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Are you a Cybersensitive?

Posted by Adam Molnar on October 26, 2015
Are you a Cybersensitive?

Do people innately love technology? Can they? People engage with technology everyday on a utilitarian basis. However, what if there was a type of person predisposed to engage with technology on a deeper and, perhaps, emotional level? A research study titled “Cybernetic Fieldwork in California,” led by Indicia Consulting, seeks to answer this question. The team believes people exist who experience tech in a different way than most people do, who they deem “cybersensitives” or “cyber-aware.” These people do not necessarily have to be “techies” nor early adopters, simply people who, at the end of the day, are “more viscerally responsive to technological interventions.

Cybernetic Fieldwork—a project funded by the California Energy Commission—is a four-year study (May ’15 – January ’19). Within that timeframe, seasoned and cultural anthropologists, student ethnographers from 17 California State Universities, Indicia Consulting, and participating utilities will work collectively to identify and understand cybersensitivity. Leading this endeavor is Senior Anthropologist and Indicia Consulting founder, Susan Mazur-Stommen, who is also frequently published in a number of journals, a frequent speaker at behavioral conferences, and the past Director of Behavior at ACEEE.

The project’s implications resonate in a number of different fields. For example, utilities could benefit widely by using cybersensitivity to better market, administer, and lead the public to adopt more energy-saving technologies and measures such as smart thermostats. A person’s technological connection can be indicative of their responsiveness and attentiveness paid to energy saving systems. Back in 2012, Stommen and Ben Foster identified a group of people in a study who reduced their energy use, provided via real-time feedback, by 25%, as opposed to the study wide average of less than 4%.

Who is this group? How did they sustain such high savings? Perhaps the most intriguing and curious finding that helped pave the path to understanding cybersensitivity was the lack of a demographically identifiable affiliation for the super-savers. The super-saving participants came from a variety of backgrounds of no particular age range nor specific income bracket. Something else might have been responsible for this group's results. Thus, after a number of conversations and a great deal of pointed research, Stommen conceptualized “the cybersensitive,” spawning the "Cybernetic Fieldwork Across California" project.

“We assert that an investigation into cybersensitives offers the California Energy Commission the chance to acquire critical insights useful for determining how to more effectively support residential engagement in energy efficient behaviors,” says Stommen. “The goal of this research is to be able to recommend an alternative energy efficiency potential model. This new model would draw upon variables descriptive of culture and behavior among California sub-populations, and demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of programs designed to holistically address how different people experience and respond to technologies in their lives.”

 

Indicia’s blog features more details on thoughts and methodology for the Cybersensitive project. The first report will be made available in August 2016.

Adam Molnar is a research analyst for Indicia Consulting. If you're interested in partaking or have questions, feel free to e-mail him at adammolnar@indiciaconsulting.com.

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