Habitat

Sydney University

 

We are working with two of the faculties at Sydney University; The Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA) team in the School of Physics are writing the algorithms that underpin the game and The team at the Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and Cognition(CoCo) are investigating the process of designing Habitat and in particular the way in which learners use the game.

ISA and Algorithms

The measures of environmental impact used in the game focus on those factors which contribute to global climate change, however the changes in lifestyle promoted by the game will also influence other important environmental problems, such as bio-diversity threats and ecosystem toxicity.

The game has the task of conveying ideas of both responsibility and empowerment to the player. Responsibility here means creating the link between lifestyle choices and consumption habits, and environmental impact. The consumption of goods and services in Australia create environmental (and social) impacts all over the world through complicated supply chains. Often the environmental impacts of production are hidden to the consumers of final goods and services which makes it difficult to conceptualise these impacts. The game encourages the players to accept some responsibility for these consequences, without overwhelming them. The assignment of responsibility is tempered by empowerment to alter these impacts through lifestyle and consumption choices. The game guides players through relatively simple changes that cumulatively reduce their environmental impact.

Linked to the ideas of responsibility and empowerment is the distinction between absolute and relative change in environmental footprint. The game aims to reduce the total impact of the players while recognising the importance of relative or fractional change as well. All reductions in environmental footprint should be encouraged, however the effect of this reduction should be compared to the scale of the problem and not be in ignorance of the environmental footprint that remains.

CoCo’s Research

Players and parents when they first sign into the game players will be asked if they mind sharing their real world data with the Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and Cognition (CoCo). This will be an opt-in feature.

Throughout the game players will be asked to submit behviours and add information to their ecological footprint. We will build an individual’s profile around this data and be able to provide the player with a more personalized experience. CoCo will take the anonymous data (they will not be provided any personal data of the players).
Coco aims to use the data to look at the behaviour of learners in response to key elements of the design of the app. These will fall broadly into the ways in which the various elements of the tools are used, the way that knowledge is communicated and created, and the social interactions, as well as the interactions between these. This data will be used as part of a larger project that will examine the design of this app, the implications for learners, and the effect that this knowledge has on subsequent iterations of the design process.

Research at the University of Sydney is guided by a number of acts and policies, for more information see: http://sydney.edu.au/research_support/ethics/human/legislation.shtml