How can we keep the digital revolution social? #mindtech15

How can we keep the digital revolution social? #mindtech15

How can we keep the digital revolution social? On Wednesday 2 December mHabitat is hosting a social debate in partnership with The Mental Elf and MindTech on the eve of the latter’s Harnessing the Digital Revolution annual symposium. The title of the debate is ‘can research really tell you how to make a good mental health app?’. We’ll be using the hashtag  #mindtech15 as well as streaming the discussion live on Periscope. The debate is all about keeping the digital revolution open, social and exploratory – challenging ourselves to think critically about digital in mental health through public deliberation. We hope it will be stimulating, fun and informal. I have previously blogged about my lack of love for the traditional conference format, often characterised by experts on the podium transmitting knowledge to a largely passive audience. Not only do such events miss a trick in harnessing audience expertise within the audience but also often fail to be engaging. I’m a big advocate of participant led events, as exemplified by the People Driven Digital which a few of us organised earlier this year – we put a lot of effort into making this as sociable an event as possible. The symposium itself is a mix of presentations, debates, a rapid fire technology showcase, an exhibition and lots of opportunity for networking. You can book here – I recommend it. Theories of learning styles are contested, but if we recognise that people learn differently, then it makes sense to organise an event in ways which vary pace and style to keep people engaged.  So it’s been fabulous to collaborate with Mindtech and...
Digital technologies in mental health – opportunities, challenges and unexpected benefits

Digital technologies in mental health – opportunities, challenges and unexpected benefits

In a few weeks time I am speaking at the 2nd Summit New Technologies and Mental Health: Future Possibilities in Barcelona. In my presentation I will share opportunities, challenges and unexpected benefits arising from the first year and a half of our mHabitat programme – supporting digital innovation in the sphere of mental health and beyond. People first – technology second The first insight I will share is a simple one – the fundamental importance of putting people first and technology second. It seems obvious that people should be at the heart of any innovation in mental health, but we have learnt that it is often missed. It is too easy for the allure of new technology to outshine more mundane but crucial considerations of understanding what people actually want and need. Why is it so important to put people first? Creating or licensing a digital technology will only add real value if we deeply understand the preferences, motivations and capabilities of the people they are intended for. Fortunately there are established methodologies, such as user centred design and service design for co-designing digital technologies that add value to a user’s journey through a service. In the health service there is the added dimension that digital technologies need to be underpinned by sound theories of behaviour change and/or clinical guidance as well as meeting regulatory requirements. Generating evidence so we know what works and what doesn’t is also an important consideration. Putting people at the centre is the first step to developing digital technologies that will really make a difference to people’s lives. Putting people first means recognising that...
Eight characteristics of sociable professionals & organisations

Eight characteristics of sociable professionals & organisations

What are the key characteristics of professionals and organisations who understand online social networks and participate in them in ways which are welcomed by their publics? My PhD thesis has sought to understand how relationships between people accessing and providing mental health services are being disrupted in online social networks. Whilst my ethnographic research focused on the sadly departed The World of Mentalists and its ecosystem of blogs fondly referred to as the madosphere, I am finishing my final chapter with some general insights about how professionals and organisations can be sociable in online spaces. Whilst my focus is on mental health, I think these insights have application beyond the mental health sphere. Below are my (very draft) eight characteristics of sociable professionals and eight characteristics of sociable organisations. I’d be massively grateful for your comments – please feel free to question, challenge and rip them to pieces! Eight characteristics of the sociable professional The sociable professional appreciates the affordances of online social networks for people to bolster their wellbeing through seeking information and producing their own content The sociable professional understands the benefits of peer support in online social networks to engender mental wellbeing, validation, resilience and self esteem The sociable professional facilitates digital inclusion to ensure people they support do not get left behind The sociable professional supports people in their blended offline and online lives where this is welcomed – navigating the perils and the possibilities The sociable professional respects and is an ally to people living with mental health difficulties who exploit online social networks to challenge stigma and discrimination The sociable professional mediates their...
Social media & backstage performance – part I

Social media & backstage performance – part I

In his seminal sociological work The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) Erving Goffman employs a theatrical metaphor to shed light on everyday social interactions – we endeavour to manage the impression we give of ourselves to others through our front stage performance; our back stage performance is where we can set aside our public selves, step out of character, adjust our flaws and construct our public selves. We use any number of props to manage our front stage performance. In contemporary life, the press release is a typical institutional prop for impression management. However, online social networks are also props which enable the audience (AKA ordinary people) to question, challenge and even undermine those attempts at maintaining a coherent front stage – they demand that the curtains are pulled back and they demand access to the back stage area. But how often are institutions willing to give this sort of access? Last week saw a storm of protest on Twitter in response to a BBC News film in which the use of prosthetic masks to teach mental health nursing students was promoted. It is easy to see why the press release got picked up by mainstream media – it made a good front stage headline as can be seen in their press release: Hollywood silicone masks bring interactive nursing to life at RGU; the University got positive modest mainstream media coverage as a result. However, Twitter didn’t receive the story with quite the same uncritical enthusiasm. I won’t go into the detail here, but you can check out the Twitter hashtag #MHMasks to find out more. Firstly...

Is social media helping people talk about mental health?

This week the Guardian published an article #timetotalk: Is social media helping people talk about mental health? to coincide with Time to Talk Day run by the Time to Change campaign. #timetotalk asked us all to spend five minutes talking about mental health so we can break down stigma and increase understanding. Time to Change have really embraced social tools to spread their message, as in this short film promoting #timetotalk I was struck by the question posed by the Guardian, as it gets to the heart of one of the themes I have been considering in my PhD research over the last few years. It also caused me to reflect that back in 2011 when I began my research, I would never have imagined such a headline would make it into the mainstream media. It  is a reminder of how embedded online social networking has become in our day-to-day lives (at least for many of us) and evidence of the particular affordances of social media for people talking about difficult issues such as mental health. My online ethnographic research has primarily focused on a now defunct blog and the ecoystem of blogs that surrounded it. It’s another reminder of the fluid and impermanent nature of online social networks. During my fieldwork the conversation moved inexorably from the slower paced and asynchronous world of blogs (or madosphere as some called it at the time) towards the faster paced world of Twitter and real-time chats. What was once a space and set of practices that felt subversive and risky to many of its participants, is now increasingly bubble wrapped in professional...
#crisisteamfail and boundary violation

#crisisteamfail and boundary violation

Recent conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #crisisteamfail drill to the very heart of issues of agency (of individuals) and control (of institutions) which I have been researching on social networking sites over the last few years – the extent to which relationships between people accessing and providing mental health services and the mainstream media are being re-shaped and disrupted online. With one eye on the #crisisteamfail hashtag I also happened to be reading a short article by Michael Slade entitled Breaking down Boundaries* which seemed very pertinent. In the article he considers three different types of relationships formed between nurses and people they support: Detached – led by a nursing agenda with expert knowledge passed from nurse to patient Partnerships – collaboration with a recognition of shared expertise Real – personal relationships in which nurses relate to people accessing their service simply as people and where they (people) are in control of decisions. Whilst Slade argues that neither one type of relationship is better than another, he also acknowledges that real relationships are often cited by people living with mental health difficulties as very important. He suggests that real relationships can be a challenge to the mental health system because they disrupt ‘traditional ideas about professional behaviour, and the kinds of boundaries that lie between nurses and clients’. Slade goes on to argue that: ‘it should be accepted that behaviours that have traditionally been regarded as boundary violations may become acceptable’ and he cites examples of nurses sharing personal information about themselves or giving tokens as ways in which real relationships are nurtured. I’m quite taken with this...