not to say
Mind, Cognition and Society in the Internet Age
Istituto Auxologico Italiano
Beyond the development of networked technologies, the most striking trend in contemporary telecommunications is the tendency to convergence among the various media, a convergence that involves the computer as well. The convergence of the computer with telephone and television technologies is, in fact, producing new communication environments - from distance learning to cybermalls - that are shaping our experience.
The diffusion of new communication devices and experiences will soon change our interaction experience.
Suppose our cellular telephone could connect to the Internet at speeds faster than many DSL or cable modems or even corporate local area networks. How would that change things? That's a question we may find out the answer to much sooner than we expected, now that third-generation (3G) cellular devices are going to appear.
New forms of content will probably emerge, representing complex or real life objects, perhaps designed to be shared between collaborative user groups. How do we can face this new challenge? Researchers in this area must actively promote cross-disciplinary and federating research into content management, multimedia content processing, visualization and language technologies, to make the whole larger than the sum of the parts. Today these areas exist with too little interaction.
The functional driver of future works will be the user perspective and the way in which content gains new value in new communication systems by improving its usability. The challenge is not just a question of more technology. In fact, the research effort would be missing the point if it did not facilitate increased enrichment and satisfaction for users as a result of using advanced services, or joining in network interaction of any sort.
To be successful, we have to provide new contents and services, not just new technologies. For instance, 3G portals will be intelligent and knowledge-based. They will filter unwanted content as well as enable knowledge acquisition and retrieval. They will have advanced visualization features and will support information transformation and integration models e.g. for e-business.
In order to sustain this vision it is necessary to model the process of knowledge discovery as well and to apply new findings about user behavior to the whole knowledge lifecycle. And if the ultimate goal is human-to-human interaction in a networked context, the knowledge process in a device-to-device environment is vitally important as well.
Key questions the researchers have to answer are: how can heterogeneous objects be handled in virtual knowledge and information environments? How can knowledge content be valued and translated? How would meta-knowledge be handled? How are such environments evaluated or benchmarked? How can their performance be enhanced?
This book provides some answers to these questions. By defining a new research area, the CyberPsychology, the Editors tries to provide some guidelines for understanding the processes by which we manage our experience - construct identities, create communities and make meanings - through the most advanced communication media. The topics discussed directly involve critical issues for designers and users, and are presented with scientific competence and suggestions for actual use.
Assessing the meaning and impact of new communication technologies is always a challenge. In fact it is very difficult to separate social from technical issues. This book wants to help researchers and user of these exciting new technologies in identifying some key paths for reaching this goal.
Fabrizio Davide, Telecom Italia, Rome, Italy
Start of the page
Until recently, the application of VR technology in mental health was severely limited by the lack of inexpensive, easy-to-maintain and easy-to-use personal computers (PC) based system... The development of PC-based VR platforms with more user-friendly programming software is helping to launch this great second wave of applications... The second wave is expanding rapidly, and the international community has already provided the basis upon which continued growth and development will occur.
Wiederhold, M., 1998
It has been nearly ten years since virtual reality was first used to treat acrophobia or fear of heights. Since that first study demonstrated that the concept itself was workable--that a computer-simulated world delivered through a pair of goggles (head-mounted display) could be systematically applied to an individual in such a way as to illicit fear and anxiety and then used to alleviate those symptoms, a variety of additional applications have been introduced for the evaluation and treatment of mental health disorders. New applications include controlled trials for the treatment of eating disorders, phobias and other anxiety disorders, neuropsychological diagnosis, assessment, and testing, male erectile disorders, and as a distraction technique during painful procedures. The use of virtual environments for mental health applications appears to be limited only by the imagination of its users. Other areas being explored include drug and alcohol rehabilitation, assessment and treatment of schizophrenia, and treatment of depression, to name a few.
As our clinic has discovered over the past five years in using virtual environments during the therapy session, it is important to go slowly and assess the interaction and response of the patient with the world. Care should always be taken to ensure that the patient does not experience side effects that are serious or long lasting, and that the patient is ready for the exposure to begin. For instance, rapport must certainly be established before having a patient wear a head-mounted display and explore a new environment containing elements known to invoke anxiety in those with his/her phobia. In anxiety disorders we know that many patients do not seek treatment, either because of their inability to imagine well (hence the lack of a response to visualization of the phobic stimuli) or their refusal to confront the phobic stimuli in real life (in vivo) in the beginning stages of therapy. Therefore, an intuitive fit in the form of virtual therapy, offers a reasonable initial experience in which the patient could begin treatment. The goal remains the sameto have the phobic patient confront their fears in real lifebut many see the means to the end as more palatable. In numerous controlled studies worldwide, virtual therapy for phobias has demonstrated success rates varying between 80 and 92%.
