“Alexa, Help Me Save the Planet”: Designing an AI assistant to reduce invisible environmental pollutants in cities
My Ph.D. thesis critically analyses the reductionist, technological approaches of smart cities and persuasive technologies aimed at tackling air pollution and mitigating the effects of climate change. It offers evidence-based practical alternatives to these approaches and suggests how future work in this field might expand this narrow design space.
There is scientific consensus that global climate change is occurring and that the greenhouse gases emitted by human behaviour are the primary driver. Despite this agreement, collective action to reduce emissions has been lacking. And according to the latest estimates, global temperature is on track to rise by an average of 6°C. Inaction can partly be explained by the nature of the problem; the effects of climate change are often indirect, delayed, and difficult to understand. With the ultimate aim of fostering low-carbon social innovation, in this thesis I redesign an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant technology to encourage behaviour change that reduces invisible pollutants in cities. I apply a second-order epistemology to address the current limitations of AI assistants and enhance the field of smart technology design.
Local governments around the world are spending millions to monitor environmental pollution using smart city technologies. Firstly, I analyse and critique these technologies and I propose a new set of design qualities. By developing these design qualities, I hope to provide a conceptual lens that might help other designers of smart urban technologies gain a relational understanding of pollution-producing practices in cities. I am specifically interested in the assumptions built into these technologies by their designers, and I argue that those can also have long-term implications for both environmental and human health.
Secondly, I look through a variety of behaviour change models to understand which ones are the most appropriate to reduce energy consumption in the home to improve pollution in cities. Lastly, I test my own design qualities by designing a smart system, based on a custom voice user interface.
My methodological approach aims to demonstrate how design research can raise novel questions and inform disciplines with an interest in behaviour change, environmental pollution and urban technology design. It demonstrates how technologies may facilitate the articulations of citizenship, participation and agency themselves. The work has value for those working in design for behaviour change, HCI and persuasive technologies, and for decision makers and designers involved in the creation of smart city systems and emerging AI technologies.
Can design for behaviour change use AI assistants to reduce invisible environmental pollutants in cities?
What are the most appropriate behaviour change models for changing domestic behaviours to improve urban air quality?
School of Design
Innovation Design Engineering, 2014–
Gyorgyi Galik is a London-based innovation designer and design researcher. Alongside her studies, she works as a Design Researcher at Future Cities Catapult. Galik's practice focuses on voluntary social change, and more specifically how we can transform socio-ecological systems and our collective relationship towards the environmental commons to address and respond to contemporary urban challenges. With PAN Studio and Tom Armitage, she has been nominated in the Digital Category of the Design Museum's 'Design of the Year 2014' Award for the project, Hello Lamp Post (winner of the first Playable City Award 2013, Bristol).Galik has worked frequently in collaboration and in cross-disciplinary teams in innovation labs and design studios including: Baltan Laboratories (Eindhoven), Kin Design & Research (London), Sackler Centre, Victoria & Albert Museum (London), PAN Studio (London), Superflux (London), Natalie Jeremijenko and the Environmental Health Clinic (New York), Hexagram Research Lab - Concordia (Montreal), Centre for International Studies & Cooperation (Montreal), Szovetseg’39 Association of Artists and Architects (Budapest), Kitchen Budapest Design & Technology Lab (Budapest).
Galik is an Associate Lecturer in Contexts in Design and Communication, Graphic Communication Design Programme, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London.
By taking an interdisciplinary approach to her studies, Galik was able to explore a variety of subjects, including: art history, dramaturgy, visual studies, art and technology, design, creative writing, media and communication theory, art analysis, environmental psychology, anthropology, human ecology and design for social change. She has curated and participated in numerous conferences and workshops in the UK Europe, and North America.
- MA Design Management, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest, 2010; MA Visual Communication Arts: Spec. in Video Art, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest, 2009
- Gyorgyi has worked frequently in cross-disciplinary teams in innovation labs and design studios including: Future Cities Catapult, Superflux, Kin Design & Research, PAN Studio, NYU - Environmental Health Clinic, Concordia - Hexagram, Kitchen Budapest.
- 2016 ‘London 2036’, 03 Dec 2015 — 20 Mar 2016, London Situation Room, Big Bang Exhibition, Somerset House, London, United Kingdom 2015 May 19 through October, 2015: 'Carbon Pencils from Pollution', World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
- Nominee, Design of the Year: Digital Category, Design Museum, 2014; Playable City Award, Bristol, 2013
- • Speaker: 'Emerging tools for participation' @ Co-creation and Civic Participation: Rethinking Public Services, European Week of Regions and Cities, London House, Brussels, Belgium • Speaker: ‘If we are so smart, then why aren’t we healthier?’ @ Creatin
- The Pursuit of legible policy: Encouraging Agency and Participation in the Complex Systems of the Contemporary Megalopolis, Mexico City; Future Focused Thinking: Plans and Speculated Actions-A Conversation