DEU Accounter Artefact

Internet's Emergy (embedded energy) is a speculative design project in which I try to comment on our current behavior with internet usage and trying to make people aware of the environmental impact of using the internet extensively. 
Research involved understanding the current conceptual model of the internet. What sort of dark interaction patterns are present in our day to day interactions with smart devices. What are some of the ways that ethical user interactions are designed. How is the current gap between data and energy filled.
I mapped out various aspects related to Data, Energy, Internet Usage and CO2 emissions. Interesting insights such as the philosophical model of energy with potentiality and flux were investigated. Alternate ways of measuring CO2 emissions were looked at such as the global hectare and earth overshoot day.

Based on these insights, a new proposed conceptual framework for a unit was established which helps in looking at data and energy in a new light. This framework accounts for data usage in terms of energy cost and is called the Data-Energy Unit or DEU. It is proposed that it can be used in the form of an alternative currency system for our daily interactions with internet and electronic appliances.

DEU Unit
The next question was, how do I show this unit?
To best explain the concept of DEU and make it believable to people, it needed to be weaved in a narrative. There should be clear indications of a tracking/feedback system for each individual using DEU, where can they spend their DEU and how DEU is added to the system.
To create a narrative, tools from speculative design practice were determined to be valuable. Since the goal is to make people critically think about their current behavior, a speculative world with the power of fiction was needed.
Digital Nomads
A world building exercise was carried out using methodologies from the Extrapolation Factory. A new world was envisioned where the use of DEU could be highlighted and critical issues would be brought to the viewers attention.
Wildfires and rising sea-levels make migration a norm. Vast amounts of people are displaced from their homes. Internet connectivity is ubiquitously available through satellite. These new “digital nomads” are seen carrying phones, laptops and tablets along with their essentials and valuables as they cover vast distances.

Timeline for the envisioned world

Interactive Artefacts
For people to experience DEU, physical working artefacts were designed and created to be a part of an exhibition. These artefacts needed to communicate the narrative of the world as well as the interaction needed to be designed to explain the concept of DEU intuitively.
Interaction flow diagrams were created to map out each and every state for the 4 artefacts: DEU Accounter, Plant Incubator, Website and Dictaphone.

The basic premise of the interaction would involve a user accessing the project website. Though for the user to unlock the website, they will have to plug in the DEU accounter. Then for every action on the website, certain DEU will be deducted from the accounter. Overtime as DEU reaches zero, the user will have to harvest DEU from a plant incubator.

These interactions will go on to show how a plant is being used to sustain energy usage and internet usage.
The creation of the artefacts followed a product creation process of technically complex product as the requirement was to make a working prototype.

 A mood board was setup and concept sketches were created. The focus was on conveying the narrative and making users believe that these artefacts belonged in the future to the world created. The internal workings of the electronics were figured out using the interaction flow diagram from earlier.

Plant incubator artefact

DEU accounter artefact

DEU accounter plugging into the plant incubator to harvest DEU

Interactions on the website. Each action that uses bandwidth has an associated DEU cost.
The website can be interacted with there:
A short teaser video is created to explain the narrative of the world and to get users intrigued in the project.
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