Using virtual worlds in eating disorders treatment similarly has provided an exciting new approach. Prior to virtual reality, the patient was either confronted with two-dimensional photographs of himself/herself, which for many were not realistic enough to allow them to recognize the body image distortion. Or, the patient was placed in a mirrored room to confront their distortion. This, as with in vivo therapy for phobias, was too overwhelming for many patients, who would shut down, close their eyes, and refuse to deal with the distortion. Controlled trials held in both Italy and Spain have shown that eating disorders treatment can be enhanced through the use of virtual reality in anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and obesity.
Studies have shown, beginning over 25 years ago, that distraction can be a successful non-pharmacological technique during painful procedures. However, for many, meditation, deep breathing, or even playing engaging videogames has not been enough of a distraction to alleviate the discomfort. With the advent of virtual reality, however, recent controlled trials have shown that immersive and interactive virtual reality environments are more effective than Nintendo for children during their wound care and physical therapy following severe burns. Trials have also shown virtual reality to be effective for alleviating the nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy and for reducing pain perception during dental procedures and bone marrow transplants.
Neuropsychological testing to determine the extent of a patients brain damage following stroke or other traumatic brain injury has long relied on two-dimensional testing procedures to decide if someone is able to perform tasks in a three-dimensional world. Virtual reality provides a three-dimensional platform in which to administer these tests, and in some cases proves a more realistic determinant of actual abilities (or inabilities). Virtual reality is also being explored as a means of diagnosing disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and Alzheimers disease.
Clinicians and researchers who use virtual reality must continue to ensure that this new tool is not used inappropriately, and that the application being investigated provides added benefit over existing approaches. This book wants to support this approach by presenting the selected work of a distinguished group of researchers working in this area.
Virtual reality does not replace standard therapeutic paradigms, but can be a useful adjunct when used correctly. Many have sought to objectify concepts such as presence and immersion, as well as to determine when the patients anxiety is elicited and when desensitization occurs. This is necessary and helps to further the maturation of the field, proving the tool actually works and is not being swayed by social desirability or reporting bias.
As the 2000s continue and as technology decreases in price, and as virtual worlds are made available through the Internet, we feel more and more clinicians and researchers will continue to embrace this ever-changing technology to benefit their patients and society as a whole. Subsets of mental health specialization such as industrial-organizational psychology, social psychology, clinical psychology, neuropsychology, rehabilitation psychology, and health psychology are but a few of the areas benefiting from these new technologies. This book tries to provide to the researchers working in these areas some insights about the CyberPsychology, an exciting new scientific area that studies the strict link between advanced communication technology and psychology.
Brenda K. Wiederhold, MBA, Ph.D.
The Virtual Reality Medical Center
San Diego, CA, USA
Mark D. Wiederhold, M.D., Ph.D.
CyberPsychology & Behavior Journal
San Diego, CA, USA
Start of the page
The emergence of information technology is changing the way people interact with computers. Technological advances have gradually shifted the focus from computers which have become less of an end in themselves, and more of a means in terms of what people actually do with them. The most evident sign of this change has been the diffusion of the Internet.
Riva and Galimberti, 2001
The technological evolution of the media leads us to believe that Internet could become in the very near future, the predominant medium, or rather, it is possible that will become a general communication interface: an interface used for interpersonal relationship and for the creation and management of information. Its success is creating a new psycho-social space that is the fertile ground for social relationships, roles, and a new sense of self. As recently noted in a recent interview by Sherry Turkle, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher, The Internet is the identity technology much of what people do online, is self-explanation and presentation, from searching and e-mailing, to chatting or creating a home page (Murray, B., 2000, A mirror on the self. Monitor on Psychology, 31(4), 2000, p. 17).
The Web is a safe place to try out different roles, voices and identities confirms John Suler, psychologist and Web researcher for the Rider University. Its a sort of like training wheels for the self you want to bring out in real life (Murray, B., A mirror on the self. Monitor on Psychology, 31(4), 2000, p. 17).
The result of these new selves is a new sense of presence that fills the space with a fluid form of network/community that is usually called cyberspace. Cyberspace is a universe made up of things that can be seen and heard, but they are neither physical objects nor necessarily a representation of physical objects. They are built of information coming partly from operations of the physical world, but largely from the accumulation and exchange of knowledge arising from human initiatives in the fields of culture, science and art. In this sense, a key goal for psychology is doing more thinking and theorizing about how to get people to make better connections between the cyberspace and the rest of their lives.
