Insights from the Poster Session

During the poster session, I talked to many people about my project, the research I’ve done, and the questions I’ll be trying to answer going forward. Nothing earth-shattering came up—which is a good thing—but of course there were a few key insights that came out of my conversations.

Four insights that stood out:

Be clear about who is included in my target audience

With my particular case study, I am targeting people who are largely unaware of the negative effects that bottled water has on the environment. But I did not make that clear on my poster. It is definitely something I must remember to highlight in my final presentation. A diagram showing different levels of environmentally-responsible awareness and involvement, and which one(s) I am targeting, could be helpful going forward.

Be clear that there is no perfect solution to an environmental problem such as my case study.

Even with a simple case study like bottled water, the alternative—drinking tap water—has its own issues. Some people live in old homes where the pipes contaminate the water with lead. Some communities’ tap water contains unhealthy hormones. Even if an individual’s tap water is relatively harmless, the person may want to filter it for taste reasons. This brings up issues with the filters, which use energy for manufacturing and are often not recycled (although I recently discovered that it is possible to recycle Brita filters). And as we have learned from the recent BPA scare, reusable bottles are not perfect either. I am deeply aware of all of these issues, and while it was not possible to include this level of detail on my poster, I will be sure to spend some time on this point in my final paper.

Focus on what is gained from the eco-friendly behavior, not what people have to sacrifice.

A few people echoed this advice in different ways, and interestingly, it also ties directly into the papers that I read over winter break. One person reminded me that “people do what is right for them” so it is important for me to frame the environmentally-friendly choice as a positive choice that will benefit them. Another person suggested framing the choice in a way that gives the audience a way to feel better about him or herself.

Plan the next research activity carefully in order to measure whether the design affects people’s actual behavior

This point was brought up by someone who works at a design firm and does a great deal of usability testing and design research. I appreciated the reminder because this will be a crucial part of my process—finding out what makes information persuasive, and what doesn’t. And measuring a persuasive effect based on self-reports or people’s change in attitudes will lead to very different results than measuring actual behavior change.

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