BinCam – a self-reflection into one’s recycling

At BCS HCI 2011 I finally saw this BinCam that Daily Mail took out of context. It takes a photo of rubbish every time one opens, puts something in the bin, and closes it. It then uploads the photos to the Facebook and visualizes recycling behavior. It compares this behavior with other people in one’s social network. 

It is certainly about personal data and privacy concerns comes to mind. But the idea behind the lid is not to shame people if they don’t recycle. The bin and recycling is just a way to study how social influence can change one’s behavior.

Cure to recycling?

So as some other people blogged about it, I don’t think this bin can a be a cure to recycling. I can divide people into three groups:

  • people who don’t recycle because they don’t care
  • people who care, but don’t recycle because it is not easy to for any particular reason (city councils not recycling, complicated recycling schema, no clear guidance what can be recycled where, no space for bins, bins not regularly collected)
  • people who care and recycle no matter what

Converting the second group needs just making recycling easy enough so they don’t see it as a burden anymore. City councils should poll people and find out what burdens them and try to tailor recycling schemes to different people, housings, etc. While converting the first group is to educate them. Is education through social embarrassment a way to do it? For some people yes, for some not. So it is not a one size-fits-all solution.

Social influence

BinCam is a game. A few students were given the bins and they first realized than they were bad at recycling which turned out to a competition on who will recycle better. As the game industry already knows, there must always be something interesting to keep people in the game. So it is such solution good in the long run? It is possible it would work, as most people like to bee seen as "good citizens" in the eyes of their friends. And recycling is all about being green, which is fashionable nowadays.

BinCam is not meant as Orwelian government plan to check on people’s recycling. It is just a research idea and something else could be used for this project.

Reflecting upon personal information

What really interests me is the self reflection on ones behavior through visualizing personal information. I already blogged about visualizing email which could reveal content of conversations, rhythms, life changes, etc. I also wrote about Poyozo and self reflection of content someone is leaving online. So I see the BinCam as an interesting self reflection tool which in my opinion could well exist without a social component. I might like to share my achievements with others but not necessarily.