If we accept the definition of the Internet as a general communication interface, questions arise spontaneously on what form the Internet is taking, how it is possible to give it a form and, most important, how it will affect us. This inevitably leads us to ask ourselves what type of reality is the Internet.
In this sense psychologists have a double task. First, Internet research calls for careful longitudinal study of technology-related social routines in the groups and organizations in which they happen. But, it also calls for the analysis of the relationship between objectives, technology and actors to explain why similar groups, though working to fulfill the same objectives, perceive and use this technology in different ways.
Even if psychologists are already hard at work studying the Internets effects, research in this area is still sparse and limited in both the number and scope of studies: actual research, especially studies with strict methodologies, is only just beginning. This is why their findings have been mixed so far. For instance, Kraut and colleagues recently examined the Internets impact on emotional well-being (Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W., Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? American Psychologist, 53(9), 1017-1031, 1998). The results, showed that greater use of the Internet resulted in small but statistically significant increase in depression and loneliness and decreases in social engagement. Even if these data are usually used by the press to support the risk of the Internet experience, according to different critics these results are biased by a weak methodology (Clay, R. A., Linking up on line. Monitor on Psychology, 31(4), 20-23, 2000). The study lacks of random selection and a control group, which the researchers say they couldnt afford.
In general Web-based experiments present specific problems:
it is difficult to control the study environment because Web users use different types of hardware, software and Internet connection. There is no way to ensure that everyone who participates in the experiment will receive exactly the same stimuli in terms of sound, color or timing;
study participants are usually unmonitored, so the researcher cannot be sure about the information collected. Members of electronic communities very often adopt false 'nickname' identities or gender switches, and openly accept them in others;
people who participate in online experiments are self-selected and by no means random representative of the general population. In particular they are usually skewed toward the high end of the socio-economic and educational spectrum.
However, when Web-related research technology will mature, the opportunity for more creative and interactive experiments will grow. It is also true that the benefits of larger and different study samples and the reduced costs far outweigh the disadvantages for most types of psychological research.
Apart from studying the Internet, psychology is also discovering the great opportunities inherent in this medium. Psychological applications using the Internet, especially the World Wide Web, have recently appeared. Specifically, according to Barak (Barak, A., Psychological application on the Internet: A discipline on the threshold of a new millenium. Applied and Preventive Psychology, 8, 231-246, 1999) it is possible to identify ten types of psychological Internet applications: information resources on psychological concepts and issues; self-help guides; psychological testing and assessment; help in deciding to undergo therapy; information about specific psychological services; single-session psychological advice through e-mail or e-bulletin boards; ongoing personal counseling and therapy through e-mail; real-time counseling through chat, web telephony, and videoconferencing; synchronous and asynchronous support groups, discussion groups, and group counseling; and psychological and social research.
Drawing on research in the social sciences, communications, and other fields, this book wants to analyze how the online environment is influencing the experience of psychology. To help the reader in finding a coherent reading path, we have put a great deal of thought and effort in the structure of this book and in the sequence of the contributions. To this end we have divided the book in four main Sections comprising 15 chapters overall:
every Section the chapters begins with a brief abstract and a table of
contents that help the reader to identify the relationships among the
editors want to thank all the people and institutions that have supported
this book. We have benefited from Brenda Wiederhold and Cristina Botella
friendship and from our many discussions of conceptual issues and clinical
cases. We were also inspired by Mark Wiederhold, editor-in-Chief of the
CyberPsychology and Behavior journal. In particular Mark has not only
provided detailed comments on the topics discussed, but has discussed
the content of this project with us over many months. Many thanks also
to Prof. Eugenia Scabini, Dean of the Faculty of Psychology at the Università
Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy, who supported and encouraged
both the editors in their research work.
Complementary Explorative Multilevel Data Analysis - CEMDA: A socio-cognitive
model of data analysis for Internet research (62Kb)
The Minds Eye in Cyberspace: Online Perceptions of Self and Others
Self in Web Home Pages: Gender, Identity and Power in Cyberspace (78Kb)
Discursive Cyberpsychology: Rhetoric, Repression and the Loneliness of
Talking the Internet (50Kb)
Web Usability Today: Theories, Approach and Methods (59Kb)
Using Virtual Reality in Experimental Psychology (297Kb)
An Investigation into Physiological Responses in Virtual Environments:
An Objective Measurement of Presence (40Kb)
Communities Development in CVEs and Sustaining Functions of On-line
VR Learning: Potential and Challenges for the Use of 3D Environments in
Education and Training (73Kb)
Virtual Reality and Telemedicine Based Experiential Cognitive Therapy:
Rationale and Clinical Protocol (236Kb)