Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Management Science

First Advisor

Fatemeh (Mariam) Zahedi

Committee Members

Sanjoy Ghose, Edward Levitas, Mark Mone, Huimin Zhao


Electricity Conservaton, Energy Management, Feedback Application, Green IT, Taxonomy, User Experience


This dissertation focuses on the role of IT in environmental sustainability and electricity conservation through three research essays. The first essay makes a case for behavior research, with the focus on individuals' use of Green IT. Moreover, environmental studies lack a coherent theory that could identify the motivators of Green-IT beliefs. We develop the hedonic motivation theory, which synthesizes theoretical and philosophical thoughts on hedonism with concepts from environmental research. Using this theory, we develop a conceptual model that identifies the motivators of context-specific beliefs, attitudes, and uses of Green IT. We theorize that there are significant generational differences in the process by which hedonic motivators influence Green IT use behaviors. Young adults are more motivated by personal hedonic motivation, and an affective and automatic process, whereas older adults are motivated by a cognitive and attitudinal process. This study was carried out using a structural equation modeling method of analysis based on 702 observations of the survey data. The results support the theorized model, with significant implications.

The second essay examines the design taxonomy of electricity consumption feedback applications, which are considered one of the critical technologies in alleviating the increasing trends of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. We relied on an integrative theoretical framework and literature review to propose a comprehensive taxonomy for salient design elements of electricity consumption feedback applications. Using a survey method, we collected data from general public to evaluate the preference and relative importance of the design elements. We found that there is a preferred set of design elements for the feedback applications. Our results could serve as a basis to evaluate the design of existing electricity consumption feedback applications, and to help in studying the influence of design elements on beliefs and behaviors related to individuals' electricity conservation.

The third essay investigates the role of the salient design elements identified in the second essay, and the processes by which these elements motivate electricity consumers' behaviors towards energy conservation. We developed a conceptual framework by extending the theory of planned behavior to study how salient design elements of feedback applications impact the beliefs and behaviors of individual electricity consumers. To our knowledge, this is the first study aimed at examining the relationship between electricity consumers' beliefs and behaviors and the specific perceived design elements of electricity consumption feedback applications. We empirically evaluated the conceptual model by developing a mobile app and a corresponding website and conducting a controlled longitudinal lab experiment. The results indicate strong support for the premises of the model and support the significant role of personalized design elements in use behaviors and electricity conservation. Our findings show the importance of integrating descriptive social norm, personalized goal setting, and personalized privacy preferences design elements in feedback applications.

This dissertation makes a number of significant contributions to theory and application. First, it develops a new theory that identifies motivators of Green IT use. It shows that the conceptualized motivators impact use behaviors though multiple paths--the cognitive and emotional automatic paths-- and are moderated by users' age. Second, this work develops a taxonomy of design elements for electricity consumption feedback applications based on an integrative theoretical framework and extensive review of the existing literature. This taxonomy and the relative importance of elements in the taxonomy could serve as the standard for developing and assessing feedback application tools. Third, this work develops a conceptual model that identifies the processes by which design elements of electricity consumption feedback applications help in the conservation of electricity by individuals. Together, the three essays contribute to the sustainability and Green IT literature by uncovering the significant role of individuals in dealing with environmental threats and energy consumption challenges and by conceptualizing the different antecedents and processes that shape the perceptions and behaviors related to Green IT and electricity consumption. Moreover, the three studies extend user-centric design research by integrating insights from multiple disciplines to explain, design, create, and test innovative tools that could have a pivotal role in dealing with global sustainability challenges. This work also provides a standard for the evaluation of such tools from multiple stakeholder perspectives. Finally, the three essays contribute to practice by proposing guidelines to industry designers and policy makers for promoting sustainability and energy conservation through personalized tools and effective campaigns.