> BJ Fogg, Ph.D.


> Captology: Computers as Persuasive Technologies



>BJ Fogg (Ph.D., Stanford University) directs research and design for the

>Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford (www.captology.org). An experimental

>psychologist, BJ also teaches courses in persuasive computing for the

>Computer Science Department. Outside the university, BJ has led teams in

>exploring new technologies at Interval Research, Sun Microsystems, and

>Casio U.S. R&D. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the

>Washington Post, and I.D. Magazine.


>During this event, BJ will outline basic issues in captology, the study

>of computers as persuasive technologies. He will explain his Stanford lab's

>work in this area, show examples of persuasive technologies, and discuss

>potentials for captology in healthcare, e-commerce, and environmental



Dr. Fogg began his talk by explaining that Captology was nothing more than a pseudo acronym for Computers As Persuasive Technology. He explained that his lab has been active since the early nineties. They explore the overlap between persuasion (a very mature and well understood field) and computer technology, which has only been mature enough for this kind of question to be relevant for only about five years.

The first example of a persuasive technology he showed us was Baby Think About It, a realistic baby doll designed to get teenagers to think about the implications of an unwanted pregnancy. A realistic actual size doll, it is programmed to start crying at random intervals. When that happens the care giver has to insert a key in it's back and hold it there for a couple of minutes to shut the thing up. The idea is that teachers give them to students to take home for the weekend and then when the student returns the doll the teacher looks up how much time it spent crying to grade performance. The hope is that the student will realize that a crying baby is a big responsibility.

Fogg explained that all computer uses can be mapped onto a three cornered chart, with pure tools in one corner, facilitating applications in another, and actors in the other. Pure tools are things like calculators that simply do predictable tasks. Facilitating applications are things like CD's from Dole (the fruit company) designed to make the idea of eating more fruits and vegetables more appealing to children. Actors are things like Tamaguchi key chains and Baby Think About It, where the computer is buried in a system that has a personality of it's own.

Some applications of this technology bring to mind privacy concerns. For example, some employers are now using monitoring tools to discourage employees from surfing the web during business hours. Another product in this category is a system designed to monitor hand washing by employees in restaurants.

A growth area for persuasive technology is in the digital pet area. Things like HP's fish screen saver, which is designed to promote printer use by giving users points for using their printers that they can trade in for accessories to put in the "tank" can be very successful. Fogg pointed out that creating situations where people are rewarded for using more stuff that is in finite supply could be considered unethical, and that we should be careful about this type of application. Digital pets work because they help answer the question "why should I care?"

For some reason the most state of the art applications of this technology are in the exercise equipment technology field, where they work to encourage better and more frequent workouts. Examples such as rowing machines that come with virtual competitors and bicycling machines with virtual courses to break the monotony of cruising in a gym were highlighted.

Tian Harter