Together with KPN, I delved into the world of unlimited data and the quickly rising amount of online interactions it drives. To facilitate more sustainable interactions for both user and environment we explored how less usage could add more value.
Through a set of interventions the concept aims to make data consumption more explicit for consumers and mediates usage by giving them tools and a social frame of reference.
The exploration resulted in a new proposition that KPN can begin to develop further, starting with awareness campaigns. Next to that the research findings also hold implications for transitioning to a sustainable digital future which will be published in a research paper.
"The cloud weighs heavy"
Through extensive research talking to experts and consumers I scoped out the system in which online interactions take place. Contrary to what most believe, the digital world is far from endless. Hidden behind ‘the cloud’ is an energy guzzling network of cables, servers and devices that lays a claim on valuable resources.
But the way we consume data not only puts stress on the environment, continuous streams of information also push people beyond their biological limits. For consumers, a moderate ‘data diet’ can improve overall wellbeing, online safety and help them to act in line with sustainable goals.
Approaching this topic from a system’s viewpoint helped me to pinpoint the barriers that are currently withholding consumers from acting in their own interest. From all the insights I distilled three main design strategies for moderating data consumption.
"Bring online behaviour out of the dark"
1. Active involvement
To break with determinism and ignorance around the negative impact of data usage, consumers must be directly involved in shaping their digital future.
Addictions and immoral, excessive habits litter the digital realm. Enabling purpose-driven interactions can lead to more meaningful experiences.
3. Social norms
What amount of screen time is normal? Nobody really seemed to know. Establishing social guidelines can play an important role in moving towards responsible use.
Accompanying the data plan is a new router and app that help consumers reach their goals. Making slow the new standard, the app allows users to temporarily boost their traffic speed for a set amount of time, allowing them to make conscious decisions.
Within the lifestyle screens users can get feedback, helpful tips and set targets to be safer, healthier or more sustainable.
Through various paper prototypes I explored how the design strategies could materialize in the final concept. The result is KPNcare, a new proposition by which KPN supports their customers in consuming data responsibly.
In a new type of subscription three ‘lifestyle-categories’ show the user what the potential benefits are of moderate usage and how it can align with their personal goals and those of KPN. By subscribing to this plan customers take the first step in changing online habits together with their provider.
The router takes feedback into the physical realm by showing usage of all household members in its interface after they log in. The colourful display encourages social comparison and provides users with daily moments of reflection. This physical design is an attempt for real world rituals to be more easily influenced.
I hosted a focus group and several individual evaluations with KPN customers to assess the new proposition and concepts. By simulating a real world setting and engaging with customers the evaluation returned valuable insights. It allowed me to provide a comprehensive report with concrete recommendations to KPN.
“This would be a reason for me to switch provider”
The new proposition seemed to resonate with KPN’s customers which made the project a good base to inspire new campaigns and future app and router designs. The project also holds implications for other moderate data designs or policies. Together with the experts involved in the project I wrote a publication taking the findings into the bigger picture.
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