Clive Thompson, over at Wired, has an article about how a power company used those silly ambient "orb" devices
that were supposed to quietly alert you when your stocks were losing money or the weather was turning bad, to alert people to when they should cut back on their electricity usage
. Apparently, it worked wonders. While sending emails and text messages had no real impact, the glowing orb actually made people cut back on their electricity usage when necessary. Of course, from the article it's not entirely clear why
people did so, though you could imagine that a glowing red orb would have a sort of... creepy "someone's watching you" feel. Perhaps that's what leads to Thompson's follow-on suggestion that a good way to get people to conserve energy would be to have them "broadcast" their energy usage on something like Facebook. The idea is that we're mostly blind to how much energy we use, but if it's suddenly made visible to us, it makes us a lot more concerned -- and if it's made visible to all our friends, then we have a peer pressure element as well. Of course, for some of us, our electricity usage is made quite visible once a month when the bill from the power company shows up...