Project in Broader Contexts

In its broader contexts my project relates to the use of technology as a way to help solve social and cultural problems that society is facing. All forms of media are intended to help improve our lives through allowing users to communicate, share information, and be entertained. But ICT’s are different to other forms of media in that they allow the creation of information that can be unique to each user depending on how they interact with the product, in this project the user enters data into the fields which is relative to their personal habits, the data is then returned to them in a format which is only of use to them, this is something that is different to past analogue forms of media where the content has to be relatable to a broader audience as it cannot be manipulated to be more relatable to each individual user. This is useful because it allows information to be presented in ways which can help users track their own personal habits through interacting with the medium. This could arguably be the most defining characteristic of the web and relates to ideas that the Internet can be used to improve  societal and personal aspects of our lives which also relates to technological determinism and social constructivism.

The project also relates to consumer behaviour, and demand and supply. If you can change consumer habits through providing information on the social implications of consuming the product the demand may decrease which means the production will decrease as there is no longer as much of a demand for that product. It also challenges the notion that humans are rational and will change their habits if they are presented with a logical reason as to why they should, and argues against the idea that the majority of individuals are simply passive consumers who will neglect reason in exchange for getting the product they want.

In terms of design the project relates to making information more presentable through the use of infographics. Because the Internet is capable of using a range of multimedia there has been a lot of experiments on design which differ from previous content on the internet during the ‘web 1.0’ phase. Due to the introduction of programming languages such as javascript and css3 (to name a few examples) there is a lot more room for experimentation, especially in relation to how users engage with the content. This project isn’t very experimental when compared to other websites but takes some of the aspects of web 2.0 designs such as images and animation to present a ‘more interesting’ piece of information which attempts to use imagery to make the information more engaging to the user. I am essentially using graphs and charts to make data more readable, the main difference being that the designs are more visually aesthetic and less static.

How the Project Relates to Past Work

This project relates to work I previously did in the design iterations unit during the second year. The intention of the project in that unit was to try and make people reflect on their impact on the environment as a collective. In that unit I used processing (a java library used for visual arts) to detect movement on a camera. Skyscrapers would appear on the screen depending on how many people there were within the view of the on board camera. This was intended to show that the higher the population, the more the natural landscape changes, and like this current project was intended to make individuals reflect on their own personal influence on society. The other project however was more conceptual and thought provoking where as The Meat Counter is intended to be more productive as users can determine how much of an impact on the livestock industry they are contributing.

Project Development, Design Research and Workshops

Project Development

Since establishing the idea for my project there have been a lot of changes to the way I have decided to try and address the problem of individual impact on the environment through meat consumption. Originally I had intended to create a website which allowed users to track their meat eating habits. After discussing my project in seminars and doing research my idea began to evolve into something that wasn’t as reliant on storing data into databases which the user could check on on a weekly basis to see how much meat they were eating and is now much more focused on creating awareness on the impact of meat consumption on the environment.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 16.11.07

Zero Carbon app (Mobitelio LTDA, 2009) Screenshot taken from Itunes.apple.com

My research in the beginning looked at mobile apps which helped users organise and manage their lifestyle. The example above is an app which helps users track their carbon footprint and helps suggest ways which they can reduce their carbon footprint. After reading the reviews (below) I realised the app wasn’t very successful as it didn’t support user input.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 07.27.29

This made me realise that the most important aspect of my project was that it would allow users to see their impact on the environment, there was no point in having an app or interactive website which just provides users with information that has no reflection of their personal contributions to the problem.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 07.40.05

Smokefree app (Crane 2015) Screenshot taken from Itunes.apple.com

Another example I looked at was this app which helps users track how much money they had saved and their health improvements after quitting smoking. Originally I had thought I could include a section of the website that allowed people to track the progress of their health due to their change of diet. It seemed that using a model similar to this where the user continuously checks their account to see how well they were doing could work quite well. After some discussions in seminars it was pointed out to me that I had two ideas, one which dealt with creating awareness about the impact of the livestock industry and another which was about personal health management.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 17.56.36

Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker app (Myfitnesspal.com 2015) Screenshot taken from Itunes.apple.com

My original idea was that the user could select the meat they had eaten each week, the data would be stored in a database, then the next week the user would do the same and the two sets of data would be compared so that the user could see if they were eating less or more meat and therefore manage their meat intake more effectively. Because there are already relatively successful apps which allow users to track their diet (such as the diet tracker app above) I became skeptical that a website which helps users manage their meat consumption probably wasn’t going to be very useful. The reasons for this are that it would be tough to engage users in the product if it’s something they have to visit and manage on a regular basis, especially for something so specific.

