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Exploring Anima: a brain–computer interface for peripheral materialization of mindfulness states during mandala coloring

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Digital technology has been completely integrated into our daily lives, yet the potential of technology to improve its users' life satisfaction is still largely untapped. Mindfulness, the act of paying a deliberate and non-judgmental attention to the present moment, has been shown to have a positive impact on a person's health and subjective well-being--commonly called "happiness". Based on an iterative process with meditation teachers and practitioners, we designed a new tool to support mindfulness practices. This tool takes the shape of an augmented sandbox, designed to inspire the user's self-motivation and curiosity. By shaping the sand, the user creates a living miniature world that is projected back onto the sand. The natural elements of the garden are connected to real-time physiological measurements, such as breathing, helping the user to stay focused on the body. Moreover, using a Virtual Reality headset, they can travel inside their garden for a dedicated meditation session. Preliminary results seem to indicate that the system is well suited for mindfulness and induces a calm and mindful state on the user. The meditation teachers envisioned the use of Inner Garden in their practice.
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Meditation is a mind-body practice with considerable wellbeing benefits that can take different forms. Novices usually start with focused attention meditation that supports regulation of attention towards an inward focus or internal bodily sensations and away from external stimuli or distractors. Most meditation technologies employ metaphorical mappings of meditative states to visual or soundscape representations to support awareness of mind wandering and attention regulation, although the rationale for such mappings is seldom articulated. Moreover, such external modalities also take the focus attention away from the body. We advance the concept of interoceptive interaction and employed the embodied metaphor theory to explore the design of mappings to the interoceptive sense of thermoception. We illustrate this concept with WarmMind, an on-body interface integrating heat actuators for mapping meditation states. We report on an exploratory study with 10 participants comparing our novel thermal metaphors for mapping meditation states with comparable ones, albeit in aural modality, as provided by Muse meditation app. Findings indicate a tension between the highly discoverable soundscape's metaphors which however hinder attention regulation, and the ambiguous thermal metaphors experienced as coming from the body and supported attention regulation. We discuss the qualities of embodied metaphors underpinning this tension and propose an initial framework to inform the design of metaphorical mappings for meditation technologies. CCS CONCEPTS • Human-centered computing ~Interaction design ~Empirical studies in interaction design Additional
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Design is an activity with creativeness that can be deemed as a life-philosophy for exploring from flow of individuals to group interflow. This Study aims to combine Western psychology and Oriental dynamic meditation activities on basis of Flow Theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Carl Gustav Jung’s in depth psychological analysis and concept of Mandala, to develop an extended cooperative mandala coloring (CMC) and to attempt on proposing the design principle of CMC. Through researching the collective unconscious for specific groups at specific ages, the Bildung education for newbie designers. The subjects of this study are 14 students from Taiwanese junior high and senior high schools who jointly participated the APDEC 2017 held in Japan in August 2017 with the researcher. The three approaches of action research are taken on basis of study objectives. First, “Pre-action Research”, which involves redesign of the individual mandala coloring activity by Jung to Cooperative Mandala Coloring; then, “In-action Research”, which involves interpretation of Jung phenomena by Mandala works by the adolescents; lastly, “Post-action Research” for introspection on overall effects for facilitation of flow and interflow. Through CMC activities, this study discovers that adolescents can not only satisfy their own expressed needs but also situate themselves in spiritual safe space in order to facilitate themselves to obtain self-organization at the transient moment of conversion to complexity when at the status of being empathized, while opening up to reveal the self for broadening the experiences in interflow with others.
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Mandala coloring has been receiving increasing attention in the literature and throughout popular culture. Previous research also indicated that high level of mindfulness may increase flow experience. The literature also suggests that teamwork may moderate the relationship between challenge and flow state, help subjects to overcome challenges and improve their flow state. Therefore based on the previous studies, our study wants to explore: (1) whether mandala coloring can improve mindfulness and flow; (2) what is the relationship between mindfulness and flow during the process of mandala coloring; and (3) whether teamwork can improve the state of flow in mandala coloring activity? Participants were 76 university students, divided into two groups: High-skill (n = 38) and low-skill (n = 38). The two groups performed three mandala coloring experiments in sequence: Structured mandala, Free mandala, and Cooperative mandala. Measurements of state mindfulness and state flow were taken for one pre-assessment of the whole experiment and three pre-assessments of each the three mandala activities. Results indicated that short-term mandala coloring exercises can’t improve mindfulness but can significantly improve the flow state. There is a significant positive relationship between mindfulness and some dimensions of flow (e.g., Concentration on task, Unambiguous feedback, Sense of control, Challenge-skill balance, and Autotelic experience). But a negative correlation was found between mindfulness and loss of self-consciousness dimension. Free mandala is challenging for participants in the low-skilled group, but teamwork in cooperative mandala can help them to overcome this challenge. The contribution of this research is to provide a reference for further understanding of the mechanisms that how mandala coloring can help improve subjects’ mental state and enhance positive psychology.
