Master project \ design research
This research project focuses on how interactive technology can help people in visualizing food expiration, to raise awareness of their daily practices of consumption, aiming at reducting waste. It allowed me to develop further the design research processes learned throughout the first semester and to apply them to study a real-world environmental issue and its causes from a user perspective.
At the present time, around one third to one half of the total world's food production goes to waste. HCI research has shown a growing interest in finding a solution to the problem. The focus is on how design can take part in reducing food waste and changing the consumer's behavior towards an improved care for sustainability. Basing on the theories of persuasive sustainability, eatIt! is an interactive device that explores the possibilities of seamlessly embedding persuasive technology into everyday life. In order to enhance behavioral change in young adults living together, a research-through-design approach has showed the possibilities of increasing awareness of food wastage in shared households with the use of peripheral light signals. The findings of this research are positive towards the possibility of enhancing a more conscious behavior, thanks to the peripheral visualization of expiry dates in the environment of the kitchen.
This study was based on a research-through-design field approach, aiming to answer the research question through the in-home deployment of a physical probe [a]. After a preliminary user study involving three students living in three shared households, it was found that the main issues around food in the specific of shared living regarded having an unpredictable, busy lifestyle combined with not knowing what was available in the fridge nor who it belonged.
“You don’t always know which food is whose, which means that you don’t feel responsible for it.” — user study participant
For this reasoning, the research prototype was designed for the young adults living together to be aware of the expiration of their currently available food, to be found in the fridge. The aim of the design was to create visibility [b] [c] in the periphery of attention.
This project allowed me to explore with first hand how to apply research processes to designing for everyday life interactions, in the specific, related to the complex topic of sustainability. As I have often been confronted with academic research, this was the first research project where the collection and elaboration of data through qualitative methods of inquiry with users was entirely carried by myself, as well as the writing of the paper. I was also able to practice the realization of a (basic, yet) working probe to test the research hypotheses, with an in-home deployment with the target users.
a. Koskinen, I., Zimmerman, J., Binder, T., Redstrom, J., & Wensveen, S. (2011). Design research through practice: From the lab, field, and showroom. Elsevier.
b. Farr-Wharton, G., Foth, M., & Choi, J. H. J. (2012, November). Colour coding the fridge to reduce food waste. In Proceedings of the 24th Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference (pp. 119-122). ACM.
c. Ganglbauer, E., Fitzpatrick, G., & Molzer, G. (2012, December). Creating visibility: understanding the design space for food waste. In Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (p. 1). ACM.