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Title: Collective awareness in self-organising socio-technical systems
Author: Bourazeri, Aikaterini
ISNI:       0000 0004 5922 8544
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2016
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A collective action situation involves a group of people working together for a common good or to resolve a common problem, even if their individual goals may be in conflict with the common goal, and each other's goals. Moreover, it may be difficult for individuals to recognise that they are involved in a collective action situation, or that their (relatively small) individual actions have an impact on the collective. A community energy system for local energy generation and distribution is an example where community members need to collaborate on energy allocation, but may be 'collectively unaware' of incipient problems, such as blackouts, that originate from depletion of the fixed amounts of energy that are available. Even if aware of the incipient problem, they may be equally unaware of how their individual actions contribute to the collective goal of resolving it. In this thesis, we propose that socio-technical systems can be used for computer - supported collective action, and in particular, that collective awareness can be enhanced by appropriate features of the system interface, therefore increasing the opportunities and prospects for successful collective action. Specifically, collective awareness is defined as an attribute of communities that helps them solve collective action problems. In relation to Elinor Ostrom's institutional design principles for self-governing institutions, this definition is translated into requirements for interface design and display which promote collective awareness, including different interface elements, visualisation, social networking, feedback and incentives. To test the hypothesis, we design and implement a serious game for a community energy system, integrating the Imprudence viewer to support an immersive 3D environment, the Presage2 agent-based simulation platform to model different components, and OpenSimulator application server to support real-time interactions. In this game, the participants have to avoid a collective blackout by individually reducing their energy consumption by synchronising and coordinating their actions. We then design and implement an interface to the game with a set of features that meet these interface requirements, and configure the system. Finally, we report the results of the experiments, which show that when visualisation, social networking, feedback and incentives are added to the serious game interface, users become 'collectively aware' of potential energy problems and they successfully coordinate their behaviour to avoid them. These results highlight the significant potential of serious games and gamification in the development of infrastructure support for community energy systems, and also indicate a more beneficial approach to the use of smart meters in such systems: i.e. not just as a monitor for pricing and consumption, but as a key enabler for direct action, feedback and incentivisation. Furthermore, it provides the basis for defining a set of interface design principles for 'smarter' socio-technical systems which promote successful computer-supported collective action.
Supervisor: Pitt, Jeremy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral