16. april 2021

Mariek Vanden Abeele (Tilburg Uni) on "Digital Wellbeing in a Culture of Ubiquitous Connectivity"

On the 16th of April, Associate Professor of Tilburg University Mariek Vanden Abeele gave a DISTRACT seminar talk entitled: 

Digital Wellbeing in a Culture of Ubiquitous Connectivity: Towards a Dynamic Pathway Model (DISCONNECT)

Abstract: Mobile connectivity advances and threatens our autonomy: Smartphones enable us to perform our social roles, manage our social networks and access personalized information and services independent from time and place constraints. But smartphones also exert direct control over our behavior via the device’s reward infrastructure that stimulates addictive usage, and indirect control via normative pressure to be available and responsive. This mobile connectivity paradox prevents people from attaining a state of digital wellbeing. The urgency of this issue is visible in the myriad of (non-)technological interventions that aim to help us re-gain control over our digital media use, such as digital detox programs and digital tools that help disconnect.

Current scholarship insufficiently integrates psychological, technological and social perspectives and fails to account for the dynamic nature of digital wellbeing. Building on the computational turn in social sciences and the digital ethnographic turn in online culture studies, this research project develops an integrative pathway model to digital wellbeing by embracing a multi-method and multi-paradigmatic research design that unveils radically new insights of (1) which unique constellations of person-, device- and context-specific factors lead to digital wellbeing, (2) how these constellations produce individual understandings of digital wellbeing, and (3) the implications of digital wellbeing interventions. In addition, this research project brings new methodological toolboxes into the field that advance the study of both digital wellbeing and other phenomena related to digital media use. Armed with new evidence, users, technology developers and policy makers will more likely be able to make our relationship with technology happier and healthier.

The project combines (1) traditional data sources (survey and interview data) with (2) behavioral data gathered via smartphone logging and (3) dynamic data on users’ momentary states and contexts gathered via mobile experience sampling. The DISCONNECT project is funded by an ERC Starting Grant.