Friday 18 November 2011

Opening Keynote at AMI 2011: Margaret Morris

Margaret (Margi) Morris presented the opening keynote at the 2011 conference on ambient intelligence in Amsterdam (AMI2011) with the title “Left to our own devices”.

Margaret brought up an interesting point on motivation: Showing people what they lose is a stronger motivator than the prospective of gain. She made the point in order to implement this the depicted loss has to be very specific. She showed a facebook applicationWith a little help from my friends”, where this basic concept is applied.   I had recently seen a bill board adverting campaign for safe driving on motorways in Germany using this approach (basically showing the risk of loss of family).

In the talk several examples of devices and applications were presented. To learn more about her work I recommend the following two papers: at tool to improve emotional self-awareness [1] and an investing in social networks and their utility to promote health [2].

Another point that made me think was the question of how we design interventions. One conceptual example was about an obesity campaign. The official UK campaign starts out with the statement that obesity is a problem for 9 million kids. Her alternative is to provide instead of the information a specific hint about an opportunity for action for an individual (e.g. telling the kid when it leaves school in the afternoon: now is probably a good time to play soccer with your friends, as 16 of them like to play soccer). An open research question that relates to this seems to me to investigate the impact of information about the norm, e.g. how will it affect my behavior if I know that 70% of my friends think driving too fast is OK vs. if I know that only 20% find it acceptable. I think this could be further explored in the context of social networks to create interesting persuasive technologies.

There has been an interesting discussion after the talk. Norbert Streitz questioned if it is a good idea to ask people to engage more with digital devices (e.g. self monitoring one’s mood). The question is hinting that the engagement with the digital device keeps us from interaction in the “real” world. I think this separation is disappearing fast – making a phone call, listening to MP3, chatting with friends on facebook is for many of us real, we live in a world that is augmented by technology and the boundaries are bluring...

[1] Morris ME, Kathawala Q, Leen TK, Gorenstein EE, Guilak F, Labhard M, Deleeuw W. Mobile Therapy: Case Study Evaluations of a Cell Phone Application for Emotional Self-Awareness. Journal of Medical Internet Research 2010;12(2):e10. URL:

[2] Margaret E. Morris. 2005. Social Networks as Health Feedback Displays. IEEE Internet Computing 9, 5 (September 2005), 29-37. DOI=10.1109/MIC.2005.109