Loughborough University
Thesis-2014-Spencer.pdf (7.32 MB)

Exploring the implications of cultural context for design for sustainable behaviour

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posted on 2014-02-26, 09:43 authored by Jak Spencer
In this thesis the opportunities for designing products that are less resource intensive during use, in different cultural contexts is investigated. The research was divided into four phases: an extensive literature review, an online scoping study, an intensive qualitative study on laundry behaviours, and an international design competition. The research drew on the background of design for sustainable behaviour, a relatively new field of enquiry concerned with reducing the social and environmental impacts of products during their use. Despite the increasing development of theories to change user behaviour through design, there is a lack of understanding of how different cultural contexts affect behaviour. An extensive literature review established the current thinking on culture, development, and behaviour. The diverse nature of everyday household behaviour from different cultures and the effect it has on household resource consumption was uncovered and was investigated further in an online scoping study. In the study, participants from the UK, Brazil and India answered questions related to the themes of food, water, energy, materials and government schemes. The findings helped to highlight the differences in household behaviours and led to more detailed investigation of laundry behaviours in three sites in the UK, Brazil and India using in-context interviews, observations and household tours. From these findings a series of culturally significant and culturally independent factors were established that can aid designers in understanding behaviours in a given context. A set of design guidelines were also created to facilitate the design of less resource intensive products during use. These were then tested with designers in an international design competition answering a brief to design a less resource intensive laundry process. The research suggested a range of benefits for designers studying other cultures. The guidelines and cultural factors created can help designers to build empathy with users in a given context and boost creative thinking for more sustainable solutions. The research also offered insights into the possibility of, and application for, transferring behaviours between contexts as well as a new understanding of the aspirations of consumers in emerging markets, which could support other theories of sustainable development, such as leapfrogging.


Loughborough Design School



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© Jak Spencer

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en