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Direction of Persuasive Technology Research

November 19, 2009

The advent of more mainstream computing technologies has no doubt become a new medium for persuasion. Much like the print media, radio, and television of the past, designers of computing systems and software can harness the potential for persuasion. While none of the concepts explored in this paper offer a new theory to persuasion, they do demonstrate the uniqueness of computing technology to combine so many elements into one mode of persuasion. It remains unclear to this author whether or not new theories of persuasion will develop from the use of technology, however, the unique combination of scale, speed, simplicity, and social integration (specifically through social networking software) could lead researchers to new understandings of how to apply persuasion in the new millennium.

Fogg (2009c), recognizing the many research failures in persuasive computing, has identified an eight-step process to aid new researchers in finding new breakthroughs. Fogg argues that the principle problem leading to failure in research of persuasive computing is that the researchers (predominantly new to the field) have a tendency to take on behaviors that are incredibly difficult to change (i.e. smoking). Fogg points out, to increase the odds of success in this field of exploration; targeted behaviors should be simple (to start with) and be focused on a receptive audience. This dyad allows the researcher to emphasize the study methods and theories in an open environment (that is, an environment lacking too many barriers). With this starting point in mind, Fogg contends that a simple process based on his theory to overcome the behavioral obstacle can be carried out. As the researcher understands the process of persuasive design better, larger objectives can be attempted.

As research in this field continues, one key component of persuasion that has yet to be strongly addressed is the changing of attitudes. Based on this researcher’s analysis of the literature on persuasive technology, all experimental applications have focused on behavioral change in their subjects. As the theories of design and implementation strengthen in persuasive technology, more advancements will be made attitudinal change through technology. This is perhaps the ultimate goal of Fogg’s world peace through persuasive technology initiative at Stanford, a concept that perhaps seems far too large to fathom at this time, but certainly warrants an open mind.

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