Can apps make air pollution visible?
In this paper, the authors test how intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can enhance users’ engagement with air quality information and favor changes in protective behavior. They developed an air quality app, AirForU, with a built-in research study that was downloaded by 2,740 users. They found that user engagement, measured as checking the app, and talking to someone about air pollution, was strong in the first few weeks after downloading the app but faded significantly after 12 weeks. Engagement was higher for users with intrinsic motivations, such as those who are health conscious, either because they are suffering from heart disease or other conditions aggravated by air pollution, or because they exercise often and want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Extrinsic motivations such as notifications were also effective. App users stated that they shared air quality frequently with others while using the app, learned information about the Air Quality Index (AQI), and took measures to protect their health. Based on these findings, the authors provide recommendations to improve the effectiveness of air quality apps.