Mindfulness and HCI

Mindfulness and HCI

Jacek Sliwinski (University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9069-9.ch018


Mindfulness is constantly increasing in popularity, having demonstrated benefits for psychological health and cognitive performance. Not only current psychotherapies have integrated mindfulness, but also digital technology for the general public such as mobile apps and games strive to incorporate mindfulness either explicitly (as mindfulness solutions) or implicitly (by training factors associated with mindfulness). The goal of this chapter is to clarify how mindfulness can be used in the context of HCI and provide practical insights for researchers and developers on how to create positive digital experiences. After a brief introduction of the intersection between those two fields, this chapter focuses on the challenge of operationalizing mindfulness and how it can be measured in HCI. Two review studies are presented, along with design recommendations, which are then applied in a case study. Results and implications are discussed.
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The benefits of technological ubiquity come with consequences. The availability of technological pastimes (such as social media) increases distraction, hence mindlessness (unawareness) about one’s own experiences and surroundings. This often results in stress and decreased physical (Campisi et al., 2012) and psychological wellbeing (Kalpidou, Costin, & Morris, 2011). Studies suggest that media consumption and multi-tasking are associated with lower levels of personal contentment and academic achievement (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010), and impair learning and attention, especially for children (Wallis, 2010). Furthermore, multi-tasking in the form of frequent social media interactions decreases productivity (Mark, Iqbal, Czerwinski, & Johns, 2015), and the interruptions caused by sending and receiving emails (from anywhere at any time) causes stress (Barley, Meyerson, & Grodal, 2011). Heavy multi-tasking was also associated with increased susceptibility to distractions (Ophir, Nass, & Wagner, 2009) and thus, reduced mindfulness (i.e. not being in the present moment). More recent studies have included mindfulness as a factor when investigating the effects of social media, finding that mindfulness improves resilience to emotional exhaustion and increases a sense of personal accomplishment, meaning that people with low levels of mindfulness deal worse with stress and emotional challenges, therefor having a greater risk to develop psychological disorders such as burnout (Charoensukmongkol, 2016; Sriwilai & Charoensukmongkol, 2016).

This research acknowledges that modern life is demanding and views technology as a platform for improving mindfulness and gaining its associated benefits. Searching the dominant app stores (iTunes and Google Play) for mindfulness reveals many hits, which reflects the demand for technology-supported solutions in this area (Mani, Kavanagh, Hides, & Stoyanov, 2015; Plaza, Demarzo, Herrera-Mercadal, & García-Campayo, 2013). Mindfulness exercises are often promoted as do-it-yourself techniques for coping with stress, addressing the greatest concern of young people today (Fildes, Robbins, Cave, Perrens, & Wearring, 2014). There is an interest in mindfulness as a way to “keep in touch with our essence” (Williamson, 2003, p.18). Apart from individual benefits (which are discussed below), mindfulness has a broad, social impact by improving interpersonal relationships (Sahdra, Shaver, & Brown, 2010). Realising its value, companies and institutions offer mindfulness courses to their employees (e.g. Google; Shachtman, 2015) to lower stress, increase productivity (Levy, Wobbrock, Kaszniak, & Ostergren, 2012), and improve the moral and emotional standards of their leaders (Waddock, 2001). On a cultural and societal level, it facilitates the development of cultural intelligence (Thomas, 2006) and ethical values (Gilpin, 2008), which can positively influence a world filled with political tensions and social unrest.

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