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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/H006966/1
Title: Sandpit: CHARM: Digital technology: shaping consumer behaviour by informing conceptions of 'normal' practice.
Principal Investigator: Rettie, Professor R
Other Investigators:
Eslambolchilar, Dr P Studley, Dr ME
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Kingston Business School
Organisation: Kingston University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2009 Ends: 28 February 2013 Value (£): 920,134
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Human-Computer Interactions Media & Communication Studies
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Creative Industries
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
CHARM aims to develop, evaluate and understand the ways in which digital technology can be used to shape individual behaviour by informing and thereby challenging 'normal' practice. Much of what people do is based on their conceptions of shared conventions, but these conceptions are often misinformed. Research suggests that we can influence behaviour by telling people what other people do. The study draws upon research on social influence in sociology, behavioural economics, social psychology and social marketing. The three-year project will explore, develop and evaluate this approach in the context of sustainability, using digital technology as a non-invasive interface in three case studies: 1) electricity consumption, 2) active lifestyle and 3) Facebook.People do not consume energy directly but use it in practices such as cleanliness, cooking, and travel. Everyday practices and habits are grounded in taken-for-granted assumptions about 'normal' practices, e.g. that one should wash bedding every two weeks, leave kitchen appliances plugged in and switched on, drive children to school, etc. This sort of behaviour is often not a calculated choice, but taken-for-granted, as an inherent aspect of modern life. This helps to explain why traditional approaches that try to change behaviour by directly influencing attitudes and intentions often prove ineffective. However, studies in several related disciplines suggest that everyday practices are malleable, and can be nudged in a socially desirable direction by subtle forms of social influence. In particular, research indicates that feedback on an individual's level of performance (e.g. electricity consumption) can change their behaviour, and moreover, that this effect is enhanced if supplemented by feedback on the performance of a relevant social group. This project will evaluate this process, using and developing digital technology to facilitate the capture and feedback of individual and social group information in a non-invasive, cost effective and timely manner.The proposed research is extensive and robust, including three case studies chosen for their diversity, their relevance to current social concerns, and the challenges they present both in terms of intrinsic motivation and digital technology. In the electricity consumption case study, a sensor attached to the participant's electricity supply will transmit usage levels to a server, which will relay individual and social group feedback to the participant. In the active lifestyle case study, a specially developed application will monitor the participant's daily activity levels, displaying individual and social group feedback on a mobile device (e.g. mobile phone). The Facebook case study will evaluate the effect of individual and social group feedback in the context of a social network site. Overall the CHARM project will include approximately 800 experimental subjects, with feedback available on a weekly basis over an 8 week period. In addition, all respondents will be asked to complete a questionnaire at the end of the experiment. This quantitative approach will be complemented and illuminated by extensive qualitative research. The feedback provided in the field trials should heighten respondents' awareness, not only of overall performance levels, but also of the underlying practices that constitute these patterns of behaviour, making them more accessible to interview-based research. These practices will be explored in longitudinal ethnographic research with approximately 100 respondents, and in focus groups designed to stimulate and elicit normative discourse. CHARM will provide a detailed understanding of conceptions of 'normal' practices, of their amenability to change, and of the ways in which they can be shaped by social group feedback.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL: http://projectcharm.info/findings/
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.kingston.ac.uk