Cities have a loooooong way to go to be environmentally sustainable.
To make it more serious, global populations are increasing, and people are moving to cities in droves, abandoning rural and suburban lifestyles.
That means the challenges of the mega-city are upon us. Millions of people needing electricity, food, water, sewage, waste disposal to function seamlessly 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
Optimising cities requres the social engineering of behaviors to get people to do things that are not bad for the city. That might mean bheaviors like getting people to dive less in peak hour. Getting people to throw their trash in the bin not on the street. Getting people to pee in toilets in the street. Keeping air conditioners at less drain in the grid during summer. For some problems we can legislate, but even legistaion that is going to work well, requries a deep understanding the nature of human behavior.
There's a revolution happening with the things. It's called the Internet of Things. Meaning that things (objects) are being harnessed with electronic sensors and wifi-connectors so that they can become "smart things". (Kind of like a toaster that sends you a text message when it's done, but not, cause that would be a dumb smart thing.)
The exciting prospect at the Intenet of Things is how it can be used to sense cities, (explored by MIT's Senseable Cities Lab) and hence, improve cities for everyone. When we have sensors sensing the data we need, we can then understand our issue truly and deeply, figure out what behaviors we need to change and then add a layer of gamification techniques to harness the motivation power of people.
I'm insanely exciting about what we can do with the gamification of smart cities. My hope for my video course called "Save the World with Gamification" is that technology innovators use the idea sI';ve presented and apply it to civic problems, on a big scale.
So how do you gamify a smart city?
1. We need sensors applied to the things we need to measure. These are things like air pollution, noise, electricity consumption, trash collected, water used, green space allocated, urban runnoff, water pollution, traffic jams, bicycles ridden etc. We need to know the numbers.
2. We need to be feeding the data back to us (to a database) in a feedback loop, in real time, so we can continually improve and iterate.
3. We need to make the data publicly available, leveraging the theory of disclosure.
4. We need to determine specific beavioral changes we need people to make in order to move the data in a positive direction, then build up a plan designed to acheive these behaviors. I've explained this type of design thinking in the russian doll approach to social change design.
5. Once we have behaviors identified, we can then apply gamification mechanism to the behaviors to dramatically increase people's motivation towards these behaviors. We can implement leaderboards, star ratings, color-coding, heat maps and other fun gamification tools like this. Checkout my video course called Save the World with Gamificationif you want to learn more. It's seriously fun stuff.
Download the free Gamified Earth Matrix if you want a template to spurn ideas from.
People enjoy gamification and competition. It's a natural dopamine kicker. It's also important because it provides us with a sense of agency (that mean's we feel we can make a difference and are motivated to do so). The transparent numbers, the colors, the rewards, the light competition, shifts us from fatigued numbness about big progems to a sense of personal empowerment.
Find this kind of thing interesting? Join our community of world-changers and get access to my free resources that show you how to apply data, behavior change and game design techniques to your cause for the epic win.
Katie Patrick is an environmental engineer and a designer. She helps sustainability professionals, entrepreneaurs and civic innovators to apply powerful techniques in data science, game design and behavioral psychology so they can make epic wins in environmental and social change. She lives in San Francisco with her little daughter Anastasia.
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Effective Action Checklist
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The Gamified Earth Matrix
Looking for ideas? Download this matrix of gamification features and environmental data indicators for new insights into how to wrap gamification in to your project. Download >>
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