Commentary on “Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops”

Firstly, I should confess that I am absolutely amazed by the close correlation of cognitive psychology and design practice. The deeper I dig into design process, theory and successful examples, the more I find out that before getting hands dirty, sketching up cool and slick ideas and appealing interfaces, one should carry out a thorough study of human in relation with that concept, since after all, we are all designing for human.

Among all the referrals in the passage, cybernetics was the most appealing to me.  Cybernetics by definition deals with chain of action, sensing, comparison and again to action. This chain, resembles very closely to the feedback loop, and the fact that it correlate so closely with information theory and control theory is very interesting since, in my opinion, cognitive psychology and feedback loops can roughly be viewed as humanized version of Cybernetics, information theory and control system. The over all goal of all of the above working in integration, is to find an efficient pattern and to stick with it.

In the case of the speedometer feedback loop, I believe the social pressure caused by a combination of social values and self-consciousness complement each other to create the relevance stage of the feedback loop. But since the speedometer is clearly taking advantage of an active measurement method, it can not be scaled down to feedback loops necessary in our daily personal lives. The idea of passive measurement tools and sensors is a great workaround for this problem.

Furthermore, the accuracy of data obtained from the sensors, and finding the correct pattern in the data is of vital importance. Take the long bath / leaking toilet as an example. If patterns are not taken into consideration, and if we rely solely on the volume in recording data, we will not be able to take accurate further steps to complete our feedback loop.

I found the point brought up by Rose about “enchantment” very appealing. Too noisy feedback and passive feedback can both lead the loop to failure. The notion of “friendliness” of tools that remind us of things not by shooting information at us, but by subtle indirect pulses sounds like the most efficient behavioral attitude for feedback devices.

I could not agree more with Bandura’s view on mankind “People are proactive, aspiring organisms.” and the fact that “Feedback taps into those aspirations”. In other words, by taking advantage of feedback loops, speaking the language of mankind’s mind.

Finally, I found the concept of “Gamification” and “Internet of things” very interesting. Games have a peculiar seductive nature to walk our minds through a certain path. That path can be engineered to serve any purpose, and in this case, changing behavioral patterns.

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