Want to become a world class expert on the psychology of Facebook? Then you need to attend the Stanford Facebook Class, which is part of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab. While the latter name caused a few 1984 type scenarios to flash through my mind on first reading (remember the Stanford prison experiment?), they say the technology they are researching can bring about world peace in 30 years, so I assume we are safe…for now.
So what are they studying?
The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab creates insight into how computing products – from websites to mobile phone software – can be designed to change what people believe and what they do… We believe that much like human persuaders, persuasive interactive technologies can bring about positive changes in many domains, including health, business, safety, and education… With such ends in mind, we are creating a body of expertise in the design, theory, and analysis of persuasive technologies, an area called “captology.”
Would it be possible for libraries to apply this research to further their missions? A few possible examples could be OPAC design (see this paper on Seductive Computing), encouraging positive behaviour in students, such as studying or research, through SMS (modeled on research using SMS to improve health), or increasing participation in local communities (through the application of persuasive technology to specific domains).
If you find the idea of using software designed to influence human beliefs and behaviors slightly disturbing, make sure you read about the ethics of persuasive technology and ask yourself, how far would you be willing to go to get library users to return those overdue books?