Print less monkey

Posted on May 5, 2009


Jun Xiao and Jian Fan showed some really slick thinking at CHI.   From HP’s Multimedia Interaction and Understanding Lab, they demonstrated PrintMarmoset, “a browser plugin for sustainability”.     In essence, the plug-in hugely reduce the amount of paper used in printing.  It does this through automatic content selection and sloppy gesture selection: 


Impressive as  the application is, what had me taking notes was the thinking behind it.   PrintMarmoset was based on really sound understanding of the challenges of sustainable computing.    They quote Blevis’ argument that interaction designers should consider their social responsibility as a central part of creating design value.    But, the authors recognise that this is not as simple as a green print button and must not hinder workflow:

Sustainable interaction design (SID) has to deal with conventions of learned perceptions and behaviors, which create a formidable barrier to introduce new designs. The designs need to motivate users to pay attention to sustainability issues while addressing usability and utility issues simultaneously. However, design tradeoffs between them are often unclear, as are user reactions to these trade-offs.

SID…often demands a deep understanding of social and evolving aspects of the design. An interaction design for sustainability is prone to a vicious “benefit-lag” circle. Although the promise of environmental benefits of the design may encourage its use, the benefits may only be reached over long term usage. Designers cannot simply ignore the possibility of users’ reluctance to carry out actions that provide no immediate gains. Conversely, the novelty effect of the design can quickly wear off too. Effective SID techniques should motivate lasting behavior changes in users.

The printMark visualisation provides a sharing of print templates “by default, users share Printmarks with others PrintMarmoset users”. This is intended to address an appetite of individuals:

Jun Xiao's presentation at CHI09 

The impetus for adopting a sustainable design may be driven by individuals’ recognition that sustainable behavior can create tangible economic value for them, or by their perceptions of how their peers perceive them, or by their genuine care about the environment. To create sustainable impact, a design for sustainability should make positive prescriptions and engage and seek valuable synergy among all users continuously.

The sharing is not limited to templates.  They also provide for shared goal setting and reporting within local workgroups:

the purpose of the visualizations is not to badger or shame users, but rather to entice them to explore and interact with the visualization, visually experiencing how their decision affects the environment. In doing so, we hope to stimulate critical reflections from users and encourage more sustainable behaviors. Woodruff et al. have found that ‘green’ individuals often continuously monitor and evaluate their behaviors and derive satisfaction from the cleverness of their solutions, and as a result, progressively develop increasingly sustainable behaviors

The authors promise PrintMarmoset will be released soon.