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.
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.
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
De Teruggave, Breda
Scott van Haastrecht
Avans University of Applied Sciences
Photo credit: Massimiliano Murra