25 Jul 2005
Another neologism for today. The word is captology. Captology is an emerging field of study related to the design, theory, and analysis of persuasive, not pervasive, technologies. It is the study of technologies that change attitudes and encourage behaviors instead of forcing behaviors. Captology lies at the intersection of computers and the art and science of persuasion. It is a sub-discipline of human factors or (HCI) human computer interaction. It is the study of technologies that change attitudes and encourage behaviors instead of forcing behaviors.
It is such a new discipline a Google search for captology barely returns 30,000 result pages. Wikipedia’s entry only offers four lines on the subject. But I think it will be an increasingly important discipline.
Some examples of the application of the discipline include:
- Baby Think It Over- A computer-doll that simulates how hard it is to care for a baby. It cries at irregular intervals and registers certain acts of abuse.
- Hygeine Guard- A sensor system to be placed in bathrooms at hospitals and restaurants. The systems records when employees use the bathroom and whether or not they spend time by the sink before exiting. It doesn’t force you to wash your hands. It persuades or motivates you to wash your hands. Or at least stand around the sink for awhile
- Nagscreens in shareware/donationware- This is the example we are probably most familiar with. The screens that pop up try to persuade you to buy or contribute to their cause. These screens often have messages like “Keep this software free by donating.”
On the web there are countless examples for captologists to study. It seems that every podcast that doesn’t run ads in their podcasts has a button for donating. In fact Today’s Podcast has such a button. I should probably study a little captology because no one has ever donated.
UPDATE (09/02/05): Reading through Standford’s credibility site I learned the etymology of captology. “The term captology is based on the acronym: Computers As Persuasive Technology.”
Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. Fogg is the leading thinker in the field of captology and website credibility. He is on the faculty at Stanford.