Social Power is a research project that tests and compares the effectiveness of two different social game modes, collaborative and competitive, as interventions to motivate electricity-saving behaviour at the household level by means of a gamified mobile App, called Social Power. By forming teams of neighbors in two Swiss cities (Massagno – TI and Winterthur - ZH), household participants were either assigned to a collaborative gameplay context, where citizens in the same city try to reach a fixed 10% electricity savings target collectively, or a competitive gameplay context, which tries to save the most electricity in comparison to another city. The App integrates electricity-saving challenges, tips, quizzes in order to motivate participants to earn points and reach set consumption reduction goals. Smart meter data complements the user experience by showing hourly and weekly electricity consumption which is directly compared to their own historical consumption and their team’s savings performance. While completing challenges on the App, participants learn how to positively improve electricity use in their household. Participants are encouraged to interact with each other over a Blog and Facebook pages which provide additional information about the weekly challenge and overall intervention. The collaborative and competitive games were run in parallel as a 3-month field experiment (Feb-May 2016) involving 108 recruited household participants, with ultimately 46 who actively played until the game end.
What is special about the project?
SPP aims to foster participative, community-based social innovation in the field of sustainable energy consumption of households. In particular, it aims to accompany and complement the technological innovation process of smart meter roll-out initiated by the two partner energy utilities AEM and StWW. Like other eco-innovations, smart meters require the action of people and communities to ensure cultural and social acceptance for ultimate success.
As such, SPP acts as an integrated ‘fun’ communication tool between energy providers and end-users to drive both technological and social innovation. On one hand it helps to contextualize energy data, making real-time energy data more accessible to the end-user through a mobile software application. On the other, it provides a participative arena, where teams of people create, develop and diffuse adaptive and flexible solutions for home energy-saving practices.
Above all, as it is the end-users themselves that will instigate behavior change inside the team as they strive for collective energy reduction goals, SPP presents an innovative model of social learning which occurs by means of an exchange of experiences shared on a social platform, instead of the provision of one-way traditional information to raise people’s awareness on energy-saving matters. In this way it is hoped that innovation will be more deep rooted and likely to be successful and endure.
The ultimate research objective of Social Power is to examine the differential effects of the two forms of social gameplay contexts (competitive and collaborative) in terms of both (i) electricity-savings and (ii) reported behaviour (energy awareness, literacy and practices). Participating households were therefore tracked in three experimental conditions (control, collaborative, competitive) before, during and exactly 1 year after the game intervention period for short & long term monitoring.
Short term results gathered after running the real-life game intervention (Feb-May 2016) are rather encouraging: the deployment of both a competitive and collaborative social game mode proved effective in reducing electricity consumption, compared to the control group. The mean change in consumption of electricity in the competitive team (-8.73%) was very similar to the collaborative team ( 8.07%), whereas, the control group of both cities combined consumed more electricity (+ 1.13%) compared to their baseline consumption period from Oct – Dec 2015. However, the tracking of energy consumption after one year shows no significant differences between the control group and the participating households in terms of electricity-savings. In part due to the findings during the project that some smart meter data did not transfer data in real-time to the app, several smart meters were replaced after the intervention. Unfortunately this meant that several households were not reconnected to Social Power and we are missing the long term data. Thus, as the sample size is not large (n is maximum 23 for each intervention group), this final statement on the long-term electricity savings impact of the Social Power project must be taken with caution and consideration for future studies with larger participant groups.
Behaviour and social processes
In the short term, both game modes significantly changed participants’ intention to save energy and the reported behaviour compared to before the intervention, yet there is no difference between the two game modes. However, there is a slight tendency for the competitive game to result in more intention to save energy in the future. Even though the game mechanisms are designed with a focus on community engagement, the sense of community within the Social Power team is relatively low. In the long term (one year later), the overall impact of the game intervention and the social pressure triggered is still present and maintained: the participants who were very active in the collaborative or competitive intervention show that they maintained a high intention to save electricity and act sustainably, in comparison to the intervention participants who were registered in the intervention but did not remain actively involved. Differences between collaborative and competitive participants are not significant.
Both social game modes (collaborative and competitive) were successful in reducing electricity consumption and neither approach outperformed the other. However, the present experiment does not seem to have reached the expected effect at the level of community engagement and interaction: in fact, the expected “sense of community” in the team was rated as low. One important reason for this were design limitations in the intra-group communication system provided by the game (Blog; Facebook).Thus the game approach was successful, but future studies can better integrate interaction elements. Furthermore, the retention of the electricity-savings captured during the intervention does not appear to have been retained in the long term, potentially due to the lack of project presence which could maintain the relation to the motivations highlighted and enforced during the intervention.
Reaching the finish line: Analysis of the differences between active participants and drop-outs in a behaviour change intervention, presented at ECEEE Summer Study on energy efficiency: consumption, efficiency and limits, 29th May – 3rd June 2017, Presqu'île de Giens, Hyères, France;Playing together to save electricity: comparing approaches with the Social Power mobile app
, IEEE STC Sustainable Computing Newsletter, January 2017;Social Power Project
, (2016), poster presented at the Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC), 15-17th November 2016, Barcelona, Spain;
Keeping up with the Joneses: examining community-level collaborative and competitive game mechanics to enhance household electricity-saving behaviour, presented at Behave 2016 - 4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency, 8-9th Sept. 2016 Coimbra, Portugal;
Castri, R., Wemyss, D., Cellina, F., De Luca, V., Frick, V., Lobsiger-Kägi, E, Galbani Bianchi P., and Carabias V. (2016), Triggering electricity-saving through smart meters: play, learn and interact using gamification and social comparison
, in Proceedings of “Feedback in energy demand reduction: Examining evidence and exploring opportunities”, Edinburgh, July 2016, pp. 248-256.
Persons involved in the project
project leader, SUPSI
Roberta Castri, roberta.
; Francesca Cellina, castri@supsi. chfrancesca.
; Nikolett Kovacs, cellina@supsi. chnikolett.
; Pamela Bianchi, kovacs@supsi. chpamela.
; Andrea Rizzoli bianchi@supsi. chandrea@idsia.
; Vanessa de Luca, chvanessa.
; Gaetano Frongillo deluca@supsi. chgaetano.
; Luca Morici, frongillo@supsi. chluca.
; Mikael Oettli, morici@supsi. chmikael.
Vicente Carabias, cahu@zhaw.
; Devon Wemyss, chwemy@zhaw.
; Evelyn Lobsiger-Kägi, chkaev@zhaw.
; Corinne Moser, chmosc@zhaw.
; Tobias Kuehn, chkueo@zhaw.
; Christian Hertach, chhert@zhaw.
; Devon Wemyss chdevon.
; Uros Tomic, wemyss@zhaw. chtomi@zhaw.
; Thoralf Mildenberger chmild@zhaw.
Alessandro Barazzetti, alessandro.
; Rosangela Mastronardi, barazzetti@qbt. chrosangela.
; Federico Cecconi, mastronardi@qbt. chfederico.
; Costantino Berretta, cecconi@qbt. chcostantino.
; Flavio Rai, beretta@qbt. chflavio.
Pasquale Granato, Emilia Ciardi, info@sparklinglabs.
Andrea Testoni, atestoni@aemsa.
; Paolo Rossi, chpaolo.
; Ernesto Bassi, rossi@aemsa. chebassi@aemsa.
; Alessio Rezzonico, charezzonico@aemsa.
Roland Kiefer, Roland.
; Michael Springenfeld, Kiefer@win. chmichael.
, Melanie Geiger, springenfeld@win. chmelanie.
Last update to this project presentation 27.09.2018