interests: urban computing, social telepresence, robotics, physical computing, interaction design, persuasive technologies, intimate media, sasquach.
Tom Igoe
Associate Arts Professor, Interactive Telecommunications Program, Tisch School of the Arts, New York, USA. Interests: physical computing and networking, sensor networks, ecologically sustainable practices in technology development, monkeys.

Carlo Ratti
Director, SENSEable City Laboratory, MIT, Boston, USA. Interests: Architecture, sensor networks, real-time data, urban technology, urban planning, crocodiles.

A selection of relevant readings