User behaviour

Visible data and behaviour change – Stockholm

A quick off topic post from the road, having been re-reminded of Dan Hill’s Personal Well-tempered Environment in his presentation at Web Directions South a few weeks back.

My first impressions of Sweden, from arriving in the airport and catching the train into the city, were of a country that pushes its’ ‘green’ credentials upfront. All the transport from the airport to the city was ranked in terms of ‘eco-friendliness’. The public transport brochure for tourists proudly states that “(public transport) is good for the environment”. It then goes on to explain where the funding for public transport comes from (ticket sales, advertising, property rents and 50% from local taxes) and the number of jobs it provides for the community (14,000). This sort of additional information and context struck me as rather unique – certainly back home there isn’t any talk of where the funding comes from, and definitely not in the material produced for the tourist market.

What is striking about this is the use of ‘transparency’ as a means of encouraging certain types of behaviour – encouraging public transport use, and discouraging fare evasion. It also assumes a level of ‘good intent’ amongst readers.

This transparency extends to my hotel room where I am told that only 1/3 of people who stay in my room number reuse their towels more than one night at a time. This pales in comparison to the eco-friendly guests of Room 138 – they reuse at a rate of 87.5%! In defence of my room number – I expect, being a single room, my room gets a lot of single night stays and this skews its’ figures – (or the people who stay here are cleanliness obsessives). Again this is interesting because the hotel plays on the guest’s competitiveness and, again. assumes ‘good intent’ – can you beat Room 138?


Then walking the city today I stumbled upon a piece of public art in Strandvägen that is fed by air and water pollution data. It looks like the work is quite old – and it gives a simple visualisation of pollution levels with a light sequence. Nothing too remarkable there except that it claims a real time data feed – something which I’m sure could/should be repurposed for online visualisations.



Food for thought.

One reply on “Visible data and behaviour change – Stockholm”

Hi Seb
Really enjoyed your post. A great case for FOI in using data in Australia. When I was in Brisbane I asked the person showing me around the new galleries in South Bank if all of the money to build the precinct was from mining. She told me that it was State Govt funded, not mining money. When I asked where the Govt got their money from, she guessed mining. I wondered if people think about how projects are funded. As you suggest, transparency could change behaviour.

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