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Stanford initiates a co-operation with COWI and Aalborg University

Photo: Moon Soleil/Flickr

​Stanford and COWI team up to promote positive behaviour

​American elite university Stanford and Aalborg University (AAU) have established a partnership with COWI on Danish soil.

Your smartphone is more than just a practical little helper in your daily life. In the next two years, COWI, along with Stanford and AAU, will focus on solving global as well as local conflicts and challenges by using mass data, which is collected from people’s use of smartphones and social media. By focusing on people’s social behaviour, the hope is to be able to relieve many of the challenges of our time.

“The project builds on the fact that in one day, during the Palestinian-Israeli fights, more than 100 persons died, while almost 20,000 Facebook friendships were created across the same borders. That kind of news rarely hits the media,” explains Kristian Løbner, Urban Planner at COWI.
This news story inspired the idea of finding solutions to conflicts by focusing on people’s social behaviour. By analysing the data collected, it is clear that the reality portrayed by the media often differs from people’s perceived reality.

New visionary project

"For the first time in human history, we are able to measure people’s behaviour in a very high resolution, and that opens great opportunities for targeting initiatives that promote positive behaviour," says Kristian Løbner. 
According to Løbner, COWI’s role in the project is to contribute practical knowledge on urban and traffic planning, while universities are experts on how to use technology to impact behaviour. One of the objectives is to establish partnerships with housing associations or other companies that daily battle negative behaviour.
“If people become aware of a different reality than what they see in the media, behaviour may change. For instance, focusing on community-spirit and unity in crime-ridden or socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods is likely to generate a higher sense of ownership and pride among residents. And that could reduce a number of costs in the long term.”
Løbner eyes a great potential for similar projects in the future, and even though the co-operation between the three partners is scheduled for a two-year period, efforts are already being made to further extend the partnership.

LAST UPDATED: 16.09.2016