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Persuasive Technology was published in 2003. It is still the bible for captology ( from Computers as Persuasive Techologies). Back when I was working inhouse at Yahoo!; copies of the book could be found on the desks of some product managers and designers. It has since gained a certain amount of notoriety. Questions are asked around the addictive behaviour of social network and gaming app users. Some consumers even find it hard to stop swiping dating apps.
Right from the start when Fogg starts going into the advantages of persuasive technology you can see the evergreen nature of the content.
Some of the content is quite prescient with a section on surveillance technology creating persuasion through observation. The comments on simulation are equally applicable to modern VR environments, which has been proven in the treatment of PTSD amongst combat veterans. The application ‘In My Steps’ (page 76) designed to facilitate empathy among doctors for cancer patients echoes through the patient centric work that pharma companies are currently funding.
Chapter 5 on computers as persuasive social actors is playbook for the way modern apps from freemium games to Tinder work effectively. If you don’t read anything else read this chapter.
The modern issue of misinformation gets a relatively small mention. Fogg realised the impact that misinformation could have on future computer credibility. He felt that as computers lost their ‘aura, their mystique, their presumed credibility’. He thought that computing ubiquity would make computing credibility more complex due to purpose and form-factor.
He also worried about bad actors; though this largely seems due to hacker Adrian Lamo hacked the Yahoo! News content management system from his browser and was able to alter the quotes in stories. At the time subtly altering mainstream news stories was seen as the greatest risk.
The thinking in Persuasive Technology was weaponised in various products and services. Yet, the book, was ethically driven by design. Fogg had a good understanding of how his work could be used by bad actors. He devoted a whole chapter to the ethics of captology and pointed out times when an act would be unethical throughout the book. Fogg starts off with ethics in the preface on page XXVI right before the acknowledgements section.
Chapter 9 goes into the various ethical pitfalls that may await the designer and the user. It’s interesting that many of the case studies focus on getting personal information out of children. Protecting children online has consistently been an issue since the start of the commercial web.
It is also interesting in this chapter that he emphasises the role of education in protecting future users from the unscrupulous.
Yes rereading Persuasive Technology was like taking a time machine back to the post dot com bust web. But the lessons to be learned are still the same. We might have more stylish web design and responsive pages; but we still have the same problems. Whether you work in digital transformation, user experience or content strategy, this book deserves a place on your bookshelf.
It is a must read for people in studying ubiquitous technology. It explains really well what persuasive technology is about and shows different ways on one can do it. The book is very easy to ready and it has a lot of good examples of what was done in the area already.
First off, this book has good, solid psychology behind it - and human psychology isn't dated. The ability to understand how technology can be used to persuade people to behave in certain ways, to elicit behaviors, and that technology can be used as a tool, as a social actor or as a medium for information is pretty solid and "timeless" material. Where the book falls short today is that it was written nearly 12 years ago. Many of the technology elements have been addressed or surpassed. The directional understanding of the author, especially in the area of mobile technology, looks prescient. However, these insights were far more relevant in 2002 than 2013. If you are in the process of software design or gamification, this book will provide some decent background, but there are many newer and better texts out there. What was probably a 5 star book in 2002 is 3 stars today.