happy cities

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Nov 21, 2008, 9:19:02 PM11/21/08
to Design and Behaviour
Hi all,

My name is Charles Montgomery. I am a journalist who looks at the
intersection of psychology and urban design. Most recently I have been
writing about how research on subjective well-being--ok, ok:
happiness--might influence the way we organize and move through
cities. It seems that many changes geared to boost 'happiness' in
cities are the same changes we'd make to deal with climate change and
resource scarcity.

The first policymaker to use well-being research to justify a complete
transformation of his city was Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of
Bogota, Colombia. His story, and more of my recent writing on the
subject can be found here:

I'm fascinated by the ideas I've seen on this discussion, and am keen
to hear how some of them might be broadened to create more
sustainable--and well-being-producing--behaviour in public space,
transpo networks, communities, etc.

Charles Montgomery
[Vancouver, Canada, and Mexico DF, Mexico]

Cameron Tonkinwise

Nov 22, 2008, 5:11:48 PM11/22/08
to design-and...@googlegroups.com
We need to get 'our' message out urgently.
Check out the appalling slides under 'Behavior'
in this slick interactive graphic that is doing
the rounds after Worldchanging blogged it:
(there is an introductory movie that is skippable)

Dan Lockton

Nov 26, 2008, 6:53:25 AM11/26/08
to Design and Behaviour
Thanks Charles, it's great to have people with such broad experience
and interests as part of the discussion.
Your article on Bogota is illuminating and the example seems to
demonstrate what a massive influence structural design decisions (such
as providing a proper bike route network) can have on people's
behaviour. I guess this is along the lines of Buckminster Fuller's
"modify the environment in such a way as the get man moving in
preferred directions" idea.

The idea that "many changes geared to boost 'happiness' in cities are
the same changes we'd make to deal with climate change and resource
scarcity" is very interesting. I wonder if (in general) the challenge
vs. skills idea of Csikszentmihalyi's 'Flow' (e.g.
http://austega.com/education/articles/flow.htm ) actually maps at all
to the concept of a more 'sustainable' lifestyle: we would be changing
our lifestyle continuously as we learn how to do things better, but
without overreaching into debt (environmental, inter-generational,


Dan Lockton MPhil BSc(Hons) FRSA | Cleaner Electronics Research Group
Brunel Design | Brunel University | London | UB8 3PH | http://danlockton.co.uk

Dan Lockton

Nov 26, 2008, 10:52:03 AM11/26/08
to Design and Behaviour
Thanks Cameron. That presentation does present a particularly narrow
and prescriptive way of approaching behaviour change through design.
As Rosie says, "demonising users is not what designing for behaviour
is about".

I will let the Noé21 people know about this group and the research
some of us are doing in this area: it's a lot wider than single-issue
transitions like those slides seem to imply.


Nov 27, 2008, 6:55:58 PM11/27/08
to Design and Behaviour
My name's Fergus Bisset and I am a designer working on a public
engagement project www.realworlddesign.org which will culminate with
an exhibition promoting Ergonomics and Human Factors at the Design
Museum in Central London in November 2009. The title of the exhibition
as the domain name alludes is Real World Design with the subtitle
being 'how ergonomics is making things better'.

Throughout the early concept proposals all the project partners have
been keen to have one exhibit devoted to the question of 'how
ergonomics is making the environment better' and as Ergonomics by our
own definition is the study of human behaviour in relation use of
products, systems and services, this seems like an ideal opportunity
for 'Designing for Behaviour', specifically in relation to climate
change to promote itself and set the record straight for the public at
a prestigious venue in London.

If any of you from your respective backgrounds have any ideas about
how we might best communicate to the public how Ergonomics is making
the environment better it would be very welcome through this forum,
through our Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/pages/Real-World-Design/48684277928
or through our website.

Interestingly, and picking up on Dan's reference to Flow state one of
our recent blog posts highlights the utilisation of 'flow-state like
behaviour' by Honda in a dashboard widget designed to elicit a more
economical driving style: http://www.realworlddesign.org/blog/blog/2008/11/27/ergonomics-can-be-fun/.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Sebastian Deterding

Nov 27, 2008, 5:38:50 PM11/27/08
to design-and...@googlegroups.com
Hi Charles,

This is me unlurking without even having written an introduction (mental
note: do today),

But I just wanted to say that I find the notion of "urban planning (or
design?) for happiness" absolutely captivating.

The Alternate Reality Game Designer of fame, Jane McGonigal, pursues a
somewhat similar path arguing that "games are the ultimate happiness
machines" -- and thus, it is up to the game designers to apply their
knowledge to the world at large and fix reality.

An example?

"Cruel 2 B Kind", a team public assassination game where the goal is to
"kill" the group of opponents by performing a predetermined random act of
kindness on them (like paying a compliment, a hug, etc.). The catch: You
don't know who your opponents are, only that they move in a predetermined
territory (like a public park). The implicit side effect: A bunch of
strangers being kind to all kinds of passersby, increasing everyones'
happiness, discovering how easy/nice it is to be kind.


So the connecting principles, I guess, are to design (a) not a physical
architecture (like a traditional architect/urban planner/product
designer/...) but a social one, a rule set - like the car-free day - that
enables, constraints, affords certain kinds of behaviour and experience
(happy ones :). But the understanding is there that social rules often need
to be reinforced by physical infrastructures that "hardwire" them. (b) The
intended effects are emergent, implicit, as is the "level" of mechanics you
aim at: Like behavorial economics, the behaviorist background of persuasive
technology or most of what's been happening in cognitive science in the last
10+ years, the argument is out that our thoughts and actions are affected
much more by unnoticed, subconscious, peripheral mechanisms - emotional,
social, environmental, take your pick.
© designing for "optimal experience", and building on positive psychology as
a theoretical/empirical background.


Rosie H

Nov 28, 2008, 6:29:19 AM11/28/08
to Design and Behaviour
I think this idea of 'flow' is key to why sustainable behaviour is not
high on 'our' list of priorities... Prof. 'Chicks send me high'
describes a condition in which people experience happiness, very
little of which can be accomplished by directly trying to 'behave
sustainably' least of all 'knowing the activity is doable', which of
course none of us do. The opportunity I think this insight could
provide is an understanding of how people could experience happiness
outside of current unsustainable ways of living - such as those
focussed on material wealth. Do people need to think about how to
behave more sustainably (this makes me unhappy because I am constantly
guilt-ridden)? or do we need to be guided towards activities where
sustainable ways of living and happy-making go hand in hand? Green
Gyms spring to mind... volunteers help manage green spaces and
wildernesses and in doing so get to exercise for free in the open air
rather in the stuffy corporate gym

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