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With the rise of mindfulness in contemporary western society as a positive way to cope with stress and improve health and wellbeing, researchers are investigating the application of interactive soundscapes to enrich and support the experience of mindfulness meditation. Instead of using commonly applied corrective feedback models, containing sounds with negative connotations, our interaction concept adopted a strategy of gently guiding and supporting the user's in-the-moment experience of practising meditation through a nature soundscape responsive to their brainwave activity recorded with a Muse EEG headset. In this paper we describe the detailed design of our prototype. We explain how we refined the interaction concept, and discuss some of the key design decisions and modifications that took place during an iterative design process, informed by user evaluations with novice meditators.
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Numerous scientific studies are conducted on the neurophysiological effects of meditation practices and on the neural correlates of meditative states. However, very few studies have been conducted on the experience associated with contemplative practice: what it is like to meditate — from moment to moment, at different stages of different forms of practice — remains almost invisible in contemporary contemplative science. Recently, ‘micro-phenomenological’ interview methods have been developed to help us become aware of lived experience and describe it with rigor and precision. This article presents the results of a pilot project aiming at applying these methods to the description of meditative experience, and highlights the interest of such descriptions for understanding, practicing and teaching meditation.
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Emotions are vital to our lives but could be difficult to recognize and understand. Traditional visualizations of emotions tend to be time-series graph on screen displays limiting user engagement in their real-time sense-making. This paper explores the feasibility of smart materials for developing novel dynamic displays on skin for real time visualization of affective data. We report prototyping two such displays and their evaluation with 6 participants, and discuss their qualities such as ambiguity, slowly unfolding change, and lack of light emission together with their temporal constraints and private-public tension for affective meaning disclosure.
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There is a growing emphasis on designing with people with diverse health experiences rather than designing for them. Yet, collaborative design becomes difficult when working with individuals with health conditions (e.g., stroke, cancer, abuse, depression) that affect their ability or willingness to engage alongside researchers and verbally express themselves. The present paper analyzes how the clinical practice of art therapy engages these individuals in co-creative, visual expression of ideas, thoughts, and experiences. Drawing on interviews with 22 art therapists and over two years of field work in a clinical setting, we detail how art therapists view making as expression for people with complex communication needs. Under this view, we argue that art therapy practice can inspire collaborative design engagements by understanding materials as language, creating space for expression, and sustaining expressions in a broader context. We discuss practical and ethical implications for design work involving individuals with complex communication needs.
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The third wave of HCI research has interest in understanding how technologies can mediate personal experiences and improve life quality. In particular, immersive environments combined with the practices of mindfulness meditation have a strong potential to increase the user's attention to the self. Often, people feel disconnected from their bodies and experiences, and guided attention to self can alleviate this disconnect as in focused-attention meditation. In focused-attention meditation, breathing often constitutes the primary object on which to focus attention. In this context, sustained breath awareness plays a crucial role in the emergence of the meditation experience. Hence, we designed a virtual environment for head-mounted display that supports sustained attention on breathing by employing users' breathing in interaction. The virtual environment depicts an abstract ocean in which one is immersed, accompanied with a generative soundtrack. Both sounds and visuals are directly mapped to the user breathing patterns, thus bringing the awareness researched. We conducted micro-phenomenology interviews to unfold the process in which breath awareness can be induced and sustained in this environment. The findings revealed the mechanisms by which audio and visual cues in VR can elicit and foster breath-awareness, and unfolded the nuances of this process through subjective experiences of the study participants. Finally, the results emphasize the important role that a sense of agency and control have in shaping the overall quality of the experience. This can in turn inform the design specifications of future mindfulness-based designs focused on breath awareness.
