I chatted with a computer scientist colleague last week about an open transaction platform he’d like to build that would bypass the major vendors and give consumers and small merchants alike access to the type of data retail giants now use to sell us even more stuff. One of the benefits of this open platform, among others, would be that we, as consumers, could see current records of our transactions on our handhelds by category. Moreover, I have been thinking, what if we could also place these transactions in geographic space. Would a picture of our goings and purchases make us smarter consumers, and more energy conscious, perhaps. I’ve recently read Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book, Nudge http://nudges.org/, and have been thinking how some of the precepts of behavioral economics could be applied to more thoughtful energy use.
As a test of the hypothesis that “seeing” a record of transactions and travels might make me more thoughtful about them I logged my commerce and movements here in Washington, DC for part of this past week and built the 3D model of them that you see at left. I think this tells quite a lot about me - perhaps more than I might want a vendor to know. But it also shows me I could be more considered in my use of transportation. For example, a couple of my car trips could have been accomplished using the subway and walking – but I wanted to save time; the age old conundrum involving time and or money.