Motivating Community-Oriented Behavior
through an Online Social Visualization
Catherine Grevet ‘09
Social comparison places an individual in the
context of a larger community. Towards a
community-oriented goal, contrasting one’s
performance to others has motivational effects.
In the context of environmentalism, feedback is
important to make people aware of their personal
impact. Providing social feedback has an even
However, there lacks research in the area of
displaying social data online (social visualization)
website allows users
to commit to green
actions and view
their carbon and
dollar savings over
Literature review on social visualizations, social
comparison and social feedback of energy usage
Iterative design process to create a social
visualization that accounts for social comparison
Implementation of the design using Adobe Flex and
Evaluation through a quantitative user study at
Brainstorming about what is motivating:
What dimensions should people be evaluated on?
Should we display history? Overall footprint?
Should we make it collaborative or a competition?
How do we compare people’s performance?
The data we focus on measuring is action fulfillment (which
correspond to CO2 savings) of their committed actions
People should be able to achieve 100%
Unlimited number of participants
Display of entire community for overview
Opacity for conveying performance
Different comparison levels
Personal time graph and action breakdown
Developed in Adobe Flex with ActionScript 3.0
Application communicates with the Stepgreen
server through fetching and parsing XML files.
Each user has an XML file with the history of their
For Wellesley College, each dorm has an XML file
with the users in each dorm and the summary of the
Hypothesis: People who use the social visualization will be more
motivated to perform sustainable actions in their daily lives than
those who only receive personal feedback.
Wellesley College dorm competition:
All the Wellesley College dorms are represented
21 in the social group and 20 in the individual group
Lasted 5 weeks total (pre-study week and then 4 weeks)
Participants recruited online and through fliers on campus
Survey data: entry and exit survey
Stepgreen.org website usage data
Website Usage Data
Frequency of visits Commitments to new
Website Usage Data
Fulfillments of committed actions
The participants in the social group didn’t change
their perception of sustainability more than the
individual group butthey did fulfilled more of their
green actions than the individual group.
Suggests potential for this type of application for
environmentalism and other areas where individuals
should be motivated to perform collective-good
Implementing a competitive approach where users must be
the first to discover the image could have further motivational
Applying social comparison and social visualization to other
areas such as voting, education, health care has potential.
With social networking and social comparison arise issues
such as trust and security.
This work can lead to two directions:
Environmentalism and HCI which is starting to gain interest in
the community through sustainable interaction.
Social networking for social good: NSF has just launched a
$15 million grant in this area.
Work was presented at:
C. Grevet, J. Mankoff. Motivating Sustainable
Behavior through Online Social Visualization. To be
presented at the workshop on Defining the Role of
HCI in the Challenges of Sustainability, CHI 2009.
NEUS and CCSNE poster presentations
Rulhman presentation on Motivating Sustainable
Behavior through Online Social Visualization
Poster abstract submitted to BECC
Thesis publication to be submitted to HICSS
Jen Mankoff and Robert Thompson (CMU)
Orit Shaer, Takis Metaxas and Julie Norem