I think what my project intends to do now is show users what impact they personally have on the environment but not provide them with a tool for organising their diet as there are already successful apps available for that purpose and people are more than capable of organising their diet without the use of an app or a website which they have to enter information into on a weekly basis. However, using mysql to allow users to create accounts and track their habits over time is something that I am still interested in and is something which I could expand on afterwards or even whilst I am working on the project for the exhibition depending on time constraints, though it is no longer the main focus.

Design Inspirations

Whilst researching possible directions I could take in designing the website I drew inspiration from a number of sources. Something that particularly caught my eye was a website created by a designer named Bard Edlund which tracked the time in different countries. Although the design doesn’t require any user input I like the minimalistic approach.

Another website which related to my project was the vegetarian calculator (Chico Designs 2015). The concept is simple and lets vegetarians see approximately how many animals they have ‘saved’ and how much c02 was not released in the atmosphere depending how long they had been vegetarian for. Although I wasn’t particularly fond of the design of the website I was interested in how much attention the website had got through sharing on social media.

I intend to make a modern and minimalistic design that is simple and gets straight to the point. I don’t want to be overly reliant on scrolling and animations popping out of the side of the screen as I find this is the same as creating a presentation with lots of whizzy effects that doesn’t really contribute to the quality of the presentation. Just because it is possible to do this sort of stuff it isn’t always useful.

Workshops

The first four workshops were very useful to me in helping me understand how I could utilise php and mysql in a way which would allow users to interact with the webpage. In the early examples we learnt how to create a basic post system similar to that of Twitter. Although this isn’t something I intend to be using for my project it was useful because it broadened my understanding of php and mysql which is something I had been focusing on learning for about 6 months prior to starting the third year. It also informed me on how I could use the API to take pre recorded data and use that for my website. We used an example where we took data about the weather and used php to output the data on to the webpage. This would be extremely useful for me if there was data on meat consumption readily available to be used (I haven’t come across this so far). Another thing that we learnt that I was unaware of was the use of json in xcode so that you could create apps that linked to websites.

References

ChicoDesigns, 2015. Vegetarian calculator. vegetariancalculator.com, Available from: http://vegetariancalculator.com/ [Accessed 6 December 2015].

Crane, D., 2015. Smoke Free – Quit smoking now and stop for good. Itunes, Apple. Available from: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/smoke-free-quit-smoking-now/id577767592?mt=8 [Accessed 4 December 2015].

Edlund, B., 2015. Is the Internet Awake?. http://www.edlundart.com, Available from: http://www.edlundart.com/pages/is-the-internet-awake.html [Accessed 6 December 2015].

Mobitelio LTDA, 2009. Zero Carbon. itunes.apple.com, MacOne. Available from: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/zero-carbon/id336848607?mt=8 [Accessed 4 December 2015].

Myfitnesspal.com, 2015. Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal. Itunes, Myfitnesspal.com. Available from: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/calorie-counter-diet-tracker/id341232718?mt=8 [Accessed 4 December 2015].

 

Livestock Industry Research

Environmental Research

Cowspiracy is an independent documentary film by Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn which manly focuses on the environmental impacts of the livestock industry (particularly the beef industry, which has the biggest impact). It discusses many of the problems that must be faced and suggests that even climate change activists such as Greenpeace are neglecting the impact of the livestock industry because of reasons such as fear of the possible repercussions of drawing focus on the problem. The film was useful in getting a broader knowledge on the consequences of meat consumption on such a large scale.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 20.05.16

Image taken from Cowspiracy.com (Animals United Movement 2014)

Annual global meat consumption (Horizon 2014)

    • 300 million cattle
    • 1.4 billion pigs
    • 1 billion sheep and goats
    • 3.5 billion ducks and turkeys
    • 60 billion chickens
    • on average 9 animals per person
    • about a third of crops goes to feeding animals

Water Supply

“The USGS estimates that it takes 4,000 to 18,000 gallons of water to produce a juicy hamburger, depending on conditions that cows are raised in. The water doesn’t go directly into your burger; rather, it is used to feed, hydrate, and service cows” (U.S. Geological Survey, 2015).

Deforestation and Land Use

“The total area occupied by grazing is equivalent to 26 percent of the ice free terrestrial surface of the planet. In addition, the total area dedicated to feedcrop production amounts to 33 percent of total arable land. In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet” (Steinfeld et al. 1996, p.21).

“70 percent of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder” (Steinfeld et al. 1996, p.21).

