Understanding energy use and power relationships in low-income communities

The relationship between feedback technologies and energy-conservation behaviors has become an increasingly important focus in the field of human-computer interaction. However, few studies have explored this phenomenon among low-income and renter households. My early dissertation work bridges this gap via qualitative studies of low-income households across Eastern, NC and Pittsburgh, PA. Our studies of low-income households show that comparison across households can have an important impact on how energy is used (or saved). These studies also reveal conflict between various internal and external stakeholders such as family members and landlords. My dissertation work investigates this conflict and identifies factors such as social engagement and social sharing as potential solutions.  My final dissertation work leverages existing energy-monitoring technology along with customized software to better understand the impact of engagement around social sharing and community energy monitoring. I conducted a long-term field study across 15 renter households in Pittsburgh, PA for 4-10 months.


Silberman, M.S., Nathan, L., Knowles, B., Bendor, R., Clear, A., Håkansson, Dillahunt, T., Mankoff, J. Next steps for sustainable HCI. Interactions, September – October 2014 (pdf).

Dillahunt, T., Mankoff, J. Understanding factors of successful engagement around energy consumption between and among households. CSCW 2014 (pdf).

Shrinivasan, Y., Jain, M., Seetharam, D., Choudhary, A., Huang, E., Dillahunt, T., Mankoff, J. Deep Conservation in Urban India and its Implications for the Design of Conservation Technologies. Proceedings of the 31st international conference on Human factors in computing systems, 2013 (pdf).

Jain, M., Shrinivasan, Y., Dillahunt, T. Replicating Residential Sustainability Study in Urban India. Proceedings of the 31st international conference on Human factors in computing systems, Replication Workshop 2013, Paris, France (pdf)

Dillahunt, T. Using social technologies to increase sharing and communication around household energy consumption in low-income and rental communities, Doctoral Dissertation, December 2012. (abstract) | (pdf)

Dillahunt, T., Mankoff, J., Paulos, E. Understanding conflict between landlords and tenants: Implications for energy sensing and feedback. Proceedings of the 11th international conference on Ubiquitous computing, 2010. pp. 149-158. (pdf)

Dillahunt, T., Mankoff, J., Paulos, E., Fussell, S. It’s not all about green: energy use in low-income communities. Proceedings of the 11th international conference on Ubiquitous computing, 2009. pp. 255–264. (pdf)

Dillahunt, T., Mankoff, J. (2012). Design implications for social-energy applications. CMU-HCII-12-100, SCS, Carnegie Mellon University, Human-Computer Interaction Institute Collection. (abstract) | (pdf)

Dillahunt, T. (2011) “Sharing and communication around household energy consumption” Richard Tapia Doctoral Consortium. San Francisco, CA. April 2, 2011. (presentation)

Dillahunt, T. (2011) “Communicating around home-energy monitoring devices: Connecting stakeholders in low-income communities” Doctoral Colloquium in the Adjunct Proceedings of UbiComp 2011, Beijing, China, September 17 – September 21, 2011. (pdf| presentation)


Renters examine electric usage in TREK program: Study monitors renters’ habits. Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 29, 2012. By Diana Nelson Jones. (article link)

Economic Sustainability

Sustainability is more than environmental sustainability. Two additional facets of sustainability include social sustainability and economic sustainability.  Unemployment and other issues of economic sustainability are especially important given the current economy. As a result, I wanted to explore ways in which Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) could improve economic mobility among economically distressed communities.


Dillahunt, T. Fostering Social Capital in Economically Distressed Communities. CHI 2014 (to appear |pdf).

Jen, B., Kaur, J., De Heus, J., Dillahunt, T. Analyzing Employment Technologies for Economically Distressed Individuals. CHI 2014 WIP (pdf).

Dillahunt, T., Chen, B., Teasley, S. Model Thinking: Demographics and Performance of MOOC Students Unable to Afford a Formal Education, Learning @ Scale, 2014 (pdf| poster)

Post-sustainability and Resilience

I attended a CHI sustainability workshop (2013) to consider ways that we can evolve a research agenda in HCI about how to move sustainable HCI to the next level — one that goes beyond persuasion, adopts a deeper perspective on sustainability, and supports and prepares for transformations induced by large scale social and environmental change. I was particularly interested in resilience, or building cohesive communities: “Stronger local communities are more resilient to change and shocks; people are able to act together collectively in response to challenges, and strongly affected individuals are more likely to find support. Can online social media, mobile devices etc be used in such a way as to build more cohesive local communities? Can they help create support networks that exist beyond the virtual? Or do they naturally result in reduced cohesion?”


Dillahunt, T. Creating Resilient Communities for Post-Sustainable Times, Proceedings of the 31st international conference on Human factors in computing systems, Post-Sustainability Workshop, 2013, Paris, France. (pdf)

Motivating prosocial behaviors

I am deeply committed to solving real-world problems using human-computer interaction (HCI) research and ubiquitous technology innovations. In collaboration with colleagues, I have used techniques from social and behavioral sciences and human-centered design to create interfaces aimed toward increasing pro-social behaviors.


Mankoff, J., Fussell, S., Dillahunt, T., Glaves, Rachel, Grevet, C., Johnson, M., Matthews, D., Matthews, H.S., McGuire, R., Thompson, R. Increasing energy saving behaviors via social networks. ICWSM 2010. (pdf)

Dillahunt, T., Mankoff, J., Forlizzi, J. A proposed framework for assessing environmental sustainability in the HCI community. CHI ‘10 Examining appropriation, reuse, and maintenance workshop at CHI 2010 in Atlanta, GA. (pdf)

Froehlich, J., Dillahunt, T., Klansja, P., Mankoff, J., Consolvo, S., Harrison, B., Landay, J. UbiGreen: investigating a mobile tool for tracking and supporting green transportation habits. Proceedings of the 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems, 2009. pp. 1043–1052. (pdf)

Lee, M., Dillahunt, T., Pendleton, B., Kraut, R., Kiesler, S. Tailoring websites to increase contributions to online communities. Extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, 2009. pp. 4003–4008. (pdf)

Dillahunt, T., Becker, G., Mankoff, J., Kraut, R. Motivating environmentally sustainable behavior changes with a virtual polar bear. Pervasive 2008 Workshop on Pervasive Persuasive Technology and Environmental Sustainability in Sydney, Australia. (pdf)


How Psychology can help the planet stay cool. New Scientist, August 19, 2009. (link)
Ubigreen: Not just another carbon footprint phone app (honest). treehugger, November 21, 2008. (link)

Future Work

I look forward to building upon this work, conducting interdisciplinary research, and understanding how social, ubiquitous, and information and communication technologies can be used to solve society’s most critical problems.