CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)

Department

College of Engineering and Computing

Advisor

Maxine Cohen

Committee Member

Steven R. Terrell

Committee Member

Mary Ayala-Bush

Abstract

In a technologically overloaded world, is it possible to use technology to support well-being activities and enhance human flourishing? Proponents of positive technology and positive computing are striving to answer yes to that question. However, the impact of technology on well-being remains unresolved. Positive technology combines technology and positive psychology. Positive psychology focuses on well-being and the science of human flourishing. Positive computing includes an emphasis on designing with well-being in mind as a way to support human potential. User experience (UX) is critical to positive technology and positive computing. UX researchers and practitioners are advocating for experience-driven design and third wave human-computer interaction (HCI) that focuses on multi-dimensional, interpretive, situated, and phenomenological aspects. Third-wave HCI goes beyond cognition to include emotions, values, culture, and experience. This research investigated technology-supported meditation in a three-dimensional (3D) virtual world from a positive technology perspective to examine how technology can support engagement, self-empowerment, and well-being. Designing and evaluating technology for well-being support is complex and challenging. Further, although virtual worlds have been used in positive technology applications, little research exists that illuminates the experience of user engagement in virtual worlds. In this formative exploratory study, experienced meditators (N = 12) interacted with a virtual meditation world titled Sanctuarium that was developed for this research. Using a third wave HCI approach, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected to understand the nature of engagement with a virtual world and the experiential aspects of technology-supported meditation. Results supported using virtual worlds to produce restorative natural environments. Participants overwhelmingly reacted positively to the islandscape including both visual and sound elements. Findings indicated that Sanctuarium facilitated the meditation experience, similar to guided meditation – although participants remarked on the uniqueness of the experience. Aspects of facilitation centered on the concepts of non-distraction, focus, and simplicity of design and instructions. Participants also identified Sanctuarium as a good tool for helping those new to meditation. Meditators described positive effects of their meditation experience during interviews and also rated their experience as positive using the scale titled Effects of Meditation During Meditation. Phenomenological analysis provided a rich description of the nature of engagement while meditating with Sanctuarium. Meditators also rated engagement as high via an adapted User Engagement Scale. This interdisciplinary work drew from multiple fields and contributes to the HCI domain, virtual worlds’ literature, information systems research, and the nascent areas of positive technology and positive computing.