Climate Change

From my research I have realised that it is still disputed how much of an impact the livestock industry has on climate change, the reasons for this are because it is hard to define what is included as part of the livestock industry, because land is required to produce grain for livestock to feed on, partly due to new laws passed after BSE and Foot and Mouth (Monbiot 2010) it is hard to estimate how much of an impact this need for land to grow crops for animals has on deforestation, which is another contributor to increased carbon in the atmosphere. Furthermore, because both industries rely heavily on transportation and the use of machinery in the agriculture industry, it is hard to determine how much the the livestock industry contributes to climate change through industry and exhaust emissions, the film Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014) claims that the livestock industry is the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses, but other information suggests otherwise.

 

meat-dairy-774-png

Public perceptions of main problems versus actual impact of each cause of climate change. Image taken from natureworldnews.com (Stallard 2014)

Methane Emissions

“a standard 550-kg cow produces between 800 to 1,000 litres of emissions, including methane, each day” (Zyga 2008).

Animals (amount of meat per animal)

As different animals contain different amounts of meat I have had to do a lot of research into how much meat each animal contains, the problem with calculating the amount of meat in a pig or cow is that there are different breeds and animals have different diets and vary in size, this makes it quite hard to find an average amount specifically for pigs and cows.

Beef

From the ‘barbecue bible’ website (Raichlen 2014) I found a useful infographic and some information on the average amount of meat each cow yields, because there are only a certain amount of types of meat in each animal (e.g. there are only a certain amount of ribs in a cow) I am trying to work the percentages of each meat item from each animal, if I measured how much meat was in an animal by weight (i.e. if a cow yields 400 pounds of meat, if measured by weight, 400 pounds of ribs would count as one cow) it wouldn’t provide an accurate representation of how many animals need to be reared to provide the specific meat products that consumers want.

CutsOfBeef-630

Image taken from Barbecuebible.com (Raichlen 2015)

angus-BeefChart

Image taken from Templetonbeef.com (Templeton Hills Beef 2015)

As can be seen there are different percentages of meat for each breed of cow, there are also a lot of different food products that can be yielded from a cow, which makes it difficult to produce accurate data.

“With a whole cow you would get 550 pounds of beef. It will be 250 pounds of ground beef, and the other 300 pounds are in cuts like steaks, roasts, ribs, brisket, tenderloin, etc.” (Clover Valley Beef 2014)

So, to summarize:  A 1200 steer, ½ inch fat, average muscling, yields a 750 pound carcass.  The 750 pound carcass yields approximately:

  • 490 pounds boneless trimmed beef
  • 150 pounds fat trim
  • 110 pounds bone

A specific example of how the 490 pounds of boneless, trimmed beef could break out includes:

  • 185 pounds lean trim, or ground beef
  • 85 pounds round roasts and steaks
  • 90 pounds chuck roasts and steaks
  • 80 pounds rib and loin steaks

· 50 pounds other cuts (brisket, flank, short ribs, skirt steak

Information taken from igrow.org (Nold 2013)

Pork

pork-chart pork_101_final_b-fixed

Images from modernfarmer.com (Birnbaum 2014) and barrerasmeat.com (Barreras Meat Company 2014)

Lamb

2000px-Lamb_Cuts_shanks

Image taken from cllocker.com (Hunt 2013)

Bibliography

Animals United Movement, 2014. Infographic. cowspiracy.com, Available from: http://www.cowspiracy.com/infographic [Accessed 6 December 2015].

Are We Changing Planet Earth?, Episode 1, Are We Changing Planet Earth?, 2006. BBC1. 24th May 2006. 21:00.

Barreras Meat Company, 2014. Pork Meats. barrerasmeat.com, Available from: http://barrerasmeat.com/project/pork-meats/ [Accessed 5 December 2015].

BBC News UK, 2010. Backpacks measure cows’ methane. BBC News, BBC. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-10765803 [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Birnbaum, M., 2014. Pork 101: Know Your Cuts. modernfarmer.com, Available from: http://modernfarmer.com/2014/03/pork-101/ [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Clover Valley Beef, 2014. Buying half a cow. How much beef is it?. clovervalleybeef.com, Available from: http://www.clovervalleybeef.com/buying-half-a-cow/ [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Cook, J., 2015. What is methane’s contribution to global warming?. skepticalscience.com, Available from: https://www.skepticalscience.com/methane-and-global-warming.htm [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, 2014. Film. Directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. USA: A.U.M. Films.

