Mobile Wellbeing

Workshop at NordiCHI 2016

About the workshop

The submissions are now available here.

As technology becomes pervasive in our lives and we become increasingly digitally connected, many fear that we are becoming less connected to the people and world around us [1][2]. Increasingly, we hear doubts about whether technology, particularly mobile technology, is good for our social and mental wellbeing. For example, Turkle warns:

"when technology engineers intimacy, relationships can be reduced to mere connections. And then, easy connection becomes redefined as intimacy. Put otherwise, cyberintimacies slide into cybersolitudes. And with constant connection comes new anxieties of disconnection"
Turkle "Alone Together"[4]

At the same time, we are increasingly seeing people turn to technology to handle stress, social isolation and negative emotions. For example, there are now many mindfulness apps, there is support for mourning in online communities, and commonly used hashtags on social media for mental health issues.

There are both commercial and academic mobile apps that monitor mental wellbeing and promote a healthy lifestyle. They support monitoring of the behaviour parameters of individuals, facilitate self-reporting of their mood or emotions, and provide general information, support, and guidance related to these issues. However, many of these apps have not been rigorously tested for efficacy or effectiveness when addressing mental health issues. It is also likely that there are disjoints between the intended and actual uses of these apps.

An industry is emerging around the development of apps and hardware intended to support mental wellbeing. One of the most popular apps, Headspace, is produced by a company led by an ordained Buddhist monk that recently closed a $30 million venture capital funding round. As this industry emerges and the popularity of digitally mediated therapy and training increases, significant questions emerge.

But is technology both the cause of, and solution to contemporary problems of mental wellbeing?

Robinson et al. [3] argue that technology is not inherently good or bad for us, but that it embodies design values. From their perspective, the question becomes how do we design for mental wellbeing?

Levy [6], on the other hand, argues that we as users need to be more mindful in our approach to technology, asking

“How might we more skillfully use the tools we’ve developed?”
Levy, "Mindful Tech"

In this workshop, we will discuss how to bridge the gaps between self-monitoring and self-insight, between intended and actual use, and between design based and practice based approaches to wellbeing. We will examine the need (if one exists) and possibilities for moving beyond self-awareness toward identifying technologies and practices that can help to foster mental wellness. In particular, the workshop will be centered around the following three questions:

  • In what ways do mobile technologies affect mental wellbeing?
  • How can mobile technologies be designed to support and improve mental wellbeing and to mitigate negative effects?
  • What strategies and practices can be developed for using mobile technology in ways that do not harm and instead support improvement of our wellbeing?

  1. Thomas Eddie, Juan Ye, and Graeme Stevenson. 2015. Are our mobile phones driving us apart? Divert attention from mobile phones back to physical conversation!. In Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services Adjunct (MobileHCI '15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1082-1087.
  2. Uichin Lee, Joonwon Lee, Minsam Ko, Changhun Lee, Yuhwan Kim, Subin Yang, Koji Yatani, Gahgene Gweon, Kyong-Mee Chung, and Junehwa Song. 2014. Hooked on smartphones: an exploratory study on smartphone overuse among college students. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2327-2336. DOI=
  3. Robinson, S. Marsden, G. Jones, M. 2015 There’s Not an App for That. Mobile User Experience Design for Life. Morgan Kaufman Publishers.
  4. Turkle, S. (2001) Alone Together. Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Basic Books.
  5. Lanier, J. (2010) You Are Not a Gadget. Alfred Knopf.
  6. Levy, D (2016) Mindful Tech. How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives. Yale University Press.