PhD on addressing rebound effects through alternative design aesthetics

Eindhoven University of Technology
September 19, 2023
Offerd Salary:€2,770
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PhD on addressing rebound effects through alternative design aesthetics



Irène Curie Fellowship



Industrial Design



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Job description

The research cluster Designing for Intelligences at the Industrial Design Department of TU/e (the Netherlands) and the section for Engineering Design and Product Development of the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering of the DTU (Denmark) jointly invite applications for a 4-year PhD project. The project is fully funded as part of the TU/e EuroTech PhD Programme.

The aim of this exciting, creative, critical and multidisciplinary project is to develop design strategies to anticipate and prevent ‘rebound effects' in the smart home by exploring the potential of aesthetics of uncertainty, instability and emergence. These strategies should evoke the imagination and competence of designers to challenge currently dominant paradigms in home automation and form the basis for developing novel Key Enabling Methodologies.


Home automation (i.e., ‘the smart home' enabled by Internet of Things) is seen as a promising approach to enable residents to use energy more efficiently and thereby reduce domestic energy demand. However, home automation has so far led to increasing rather than decreasing levels of demand, both in energy and resources. These increased levels of demand are in part caused by the occurrence of ‘rebound effects'. Rebound effects describe ‘systemic responses to measures designed to enhance sustainability outcomes that partially or entirely offset the measure's intended effects'. In other words, improving efficiency does not deliver the expected sustainability gains due to changes in system behaviour induced by the introduced efficiency measures. At the same time, parallel activities in the ‘smart home' realm are promoting more resource intensive lifestyles under banners of health, safety and pleasance.

While the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) community shaping smart technologies is still coming to terms with its role in causing increased energy and resource consumption it is important to further explore how they can contribute to tackling global crises. Along with a broader system understanding necessary for preventing or mitigating rebound effects, this requires novel perspectives on the role of HCI in shaping quality of life. In this project we aim to do this by combining systemic knowledge on rebound effects (DTU) with an alternative aesthetic perspective on the role of smart technology in everyday life (TU/e).

While in smart system design the focus lies on fostering control, choice and convenience, our research indicates that opportunities to move towards more sustainable lifestyles through design lie in harbouring an alternative aesthetics of uncertainty, instability, and emergence.

Uncertainty is inherent to everyday life and expected to become increasingly so with ongoing climate change and other crises such as mass migration. It is often seen as something negative. However, uncertainty can also lead to sensual experiences of surprise and curiosity and motivate creative exploration or deeper reflections on the reasons behind the uncertainty. We want to take the notion of uncertainty beyond a design material and explore an ‘aesthetics of uncertainty' in the design of smart home systems.

Instability is an attribute of dynamical models and systems. With increasing connectivity between different kinds of often poorly compatible systems in the home, instability, break-down and malfunction become regular qualities of smart home systems. Rather than trying to prevent or fix these elements, we propose exploring an aesthetic of ‘caring for instability'.

Emergence occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its parts do not have on their own. These properties or behaviours emerge only when the parts interact in a wider whole. Emergent behaviours in intelligent systems, such as rebound effects, are preferably prevented. However, a system might also have desirable emergent behaviours. Anticipation is a condition of aesthetic form, according to Dewey. ‘Anticipating emergence' is then a responsible strategy for the future development of smart home systems.


The project will take a Constructive Design Research approach, by which knowledge is generated through the process of designing. This process contains a series of iterations, i.e., aesthetic inquiries that build on each other. By exploratively developing the alternative aesthetic qualities into design exemplars for the home context, while iteratively evaluating these outcomes against broader, longer term potential rebound effects and feasibility on a system level, this project aims to develop approaches that offer handles to interaction designers in reinventing their practices for a less resource intensive future that is resilient to the occurrence of rebound effects.

The process is envisioned to comprise four main iterations. Involving experimentation with different forms of designing and aesthetics, developing and deploying working prototypes in small and medium scale settings, systemic assessments of potential prevention of rebound effects of the concepts, and making and testing educational materials for design students. In the first year, the research plan will be refined together with the PhD candidate.

