The McGill Social Score Project is an interactive smartphone application that tracks choices made by users every day and provides real time feedback in the form of a social score, testing the hypothesis that members of the community will act in measurably more sustainable ways when they are monitored. The application will challenge users to make more sustainable choices when it comes to categories like commuting, cafeteria choices, and energy use, while providing helpful tips and data about sustainability on campus.
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Developing a culture of sustainability requires shifts in behaviour. How we get to school, what we eat and what we do while on campus are all ways in which we make choices that contribute to the overall sustainability of the university.
In the Fall 2013 term, law students from Prof. Richard Janda's Sustainable Development course took it upon themselves to test the hypothesis that members of the community will act in measurably more sustainable ways if they are given real time feedback in the form of a social score. Their initial experiment produced encouraging results and inspired the team to take it one step further and develop a smartphone application that records and gives an accumulating score to choices that have an impact on the environmental footprint of McGill campus.
Often, these choices are measured by a metric such as a "Carbon Footprint," or in markets, signified by a price signal, yet these two markers are individualistic in nature. In the proposed application, a reliable and immediate signal will be sent to the participant about the impact of their choice on collective goods, how their choices rank relative to other participants, and the aggregate of community participation.
The prototype application will test two questions: what sorts of incentives will work best in getting participants to improve their score? and what is the best methodology for gathering data on users? The application will explore ideas such as whether rivalry among faculties can be channeled into positive outcomes for sustainability and whether individual incentives (rewards) can produce significant improvements.
Methods being considered for built-in data collection by the app include: data from uPrint services, use of phone sensors to track transportation, scanning of items at cafeterias and passive QR tags that can be placed at stations such as recycling bins. Users will scan the codes and receive a menu of possible choices along with the accompanying scores. The app itself provides access to a selection of content on and off campus that help participants make better informed decisions.
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