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By Filippo Vanucci (February 1, 2009) ()

Exposure seems to be a crucial factor when analyzing persuasive technologies. I consider Bill Marston’s Lie Detector a really clear example of technology that fails for its excessive exposure. The intent behind the design of the machine is to detect when an individual is lying by measuring modifications in breathing and blood pressure. In order to use the machine, though, the individual must be informed of what is it that is being measured (truth or lie of his/her answers) and there is apparently no way to get around the communication of the intent that is behind the experiment. This exposure affects tremendously the predisposition of the person, conditioning his/her mood and feelings, and making the Lie Detector a totally unreliable tool for the purpose. This example reminds me of Talbott’s perspective on persuasion and transparency.  It seems that it doesn’t even matter how good (or bad) your persuasive intention is, but if the tools implied are perceived as invasive, you will hardly obtain a persuasion effect.

Dan Lockton provides a very interesting attempt to define a methodology for the desing of persuasive products (Design with Intent). All the approaches described in his research (system elements approach, poka-yoke, persuasive interface) seem to be focused on drastically reducing the exposure of the persuasive intent, and working on the user’s perception and psychology to elicit a good behavior, a good use of technology. The persuasive intentions are incorporated in the products through the disposition in the space, the physical affordances and by providing or omitting the possibility of making bad choices. There is no explicit expression of intent (as in the Lie Detector), which is exactly what makes the design (hopefully) more effective.


February 1, 2009


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