Can digital technologies deliver prevention interventions — i.e promote psychological resilience of those at risk and lower the occurrence of mental illness later in life? While this is not a question commonly asked within HCI so far, research in Prevention Science suggests that such programs could have strong impacts on life outcomes, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Traditional interventions are however substantially limited in scope and cost-effectiveness by relying on delivery techniques and intervention mechanisms that have been around since the 60s: teaching experiential skills in class or a workshop, by a trained human. By way of analogy, this is similar to delivering skiing lessons indoors through role-play and video, and then expecting learners to be able to ski right away with no additional support.
In this talk, I will draw on our work across a range of contexts (emotion-regulation, conflict resolution, parenting) to offer an alternative approach based on ‘situating’ the intervention support and learning directly into everyday moments where the targeted skills are needed. I will ground these conceptual arguments in the findings from our ‘Smart Toy’ project, where an emotion regulation intervention is delivered to children through a technology-enabled plush toy; a prototype of which is currently taken to production by Committee for Children (Seattle-based non-profit developers of a social- emotional program used in 30% of US schools, see more here: https://cfchildren.org/). This research illustrates the potential of emerging technologies—and careful socio- technical design— to re-imagine how prevention interventions are designed, delivered, and evaluated.
Petr Slovak is an Assistant Professor in Human Computer Interaction at King’s College London, where he is a member of the Human-Centred Computing group. He also holds an Honorary Research Fellow position at Evidence-Based Practice Unit at UCL and a Visiting position at the Human-Centred Computing group at Oxford University. His research is focused on envisioning, designing, and evaluating new technology-enabled mental health interventions; and has received ACM Best Paper awards at CHI and CSCW. Petr was recognised as a Schroedinger Fellow by the Austrian Science Fund, and was the DOC Fellow of the Austrian Science Academy during his PhD. He holds two bachelor’s (Psychology/Sociology and Theoretical Computer Science) and a master’s degree (Parallel and Distributed Systems) all from Masaryk University; and a PhD in Human Computer Interaction from TU Wien, supervised by Prof Geraldine Fitzpatrick.