January 2020 I started my PhD at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU / e) and HU Co-Design: a practice-oriented design research into the environmental impact of the use of products as a service.

A lack of ownership over products – such as bicycles and telephones – seems to result in a lack of responsibility for those products. And irresponsible use can lead to a shorter life cycle of products (and therefore more environmental impact and higher costs). The concept of ownership is central to the research. The products we use are – legally speaking – less and less owned by us as users. Yet we still experience ownership over the products we use as a service. This sense of ownership is called psychological ownership. The question is whether and how we can use design to increase this psychological ownership, so that users feel more responsible about the products that are not legally owned.

Because it concerns practice-oriented research, we first went into practice. In a case study we work together with The Student Hotel (TSH), which wants to reduce the environmental impact from the use of its services. During this case, students from design study programs at the HU and TU / e work on the exploratory design question to allow users of bicycles within TSH to handle loan bicycles more carefully. Various studies are carried out by means of archive / material study, direct (participatory) observation of users and materials (such as bicycles, bicycle parking, mobile application) and interviews with employees and users within the case.

With insights from this first case study, we will investigate other cases where products are used as a service.