Imagine you’re 100 years in the future, exploring a deserted landscape with your trusty cat sidekick. Your cat suddenly turns green. What does it mean? Hopefully, you’ll remember the song your grandma taught you as a kid. Your cat is green because you have stumbled across some nuclear waste. Time to scarper, and maybe reward your newly green cat with some fish.
Our culture is infused with stereotypes, and their ubiquity can make them hard to spot. But stereotypes contribute to solidifying the status quo and make things hard to change. For example, I’m interested in gender balance in computer science. If people tend to associate men with technical jobs more than women, they tend to appoint and reward men more. And if you’re female, you might unconsciously assume that technical jobs are not for you.
At the MobileHCI conference this year, I talked about my research into subliminal priming as a potential vehicle for behaviour change. Subliminal priming is where you show someone a piece of information (the prime) that affects later judgements or actions despite them not being able to tell you what the information was.
I recently gave a talk at CHI, the big HCI conference that explored how advertisers are targeting our subconscious, and what technology can do about it. It was partly inspired by some (old!) science fiction: Walden 2, a utopian science fiction book by the psychologist B F Skinner written in 1945, and Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited from 1958, reflecting on the real-world developments that echoed his dystopian classic written in 1931.
When visiting San Jose for the CHI conference last year, I noticed that coffee shops and cafes tend to issue only e-receipts: tap your details into a little screen, and your receipt gets emailed to you. For the traveller who has to submit their expenses, and anyone who’s ever mislaid an Important Paper from a stack of random bits of paper (*cough*), this seems like a great idea. Technology can easily support purchase-tracking, it’s more eco-friendly, stores are more accountable. From the seller point of view, they get the opportunity to get some lightweight user feedback. What’s the problem? Sadly, … More