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Background: Across cultures and throughout history, transcendent states achieved through meditative practices have been reported. The practices to attain transcendent states vary from transcendental meditation to yoga to contemplative prayer, to other various forms of sitting meditation. While these transcendent states are ascribed many different terms, those who experience them describe a similar unitive, ineffable state of consciousness. Despite the common description, few studies have systematically examined transcendent states during meditation. Objectives: The objectives of this systematic review were to: 1) characterize studies evaluating transcendent states associated with meditation in any tradition; 2) qualitatively describe physiological and phenomenological outcomes collected during transcendent states and; 3) evaluate the quality of these studies using the Quality Assessment Tool. Methods: Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL, AltHealthWatch, AMED, and the Institute of Noetic Science Meditation Library were searched for relevant papers in any language. Included studies required adult participants and the collection of outcomes before, during, or after a reported transcendent state associated with meditation. Results: Twenty-five studies with a total of 672 combined participants were included in the final review. Participants were mostly male (61%; average age 39 ± 11 years) with 12.7 ± 6.6 (median 12.6; range 2-40) average years of meditation practice. A variety of meditation traditions were represented: (Buddhist; Christian; Mixed (practitioners from multiple traditions); Vedic: Transcendental Meditation and Yoga). The mean quality score was 67 ± 13 (100 highest score possible). Subjective phenomenology and the objective outcomes of electroencephalography (EEG), electrocardiography, electromyography, electrooculogram, event-related potentials, functional magnetic resonance imaging, magnetoencephalography, respiration, and skin conductance and response were measured. Transcendent states were most consistently associated with slowed breathing, respiratory suspension, reduced muscle activity and EEG alpha blocking with external stimuli, and increased EEG alpha power, EEG coherence, and functional neural connectivity. The transcendent state is described as being in a state of relaxed wakefulness in a phenomenologically different space-time. Heterogeneity between studies precluded any formal meta-analysis and thus, conclusions about outcomes are qualitative and preliminary. Conclusions: Future research is warranted into transcendent states during meditation using more refined phenomenological tools and consistent methods and outcome evaluation.
Conference Paper
Calm technologies help us avoid distraction by embedding notifications in our surroundings with peripheral updates. However, users also lose out on the passive awareness that comes from more overt notifications. In our paper, we present an initial study setup on shape changing circuits as notifications. We compare near and far peripheral locations to determine the optimal location for these notifications by assigning a primary task of arithmetic questions, and a secondary task of responding to bend notifications. Our demonstration will show the set-up of our study to encourage discussion on possible applications of shape changing notifications in peripheral locations.
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Background: While mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) employ two distinct practices, focused attention (FA) and open monitoring (OM), the integrated delivery of these practices in MBIs precludes understanding of their practice-specific effects or mechanisms of action. The purpose of this study is to isolate hypothesized active ingredients and practice-specific mechanistic target engagement by creating structurally equivalent interventions that differ only by the active ingredient (meditation practice) offered and to test whether the hypothesized components differentially engage the mechanistic targets that they are purported to engage. Methods: Participants were intended to be representative of American meditators and had mild to severe affective disturbances. Measures of structural equivalence included participant-level (sample characteristics), treatment-level (program structure and duration, program materials, class size, attendance, homework compliance, etc.), and instructor-level variables (training, ratings and adherence/fidelity). Measures of differential validity included analysis of program materials and verification of differential mechanistic target engagement (cognitive and affective skills and beliefs about meditation acquired by participants after the 8-week training). Results: The results indicate successful creation of structurally equivalent FA and OM programs that were matched on participant-level, treatment-level, and instructor-level variables. The interventions also differed as expected with respect to program materials as well as mechanistic targets engaged (skills and beliefs acquired). Conclusions: These validated 8-week FA and OM training programs can be applied in future research to assess practice-specific effects of meditation.
Conference Paper
The digital health and wellbeing movement has led to development of digital mindfulness applications that aim to help people to become mindful. In this paper we suggest a broad scheme for classifying and ordering apps intended to support mindfulness. This scheme consists of four levels of what we here term digital mindfulness. One crucial aspect of the fourth level is that artifacts at this level allow for what we term as presence-with and presence-in as opposed to presence-through, which occurs at the first three levels. We articulate our four levels along with specific design qualities through concrete examples of existing mindfulness apps and through research through design (RtD) work conducted with design fiction examples. We then use a working design case prototype to further illustrate the possibilities of presence-with and presence-in. We hope our four levels of digital mindfulness framework will be found useful by other researchers in discussing and planning the design of their own mindfulness apps and digital artifacts.
Conference Paper
Communicating the right affect, a feeling, experience or emotion, is critical in creating engaging visual communication. We carried out three studies examining how different color properties (lightness, chroma and hue) and different palette properties (combinations and distribution of colors) contribute to different affective interpretations in information visualization where the numbers of colors is typically smaller than the rich palettes used in design. Our results show how color and palette properties can be manipulated to achieve affective expressiveness even in the small sets of colors used for data encoding in information visualization.
Conference Paper
Inter-individual synchronization of motor activity, such as gestures, posture and speech rhythm during face-to-face interaction is a well-established phenomenon. Recent investigations have revealed that similar synchronization during interaction also occurs in brain activity and autonomous physiology. However, it is not known to what extent this synchronization emerges during computer-mediated interaction and whether its absence contributes to the widely acknowledged problems of online communication. We suggest that measuring the synchronization of biosignals is meaningful for assessing emotional capacity of computer-mediated communication systems, and intentionally increasing synchronization could improve understanding between people. As a proof-of-concept an interactive real-time system to quantify and visualize the synchronization of facial expressions, ECG, EEG and EDA of two players was piloted and results are presented in this paper.
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