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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Lu Ye

Lu Ye is a multidisciplinary designer who takes design as a way to understand the world. Through design experiments and human centred research, she explores current and future scenarios and prototypes interactions to define the relationship between people, activities and environment. She recieved her Bachelor in Industrial Design at Zhejiang University. She gained project and internship experiences at design consultancies and startups across industrial design, interaction design and installation. 





Degree Details

School of Design

Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

I'm obsessed with using design as a dynamic tool to reflect on emerging issues. The final year solo project combines my interest in sustainability and designing with digital technology. The topic of internet + sustainablity has uncovered conversations with people as well as myself about illusion and awareness, about the seeming availability and uncontroled consumption. In the project, I position end users as the core of shaping a greener internet, and aim to design a negotiation between the users and the nature.

The year 2020 has marked a dramatic change in how we live and think. The Covid-19 pandemic shows once again how powerful it could be when individuals' behaviours add up, both good and bad. Design and technology should ultimately enable every individual to contribute steadily to a positive change, hopefully with satisfaction rather than frustration.

Introduction To Onlign
The internet has a large and invisible carbon footprint, and it’s growing fast. The internet industry accounts for 3.7% of global green house gas emission, which is the same amount of aviation industry, according to some estimates. When you sit cosily in front of your computer streaming a 1 hour Netflix episode, the energy consumed by the data centre and data transmission behind the scene is able to power your lamp for 100 hours. As the shift to digital accelerates, we need to think about how to control this invisible carbon-emitting giant.

Facing the urgency of climate change, how might we shape the future of a greener internet? The environmental organisations, tech giants and radical technologists are pushing for renewable energy powered data centres. While the current internet is 24/7, renewable energy like wind, solar and tidal power is intermittent. The end user behaviour plays a fundamental role in the growing consumption of the internet, and will decide the limit of the greenness of the internet in the future. The project explores the possibility of aligning internet usage with the availability of renewable energy to minimise individuals’ internet carbon footprint.

The final outcome takes the form of an operating system that demonstrates a minimal viable carbon-aware everyday Internet experience. It visualises a preferable future and presents an invitation to designing internet applications that lead to thoughtful consumption and minimal carbon footprint.
FutureGreen webInteractionInterfaceInternetSustainabilityUX Design
A demo video of Onlign OS and applications

Onlign OS: Status Bar — The status bar shows the low carbon energy availability timeline by energy types and keeps record of green actions.

Onlign OS: Home Screen — Different visuals of the home screen launcher depending on energy status.

Onlign OS: Navigation Lottery — The user customises the balls in the Navigation Lottery for later contexualised alternatives.

Onlign application: ConnectTime — The low data alternative for video calling offers a subtle sense of connection acroos the internet.

The Onlign OS and applications visualise three scenarios of carbon-aware internet usage: entertainment, connection and social media.

The interface and interactions are designed to encourage users to make decisions according to the carbon intensity of the internet in different time. Four features are incorporated to help users adopt a routine of adjusting internet consumption: feedforward of energy status, contextualised alternatives, timely nudges and an interactive feedback system. Besides prioritising the goal of carbon minimisation, the way Onlign OS manages the applications and user interactions also celebrates the human initiative. Thoughtful behaviours are expected as a result of being provided with information and alternatives that aim to serve a meaningful purpose.

Ideation and speculation - Proposals of tangible internet-based devices — How might we design tools, devices or interfaces to shape a carbon-aware internet?

Advanced experiment - A Chrome extension

Advanced experiment - A Chrome extension — The extension informs the user realtime energy status, reminds the user when to reduce video streaming and keeps record of the user’s behaviour greenness. Contact me for a trial version of the extension.

Originally, the anticipated outcomes of the project were a set of explorative internet-connected devices under the principle of aligning usage with renewable energy availability. Nowadays the smart devices are designed to minimise distraction and boost human centred experience. It has led to a disconnection between people and the “fuel”, both in terms of the data and the energy behind the scene, of the internet and intelligence. Meanwhile, we are witnessing new forms of connected applications that are computation and data heavy becoming just as common as video streaming. Those applications will be more embedded in our physical world, and this time how might we design for a connection between people and the consequence of consuming data and intelligence?

During the project, I came up with several proposals of tangible devices with the same philosophy as Onlign OS and applications: the devices encourage people to live with the internet in a carbon-aware way.

Due to the crisis that occurred the half way of the project, I chose to shift my deliverable and validation to digital. Bearing the philosophy and insights from the early experiments in mind, I focused more on experimenting with the current screen based internet use scenarios that were easier to test. An advanced experiment took the form of a Chrome extension to help people minimise their Internet carbon footprint in online browsing. It informed the user whether a given hour is a Internet “green time”(mostly powered by renewable energy) or “dirty time”(mostly powered by fossil fuel), and encouraged the user to reduce or stop data-consuming activities(video streaming) during “dirty time”. The experiment helped me to decide the features that were later embodied by Onlign OS and applications.

Both the Chrome extension and the final Onlign concept are based on the assumption that more and more renewable energy will be introduced to power the internet infrastructure. The exploration demonstrates how the end user’s behaviours could accommodate and even accelerate a shift towards a renewable energy dominant and carbon aware Internet.

An array of energy efficient servers doesn’t mean a greener internet. Nor does any alone of renewable energy, battery or green UX. A greener internet is ultimately a forest of responsible and happy users, and we need collaborate effort to invent alternatives for it.

In Collaboration with:

The trial version of the Chrome extension in the advanced experiment was completed in collaboration with Max Wang.

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