This workshop dealt with the theory of social support, how this
relates to a healthier and happier life, and how technology can improve or
damage that relationship. From our perspective, the workshop was an immense
success: It contributed to our NIAS group’s theoretical development, while it
also contributed to the development of new hard- and software. The workshop was
crucially important for both goals. More detail on each is provided below.
One of the main reasons for our success was because of its
unique setup: The workshop mixed theory (via scientific talks) with hard- and
software development. Specifically, hard- and software developers attended
talks, but also left the room for talks to work on their own applications.
During our workshop, a number of brainstorm sessions during which scientists gave
suggestions to developers, and developers presented what opportunities lay
ahead. This setup – which was a novel one to us and all participants -
immensely contributed to the week, and we would retain the same setup were we
to organize it again.
In order to guide our guests through the week and through these
activities, we had specified a number of goals prior to the workshop. The first
and most important goal was to discuss theoretical mechanisms crucial to social
support from a diverse set of theoretical backgrounds, like biological psychology,
clinical psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, sociology, anthropology,
and medicine. These talks ranged from fundamentally theoretical talks focusing
on elementary understanding of how relationships economize effort to deal with
the world or on which kinds of relationship models help us understand social
support, to more specific talks that discussed which kinds of technologies are
currently being implemented in medical care.
Hard- and software development
The hard- and software developers (which we coined our “Living Lab”) showed
our scientists how relatively easy it was to develop new applications. The
presentation of their products ranged from affordable VR glasses, to easy to
implement software, to wearables that measure heart rate, skin temperature, and
blood glucose, to sensors that are implemented into one’s skin. During the
week, one scientist and one developer developed an app that helps them do an
experiment to train empathy within a romantic relationship. After the workshop,
another scientist teamed up with a couple of developers to create a small
camera aimed to assess the crying of a participant (it is currently under
development, see also here: http://www.pavlov.io/2015/07/01/detecting-crying-eyes/).
Our own lab has continued developing hard- and software after the workshop, and
the progress in developing this hard- and software would not have been possible
without the Lorentz workshop (available here: http://www.pavlov.io/category/blog/).
In approximately half a year, we will get in touch with the workshop’s
participants to monitor their progress (and to inform them of others’
The NIAS theme group utilized the workshop to advance its theoretical development.
This progression was significant, for a number of reasons. First, it helped the
group realize what was and is possible in terms of technological applications,
and, second, it helped the group in terms summarize pathways to social support
that are not only crucial from a theoretical perspective, but are also the most
crucial ones for those working in care communities. The workshop was thus
essential in making our progress possible. The entire group feels strongly that
we now have made a strong advancement in our understanding of technology and
social relationships, and we feel that with our manuscript, we will make a
strong theoretical breakthrough once we are finished.