Designing for Motivation, Engagement and Wellbeing in Digital Experience

Research in psychology has shown that both motivation and wellbeing are contingent on the satisfaction of certain psychological needs. Yet, despite a long-standing pursuit in human-computer interaction (HCI) for design strategies that foster sustained engagement, behavior change and wellbeing, the basic psychological needs shown to mediate these outcomes are rarely taken into account. This is possibly due to the lack of a clear model to explain these needs in the context of HCI. Herein we introduce such a model: Motivation, Engagement and Thriving in User Experience (METUX). The model provides a framework grounded in psychological research that can allow HCI researchers and practitioners to form actionable insights with respect to how technology designs support or undermine basic psychological needs, thereby increasing motivation and engagement, and ultimately, improving user wellbeing. We propose that in order to address wellbeing, psychological needs must be considered within five different spheres of analysis including: at the point of technology adoption, during interaction with the interface, as a result of engagement with technology-specific tasks, as part of the technology-supported behavior, and as part of an individual’s life overall. These five spheres of experience sit within a sixth, society, which encompasses both direct and collateral effects of technology use as well as non-user experiences. We build this model based on existing evidence for basic psychological need satisfaction, including evidence within the context of the workplace, computer games, and health. We extend and hone these ideas to provide practical advice for designers along with real world examples of how to apply the model to design practice.


Please learn more from the complete article, and cite:

Peters, D, Calvo, RA, Ryan, RM “Designing for Motivation, Engagement and Wellbeing in Digital Experience” Frontiers in Psychology – Human Media Interaction.  Vol 9. pp 797. (DOI)


Worker Preferences for a Mental Health App Within Male-Dominated Industries: Participatory Study

Our paper on the design of Headgear has been published n JMIR Mental Health:

Peters D, Deady M, Glozier N, Harvey S, Calvo RA “Worker Preferences for a Mental Health App Within Male-Dominated Industries: Participatory Study” JMIR Ment Health 2018;5(2):e30 DOI: 10.2196/mental.8999

Background: Men are less likely to seek help for mental health problems, possibly because of stigma imposed by cultural masculine norms. These tendencies may be amplified within male-dominated workplaces such as the emergency services or transport industries. Mobile apps present a promising way to provide access to mental health support. However, little is known about the kinds of mental health technologies men would be willing to engage with, and no app can be effective if the intended users do not engage with it.

Objective: The goal of this participatory user research study was to explore the perceptions, preferences, and ideas of workers in male-dominated workplaces to define requirements for a mental health app that would be engaging and effective at improving psychological well-being.

Methods: Workers from male-dominated workplaces in rural, suburban, and urban locations took part in an exploratory qualitative study involving participatory workshops designed to elicit their perspectives and preferences for mental health support and the design of an app for mental health. Participants generated a number of artifacts (including draft screen designs and promotional material) designed to reify their perceptions, tacit knowledge, and ideas.

Results: A total of 60 workers aged between 26 and 65 years, 92% (55/60) male, from male-dominated workplaces in rural (16/60, 27%), suburban (14/60, 23%), and urban (30/60, 50%) locations participated in one of the 6 workshops, resulting in 49 unique feature ideas and 81 participant-generated artifacts. Thematic analysis resulted in a set of feature, language, and style preferences, as well as characteristics considered important by participants for a mental health app. The term “mental health” was highly stigmatized and disliked by participants. Tools including a mood tracker, self-assessment, and mood-fix tool were highly valued, and app characteristics such as brevity of interactions, minimal on-screen text, and a solutions-oriented approach were considered essential by participants. Some implementation strategies based on these findings are included in the discussion.

Conclusions: Future mental health mobile phone apps targeting workers in male-dominated workplaces need to consider language use and preferred features, as well as balance the preferences of users with the demands of evidence-based intervention. In addition to informing the development of mental health apps for workers in male-dominated industries, these findings may also provide insights for mental health technologies, for men in general, and for others in high-stigma environments.


Positive Computing at TEDx

16903409_276871262736338_2240117704513309899_oI was honoured to be invited to talk about Positive Computing at a TEDx event this month. The theme of the event was “Think, Act, Evolve” and it was humbling to be included with a group of diverse and inspiring speakers including artists, activists and entrepreneurs.  The talks will be made available online within the next few months.

Sydney Fellowship – Computing and Mental Health


  • Project supporting mental health with technology
  • Opportunity to develop your research profile in human-computer interaction, mental health and wellbeing
  • 3 year contract.

The purpose of the Sydney fellowship is to attract talented recent doctoral graduates who can contribute to our whole-of-university multidisciplinary initiatives, broadly construed. In particular we are looking for young researchers to work at the intersection of computing and mental health.

We are seeking to appoint a postdoctoral researcher to develop and evaluate the new technologies for mental health and wellbeing. The specific project to be agreed with the supervisor/s but likely in the area of mobile interventions or virtual reality

  • assist in further development of Internet based mental health interventions, based on findings and outcomes in the literature and other projects.
  • assist in the design, development, and evaluation of a website for the deployment of mental health interventions.
  • take the lead in the writing up of reports, peer reviewed journal articles and conference papers/presentations.
  • assist in obtaining ethics clearance for the qualitative and quantitative phases of the research and evaluation.
  • liaise with the various stakeholders on the project informing them of project progress and that the research is directly related to end user needs.