During this process, the PhD candidate will spend at least 6 months at DTU. The candidate is expected to publish in relevant scientific conferences and journals within the field of human-computer interaction, such as the CHI and DIS conferences, Ubicomp and the ToCHI journal. At the end of the 4-year project, the candidate is expected to defend their PhD Thesis.

Prospective starting date: November 2023 (in consultation)

The team

The PhD will be supervised by Dr. Lenneke Kuijer and Professor Dr. Stephan Wensveen in the Department of Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), and Dr. Daniela Pigosso in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

Lenneke Kuijer is an expert in the areas of domestic energy demand, home automation and social practice theories. Stephan Wensveen co-developed notions around aesthetics of interaction and is currently researching aesthetic perspectives on designing intelligent systems. Daniella Pigosso brings in expertise on rebound effects, circular economy and product-service systems (PSS) and a strong link with industry.

About EuroTech

This PhD position is part of the internal TU/e Eurotech PhD program. This centrally funded PhD program aims at stimulating cooperation with the strategic international EuroTech partner universities (https: // eurotech- Like other TU/e-based PhD candidates, the candidate will have access to the TU/e PROOF program with ample opportunities for personal development. In addition, the candidate has access to yearly training and exchange activities within the EuroTech context, for instance a visit to the EuroTech Brussels Office or working-across-borders training.

Job requirements
  • A Master's degree in Interaction Design or closely related discipline
  • Affinity with design aesthetics
  • Experience with physical prototyping
  • A critical attitude towards the role of smart home technology in everyday life
  • Familiarity with the concept of sustainable design and/or rebound effects
  • Proven skills in qualitative design research, in particular research through design/constructive design research and experience with academic paper writing
  • Good collaboration and communication skills, both with other disciplines and outside academia
  • Fluency in spoken and written English language
  • A willingness for international travel and (extended) stays abroad (4-8 months in Denmark, at DTU)
  • Conditions of employment

    A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university, in an interdisciplinary setting and within an international network. You will work on a beautiful, green campus within walking distance of the central train station. In addition, we offer you:

  • Full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation (go/no-go) after nine months. You will spend 10% of your employment on teaching tasks.
  • Salary and benefits (such as a pension scheme, paid pregnancy and maternity leave, partially paid parental leave) in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, scale P (min. €2,770 max. €3,539).
  • A year-end bonus of 8.3% and annual vacation pay of 8%.
  • High-quality training programs and other support to grow into a self- aware, autonomous scientific researcher. At TU/e we challenge you to take charge of your own learning process.
  • An excellent technical infrastructure, on-campus children's day care and sports facilities.
  • An allowance for commuting, working from home and internet costs.
  • A Staff Immigration Team and a tax compensation scheme (the 30% facility) for international candidates.
  • Information and application

    About Eindhoven University of Technology

    Eindhoven University of Technology is an internationally top-ranking university in the Netherlands that combines scientific curiosity with a hands- on attitude. Our spirit of collaboration translates into an open culture and a top-five position in collaborating with advanced industries. Fundamental knowledge enables us to design solutions for the highly complex problems of today and tomorrow.

    Curious to hear more about what it's like as a PhD candidate at TU/e? Please view the video.


    Do you recognize yourself in this profile and would you like to know more? Please contact the hiring manager dr. Lenneke Kuijer, e-mail General information about the Department Industrial Design, candidates will find here.

    Visit our website for more information about the application process or the conditions of employment. You can also contact HR Services Industrial Design, tel. +31(0) 40 2475336, e-mail:

    Are you inspired and would like to know more about working at TU/e? Please visit our career page.


    We invite you to submit a complete application by using the apply button. The application should include the following documents (all in English):

  • a written application letter with a clear motivation section
  • a portfolio
  • a curriculum vitae.
  • We look forward to receiving your application. The selection process will commence as soon as applications are submitted. Applications close on 19 September 2023.

    Please keep in mind you can upload only 5 documents up to 2 MB each. If necessary please combine files. Applications per e-mail are not accepted.

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