Latest Entries

A new home for the North House

Wonderful news! Rare Sites is leading a project to install North House on a permanent site in Cambridge, Ontario.

Full story here: http://www.raresites.org/2012/06/north-house-comes-home-to-rare/

XRDS Article Published

Our article, Challenges in Sustainable Human-Home Interaction, has just been published in the Summer 2011 issue of ACM’s XRDS magazine. It is one of the feature articles on the issue’s theme of Green Technologies. The issue is edited by Jon Froehlich. Thank you to Jon and Erin Carson for their editorial insights and feedback.

Challenges in Sustainable Human-Home Interaction
Johnny Rodgers, Lyn Bartram, Rob Woodbury

A sustainable home is more than an efficient building: it is also a living experience that encourages residents to use fewer resources more effectively. To date, progress in the development of efficient buildings has largely focused on energy use simulations, smart automation of building systems, and engineering for optimal performance. However, strategies that focus solely on automation and efficient technologies to achieve conservation gains are often impeded by unexpected patterns of residential use that don’t fit the model — subverting the envisioned functioning of “smart homes.” Yet when supported by appropriate feedback and control affordances, small changes in behaviour such as turning off lights, eliminating standby power draws, covering or uncovering windows, and using efficient settings on household appliances can result in energy savings between 10% and 20%. Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researchers have concentrated on eco-visualization and feedback to engage residents and encourage such changes, but have not fully integrated these techniques into actual home designs. We must bridge this gap and conceptualize residents as active and essential actors in the efficient functioning of a green building, while empowering them with the information and access they need to live sustainably.

The article is available from the XRDS print magazine, online archives, or the ACM Portal.

Past, present, and future

Upon successfully defending my thesis in February, I found myself suddenly at the end of my Masters degree. Just like that, 2.5 years of work came to a recognizable endpoint. I decided I was ready for it.

Since then, I have been working full time as a UI Developer and Interaction Designer at SAP Labs Vancouver, where I work with an amazing team on StreamWork, a social collaboration app for business. I am enjoying the transition to industry for the time-being, and am learning a great deal from my colleagues about how to apply design thinking to interesting everyday problems, and how to write scalable, maintainable, and reliable software. I am also learning just how skewed the view of the real world really is from inside the academic bubble.

My thesis is available in full as a PDF from the SFU digital library: Residential Resource Use Feedback: Exploring Ambient and Artistic Approaches. Please contact me if you are interested in a printed copy, or in reproduction of individual chapters.

Though I’ve moved on from school, I’m of course still fascinated by the topics of my research, so I’m not entirely removing myself from the discussion. Recent and upcoming experiences/projects include:

I’m excited by the innovative ideas coming out of the HCI and UbiComp communities around sustainability and our relationship to the resources we use, and the spontaneous collectives springing up around these issues in Vancouver. I’m also energized by the possibilities that DIY/hack culture represent for innovation in this and a multitude of related areas. With these interests in mind, and so many questions to explore, I don’t think my official time in the culture of ideas is done quite yet. But taking several years off between my undergrad and masters was the best thing I ever did for my personal development and perspective on technology. See you in a while!

Thesis submitted!

fter 7 terms, my thesis is submitted! Final count: 43,130 words, 161 pages. Feels good. Now to prepare for the Feb. 22nd defense date.

Here’s a Wordle of my thesis text:

Status update

log entries have been sparse over the past few months as I’ve been focusing on completing my thesis. I’m nearly there: the final document is about 85% done, the defense is booked, my examining committee is finalized, and I’m slowly checking off the myriad paperwork items that go along with completing a graduate degree. I’m excited to be in this position after two and a half years of steady work toward it. I’m also quite pleased with how the thesis has come together. Let’s hope my committee feels the same way!

Here are the title and abstract:

Residential resource use feedback: Exploring ambient and artistic approaches

Supporting sustainable resource use in the home requires a range of feedback techniques to enable informed decision-making. These techniques include traditional screen-based interfaces, but such tools typically require significant effort and attention from residents. Though they provide precise numerical feedback, they do not support at-a-glance awareness of real-time resource use, nor are they designed to integrate cohesively with the home. An alternative approach is the provision of ambient and artistic visualizations integrated into the domestic environment. To situate this approach, we describe our involvement in the development of feedback and control systems for two sustainable homes. Following from this, we present the results of a mixed methods user study exploring four primary design requirements for ambient and artistic visualization of residential resource use: pragmatic, aesthetic, ambient and ecological. We conclude that these techniques are a viable approach to resource use feedback, and identify important considerations for their design.

The defense information is as follows:

Tuesday February 22nd, 2011
11am to 1pm
SFU Surrey, Room 4040

Chair: Dr. Marek Hatala, Associate Professor, SIAT
Senior Supervisor: Dr. Lyn Bartram, Assistant Professor, SIAT
Supervisor: Dr. Alissa Antle, Assistant Professor, SIAT
External Examiner: Dr. Melanie Tory, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Victoria


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