For my capstone, I aim to create a website that helps dorm residents become more aware of and reduce their use of electricity. To do so I plan to hold an energy-saving contest and then display real-time data from electric meters on the site. My inspiration comes from a project done at Oberlin College: http://www.oberlin.edu/dormenergy/
For me, the most difficult design challenge is in how to represent energy–something invisible, abstract and taken for granted–in such a way that makes visible, tangible, and meaningful. For my paper, I want to look at the Oberlin site, and analyze the paradigmatic choices for representing the data. For example what meaning is communicated by the use of: a horizontal bar chart, colors ranging from green to red, a dashboard interface metaphor, the ability to change the units of measurement, etc? What different design choices could have been made in these cases and how would that have changed the meaning?
I hoping that this exercise will produce some actionable design concepts to make my capstone project more effective. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions for improvement.