Designing for Interpersonal Persuasion on a Massive Urban Scale: Bringing the Future of the Cities Back to Their Citizens

  • Felix Köbler BahnScout
  • Petromil Petkov Technische Universität München
  • Alexander Braun BahnScout
  • Suparna Goswami Technische Universität München


On May, 9th 2013, the concentration of CO particles in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million for the first time since its measurements began [1]. Reaching this psychological threshold marks the latest alarming trend of the negative human impact on the environment. 2 Climate change is only one of several major challenges that humanity faces. Policy makers and social entrepreneurs aware of these challenges and opportunities have gradually increased their efforts to address these problems, unfortunately without a measurable impact on a global scale. Policies attempting to address the challenges predominantly focus on institutions and organizations. However, many of these problems are a direct result of human actions, and therefore call for human behavioral change to overcome such challenges. Previous research in the area of persuasive design indicates that a certain behavior is usually a result of the corresponding attitude towards the behavior. Therefore, there is a need to promote the right attitudes towards “proper†behaviors among people. Such attitudes can be influenced by providing people with the relevant information that enhances their awareness regarding the consequences of their actions, and ways of overcoming or reducing such consequences. Interaction designers and human-computer interaction (HCI) researchers adopted this bottom-up approach of designing interfaces and intervention mechanisms that focus on bringing about individual behavior changes. Through carefully designed persuasive applications and products they attempted to motivate users and consumers to change their behavior in various aspects (energy consumption, transportation choices, purchasing decisions to name a few). In this regard, users are mere “consumers†of the design, which helps them make personal choices. This position paper builds on the described bottom-up approach, but does not see the users only as consumers but also as activists, who can help the designers in their effort to induce wide-scale behavior change to more sustainable lifestyle. The goal of this research proposal is to empower users with the means to persuade their peers. Furthermore, the research proposes that persuasion on a massive scale requires specific efforts to design persuasive feedback that caters to various motivations and makes efficient use of the communication channels as well as novel ubiquitous and mobile technologies, to which users have access now. The paper first provides a look on authors’ previous research in the area of persuasive design. In particular, we present a persuasive energy monitor application – EnergyWiz, a system for civic engagement – BahnScout, and a theoretical framework for designing persuasive feedback for differently motivated individuals. Thereafter, we review a body of existing research on persuasion on a massive scale and, based on the research gaps, suggest approaches that would lead to rapid and persistent behavior change among people. Finally, we critically analyze the described approaches and outline several research gaps and directions that can advance future research in the area.


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How to Cite
KöBLER, Felix et al. Designing for Interpersonal Persuasion on a Massive Urban Scale: Bringing the Future of the Cities Back to Their Citizens. International SERIES on Information Systems and Management in Creative eMedia (CreMedia), [S.l.], n. 2013/2, p. 31-36, aug. 2013. ISSN 2341-5576. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 jan. 2020.
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