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Situated self-transcendence through interactive technologies

Research Group: Situated Art and Design

Digital and interactive technologies have become an integral part of our everyday lives. They support us in efficiently performing practical tasks at homes or work. However, today’s ubiquitous technologies also increasingly mediate and influence our experiences and wellbeing.

Conceptual frameworks such as ‘transcendence technology’ and ‘techno-spiritual design’ move beyond personal wellbeing, and beyond the boundaries of the self, towards a state of self-transcendence (ST). ST is a transient mode that is characterised by reduced self-salience and increased feelings of connection with the environment. ST experiences may enable a person to integrate dualities within themselves, and also with others and life circumstances, and to find new meanings in these dualities. When the person returns to the world, the new perceptions they have acquired may be shared in the service of others.

In the field of design, concepts such as Transformative Experience Design can offer approaches that deploy interactive technologies to aid personal transformation through self-transcendence. These design concepts also have the potential to make such experiences more accessible.

The situated approach

Roberts takes a situated approach to research into technologically mediated ST experiences: they explore ways to embed these meaningful and special experiences into everyday activities. The interactive art installation Magic Tea was used in studies to investigate whether self-transcendent states such as mindfulness and flow could be induced by the act of preparing and drinking tea. Preliminary findings suggest that there is potential for inducing such states, through a combination of ritual and tangible interactive strategies.

Research laboratory

This research takes place in a Communication & Multimedia Design programme laboratory. The tutor-researcher is both a coach and a collaboration partner for students. Students on the project are encouraged to investigate questions that are relevant to themselves as well as to the research described here.

September 2019-ongoing

Principle investigator:
Danielle Roberts

Other researchers involved:
Alwin de Rooij (Tilburg University)
Michiel van Elk (Leiden University)
Nicola Liberati (Associate Professor Dept. of Philosophy at Shanghai Jiao Tong University)

Michel van Dartel

BALTAN Lab Eindhoven
Cultuurnacht Breda
De Teruggave, Breda, Breda
Werkplaats CMD
Scott van Haastrecht 

Avans University of Applied Sciences


Photo credit: Massimiliano Murra

‘For me, the iterative design-research process is an exciting journey towards designs that can transform human consciousness.’

Danielle Roberts is a researcher within the Situated Art and Design research group and a tutor at the Communication & Multimedia Design programme at Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda.

Danielle Roberts arrow

Research Group: Situated Art and Design

Living in cities developed around data and acting within the inscrutable structure of our techno-society demands art and design that can help understand how we relate to these rapidly changing surroundings and to reflect on that relationship. The research group Situated Art and Design responds to this exigency by fostering a situated turn in art and design through a diverse portfolio of interdisciplinary research projects in partnership with academic and cultural partners, as well as with government and industry.

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