“Annoying, but in a Nice Way”: An Inquiry into the Experience of Frictional Feedback
Matthias Laschke, Sarah Diefenbach, Marc Hassenzahl


There is increasing interest in the potential use of interactive technologies as a means to motivate attitudinal and behavioral change. At the heart of this function is the provision of feedback, such as steps taken, kilowatt-hours used, or liters of water consumed. Often, however, this feedback involves a mere visualization—an appeal aimed at turning meaning into action. The present paper suggests an alternative approach: feedback designed to create situated friction, which then inspires reflection and meaning-making. Such frictional feedback attempts to disrupt routines and to imply alternative courses of action. At the same time, it should be experienced as acceptable and meaningful. The present case explores the experience of frictional feedback through the Never Hungry Caterpillar, a device designed to avoid the energy wastage caused by keeping electronic equipment in standby mode. We compared individuals’ perceptions of and experiences with the Caterpillar with those associated with a regular power strip with a switch. While both objects embodied similar intentions, the Caterpillar was perceived as more powerful in terms of potential change, and as more affective and ambiguous (“annoying, but in a nice way”). Accordingly, liking of both objects was similar. However, while the power strip was valued for its practicality, the Caterpillar was valued for its potential to create positive and meaningful friction.

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