Topics of Interest

For a full overview over the workshop and its design themes, take a look at the preliminary workshop abstract pdf

Definitions of Wellbeing
In 2004, the World Health Organization [30], defined positive mental health or wellbeing as a state “which allows individuals to realize their abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to their community”. Together with a reorientation of health care and psychology towards understanding how to nurture human strength and contribute to positive aspects of human life [22], there is an increased interest in exploring the potential of technology to support wellbeing [26]. This, however, requires an understanding of the concept of wellbeing, as well as how wellbeing can be measured and designed for.
Current research in psychology offers a number of general perspectives on wellbeing. For example, the hedonic approach focuses on the subjective experience of happiness and life satisfaction and defines wellbeing in terms of attaining pleasure and happiness whilst avoiding pain [21]. In contrast the eudaimonic approach conceptualizes wellbeing as finding meaning in life, realizing oneself and one’s full potential. This includes positive evaluations of one’s self and one’s life, a sense of continued growth and development as a person, the capacity to manage one’s life effectively as well as good relationships with other people and a sense of self-determination [22]. However, formulations of wellbeing including the hedonic and eudaimonic perspective often intertwine.

Design Themes
The following sections introduce the key design themes to be explored in this workshop. Whilst some of the research and examples provided are not explicitly conceptualized as related to wellbeing, it is discussed why these themes are important to engage with in designing wellbeing.

Wellbeing as Pleasure, Happiness and Satisfaction
Although one can distinguish satisfaction, gratification, pleasure, joy or euphoria in terms of their intensity, it is difficult to unpick whether they describe an experience, sensation, emotion, state of mind or state of being [cf., 4].
Pleasure can result from engaging in enjoyable activities such as play, entertainment or eating good food, from the aesthetics and beauty of things, or their novelty. The joy people experience for instance from playing computer games can be ascribed to a sense of control, mastery and achievement that these allow for. Games are also activities that enable the experience of flow, defined by Csikszentmihalyi as an optimal feeling of genuine satisfaction or happiness, where the individual feels strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of her abilities [6]. Yet, flow is not a passive experience. It needs to be cultivated through an activity that is within the control of the person and that sets challenges which are neither too simple nor too demanding to achieve. Associated developments of skills, feelings of personal growth and mastery that characterise flow distinguish it from the simple attainment of pleasures.
Fruitful discussions at the workshop may include: What are the potentials of design to support the pursuit of pleasurable activities? How can technology be employed to empower and strengthen a person’s self and allow the individual to feel in control and master her life?

Towards Wellbeing: Therapy and Self Management
In recent years, there has been an increase in research exploring the role of technology and interaction design in supporting mental health and therapy.
Systems employed in psychotherapy are often designed to facilitate communication between therapist and client (e.g. computer games for adolescents [7]), to provide specific content relevant for therapeutic sessions (e.g. anxiety exposures in virtual realities [20]) or to support patient’s self-monitoring activities and homework compliance (e.g., SCOPE [8], Mobile Mood Diary [18]).
Patients often have greater access to information than ever before. They can use online services for self-assessment, health advice or counseling. Whilst access to information is fast, easy and less stigmatized [20], their quality is restricted in accuracy, completeness, actuality or evidence base [12]. How can interaction design help people identify trustworthy resources for supporting their own wellbeing? What is the impact of online support groups on people’s health?
Outside hospital environments, we find that patients increasingly become co-creators of their care, with health professionals assisting and helping patients to help themselves [11]. How can individuals be assisted in successfully managing their wellbeing beyond therapy? How may technology support access to therapy, and help prevent mental illness and relapse? How can individuals be inspired and persuaded to adopt wellbeing supporting strategies?

Expressions of Emotion and Wellbeing
The communication of emotion is inherently social. In sharing our feelings we invite empathic responses, allowing others to better meet our needs and enable the building or maintenance of relationships, an element that is of fundamental importance to maintaining wellbeing [3].
A considerable amount of work in HCI is dedicated to the exploration of different means of assessing or expressing emotions or affect. Prominent designs include eMoto [25] and the Affective Diary [24]. In these, emotion is expressed creatively using mixtures of color, texture or movement to encouraging flexible and rich individual expressions and interpretations of a person’s mood or feelings. This openness and ambiguity, however, carries the risk of misunderstandings. As an alternative, the Subtle Stone [2] allows for a more comprehensible communication of emotion by reducing it to seven distinct emotional states represented by specific colors. The translation of a full range of a person’s felt, complex and in part mixed emotional experience into one of seven colors remains challenging. This becomes ever more apparent with tools like Healthii [1] which allow a person to express their wellbeing on Facebook or Twitter through a four digit wellbeing code (e.g. twitter #healthii{1231}) representing four discrete dimensions: Busyness, Enjoyment, Stress, Health (with finite values: 1 = not, 2 = quite, 3 = very).
Yet, to what extent is the communication of emotions informed by the audience and people’s social motives? More research is needed into how impressions are formed of a person who frequently shares negative feelings online. What does it mean if feelings of sadness are communicated to gain empathic support, but nobody responds?

Wellbeing and our Need for Interpersonal Relationships
A powerful determinant of health and wellbeing is the fundamental human need for interpersonal relationships [21] including aspects of social exchange, support, closeness and intimacy. Thus, a significant body of research and development has sought to support, augment and extend intimate experiences [e.g., 14,28]. Many of these interaction designs address the sensual character of intimacy (touch, hugging, warmth, etc.) and seek to mediate simple intimate acts, or to make the presence of a beloved person apparent. Even though they are aiming for the expression or evocation of emotions [13], the set of possible communication acts is often small (e.g. pressing a button on a screen, switching on a light) and clearly prescribed through the design.
The Lovers’ box [27] presents a design that aims to go beyond subtle expressions of intimacy in allowing individuals to be more active co-creators of their experience. The artifact resembles an old fashioned jewelry box, yet incorporated technology allows romantic couples to create and exchange video messages reciprocally with their partner. Through the display of embedded highly personal, gift-like videos, which enables reflection on meaningful shared experiences and stimulates laughter, closeness and intimacy, the box has the potential to become a valuable extension of their relationship.
Given prior work, how can design help create opportunities for, or mediate, social exchange? How can technology be utilized to nurture meaningful interpersonal relationships and ultimately our social self?

Measuring Wellbeing
Felt experiences such as intimacy, happiness or pleasure are challenging to measure, yet crucial to evaluate the impact of our interventions. Many research methods have been developed for the hedonic conceptualization of wellbeing. Prominent tools are: the Affect Balance Scale [5], PANAS [29], Affectometer 2 [15] or the Satisfaction with Life Scale [10]. They commonly encompass measures for positive and negative affect, and an individual’s satisfaction with life.
The eudaimonic formulation has received less research attention so far. Existing measures include: Ryff’s Scales of Psychological Well-Being [22] and the Social Well-Being Scale [16], as well as scales to measure spirituality or mindfulness [e.g., 17]. Despite a large amount of existing tools to measure global well-being or happiness, there is still a need for methods that are sensitive to small changes in the multi-facets of this concept. How can sensor technologies be used to better support continuous and objective measures of mental and physical health [e.g., 19]? Rather than treating wellbeing as an outcome, how can tools be developed which measure the wellbeing process?


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