To secure this role you must have:

  • a PhD in Software Engineering, Computer Science or psychology
  • excellent quantitative research skills.
  • strong verbal and written communication skills.
  • ability to work well as part of a team.
  • ability to meet tight work deadlines.
  • strong publication record

Enquiries regarding the position may be directed to Prof Rafael Calvo via email

Further information:

To submit expressions of Interest use this form:


Scheme opens: 27 May 2016
Career interruptions requests: 8 June 2016
EOI submissions close: 17 June 2016
Applications close: 25 July 2016

ACM Computing Reviews on “Positive Computing”

The leading online review service for computing literature had a nice piece about our book.

“This book provides an excellent look at how computers can become our handmaidens, helping to make our personal lives better. As the authors state, they investigate what they term positive computing: “the design and development of technology to support psychological wellbeing and human potential” (p. 2).”

“But positive computing done right has the potential to provide enhancements to our lives and create a symbiotic relationship between the person and the technology.”

Big Data Cultures symposium abstracts

This symposium is a great sample of Australian researchers, in he social sciences, and their really interesting ideas on where Big data can take us. It would be nice to also have people with a technical background be part of these discussions – maybe next time. I love the topics!

This Sociological Life

Tomorrow the Big Data Cultures symposium that I have convened at the University of Canberra is taking place. There is a very interesting program from a range of Australian academics working on the social, cultural and political dimensions of the big data phenomenon. Here are the abstracts:

Keynote: ‘Visual dimensions’

Greg More, RMIT University

It’s a small problem for data to scale, but a wicked problem for us to make sense of big data that scales to infinity.  The aim of this article is to explore the translation of data into geometrical relationships: the art and design of creative forms of data visualisation to give data a meaningful visual dimension. Data has dimensionality, but not in a geometrical sense. Topology – the mathematical study of shape – will be used as lens to examine projects where designers utilise metaphors and abstraction to construct visual languages for data. Consider this cartography…

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New Paper: M. Liu, R.A. Calvo, V. Rus (2014) “Automatic Generation and Ranking of Questions for Critical Review”

M. Liu, R.A. Calvo, V.  Rus (2014) “Automatic Generation and Ranking of Questions for Critical Review”. Educational Technology & Society.  Volume 17, Issue 2, 2014.
Critical review skill is one important aspect of academic writing. Generic trigger questions have been widely used to support this activity. When students have a concrete topic in mind, trigger questions are less effective if they are too general. This article presents a learning-to-rank based system which automatically generates specific trigger questions from citations for critical review support. The performance of the proposed question ranking models was evaluated and the quality of generated questions is reported. Experimental results showed an accuracy of 75.8% on the top 25% ranked questions. These top ranked questions are as useful for self-reflection as questions generated by human tutors and supervisors. A qualitative analysis was also conducted using an information seeking question taxonomy in order to further analyze the questions generated by humans. The analysis revealed that explanation and association questions are the most frequent question types and that the explanation questions are considered the most valuables by student writers.

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New Paper: A Multi-Componential Analysis of Emotions during Complex Learning with an Intelligent Multi-Agent System


I am privileged to be part of the LEADS partnership, a research network led by Susanne Lajoie at McGill University. This paperthe first coming  from our subproject – with a rather long title “Systematic Evaluation of the Effectiveness of TREs through Software Platform Development for Data Mining across Multiple Disciplines and Tracking Changes in Affective and Cognitive Growths”

J. M. Harley, F. Bouchet, S.Hussain, R. Azevedo, R. Calvo; A Multi-Componential Analysis of Emotions during Complex Learning with an Intelligent Multi-Agent System; AERA2014 Symposium: Interdisciplinary Approaches for Analysing Data from Multiple Affective Channels with Computer-Based Learning Environments.

Abstract. In this paper we discuss the methodology and results of aligning three different emotional measurement methods (automatic facial expression recognition, self-report, electrodermal activation) and their agreement regarding learners’ emotions. Data was collected from 67 undergraduate students from a North American university who interacted with MetaTutor, an intelligent, multi-agent, hypermedia environment for learning about the human circulatory system, for a 1 hour learning session (Azevedo et al., 2013, Harley, Bouchet, & Azevedo, 2013). A webcam was used to capture videos of learners’ facial expressions, which were analyzed using automatic facial recognition software (FaceReader 5.0). Learners’ physiological arousal was measured using Affectiva’s Q-Sensor 2.0 electrodermal activation bracelet. Learners self-reported their experience of 19 different emotional states (including basic, learner-centered, and academic achievement emotions) using the Emotion-Value questionnaire (Harley et al., 2013). They did so on five different occasions during the learning session, which were used as markers to align data from FaceReader and Q-Sensor. We found a high agreement between the facial and self-report data (75.6%) when similar emotions were grouped together along theoretical dimensions and definitions (e.g., anger and frustration) (Harley, et al., 2013). However, our new results examining the agreement between the Q-Sensor and these two methods suggests that electrodermal (EDA/physiological) indices of emotions do not have a tightly coupled (Gross, Sheppes, & Urry, 2011) relationship with them. Explanations for this finding are discussed.

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New paper on Contactless Heart Rate Monitoring Using a Webcam

Our paper:

H. Monkaresi, R. A. Calvo, H. Yan, (To appear) “A Machine Learning Approach to Improve Contactless Heart Rate Monitoring Using a Webcam”, IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics (J-BHI)

has been accepted for publication. You can read the complete PrePublication PDF

image_13_ttitb_hamed_bicUnobtrusive, contactless recordings of physiological signals is very important for many health and human-computer interaction applications. Most current systems require sensors which intrusively touch the user’s skin. Recent advances in contact-free physiological signals open the door to many new types of applications. This technology promises to measure heart rate (HR) and respiration using video only.

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