Study considers how games could affect energy usage

Researchers at the School of Computer Science at Lincoln University have received funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to examine how the use of social technology and gaming could be used to positively affect energy-usage behaviour.

With the funds, the researchers plan to design, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of a suite of social software applications – including simple social games – to encourage positive changes in group and individual energy-consumption behaviour on the university campus and in the local community.

Individuals and groups can then make positive changes to their energy-consumption behaviour, such as powering down computers, copiers and other equipment, switching off unnecessary lighting and using natural ventilation instead of air conditioning.

The university is collaborating with Lincolnshire County Council on the pilot project, which responds to findings of the PC Energy Report 2009 that indicated that if the 17m UK workers who regularly use a desktop PC powered it off at night it would reduce CO2 emissions by 1.3m tons.

The project is being led by Dr Shaun Lawson, a reader in the School of Computer Science. He said: ’We believe that allowing people to view – in a fun and readily understood fashion – their own energy consumption, as well as that of peers, colleagues and other members of their social network or community, can have a direct influence on subsequent behaviour.’

The team will deliver desktop applications called widgets to workplace computers of employees of the university, Lincolnshire County Council and to students taking part.