Using Sociotechnical Feedback to Engage, Educate, Motivate, and Empower Environmental Thought and Action
Through the vast majority of human evolution our ancestors experienced intimate and continuous feedback from the natural world that informed and constrained individual and community decision-making. In the last two centuries fossil fuel use coupled with development of technologies for extracting, producing and consuming energy and materials have augmented and partially supplanted our immediate dependence on natural flows of energy and cycles of matter. Combined with urban migration and industrialization this has contributed to a psychological as well as physical separation between humans and the environment. At the same time human influence over the environment has expanded from local to regional to global scales. The technological advances now taking place in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and material science are essential but also insufficient conditions for achieving sustainability. In recent years a fundamentally new class of technologies—made possible by developments in hardware, software and networking and informed by social psychology—are enabling the emergence of novel forms of feedback on resource consumption and environmental quality. In this paper we argue that "sociotechnical" feedback of this sort, delivered at multiple scales and through multiple modes, has the potential to reconnect humans to nature, stimulate systems thinking, and motivate behaviors that are more attuned to ecological constraints and opportunities.
Petersen, John, Cindy Frantz, and Rumi Shammin. 2014. "Using Sociotechnical Feedback to Engage, Educate, Motivate, and Empower Environmental Thought and Action." Solutions 5(1): 79-87.
Additional Department: Psychology