Lorentz Center - Social Support TAT: Theory, Applications, and Technology from 16 Mar 2015 through 20 Mar 2015
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    Social Support TAT: Theory, Applications, and Technology
    from 16 Mar 2015 through 20 Mar 2015


Scientific Report  

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’ progress). 

Theoretical progress

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.