Horizon, Episode 2, Should I Eat Meat? – How to Feed the Planet, 2014. TV, BBC. 20th August 2014. 21:00.

Hunt, S., 2013. Blog. cllocker.com, Available from: http://www.cllocker.com/blog-1 [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Monbiot, G., 2010. I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat – but farm it properly. theguardian.com, The Guardian. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/sep/06/meat-production-veganism-deforestation [Accessed 5 December 2015].

MuchAdoAboutClimate, 2014. How much methane does a cow actually produce?. wordpress, Available from: https://muchadoaboutclimate.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/how-much-methane-does-a-cow-actually-produce/ [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Nold, R., 2013. How Much Meat Can You Expect from a Fed Steer?. igrow, Available from: http://igrow.org/livestock/beef/how-much-meat-can-you-expect-from-a-fed-steer/ [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Scottish Environment Protection Agency, 2015. Scottish Pollutant Release Inventory. apps.sepa.org.uk, SEPA. Available from: http://apps.sepa.org.uk/spripa/Pages/SubstanceInformation.aspx?pid=65 [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Stallard, B., 2014. The Biggest Sources of Greenhouse Gas: Public Perception is Wrong. Nature World News, Available from: http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/10927/20141205/biggest-sources-greenhouse-gas-public-perception-wrong.htm [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Steinfeld, H., Gerber, P., Wassenaar, T. Castel, V., Rosales, M., and Haan, C., 2006. Livestocks Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.. Rome: FAO. Available from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf [Accessed 6 December 2015].

Templeton Hills Beef, 2015. Grass Fed Beef from Templeton California on the Central Coast. templetonbeef.com, Available from: http://www.templetonbeef.com/ [Accessed 5 December 2015].

Raichlen, S., 2014. Big Bad Beef Ribs: A Crash Course. barbecuebible.com, Available from: http://barbecuebible.com/2014/05/23/big-bad-beef-ribs/ [Accessed 5 December 2015].

U.S. Geological Survey, 2015. How much water does it take to grow a hamburger?. http://water.usgs.gov/, USGS. Available from: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/activity-watercontent.html [Accessed 4 December 2015].

Zyga, L., 2008. Cow Backpacks Trap Methane Gas. phys.org, Available from: http://phys.org/news/2008-07-cow-backpacks-methane-gas.html [Accessed 5 December 2015].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prototype 2

The second prototype focused on the actual design of the website. Whilst creating the first prototype it became clear that using tables and generic form elements such as select buttons is not something that will make my users very enthusiastic about using the product. Whilst researching for the project I came across a good example for this on a website.

bad design 1

image taken from water.usgs.gov (U.S. Geological Survey 2015)

Above shows an image of the example I found online. The creator has made some drop down menus and a submit button. Below shows the results after the user has clicked the submit button. The code functions quite well and the creator has attempted to engage the audience by getting them to guess how much water it takes to produce certain food items, but the design is very bland and in my opinion doesn’t help to engage the audience. Especially with the second section, I find it very hard to read the writing with the default links and the way the information is presented isn’t very affective (source: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/activity-watercontent.html).

ugly design

image taken from water.usgs.gov (U.S. Geological Survey 2015)

Because my project is called The Meat Counter (because it counts meat) I came up with an idea to make the design of the website resemble that of an actual meat counter that someone might buy food from whilst shopping at their local supermarket. Te users could select the items that they eat during the week by clicking on items displayed at the meat counter. If they hovered over the items a larger image would appear in the top right. This can be seen blow.

meatcounterdesignmenu1new-01

The original intention was that the item which the mouse pointer hovered over would show a larger image and the name of the item in the top right section. When clicked on, 1 item would be added to the list, if clicked again the quantity of that item would increment. This idea caused some additional design problems however, as it meant there would be a limited amount of space in which I could fit all of the items. The other design problem was that the user might have found it irritating to click on each item. Because the images would have been so close together it they may have crossed over one another. Also, having to hover over each image to see what the name of each item is could have been irritating for the user.

I solved this problem by having sections of the meat counter, that when clicked on, opened up a separate section where the user could choose from a list of items related to that animal. Now, when the mouse pointer hovers over each section, an outline will appear around that area. When clicked on a menu will appear that contains all items related to the animal. To get rid of the window that appears, the user will simply have to click another part of the screen. The list (shopping cart) will be displayed on the top left, and the user will be able to delete items if they choose the wrong one by mistake. When the user has finished this process they will click on the calculate button similar to that of the first prototype.

meatcounterdesignmenu2

References

U.S. Geological Survey, 2015. How much water does it take to grow a hamburger?. http://water.usgs.gov/, USGS. Available from: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/activity-watercontent.html [Accessed 4 December 2015].

