In this article we will touch few topics:
- What is Positive Technology and how it came about
- How Positive Technology is structured
- Book – Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence: Risks and Opportunity
- Public Speaking Simulation App
By now it is clear that technologies are part of our everyday life and their use is increasing more and more. In our contemporary society, this is the subject of concern and negative representations. New media are accused of creating dependency, of cooling human relationships, of triggering negative social dynamics, of depowering writing and reading processes, and, last but not least, of impoverishing learning processes.
What is Positive Technology and how it came about
Starting from this, the need to investigate the positive effects of the use of technology has developed, to highlight the great potential of the new media both on a cognitive, emotional, and social level. It is in this sense that Positive Technology was born, defined as “an applied scientific approach that uses technology to modify the characteristics of our personal experience – structuring it, augmenting it or replacing it with synthetic environments – to improve its quality and increase well-being in individuals, organizations, and societies” (Riva et al., 2012).
The theoretical frame of reference of this discipline is positive psychology, which shifts the focus to the strengths and resources of individuals by enhancing them, and to the promotion of social empowerment and individual development (Seligman & Csitksentmihaly, 2000).
Another important contribution at the theoretical level, which flows into positive technology, is cognitive psychology dedicated to the study of cognitive processes involved in subjective experience (perception, memory, reasoning, thinking). The structuring of the new discipline-oriented on the beneficial effect of technologies starts from a fundamental study that has closely related positive psychology with the study of cognitive processes. Martin Seligman stated that to achieve optimal functioning on an individual and social level, it is necessary to refer to three important aspects of good living (Seligman, 2000):
- an enjoyable life, which is achieved through the experience of positive emotions;
- an engaging life, which is achieved through involvement in rewarding activities;
- a meaningful life, which is the pursuit of a larger burst of self.
From here, it has been inferred that positive functioning is the result of the combination of three types of well-being (Keyes and Haidt, 2003; Keyes and Lopez, 2002): emotional well-being (effective quality); psychological well-being (involvement/self-actualization); and social well-being (relationship and social esteem). Thanks to these reflections resulting from the strong connection of these two areas of research, we can understand how new technologies can promote development and well-being (Botella et al., 2012).
How Positive Technology is structured
Also according to these scholars, positive technology in the field of application is divided into three different areas: hedonic technologies, eudaimonic technologies, and social/interpersonal technologies.
Hedonic technologies are the first level of positive technologies and are used to promote positive emotions. The reference model, in this case, is that of Russel (2003), according to which it is possible to modify the affective quality of an experience through the manipulation of the “core affect”, a basic affective state given by the combination of the five dimensions of activation and valence. It is a fluctuating condition with no object, but when it is directed towards an object, it gives rise to an emotion. So, this type of technology tries to induce a positive emotional state by modifying the “core affect” (an increase of positive valence and activation level).
Examples of this type of technique are apps that improve stress management and promote relaxation or the use of virtual reality, which we will see later. Eudaimonic technologies are the second level of positive technologies and put individuals in a position to realize engaging and self-fulfilling experiences. In this case, the reference model is that of Flow, developed by the founder of positive psychology, Csikszentmihalyi (1990). The Flow or optimal experience is a state of positive awareness that is experienced in situations of balance between the challenge proposed by the environment (challenge) and the assessment of having the skills to deal with it (skill).
Examples of these technologies are those that can help meditation processes or increase awareness of what we are doing, immersive and interactive technologies such as serious games and in particular the use of virtual reality as a strategy of “flow transformation” (Riva et al., 2009): to draw from an optimal experience induced by technology and use it to promote new and unexpected psychological resources, through a series of activities. Social/interpersonal technologies are the final level and are used to support and enhance social connectedness among individuals, groups, and organizations.
The model on which this level is based is that having and maintaining stable and extensive social networks is an important protective factor for health and increases the likelihood of experiencing greater well-being (House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988). An interesting example is the use of social networking and pervasive computing to help reduce feelings of social isolation and depression in older people (Morris, 2005).
So, all these technologies tend to develop a sense of belonging and create a sense of community even in situations where people are not physically co-present. But on a practical level, how is technology created? From a technological perspective, positive technology intervenes in the factors that characterize an experience through these new technological means by using them in three different ways (Riva et al., 2012):
- To structure the experience using a goal, which directs the action of rules, which show alternative views of the experience and feedback to support motivation. Examples of this application method are serious games, persuasive technology, and social media.
- To “augment” the experience through multisensory and the inclusion of virtual objects superimposed on real ones. An example of this positive technology application is augmented reality.
- To replace the real experience with a synthetic one, which facilitates controllability by the user. In this case, the most used positive technology is virtual reality.
If we continue to investigate in this sense, we easily realize that positive technologies rest on experiential technologies, which, as mentioned earlier, intervene on experience in the different ways just presented with the ultimate goal of intervening on interaction. In fact, through positive technologies “it is possible to modify a trend of human-computer interaction, making interaction with new media as similar as possible to interaction as a real environment” (Riva et al., 2012). From these studies, a series of research areas have been developed that have led to the emergence of technologies that allow the user to make and live an experience, combining the perceptual component with interactivity.
One example is what Vrainers is doing, with the aim of giving people a highly immersive and interactive experience through the positive technology of Virtual Reality.
Amichai-Hamburger Y., 2009. Technology and psychological well-being. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Botella C., Riva G., Gaggioli A., et al. The present and future of positive technologies.
Riva G., 2012. Psicologia dei nuovi media, il Mulino, Bologna.
Riva, G., 2010. I social network. Bologna: Il mulino.
Book – Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence: Risks and Opportunity
Are machines smarter than humans? What are the properly human capabilities we should focus on?
The primary objective is to understand the advantages and disadvantages of virtual and augmented reality and the differences between human and artificial intelligence. Moving on to a reflection: can creativity, empathy and imagination be reproduced or replicated by an artificial intelligence?
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