 

Prototype 1

For my prototype I wanted to get a good understanding of how I could use php to process data entered by users. My idea was that I would have a number of items that a user could select and after submitting that data, php would process it and convert those values into information which showed the user how much meat would need to be produced if everybody had the same diet.

As I just wanted to get a better understanding of how I would write the code for the project, I used chicken as my example, as it is much easier to calculate how many chicken legs there are in a chicken than it is to find out how many steaks there are in a cow (which is something I will inevitably have to do, and have started to research).

index

The page shown above allows the user to enter in the meat they eat, once they have entered the meat they eat (it’s supposed to be during the week), they hit the “calculate” button.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 13.58.11

After the user has clicked the calculate button, the data is shown in a table. The quantity is added up to how many animals that amounts to (there are 2 chicken legs on a chicken so therefore 6 chicken legs make up 3 chickens.

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 17.55.51

After that I created a simple variable which calculated the total multiplied by 7 billion, which would show the user how many chickens it would take to feed everybody if the entire world ate the same amount each week.

Target Audience

Target Audience

The demographic of my audience is primarily males and females between the ages of 16 to 35, the reason for this is because I believe that many individuals are conscientious of what impact they are having on the environment, but they have come from a traditional family where meat has been a large part of their diet and have become accustomed to eating meat. I think that one of the reasons it is very hard for people to change to a less meat based diet is because it is a part of their cultural upbringing. Because a lot of young people are starting to live independently from their parents they may change their lifestyle habits, where as it might be harder for an older individual to change their lifestyle habits after becoming so accustomed to their lifestyle after 30 plus years. The idea that young people are more likely to change their meat eating habits is backed up by studies that suggest vegetarian diets are on the rise in Britain, especially in young people, where 20% of people aged 16 – 24 have vegetarian diets, according to studies by analysts such as Mintel (Morgan 2014). Also, as my project is a website it makes sense to appeal to a younger audience because they are more likely to use the Internet. The audience doesn’t necessarily have to be within the age range of 16 – 35, other ages could find it interesting as well, but it seems that a younger audience are more likely to come across this type of website and have a positive response to the content.

The target audience is also directed at those who have some scientific awareness and people who recognize that issues such as climate change and deforestation are a problem but may think it is beyond their control to do anything about it. It could also be targeted at individuals who might have considered cutting down on their meat consumption for other reasons, such as the unethical treatment of livestock, which are given no space to roam freely, or perhaps because they want to cut down on eating meat for personal health reasons, or for financial reasons. Some of these individuals may have two values which oppose one another (cognitive dissonance) which means they are fighting with the idea of trying to eat less meat but are finding it hard to change their lifestyle. Perhaps these individuals are aware of some of the negative impacts on a personal and environmental level but may not realise how much of an impact the livestock industry actually has, which may prompt them to try harder to eat less meat.

What my project doesn’t intend to do is convince people who cannot be convinced. Whether that is people who deny the scale of the problem (climate change deniers for example) or individuals who hold a defeatist ideology that changing their habits wouldn’t make a difference anyway, or perhaps even individuals who don’t care. The Project could also be a tool used by activists and other interest groups who want to promote awareness about the impact of the livestock industry on the environment.

Audience Research

To get a better understanding of the intended audience for the project I took a survey of 50 Internet users. The users were Facebook users, the majority of which were between the ages of 18 and 35, as shown below. Although these were people that I know, I don’t believe this had much of an impact on the outcomes of the survey.

age

What I wanted to find out was what amounts of meat individuals ate, I tried to avoid asking vegetarians to fill out the survey as they are not my target audience and the data wouldn’t be very useful.

quantity

I then asked the individuals a question which related to how they felt about their diet.

change

In terms of my target audience I think my project is aimed at those who selected the option “I think I eat too much meat and would like to eat less”. Considering over 50% of those who took the survey stated that they ate meat at least more than 3 times a week and 32% stated that they would like to eat less meat, it is fair to say that a percentage of those who ate meat more than 3 times a week would be the same individuals who said they would like to eat less meat, especially when considering that it’s more likely that vegetarians and those who eat meat less than once a week are probably quite content with their diet.

References

Morgan, T., 2014. Meat is off the menu as more Britons become vegetarian. http://www.express.co.uk, The Daily Express. Available from: http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/517246/Vegetarians-are-on-the-increase-in-Britain [Accessed 3 December 2015].